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What is a Dirt Bike? (Different Types, 2 Stroke vs. 4 Stroke & More)


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Are you ready to dive into the world of motocross? This page is the place for you. 

We’ll cover the high level details and answer some common questions about dirt bikes.

Check out other pages within our Dirt Bike section to dive deeper. 

What is a Dirt Bike?

A dirt bike is a motorcycle that is made for off-road use and riding on rough terrain such as dirt, mud, sand, rocks, etc. 

They’re light and nimble with good suspension and grippy tires to handle all sorts of off-road conditions. 

In many ways, the modern dirt bike evolved from the original scrambler motorcycle.

Types of Dirt Bikes

Just like there are different types of street motorcycles, there are different types of dirt bikes too.

The term dirt bike encompasses a broader category of motorcycles that are designed to be ridden off-road. 

Within the dirt bike category, there are a handful of different subtypes to choose from. 

The main types of dirt bikes include the:

  • Enduro.
  • Motocross bike.
  • Dual sport.
  • Adventure bike.
  • Trials bike.

Enduro Dirt Bikes

Enduros describe the classic off-road dirt bike that’s designed for a variety of off-road terrain and trail riding. 

Motocross Racing Dirt Bikes

Motocross bikes are designed for racing on dirt tracks with tight corners, jumps, and other obstacles. 

They’re lightweight, fast, and simple in design. 

Dual Sports

Dual sport motorcycles are essentially street legal dirt bikes. The feature all the necessary equipment to ride on public roadways (lights, turn signals, horn, license plates, etc.), but also feature tires and suspension for off-road use. 

Adventure Bikes

Adventure bikes are designed for both on-road and off-road use like a dual sport, but with greater speeds and distances in mind. 

They’re more comfortable and power powerful than their dual sport counterparts, and are designed to carry additional luggage racks for multi-day adventures and exploration.  

Trials Bikes

Trials dirt bikes are designed specifically for Trials events. 

These bikes have a unique design compared to other dirt bikes with no seat and small components. 

They’re lightweight and not built for speed. Instead they are designed to climb rocks and get over obstacles. 

2 Strokes vs. 4 Strokes

As you dive deeper into the world of dirt bikes, you’ll start to hear about 2 stroke engines and 4 stroke engines. 

Each engine derives its name from the number of compression strokes in a combustion cycle. 

As you can guess, a 2-stroke has 2 piston strokes per combustion or one full crankshaft revolution, while 4-strokes require 4 piston strokes or 2 full crankshaft revolutions.

 For a 2-stroke and 4-stroke of the same CC, the 2-stroke engine is able to create more power. 

What is a 2 Stroke Dirt Bike?

2-stroke dirt bike engines create their internal combustion takes care of all stages of the combustion cycle with a single revolution of the crankshaft. 

As the piston moves up, the fuel/air mixture is ignited. As the piston moves back down, more fuel/air is drawn into the combustion chamber. 

Due to the design, 2-stroke engines do not require valves or a camshaft. 

2-stroke engines also require fuel and oil to be mixed in order to ignite and keep the parts lubricated. 

These engines will have a distinctive smell and let off more smoke than a 4-stroke. 

Additionally, 2-strokes are generally much lighter than 4-strokes.

While there are less moving parts to service and adjust, due to the nature of their operation, they also have shorter maintenance schedules and require their pistons and piston rings to be replaced more often. 

2-stroke bikes are also not street legal. ANd in some places, you can only ride them during certain times of the year. 

What is a 4 Stroke Dirt Bike?

4-strokes require 2 full revolutions of the crankshaft to complete the intake, compression, ignition, and exhaust. 

They rely on a camshaft and cylinder valves to move fuel, air, and exhaust during each different stroke.

As the piston moves down, the intake valve opens and fuel/air is drawn into the cylinder. 

As the piston moves up, both valves are closed and the mixture is compressed and ignited. 

The piston is then forced back down and creates power. 

As it comes back up, the exhaust valve opens and the combustion mixture is expelled through the exhaust. 

4-stroke engines have more moving parts than a 2-stroke, and will require inspection, adjustment, and periodic replacement.

While 2-strokes can create more power, 4-strokes typically have a greater top speed and more torque. 

4-strokes also keep their gas and oil separate, which makes them cleaner to run. 

4-strokes are typically considerably heavier than 2-stroke engines, but offer a smoother ride and a greater ability to utilize engine braking.  

What is a Pit Bike vs. Dirt Bike?

A pit bike often looks like the smaller cousin to a dirt bike. 

Pit bikes describe small, cheap motorcycles that are typically used to get around the “pit” areas of dirt bike tracks and racing events. 

Overtime, pit bike racing has grown in popularity as well, where riders compete on micro-sized motorcycles. 

Pit bikes are typically equipped with small (50 to 100cc 4 stroke engines).

They’re lightweight and much slower than a dirt bike, but can still be a lot of fun to ride. 

Pit bikes are also relatively inexpensive compared to dirt bikes. 

Depending on how cheap you go, you may find yourself fixing and maintaining your pit bike fairly often though. Luckily, their small size and simple constructions lends to easy mechanical work. 

What Does CC Mean on a Dirt Bike?

CC on a dirt bike is the same as CC on a motorcycle.

CC, which stands for cubic centimeters or cubic capacity, refers to the volume of the dirt bike engine’s combustion chamber. 

Larger CC means the cylinders have more volume, which also means they have larger pistons and are able to create more power with each combustion cycle. 

For dirt bikes, engine CC plays a big role in which dirt bike you should get. 

Smaller displacement, or small CC engines, are more suited for children and new riders. These bikes will be lighter, smaller, and have a lower top speed. 

Larger displacement bikes are best suited for riders with some experience, and are capable of much higher top speeds. 

Highest CC Dirt Bikes

The highest CC dirt bikes are typically 449 to 450cc.

And, you probably guessed it already, but larger displacement generally equals more power and more speed.

You can learn more about how fast dirt bikes can go here. 

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