Interested in riding off-road but not sure how long a dirt bike lasts?
Whether you’re in the market for a dirt bike or just want to know what to expect from your current bike, I’ve got you covered.
In this article I’ll show you how long dirt bikes can last, why every bike is a little bit different, and how to make your dirt bike last longer than you might think possible.
Do dirt bikes require a lot of maintenance?
There’s a lot of variables to this question. First, what is your definition of: “A lot of maintenance“?
Then it depends on what type of dirt bike you have, where you ride it and how you ride it.
Believe it or not, how you maintain your dirt bike makes a difference on how much maintenance it will require. More on this soon.
For a simple answer:
Most dirt bikes don’t require a lot of maintenance if you’re just a casual rider.
A higher performance dirt bike will require more maintenance. The harder you ride it, the more you’ll have to maintain it as well.
What wears out on a dirt bike?
Virtually every part that moves on a dirt bike will wear out eventually. Some parts last longer than others.
For example, a tire should last much longer than the wheel that it’s on because it’s the part contacting the ground.
Let’s look at the most common parts that wear out the quickest on a dirt bike and what it takes to maintain or replace them.
Engines don’t last forever
There are many parts to a dirt bike engine. 4 stroke engines have more parts than a 2 stroke.
Race engines might only last 5 hours before needing a rebuild if they’re ridden hard, but that’s only for the best racers in the world.
A top-end (piston and rings) on a 250cc 4 stroke enduro bike might last you 50-100 or more hours before it gets low on compression.
Generally, piston and rings need to be replaced the most often because they are the biggest wear items. The cylinder is usually next, but you can usually get it replated or bored out before needing a replacement.
The cylinder head, cams (4 stroke), and bottom-end should last much longer on any dirt bike – 200+ hours or more if you properly maintain it.
Again, it depends on where on how you ride it as well.
Fresh suspension for comfort
The suspension is one of the most neglected parts on a dirt bike because it keeps working when it’s worn out. Plus, it can be intimidating to service and maintain if you don’t know anything about dirt bike suspension.
The shock and fork fluid should be replaced every year for best performance and reliability if you ride often.
The oil breaks down and gets dirty as it heats up. It loses its effectiveness and ability to dampen on compression and rebound as it gets older.
The internal bushings and seals are important if you want a “fresh” and tight feeling ride. Fork seals often get dirty, causing them to leak.
Leaking fork seals not only lose damping (become softer) because there’s less oil in them, but the oil will eventually leak down to the brake pads.
Once the brake pads get soaked in oil, they become almost useless when you use the front brakes to slow down.
Tires – best bang for your buck mod
One of the best inexpensive mods you can do to any dirt bike that has old or worn tires is to replace them with fresh rubber.
Not only can you ride faster with more traction, but it also boosts your confidence because you aren’t sliding out as often.
Instead of buying a new pipe or graphics kit for your dirt bike, consider replacing the tires with a set that’s designed for the type of terrain you’re riding.
Front tires usually last close to twice as long as the rear because there’s no power being put to them. The more power and heavier your dirt bike is, the quicker it will wear out tires.
Riding on rocky terrain will also wear out the rubber faster than riding in soft or sandy terrain because the hardness chews it up.
Chain & Sprockets – is to maintain, but easy to be lazy
If you want a reliable dirt bike, then make sure that the chain and sprockets are in good shape and properly tensioned.
A chain and sprockets can last 50+ hours in good conditions, but the more you ride in wet and muddy terrain, the faster it will wear them out.
Keeping the chain straight and tight but with proper tension can prevent a catastrophic failure. I see many riders ride with chains that are too loose.
This results in the chain de-railing and locking up the rear wheel, or worse… Taking a chunk out of the crankcase. That kind of repair requires splitting the cases – hundreds of dollars in parts and labor.
Clutch – you either abuse it or you don’t
Depending on how you ride, the clutch can last a long time, or not long at all.
The clutch should be used for just getting your bike moving in 1st gear from a stop, or if you need more power to accelerate. Slipping the clutch just to control the power is a waste of energy, power, and it will eventually cause overheating and premature clutch wear.
This is why I teach that learning how to properly use the clutch is so important.
Battery – sometimes a gamble
Sometimes, you just get a bad battery that only lasts 6 months, and sometimes you get one that lasts 6 years. Buying a more expensive battery can help, but it’s not a guarantee that it will last longer.
If you have a kickstart-only dirt bike, then you don’t need to worry about maintaining a battery.
If your dirt bike has an electric start, then you better be aware of its condition, especially if you plan on going on a long ride miles away from your truck or camp.
The best way to maintain a dirt bike battery is by using it. Riding once every week or two for at least 15 minutes will make sure that the battery stays charged. That’s assuming that the charging system (stator) is working properly.
For storing your dirt bike for more than a month, your battery will last longer if you keep a battery tender on it. It keeps a full charge without overloading it.
How long should a dirt bike last?
Are you a hardcore racer that rides 5+ hours a week, or do you only get out a couple of times per year?
The more you ride, the harder you ride, and the less you maintain your dirt bike, the shorter it will last. The riding conditions also play a role, because riding in deep sand will wear out parts quicker than riding in tacky dirt.
Let’s say you’re a casual trail rider on a CRF250F trail bike that rides once a month on the weekends. Let’s say 3 hours of actual ride time. That equals roughly 35 hours per year.
If you change the oil every 5-10 hours and keep the air filter clean, the engine will probably last a minimum of 10 years.
On the flip-side, if you’re an expert racer on a 125 2-stroke that races multiple classes every weekend, the engine might only last 1-2 weeks before needing a top-end rebuild.
How long do 4 stroke dirt bikes last?
It really depends on which type of 4 stroke dirt bike you’re talking about, as well as all of the other variables listed above.
A 4 stroke trail bike for beginners may last 500 hours if well maintained, which might be 10-20 years.
On the other hand, a 250F MX bike might only last 50 hours or a couple of months if it’s raced hard and you hit the rev limiter often.
How long do 2 stroke dirt bikes last?
The same goes for 2 stroke dirt bikes, although they may lose compression a little bit sooner than a 4 stroke trail bike.
A 250 2 stroke enduro bike, such as the KTM 250XCW can last 200 hours before needing a rebuild if you’re just a casual rider that rides in the low-to-mid RPM range.
Racing a 125cc 2 stroke while keeping it pinned most of the time will only last 5-20 hours before it starts losing compression.
The more you rev it, the quicker it wears out due to engine revolutions and heat.
How many miles can you get out of a dirt bike?
We don’t really keep track of miles ridden on a dirt bike unless it’s a street legal dirt bike.
Because we don’t put that many miles on compared to a street bike or car.
That’s why we count the number of hours, which can be easily done with an hour meter. You can track your maintenance just by looking at the number and writing down what you did at a specific hour. It only records when the engine is on and running.
With that said, here’s a simple formula for figuring out how many miles you can get out of dirt bike as an estimate:
A typical rider averages 10 mph on a dirt bike, so if it needs a rebuild at 50 hours, then that would be 500 miles.
If you can go 500 hours, then you can get at least 5000 miles out of your dirt bike before needing a major rebuild.
Signs your dirt bike needs a rebuild
Getting stranded on a trail because your dirt bike seized is not something that any of us riders want. It’s even worse when you’re miles away from camp or HQ.
That’s why you need to pay attention to the signs and symptoms that your dirt bike is giving you when it needs attention.
These are the most common signs that your 2 stroke dirt bike needs to be rebuilt:
- Hard to start when hot or cold
- Fouling spark plugs
- Low on power
- A new noise that you haven’t heard before
These are the most common signs that your 4 stroke dirt bike needs to be rebuilt:
- Hard to start when hot or cold
- Excessive smoke on startup and/or while riding
- Overheats easily
- Fouls spark plugs
- A ticking noise that keeps getting louder
How to make your dirt bike last longer for free
A lot of new riders make the same common mistakes that cause bike failures, but it’s not always their fault. Maybe they didn’t have the knowledge, or maybe they are just ignorant.
Either way, there’s a few simple things you can do to make your dirt bike last much longer without having to spend any money. I want to give you a guide that shows you how to do it for free. Click here to learn how to prevent catastrophic bike failures.