How to Choose a Dirt BIke: Three Basic Tips

We want to help you figure out how to choose a dirt bike. Remember these three basic tips, and you’ll probably find a machine that is right for you.

Let’s see… How To Choose a Dirt Bike…

Well, one way would be to grab a dirt bike, fire it up, hold it wide open, and if it doesn’t completely spit you off at that point, you’ve chosen wisely.

Seriously, though, there are a few things to think about when figuring out how to choose a dirt bike that will not only be fun right from the start but also one that can grow right along with you.

how to choose a dirt bike
Forget about what your favorite factory hero is riding. Choosing a dirt bike that’s right for you doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have the exact same model. All of the OEMs make several models and sizes that can fit your experience level, height and weight. PHOTO BY MARK KARIYA.

1: The first thing to consider when considering how to choose a dirt bike is ypur experience and skill level. Just because you rode your buddy’s Harley around the block once does not qualify you for the average high-performance 450cc or larger motocross or off-road machine. Oh sure, you can ride that one around the block are maybe mosey down a few trails, but without solid experience, you’d better have good health insurance.

That’s why we recommend sticking with bikes in the 200-250cc range for newbies seeking out how to choose a dirt bike. There are plenty of great models out there, and some of them can be purchased second hand for bargain prices if you shop smartly. You can check out our 10 Great Used Dirt Bike Buys guide or peruse Rick “Super Hunky” Sieman’s advice in What’s The Best Used Dirt Bike? And if you’re going to buy new, there’s nothing wrong with side-stepping a hyper-handling motocrosser or off-road machine in favor of an adult-sized trail bike. Even with all of the latest and greatst moto hardware at our disposal, some of our most memorable rides happen on these super-fun, quiet and easy-to-ride models. The key point here is to know your experience level and not get in over your head so that you don’t wind up on your head.

how to choose a dirt bike
Okay, so although they’re both experienced, the kid on the left is riding a bike that is too big for his size, as he cannot touch down either foot when stopped. The kid on the right is too tall and too heavy for the bike he is riding, and could likely end up abusing to the breaking point. Check with a dealer or a friend and know what size bike fits you.

2: During my fornmative dirt bike years, I was once told that if you can’t pick it up after you’ve dropped it, you probably shouldn’t be riding it. That’s partially true, but I also learned some extremely painful lessons by choosing the wrong bike for my size when I was 15 years old. After selling a perfectly good running 1981 Yamaha YZ80, I made the not so subtle step up to a 1985 Husqvarna TC 500. Big mistake. Sure, I could pick it up, and I learned to ride it proficiently, but the Husqvarna was such a massive machine that I spent a lot of time picking it up after everything from simple tip-overs when I couldn’t put my feet down to massive endoes and lightning-fast loop-outs. My friends actually started calling me Evel Knievel for all the times I ate it. Point is, you should select a bike that fits your frame. If you can’t get at least the toes of booth feet firmly planted on the ground, then you may be dealing with a bike that is physically too large for you.

3: On the other side of that coin, if you’re 6 feet tall and tip the scales near 200 lbs., riding a great beginner bike such as a Kawasaki KLX140G or a Honda CRF125L isn’t going to be much fun either. Sure, it may make enough power, but you’re likely going to be riding around with your knees tucked under your chin, or worse, banging the handlebars. On top of that, when you get brave enough to actually take to the air on your first jump (we all do), you’re likely to seriously bottom the suspension on such a small bike. This is where a machine such as a Honda CRF250X begins to make a lot of sense. It’s a full-size bike with a pretty forging power curve, and as your experience level grows you can modify the X with an aftermarket pipe, cam and some ECU mods to create a true competition-worthy dirt bike.

how to choose a dirt bike
The Honda CRF250X makes easy-riding power but can also be ridden hard, raced and/or modified for even more performance. It’s a great first choice for larger riders considering how to choose a dirt bike for themselves.

So when figuring out how to choose a dirt bike that will be right for you, remember to consider these three points. Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to err a little right or left of center when choosing a bike. You just want to avoid taking a leap of faith over which you could come up woefully short.