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Dirt Bike With Electric Start vs Kickstart – Which Is Best For You?

Looking for a dirt bike with electric start or just need to know if they’re worth buying?

In this article I’ll show you what it means to have a dirt bike with electric start, how it compares to a dirt bike with kickstart, and then which one is best for you to pick.

Do dirt bikes have electric start?

Some dirt bikes have electric start, but there’s still some models with kickstart only. More and more dirt bikes are coming with electric start because they’re easier and a lot less frustrating to start.

Having a dirt bike with electric start is nice as long as you keep the battery charged.

What is an electric start on a dirt bike?

Electric start on a dirt bike is similar to a car or truck. There is an electric motor that automatically spins the engine over to get it to start when you press the start button. 

The electric motor is powered by a battery on the bike. If the battery is too weak, the electric motor won’t be able to start the engine. 

Electric start vs kick-start differences

Some dirt bikes have electric start only, while some just have kickstart, while others have both. Let’s look at the pros and cons of one or the other. 

Electric start advantages

Being able to push a button and have your bike start is really nice. You don’t know how nice it is until you own a dirt bike with electric start and then have to go back to a kickstart only dirt bike. 

Having an electric start is also an advantage when you’re riding technical terrain. If you get stuck on a hill in an awkward position, it might be difficult to balance your bike while trying to kick start it. 

Instead, you just push the button and not worry about tipping over. 

For learning how to use the clutch, the ‘magic button’ e-start is great at preventing potential frustration. Continuously stalling the engine requires you to restart it, and it only takes a second to get it running again with e-start. 

This is especially true if you or a friend you’re teaching is on a dirt bike that is hard to kick start. It could turn a “fun day of learning to ride a dirt bike” into a “frustrating day of constantly kicking” and leaving them also with a bruised leg or foot. 

Electric start disadvantages

There are some drawbacks to having a dirt bike with electric start – especially if it doesn’t have a backup Kickstarter, which more bikes are removing to save weight. 

The top two reasons why people are afraid of getting an electric start dirt bike are: the starter motor failing or the battery failing. 

Dirt Bike Wont Start Thumbnail Dirt Bike With Electric Start vs Kickstart - Which Is Best For You?
Dirt Bike Won’t Start [Video]

At first, these are legit concerns, but not as big as you think. First, almost all dirt bike models now have durable and reliable starter motors.

Some of the KTM 2-stroke models have problems, but they’ve figured out how to make them not fail.

There are also ways to make your bike more reliable, and that starts with paying attention to how easily your bike starts. 

Kickstart advantages

Simplicity and reliability are the most common reasons why riders prefer a kickstarter on their dirt bike. There’s no battery or motor to fail. 

Dirt Bike Compression Test Dirt Bike With Electric Start vs Kickstart - Which Is Best For You?
Kick Starting An Old Honda XR200

Kickstart disadvantages

Having to kick with your leg and foot might be a drawback. Maybe you have a bum knee or leg and it’s physically hard to push the kickstart lever down. 

Depending on the dirt bike you’re riding, it might be hard to get it started – older motorcycles are generally harder to start. 

Kickstart gears can break if you have poor technique or there’s too much power. Stomping on the kickstarter is hard on the gears inside the engine. Constant abuse may damage or break teeth off. 

Highly modified engines can be harder to start and more likely to break parts, especially if the compression ratio is higher.  

Which is better?

What are you more worried about? Are you struggling to constantly kickstart your bike as a beginner or on challenging trails? Or having a battery or starter motor die?

There’s pros and cons to each type of starting system for dirt bikes. I personally like the electric start on most of my dirt bikes because it’s easier to start and they’re reliable. Just make sure the battery isn’t getting weak. 

When did dirt bikes start getting electric start?

In the early 2000s a lot of trail bikes started getting electric start. Weight wasn’t as big of a concern, so the advantage of easy starting outweigh the drawbacks. 

Now, almost all types and models of dirt bikes have electric start because motorcycle companies have figured out how to make them fairly lightweight and reliable. 

Can I add an electric start to a dirt bike?

It’s possible to add an electric start, but it’s very difficult and time consuming on most dirt bike. You either have to do major engine modifications or do a complete engine swap to go from kickstart to electric start. 

Unless you have a lot of time and ambition, it’s much easier to just buy a dirt bike with electric start already. Doing an engine swap is expensive and will most likely require other fab work/mods to fit the frame. 

Who makes an electric start dirt bike?

All name brand dirt bike companies make an electric start dirt bike. You just have to choose a model that comes with it. 

These brands make dirt bikes with electric start:

  • Honda
  • Yamaha
  • Kawasaki
  • KTM
  • Suzuki
  • Husqvarna
  • GasGas

What dirt bikes have electric start?

You need specific models that have it, so here they are. 

250 dirt bikes that have electric start:

Beginner dirt bikes that have electric start:

  • Honda CRF125F/B
  • Yamaha TTR125LE
  • Kawasaki KLX140 R/L
  • Yamaha TTR230
  • Kawasaki KLX230R
  • Honda CRF250F
  • Kawasaki KLX300R

4 stroke electric start dirt bike:

  • Honda CRF250F – Trail bike
  • Yamaha YZ250F – MX bike
  • Kawasaki KX250XC – Enduro bike
  • KTM 350 EXC-F – Enduro/dual sport
  • Yamaha WR450F – Enduro
  • KTM 500 EXC-F – Enduro/dual sport

Dirt bikes with electric start and kick start:

  • Yamaha WR250F (2003-2017)
  • Yamaha WR450F (2003-2017)
  • KTM 500 EXC-F (2012-2016)

What to do when your battery is dead

If you have a kickstarter for backup, use that to start your dirt bike. Otherwise you’ll have to push start it. 

You can do that by putting the transmission into 2nd or 3rd gear, pulling in the clutch and pushing the bike and then jumping on it and letting out the clutch.

This will engage the wheel and “bump start” the engine if you have enough momentum and traction. 

How to find the right dirt bike for you

This article should have helped you figure out if you want an electric start dirt bike or not, but there’s a few specific steps to choosing the right bike to fit you. 

Many new riders make the mistake of starting on the wrong bike, and that’s why I want to help you get started the right way. Click here to learn how to choose the right dirt bike.

Harley Grant

Wednesday 14th of June 2023

Reliable electric start motors??? There are none....NONE. There will never be a reliable one made in the future either. You just cannot guarantee it. I don't give a rat turd what you say. I've been riding since Moby Dick was a minnow and I see people at trail parks every weekend pushing their bikes because dip schitts like you told them they don't need a kick starter.

Get out of journalism. Your advice is dangerous to those of us with brains.


Monday 17th of July 2023

@Harley Grant, brains? Seriously? I think we're gonna need a second opinion on that. Your comment (and the tone of it) really says a lot about your so-called, self-proclaimed 'brain'. The author's reply to you was WAY TOO generous based on your initial disrespect and inability to have a real, respectful and value-added discussion. None of your points are even valid unless you're riding with people who also have something wrong with their brains. People roll-start their bikes all the time, even folks without electric start! Get real! And to your first comment about reliable electric start motors not existing, you're just plain wrong. They're all over the place if you get out of your cave. Maybe you were just having a bad day or one of your caveman buddies just got a new electric start bike and you're a bit jealous, but whatever the case, try being a bit nicer. And oh yeah, you probably need a new firmware update & reboot... This is 2023.. if Moby Dick would've had access to electric start way back when, he would've been open-minded enough to give it a try. Yeah, perhaps we'll see you on the trail someday, stuck in mud, exhausted from riding all day and trying to restart by using the kickstart on one of those heavy 4-strokes, lol. And regardless of your brain status, scarecrow, we'll still be kind enough to stop and help get you going again.

Kelley Fager

Thursday 15th of June 2023

Thanks for your opinion, Harley. Maybe I'll see you out on the trail someday.