9 Best Dirt Bikes For Trail Riding in 2023 – Adventure & Racing
Dirt biking! A sport of fierce renown has grown to be a hobby for most people using an actual dirt bike ride.
People no longer want to watch expert dirt bike riders having all the fun in bike racing competitions. Instead, they want a first-hand experience with them on the trail bike ride and want to do real trail riding. If you are one such person, then you need the top dirt bike (also called motocross bike) for the ultimate off-road trail riding experience.
For some of you, it maybe your first dirt bike experience.
The choice of dirt bikes; however, is huge on today’s dirt bike market, and not every new bike rider can make the best buying decision for their trail riding. So, in my top selections, I have considered all the features you would want your first motocross motorcycle to have for a great ride.
KTM 250 SX-F is our top pick. This motocross is designed to exceed the expectations of every bike rider, whether experienced or new biker with its state-of-the-art design features and performance. This dirt bike is made lightweight to hit the technical trails faster and more precisely.
If you are buying your first dirt bike, this is the best choice.
Here are Our Best Dirt Bike Reviews:
1. KTM 250 SX-F — Overall Best Trail Motorcycle
Revered for its strongest engine and compact structure, KTM 250 SX-F is the best 4 stroke dirt bike for trail riding. It is dynamic in every way as a motocross bike.
This is the lightest trail bike in its class and it’s got incredible acceleration and power put down that will leave the competition in the dust. It has heavy-duty traction control, ride maps, and a whole bunch of details about the bike that I am about to dig deep into.
The outstanding graphics of this bike's model have a ready to race appearance and a great ride. This trail bike has a WP exact front fork setting for improved damping. It also has a new front fork piston for improved performance. You’ve got a proven, stylish air spring construction with distinct damping functions in this bike. In the rear, you have WP XACT rear shock that has a new compression adjuster for improved tuning.
It features a four-stroke single-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 4 valves/cyl engine with a displacement of 249.9cc and compression ratio of 14.4:1. The engine also has an electronic fuel injection system, which offers high fuel efficiency, excellent response, and more horsepower in this bike (or a motocross bike) for an amazing ride.
But the thing is, KTM 250 SX-F may not be the best overall package for the average or beginner bike rider.
We praise this model of the dirt bike for its powerful engine, quick and stable handling, high-quality components, and low weight.
Overall Rating: 4.9
2. Yamaha YZ125 — Best Off-Road Motorcycle
With Yamaha YZ125, you will be cruising the off-road trails with a motorbike that has been featured multiple times in AMA championships giving a God like ride.
With its high performing compact two-stroke engine, YZ125 dirt bike from Yamaha delivers an awesome power to weight ratio for explosive performance.
The chassis features an aluminum frame, which is great because it is carefully engineered to deliver the finest handling performance in its class of bike. It’s got an industry-leading fork that is speed-sensitive, superior damping, and allows for a more precise bike ride. The advanced KYB shock guarantees exceptional rear-wheel control for a sweet bike ride. There is a large two hundred and seventy-millimeter front disc brake that is fitted with advanced pad materials for unmatched controllability and stopping power of this bike and an amazing ride on it.
The compact body of the YZ125 enables you to swiftly swing your body weight, allowing you to throw the trail bike around at will. The coordinated high performing wheels and razor-sharp styling show off the YZ125 bike racer DNA.
But the thing is, the two-stroke engine’s thermal efficiency is less compared to a 4-stroke engine in this dirt bike.
Discover the benefits of a lightweight two-stroke engine with the YZ125 from Yamaha. A dirt bike model that guarantees explosive cruising and stances.
Overall Rating: 4.9
3. Honda CRF450R — Best Traction Tires
This revolutionary off-road motorbike from Honda is uniquely engineered to deliver the best cornering performance on the track for a biker out of all the dirt bikes and gives an all round satisfying ride.
To begin with, the motorcycle features the brand’s Unicam engine, which is great because it saves weight compared to a dual overhead camshaft motor. The unique configuration helps with ignition flame propagation for a high compression ratio.
It comes equipped with a third-generation twin-spar aluminum frame, which is an improvement of the previous versions. The battery is located about twenty-eight millimeters below the airbox. This helps to lower the center of gravity, making it lean over a little bit better, especially around corners. The low positioning of the battery gets more direct airflow into the airbox, revamping the mapping of the trail bike to give you a cool ride.
You’ve got three different maps on the 2020 CRF450R. A standard map that is pretty aggressive with plenty of pulling power, a softer hitting map that’s good for mid to top hitting, and an aggressive map that gives you all the hitting you can get out of the trail bike.
But here is the thing guys, the trail bike is a little bit expensive compared to similar models of dirt bikes because of its ride style.
This Honda model of the bike is built for the absolute holeshot with its Unicam engine, three maps, state-of-the-art chassis suspension brakes, and five-speed close-ratio transmission for giving you one of its kind of a ride.
Overall Rating: 4.9
4. KTM 150 SX — Best Dynamic Lightweight Chassis
If you have been looking for the best trail bike with a dynamic lightweight chassis, then you can consider KTM 150 SX.
It comes with a compact two-stroke engine that produces top-of-the-line power and torque. Everything about this bike engine screams high performance on the dirtiest tracks to give you a thrilling ride.
The front suspension sports a fully adjustable, forty-eight-millimeter fork with 12.2-inch travel. The rear suspension is fully adjustable, as well, with a travel of 11.8 inches. These two features combined support superior traction when braking and cornering. They allow for incredibly faster trail riding downhill. The six-gear transmission; on the other hand, enables the engine to stay on power better.
The innovatively designed clutch system sports a primary gear and a one-piece outer hub for unbeatable reliability. The clutch plates are extremely heat-resistant, allowing for reliable clutch disengagement.
What I don’t like about this bike is the fact that it is geared too tall and the springs are somewhat soft for my weight.
Overall this bike model ticks the correct boxes for rideability (to give you an all-round ride), cornering, above ground controllability, ground clearance, acceleration, and braking.
Overall Rating: 4.8
5. Husqvarna TC 250 — Best Advanced Ergonomics
For advanced ergonomics and the latest in the two-stroke motocross engine, you should look no further than the TC 250 from Husqvarna bike to get an ergonomic ride.
The forks have been updated with a new air seal, a rebound spring, and an air piston along with a new piston on the dampening side. The compression dampening has been firmed up in the mid-stroke and the valving on the WP XACT rear shock has been modified to better match the Rev out front of the bike to give you an amazing ride.
Husqvarna has reengineered the radiator guards to effectively reduce the amount of trapped dirt on the bottom of the guard. The carburetor is positioned at an angle to help keep the fuel in a proper pickup position for the bike. This model has a remarkably low-to-mid blistering abrupt powerband to deliver amazing full horsepower at optimum RPM. It has the most tunable two-stroke engine ever made for a a dirt bike.
Another good feature worth mentioning is the Magura hydraulic clutch, which is nearly maintenance-free. It allows for superior modulation and even-wear in all conditions.
But the thing is, at higher RPM this model of bike may fail to deliver more powerful horsepower in your rides.
With advanced ergonomics, modern bodywork, and premium parts, the TC 250 from Husqvarna guarantees superior comfort and controllability in all riding conditions, especially trail riding.
Overall Rating: 4.8
6. Kawasaki KLX 300 — Best Dual-Sport Performance
Get out and play on your favorite off-road technical trails with the KLX 300 bike from Kawasaki. The possibilities of a perfect ride are many on this very capable dual-sport bike.
At the heart of this high performing off-road motorcycle is an enduro-inspired liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 292cc engine for steadfast performance in all conditions. This four-stroke, DOHC engine sports a powerful low and mid-range in this bike. Power delivering and throttle response are smooth and crisp throughout the RPM range. This accommodates different riding situations, especially trail riding conditions.
What truly takes my breath away is the dual-sport capability of this bike model is its ride. It displays agile maneuverability and controllability whether riding on or off-road in trail riding conditions. The frame has a high-rigidity structure that guarantees straight-line stability.
Kawasaki KLX 300 bike; however, tends to deliver a stiff ride, which may not be practical for average or beginner bike riders.
Ride-in-style both on and off-road with Kawasaki KLX 300. But it may not be a very practical choice for an average bike rider as it takes some amount of skill to ride it.
Overall Rating: 4.8
7. Suzuki RM-Z450 — Best Cornering Performance
If you are looking for a dirt bike that is specifically designed for high cornering performance on those sharp off-road corners, then Suzuki RM-Z450 fits the description.
The RM-Z450 features a new generation liquid-cooled, DOHC engine that delivers a more low-end torque superior peak power, and an easy to control throttle response. The redefined cylinder head reduces surface roughness to enhance engine output. The innovatively designed throttle body features an under-mount injector for improved atomization.
It comes equipped with advanced Showa rear and front suspension components that guarantee superior traction and responsiveness. The enhanced suspension performance improves the trail bike’s ability to absorb shock for improved comfort and better chassis stability which helps in getting a good ride.
What I find slightly disappointing about this model is the stiffer rider it provides, which may not be ideal for a beginner.
For more experienced riders, the possibilities are many with the RM-Z450 from Suzuki.
Overall Rating: 4.8
8. Yamaha YZ250 — Best Power to Weight Ratio
Have you been looking for a modern two-stroke dirt trail bike that has exceptional power to weight ratio? Look no further than Yamaha YZ250.
The YZ250 comes equipped with a 249cc two-stroke engine (reed-valve-inducted and liquid-cooled). This engine is compact, lightweight, and has a remarkably wide and hard-hitting powerband. The constant five-speed transmission; on the other hand, provides superior acceleration and it will hardly grind gears with improper riding, especially when trail riding.
I truly appreciate the KYB speed-sensitive forks, because they use piston speed to effectively control damping force. This gives you a smooth ride with superior precision handling. You’ve got an oversized front rotor that delivers outstanding stopping power by minimizing unsprung weight. Another good feature is the Dunlop tires, which are innovatively designed to offer bump absorption, slide control, and superior grip.
What I don’t like about the trail bike; however, is the fact that a two-stroke engine isn’t as efficient as a 4-stroke engine.
Full-throttle adrenaline and pure performance are what you should expect from this ultra-light, two-stroke dirt trail bike ride.
Overall Rating: 4.8
You can also check out Biker Rights article on What Size Motorcycle Do I Need for My Weight and Height?
9. Honda CRF110F — Best Value Model
Have you been looking for an off-road motorcycle that punches above its weight for your teenage daughter or son? Look no further than Honda CRF110F.
This beginner model features electric starting for quick take-offs, a broader powerband, and big-bike styling inspired by the brand’s CRF racing machines. You’ve got a low seat height and modest size plus a four-speed transmission with an automatic clutch that caters to beginner riders.
This trail bike is powered by a 110cc 4-stroke engine (single-cylinder and air-cooled) that’s rugged and reliable. It is tuned to deliver the kind of power that fits the needs of those new to off-road riding and in trail riding. The broad powerband helps beginners get rolling, while a throttle adjustment feature lets you limit power to suit the skill level of your son or daughter. A smooth-telescopic front fork offers superior suspension travel for confident control over rugged hills.
But the thing is, this motorcycle tends to be a little bit heavy for its size.
One look at Honda CRF110F and you can see a lineage that runs through the brand’s entire line of CRF performance machines.
Overall Rating: 4.8
How to Choose the Best Trail Bike
All dirt trail bikes are engineered to be high-jump heroes, but not all of them perform the same on the track. Here are the most important things I urge you to consider when looking for the best trail dirt bike on the market:
Types of Dirt Bikes
You can’t just jump into the market and buy the first trail dirt bike you will come across if you haven’t decided where and how you will use it. There are four main uses of off-road motorcycles, and they include:
Trail Dirt Bikes
These motocrosses are designed to dominate the off-road trail riding. They feature cutting-edge performance with responsive handling, a wide ratio gearbox, long-travel transmission, and lightweight chassis. They can cut through damp terrains, shrubs, muddy surfaces, and even narrow tracks. Trail dirt bikes are also the type you can take on a dirt bike riding camping trip.
Competition Dirt Bikes
Riders may take part in short or long races. Short races are popular for riders of all skill levels, but long races are reserved for experts and more experienced riders. In competitions, riders can use motocross or supercross motorcycles.
Motocross and supercross are the most popular choices for racing. Competition off-road motorcycles are designed for performance. They are lighter, faster, and sharper, on the track and in the air. It doesn’t matter how many corners the track has, motocross/supercross is built to take them with ease. They feature some of the most advanced hydraulic systems that are free of adjustment problems or clutch fading.
Adventure Dirt Bikes
If you are looking for adventure on a budget or just a capacity off-road motorcycle to have fun, then look for this type of motocross best trail dirt bike. They usually feature well-thought-out styling and a bash plate to protect that vulnerable engine. These motorcycles feature the latest technologies and comforts. Some high-end models are fitted with a multi-information display with an integrated simulator.
Dual-Sport Dirt Bikes
If you are planning to use your motorcycle on and off-road, then dual-sport motorcycles are what you should be looking for. They are usually street-legal, but with many features of off-road riding.
This makes them sportier than other motocross bikes on the dirt trail riding tracks or riding trails. They have tires with excellent traction, or the ability to grip uneven or dirt surfaces. Dual-sport machines have long-travel suspensions, which cushion riders from large bumps. Like other dirt bikes, dual-sports are also lightweight, and they are known for handling well on and off the track. They are great choices for average or beginner bikers.
Make sure you don the appropriate protective gear when you go for a spin — dirt bike helmet, gloves, suit, the works.
Two-Stroke vs. Four-Stroke Engines
When it comes to dirt biking, the terms two-stroke and four-stroke are everywhere for a good ride.
Experienced off-road bikers know what I am talking about, but new riders have much to learn before they can choose one between the two. The bigger the engine, the more likely the motorcycle is a four-stroke. So, this means the smaller engine bikes are by default two-stroke models, which are normally lightweight.
The main difference is that in a 2-stroke engine the cylinder fires every time the piston moves up and down once. In a 4-stroke engine; on the other hand, the piston has to move up and down twice to create power. Based on this comparison, a two-stroke engine is capable of providing more power with the same sized cylinder. Concerns arise when it comes to maintenance. Two-stroke models require more maintenance because they tend to run hotter.
With 4-stroke engines, the oil is poured directly into the crankcase through an oil fill opening. But most 2-stroke engines need you to manually pre-mix the gas with two-stroke engine oil that lubricates the engine when it is operational. You can negatively impact the engine’s performance if you don’t get the mixing ratio right.
Four-stroke dirt bikes have cleaner emissions and superior fuel economy compared to two-stroke models, which often put out a smoky performance. The emissions are usually worse when the oil and gas ratio is incorrect.
Performance and Controllability
Several features define the performance of the best trail bikes like suspension and transmission.
A dirt bike will not be able to uphold its name if it doesn’t have the best performing suspensions. A suspension is a system of springs and shock absorbers that softens the up and down movements. The ideal suspension would be defined by:
The suspension of a dirt bike is usually associated with sprung and unsprung mass. In this case, sprung mass refers to the mass above the spring, including the rider, engine, seat, tank, and frame.
The unsprung mass, on the other hand, is the mass that goes up and down with the wheel, including parts of the swingarm, brake caliper, lower slider, axles, and the wheels. In a very ideal setting, the unsprung mass is supposed to move up and down, while the sprung mass moves along in a straight line.
The best trail bikes should have long-travel suspension. The velocity of the rebound stroke is directly related to the amount of travel used in the suspension. The more travel used, the more energy is stored in the spring, and the greater the force that extends the fork.
This simply means a low-speed rebound damping will be generated on smaller displacements and vice versa. The exact velocity will also depend on whether the tire is in contact with the track or the motocross is in the air.
Transmission refers to the gears inside a dirt bike that determine how much of the engine’s energy it takes to turn the rear wheel. You shift through the gears using a small lever by your left foot. In lower gears, the motocross accelerates quickly but tends to have a low top speed.
In higher gears, the bike accelerates slowly but has a high top speed. You shift gears to maintain the best acceleration and speed for the trail riding track. The best trail bikes usually come with either a five-speed or six-speed transmission. When you compare the two gear ratios, a six-speed increase in torque transfer capabilities. The torque capability is almost thirty percent higher than a five-speed transmission. This is due to wider diameter gears.
The frame of a dirt bike has to be made of lightweight material like aluminum for superior controllability on air. Most motocross bikes weigh less than two hundred and fifty pounds. The lighter the bike, the faster the ride will go, and the easier it will take to the air when jumping off bumps and hills.
For this roundup, the winner is KTM 250 SX-F. This motocross has always been designed for global domination. It has always exceeded the expectations of many dirt trail riders. The lateral view of the bike displays heavy-duty parts that scream extreme performance. The bike itself is extremely light for superior controllability.
The four-stroke engine has taken this bike to ridiculously high extremes including its ride. Its well-balanced engineering provides class-leading power. The five-speed transmission ensures that the rear wheel gets all the power it needs. The gear position sensor gives you important information about the 4-stroke engine phase. The aluminum chassis offers a great feeling on the ground for better ground clearance and in the air with a ride.