Types of Dirtbikes: How to Pick the One that Works for You

Dirt biking is an exciting activity that attracts thrill seekers and adventure enthusiasts. This activity has grown from a recreational activity to a professional racing sport. Choosing the right dirt bike can greatly enhance your riding experience.

The types of dirtbikes include motocross bikes, trail, and enduro bikes. Others include dual sports and trials dirt bikes. They all serve different purposes and require various skill levels. To choose from so many options, it’s essential to understand the types of dirtbikes. 

In this article, you’ll explore the most common types of dirtbikes. You’ll also learn how you can pick one that suits your preferences and skill level.

Understanding The Different Dirt Bikes

3 men on their dirt bike, 2 are sitting and 1 is standing holding his dirt bike

Dirt bikes are a gateway to enjoying the great outdoors. Dirt bike riding provides an avenue for adventure. It also presents an opportunity to engage in invigorating physical activity. To ensure a comfortable riding experience, you must select the right type of bike. 

Here are some of the common types of dirtbikes you can choose from:

1. Motocross Bikes

Motocross bikes are dirt bikes built for racing on motocross tracks. They are built for racing competitions where riders jump obstacles and make landings on rough terrain. Motocross bikes are also used in different types of dirt bike racing.

Another reason they are the rave is their high-performance capabilities. These motocross (MX) bikes are designed to be sturdy and agile. With this package comes the quality of maneuverability and lightweight frames. 

They also feature powerful engines and aggressive suspension setups. One of the best brands of dirt bike with superior suspension systems is the KTM dirt bikes. The features of these bikes enable them to tackle jumps and corners. All the while meeting the generally demanding nature of motocross tracks. They also have quick acceleration and are capable of precise handling. 


Motocross bikes are designed for racing on motocross tracks. This means they are suitable to be raced outdoors or in an enclosed arena. But not on the paved streets.


Like most other dirt bikes, motocross bikes come in various engine sizes. Motocross bikes are not beginner-friendly. But there are engine sizes available for youth riders. These bikes can range from  50cc up to 450cc engine sizes. So, both youth and adult riders can ride motocross bikes. 

Use Case

Usually, riders who ride motocross bikes start training from a young age. This is because motocross racing requires technical expertise. 65cc and 85cc engine categories offer only youth motocross dirtbikes.

There are different techniques for cornering, jumping, and landing on a motocross circuit. This often requires getting a professional trainer and lots of practice days. 

Thus, a beginner rider may find it difficult to be a motocross rider. They do not have the experience nor have they honed their skills. The motocross track is a high-intensity environment with fast-paced activities. Riding a motocross bike is best suited for skilled or trained riders.

Don’t over train or over ride. Just have fun with it and you will succeed. In the long run, it pays off.”

Blake Baggett – Pro Motocross racer

2. Trail Dirt Bike

Man riding his dirt bike in the trail

In contrast to the motocross bike, trail bikes are an excellent choice for new dirt bike riders. Trail bikes are made for off-road, recreational riding. A smaller compact version of trail bike is also known as a pit bike. A dirt bike brand renowned for its dominance in the manufacture of trail bikes is Honda.

These bikes have user-friendly controls. It makes it easier for parents to have some control over their kid’s riding. Their suspensions are also stiff and forgiving. This is an essential feature considering the off-road terrains these bikes plow.


Trail bikes are designed for off-road riding. They are not street-legal and as such, must not ply roads.


Both youth and adult riders can ride trail bikes. They only need to find the appropriate types of dirt bikes cc for their age, height and inseam. For instance, trail bikes are relatively easy to handle. But a 10-year-old rider will find a 250cc trail bike overwhelming.

Use Case

Imagine exploring the scenic landscape of your local forest trails. Or conquering rocky or hilly terrain in your neighborhood on a dirt bike! The thrills of such adventure riding are what trail bikes deliver.

The power and speed of trail bikes are moderate. This allows for consistent skill development. All without fearing the risks of accidents due to high speed or an abrupt power surge.

3. Enduro Bikes

Men riding on their enduro bike during motocross competition

Enduro bikes are high-performance machines built for off-road riding. These bikes can withstand extreme conditions including long-distance endurance rides. Enduro bikes are not street-legal. They are even illegal in some states.

These bikes are not factory-fitted with features that make them street-legal. But they come with features that make them suitable for traversing diverse terrain. These terrains include rocky trails, steep inclines, and advanced technical obstacles. 

Some of its features include headlights and large fuel tanks. They support its extended off-road adventure. Their seats are also comfortable.


These bikes are primarily useful for off-road terrains and long-distance riding.


Only experienced riders can ride enduro bikes safely. These are usually adults. They would have the expertise to conquer the technical obstacles typical of enduro racing.

Use Case

Pushing the limits is emblematic of enduro riding. The features of the bike enable you to tackle long-distance journeys. It could be a multi-day off-road trip or enduro races. One thing to expect is that there are very demanding terrains to be conquered.

…going out and exploring new terrain every day. Pushing the limit of what we think we can or can’t do!”

Cody Webb – Endurocross champio

3. Dual Sport Bikes

Quality dirt bikes don’t come cheap. A rider may want to experience the thrill of off-road adventure and still get everyday use out of their bike. This would ordinarily require two different dirt bikes – an off-road and an on-road bike.

Dual sport bikes meet the needs of riders who crave the flexibility to switch seamlessly between on-road and off-road riding. They are a cross between motocross and enduro bikes.

Due to their dual purpose, these bikes have a comfortable riding position. Their suspension systems are also enhanced to tackle a variety of terrains. By being street-legal, they come with headlights and turn signals. There are also rearview mirrors and other essentials that enable safe road use.


Dual sport bikes are suitable for both on-road and off-road riding.


Generally adult riders buy a dual sport bike as they may want to ride on the streets. Just like any on-road vehicle, riding on streets requires a license. 

Use Case

One thing characteristic of dirt bikes is their sound. This is especially true and loud for bikes with 2-stroke engines. But since they are also designed to ride on streets and have a 4-stroke engine, the noise levels are lower. 

Dual-sport bikes come in a variety of engine sizes that range between 150cc – 650cc. This is to accommodate various state laws that require certain engine sizes to ride on the local city streets or the highway. 

If you want a dirt bike that can weave through streets and explore terrains without constituting a nuisance, get a dual sport bike. With them, you can commute to work on weekdays. Then explore nature sprawled across terrains on weekends.

5. Trials Bikes

Trials bikes are purpose-built bikes designed to test the skills of a rider. As such, the bike’s engineering prioritizes maneuverability, balance, and control. This is evident in its compact and lightweight frame. It makes it easier for riders to shift their weight during challenging maneuvers.

Trials riding requires a unique set of skills. This includes technical mastery, balance, and an innate understanding of weight distribution. It requires mental alertness and top physical form.

Trials bikes have high-rise bars. They have specialized tires. They maximize grip on rocks and other rugged surfaces. With trial riding, the emphasis is on finesse rather than speed. Riders must be precise in their handling and skillful in their techniques.


Trials bikes are used to build and test the technical skills and abilities of riders. It can also be used for skill development purposes.


Youth and adult riders can ride trial bikes.

Use Case

A trial bike can serve multiple purposes. It can be used in competitive or recreational trial riding. In competitive trial riding, you seek to display your technical prowess. You exhibit how you conquer demanding formidable obstacles with precision. All the while, maintaining control and balance.

For recreational trial riding, you explore technical terrains in a non-competitive environment. You can also use it as an avenue to develop your skills. Or train for challenging sports activities like enduro racing.

Key Points When Choosing a Type of Dirt Bike

Choosing the right dirtbike involves more than knowing what purpose different dirtbikes serve. Let’s explore some of the factors you should consider when choosing a dirt bike for yourself.

Rider’s Age and Size

2 men sitting on their dirt bike with beautiful sky at their back

One of the foremost considerations when choosing a dirt bike is the age and size of the rider. Different bikes are produced to accommodate riders of varying ages and physical sizes. 

There are specific models available for youth riders and kids. Based on their age, height and inseam you can determine what size dirt bike your child needs. Most dealers usually have a dirt bike sizing chart to guide buyers. Some manufacturers provide guidelines and recommendations for each model too.

Choosing the dirt bike for your size and age will help you get optimal performance from your bike. It also enhances your riding experience and keeps you safe too.

Rider’s Skill Level

There are bikes designed for novice riders. While high-performance models are more suited for experienced riders. Beginners should opt for dirt bikes with lower engine power and simpler controls. Thus, it will be easier for them to handle and gradually build their skills.

Intermediate and advanced riders can go for more powerful bikes. Their choice of bike could be one that offers great speed and maneuverability. Or it could be a specialized bike for specific riding.

Intended Use and Terrain

Man riding his dirt bike during sunset

Your choice of a dirt bike will be greatly influenced by your intended use of the bike. Different bikes have different purposes. This includes motocross and enduro racing, trail riding, or street use. Once you have determined the use of the dirt bike, it becomes easier to select the model that serves that purpose.

In like manner, think about the terrain type you will be riding the bike on. If the terrain is rocky, you will want a bike that offers maximum tire grip on that surface. The same applies if the terrain is muddy or sandy, a bike that can tear through dirt will be more suitable.

Budget Constraints

Dirt bikes can be expensive. They can cost anything from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Dirt bike price depends on factors like brand, model, features, and engine size.

Set a budget and look for a bike within that price range. Some bikes require more maintenance than others. So, it will be beneficial in the long run to consider both initial costs and ongoing expenses. Compare prices from different dealers so you get the best value for your money.

Selecting the Right Dirt Bike for Different Riders

So far, you have learned there are different types of bikes. You have also seen some of the factors that can influence your choice of one. This information can prove overwhelming for someone new to the world of dirt bike riding.

While individual preferences may vary, here’s a guideline to help you make the right choice of dirt bike:

Youth Riders

Youth riding on his dirt bike durong motocross competition

Youth riders are typically riders under the age of 18. Youth-sized dirt bikes are designed for kids between the ages of 4-16 years.


A recommended dirt bike type for a beginner youth rider is a trail bike. They are easier to ride and are more forgiving. The power output of these bikes is smooth and relatively low. Thus, making handling easy for beginner riders.

Also, the low seat height of trail bikes makes the riding experience comfortable. This also boosts the confidence of the rider as they can easily reach the ground while sitting. Most of these bikes come with automatic transmissions and an electric starter. Their engine size can range from the best 50cc dirt bike to 125cc.


Intermediate-skilled youth riders can ride both trail and motocross bikes. Riders at this skill level can handle the relatively increased power of a motocross bike. With trail bikes, they can opt for higher engine sizes such as 250cc or 300cc dirt bikes.

Motocross bikes come in high-performance 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines. They are also lightweight for easy maneuverability. Their tires have aggressive tread patterns. They provide maximum traction, anchoring the bike to the dirt. They also have high ground clearance.  This is needed to clear obstacles and maintain balance on uneven terrain. 


An advanced youth rider can ride a trail, dual sport, or motocross bike.

Adult Riders

Man jumping off his dirt bike in the grassy ground

Adult riders can handle dirt bikes with engine sizes up to 450cc (ridden by professional racers). But this depends on their skill levels. Here’s a recommended guide for adult riders based on their skill level:


Adult riders in this category can ride trail or motocross bikes with small engine sizes. The bikes can be from 85cc to 250cc engine capacity. Most bikes in this class will come with a Kickstarter and manual clutch. 

But their power delivery will be smooth with manageable torque. Thus, they will be easy to control. These bikes are the right size for adult riders but they also offer good balance. 


Intermediate riders have gained some experience and skill. They will do well with motocross bikes of more power and performance. These bikes come with adjustable suspension components such as forks and rear shocks.

These riders can also ride dual-sport bikes. Their features are a merge of dirt bikes vs motorcycles. Dual sport bikes have a larger engine size and are, thus, heavier. Their fuel tanks are considerably larger. They are fitted with features that make them street-legal.


Advanced, adult riders can ride pretty much any dirt bike. This includes trails, trials, motocross, and even enduro bikes. They have extensive experience and skills. The bikes for advanced riders have high-performance features. 

These features include adjustable compression, rebound, and damping settings. They are heavy and generate lots of power and torque that translate to higher speeds.

Dirtbike TypePurposeRiderExperience Level
TrailOff-road ridingYouth and adultBeginner
MotocrossMotocross racingYouth and adultIntermediate
Dual SportOn-road and off-road ridingYouth and adult(will need street bike license to ride on streets)Intermediate
EnduroOff-road, long-distance ridingAdultAdvanced
TrialsTest the technical skills of ridersYouth and adultAdvanced


Line of different colors of dirt bikes

Most common types of dirtbikes are motocross bikes followed by the trail bikes, but the perfect dirt bike for you really depends on your use case, age, body size and experience level. 

Dirt bike riding trainers always start off beginners on 4-stroke trail dirt bikes. After gaining some experience riders can move on to other types of bikes if they want to.

It is important to understand the different kinds of dirt bikes. Know their purpose, who can ride them, and where you can ride them. By evaluating these factors, riders can select a dirtbike that fits their needs. It will also provide a safe and enjoyable riding experience.

Common Question about Types of Dirtbikes

A street-legal dirt bike is called a dual-sport or dual-purpose bike.

What is a MX dirt bike?

An MX dirt bike is short for a motocross dirt bike. It is a type of off-road dirtbike designed specifically to be raced on motocross tracks.

What is Enduro vs Motocross dirt bike?

Enduro and motocross dirt bikes are two different dirt bikes used in off-road riding. Enduro bikes are built for long-distance racing. While motocross bikes are suitable for only short-distance racing.

What type of cc dirt bikes are there?

The ‘cc’ of dirt bikes refers to a measurement of their engine size. The cc (cubic centimeters) is the displacement of an engine. It varies based on the rider’s age and/or size. 

The most common dirt bike cc are 50cc, 65cc, 85cc, 125cc, 150cc, 250cc, 300cc, 350cc, and 450cc. You can get dirt bikes with engine cc as high as 650cc.

What are the types of dirt bikes?

The types of dirt bikes are:

  • Motocross
  • Trail
  • Dual sport
  • Enduro
  • Trials

Note: Trail dirt bikes and trails dirt bikes are different, as discussed in this article.

What is the most common dirt bike?

The most common dirt bike is the motocross bike. They are so popular that they can be found in various engine sizes. 

Also, top name of dirt bike brands have gone into manufacturing motocross bikes. Examples are Yamaha dirt bikes, renowned for their durability and reliability.

What kind of dirt bike should I get?

The kind of dirt bike you should get depends on several factors. You must consider your age, size, and skill level. If you are a beginner rider, a smaller and lighter bike would be more suitable. 

Also, think about the type of riding you want to do. If you will be riding in the woods or off-road, a trail bike would be a good choice.  But if you want to go into professional racing, you may want to get started on a motocross bike.