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2 Stroke Vs 4 Stroke Dirt Bikes: What's The Difference?

Chaparral Motorsports
October 23, 2015
Last Updated: June 10, 2020
 Yamaha YZ250 at Track Turning Corner
The Yamaha YZ250 comes in both a two-stroke and four-stroke version.

For dirt bike riders, there's one common debate that seems to never die - which is better, two-stroke or four-stroke dirt bikes? This argument can spur a lot of arguments between riders, but in the end, there's really not a correct choice. Instead, choosing a two-stroke or four-stroke is based on personal preference and riding style.

Comparing the two is unique to every rider, because they both offer benefits over one another. When it comes down to it, riders are looking for high-performance engines that can produce power and exceptional handling.

For any beginner rider, it's important to understand the differences between each type of dirt bike:

What Does 2 Stroke Mean?

Two Stroke Dirt Bike Engine
2 Stroke Dirt Bike Engine

For starters, the two main functions of a two-stroke engine are compression and combustion. In a simple process, the engine will fire and ignite the spark plug for each revolution of the crankshaft. This makes the bike extremely lightweight in comparison to other heavier bikes. While two-stroke engines run more simplistically, their need for maintenance is usually much higher. However, two-stroke parts are notoriously cheaper than four-stroke.

Two-stroke engine bikes are lighter and faster bikes that have an intense kick to the motor. This makes it easier to throw around your bike with the faster punch per cc. At the same time, these bikes are usually more difficult to ride and control. Two-strokes also require more frequent shifting, but riders can get a faster top speed with more power.

What Does 4 Stroke Mean?

Four Stroke Dirt Bike Engine
4 Stroke Dirt Bike Engine

Being more complex, the four-stroke engine has four main functions with intake, compression, combustion and exhaust. This engine will only fire every two revolutions of the crankshaft, which provides a steadier and more predictable power delivery. Additionally, four-stroke engines tend to have a significantly smoother powerband, which makes it easier to ride and ideal for beginners. Unlike two-stroke engines, the controlled power makes four-stroke engines more convenient on trails since there's less effort to ride.

This means you're spending less time worrying about braking, clutching and shifting because there are more parts moving in a four-stroke engine. Since there's more to a four-stroke engine, maintenance is needed less frequently. This makes these bikes ideal for racing or trail riding.

On the other hand, four-stroke engines are much heavier due to the additional moving parts. This can be expensive when it comes to maintenance since there's usually more to repair.

Despite having a lower top speed, four-stroke engines do provide more power down low. Riders who have both versions will often say four-strokes are easier on the rider to control and maneuver.

What is the Difference Between Two Stroke and Four Stroke Engines?

There's obviously a significant difference between these two engine types, but it's important to realize that a two-stroke engine equates to a higher cc four-stroke engine. This means that a two-stroke 125 cc engine is the same as a 4-stroke 250 cc.

In fact, there are very few low cc four-stroke engine dirt bikes on the market. Typically, the higher the cc, the more costly the dirt bike, which means four-strokes can be more expensive. With a 125 cc two-stroke having the same power as a 250 cc four-stroke, riders have to be ready to handle the kick along with the lightweight body of the two-stroke.

Again, it all comes down to personal preference since one is not technically better than the other. However, before you make your decision, you should consider experience, cost of maintenance, size of the bike, comfort, top speed and handling. Each bike will bring its own pros and cons to the race track or to the trails. At the same time, you want to know what you're getting into before you start riding.

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