The Best Dirt Bike For Trail Riding: The 2018 Guide

The Best Dirt Bike For Trail Riding: The 2018 Guide

The best dirt bike for trail riding guide covers a range of bikes for adults at different riding skill levels. Finding the right trail bike can depend on a number of factors including skill, height, weight and engine type.

If you want to do your own research take a look at my interactive sizing chart that allows you to filter over 70 different dirt bikes by a range of factors such as brand, seat height, engine size etc.

Getting The Height Right

One major factor in determining the best dirt bike for trail riding is getting the height right. The riding experience will be reduced if the height of the bike is not correct. If the bike height is too short your riding style will be cramped, too high and you will struggle to stay in control.

A good rule of thumb is that the balls of your feet should be able to touch both sides of the ground when sitting on the bike. These days bike manufacturers make a range of different dirt bikes for trail riding and this includes different seat heights.

The average height on a KTM, for example, is around 37.8 inches whereas the Honda CRF 230F comes with a seat height of 34.6 inches. In general, the bikes with larger engines ie 250cc + are taller in height.

The seat height can be problematic if you are tall and want a bike to learn on. The majority of tall bikes are also quite powerful so checking the power output and the seat height is important. If you need to determine your seat height click here for my seat height guide.

Best Dirt Bike For Trail Riding-Beginners

Best dirt bike for trail riding
The Honda CRF230F

For someone just starting on dirt bikes and wanting a good option for trail riding the Honda CRF-230F is a good place to start.

The seat height of 34.6 inches suits a wide variety of rider heights from adults to teens.

With a 230cc four-stroke engine, this makes for a well set up bike for the novice rider. The four-stroke engine delivers plenty of manageable power that makes for an awesome riding experience.

Also particularly good for a beginner dirt bike rider is having an electric starter. This technology has been around for a while so there is no issue with reliability.

This size bike is particularly good for when you hit the trails as it is nimble enough for a range of trails from fire to gnarly goat tracks.

Need some safety gear for that new bike purchase? Check out my articles on the best dirt bike helmets and the best dirt bike boots

Best Trail Bikes For Intermediate Riders

Best Dirt Bike For Trail Riding
2017 Honda CRF250X

Dirt bike riders with an intermediate skill level of riding are probably the largest group of riders on the planet.  These are the guys (and girls) who have been riding for awhile who love the sport and get out whenever they can and have built up their riding experience over time.

Fortunately, there are a lot of bikes for this category of rider and most manufacturers have a bike in this group.

You could potentially find a bike from any of the manufacturers but I strongly suggest testing out bikes from as many brands as you can.

From a trail riding perspective, I like the Honda CRF250X.  The reason for this is that a 250 -300cc size engine is a good match for tight trail riding.

If you ride on more open trails you could easily step up to a 400-450cc engine.  The larger engine might also be a better option for bigger bodies.

Best Trail Bike For The Money

Best Beginner Trail Bike

Not everyone has the cash to splash on the trail bike of their dreams, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out if your finances are limited.

The Suzuki DRZ 400S is a value for money bike that has the benefit of road registration combined with trail riding.

What I like about these bikes having owned one previously is that they are low on maintenance (you can do most of it yourself) and are easy to ride.

If you don’t have an interest in riding the DRZ on the road then switch out the rear mudguard as it will eventually fall or break off. Other upgrades would be removing the stock handlebars a good set of handguards and some decent tires.

You should be able to get a good late model second-hand model for between $4500-$5500 USD.  Even if 4500 – 5500 is too high, drop back a few years as the basic engine for these bikes has barely changed over the past 10 years.

Tip: Keep a trickle charger on the battery if you don’t plan to ride for a while. Click here to see Amazon for a trickle charger Note: Check the type of battery and make sure the charger is the right model for the type of battery that comes with the bike, particularly if you buy a second-hand bike.

 Best Trail Bike For Advanced Riders

Best Dirt Bike For Trail Riding
Photographer Mitterbauer H.

If you’re ready to take your riding to the next level then you need a bike that has a great power to weight ratio. Aggressive riding requires the ability to power up hills and tackle difficult terrain.

It’s hard to go past KTM at this point as their bikes are really suited for the intermediate to advanced riding categories. The 350EXC-F is an awesome combination of power and low weight making it one of the best dirt bike four strokes for trail riding.

This bike can easily mix it with normal trail riding or shift it up a notch to full-on enduro racing.  As a stock bike, there is not a lot else to do, but KTM also has a range of aftermarket parts so you can customise if you want.

Best 2 Stroke Dirt Bike For Trail Riding

Best 2 Stroke Dirt Bike For Trail Riding
Photo – Mitterbauer H.

It would be remiss of me for not mentioning an alternative to the 350EXC-F four stroke. Whilst four-stroke engines have become hugely popular, the two-stroke still has a huge audience and for trail riding a two-stroke can be awesome fun.

Out of all the dirt bike options for trail riding the KTM 300XC-W is high on my list for a great two stroke. The engine setup makes for a very light power to weight ratio which means awesome fun on the trails.

What I like about this bike and something that becomes invaluable if you stall on the side of a steep hill is the electric start. This bike can tackle a range of terrains which really puts it into the enduro category but hey when you’re looking to take your ride to the next level enduro maybe the way to go.

Best Trail Bike For Women

Ok, I’m going to throw something a bit left field here, any of the bikes I’ve already talked about in this article would be ok for a female rider. The Honda’s are both excellent bikes and I know that many female riders like the Honda’s, particularly the CRF230F for its size and power combination.

My big prediction is that electric dirt bikes are going to be a favourable option in the future for female riders or anyone who loves the riding experience but not the maintenance associated with dirt bikes. My wife falls into this category, she would love to ride but isn’t interested in the maintenance side.

I wrote an entire article on electric dirt bikes which you can access here, but a great example of these bikes is the Alta Redshift enduro.

Alta Motors Electric Dirt Bike

This bike is aimed at a 250cc combustion engine equivalent in terms of power. The big difference is significantly reduced running costs associated with its electric engine.

Alta’s website states major service intervals are at 1000 hours, which is significantly more than a gas equivalent which varies depending on how you ride but a good 5 hours of riding usually requires an oil change and air filter clean at least.

The only major maintenance to check on a regular basis is the tires, chain and sprockets for usage/damage. (Oh and keep the battery charged!).

What is particularly appealing from a beginners point of view is that the bike has different map settings all adjustable whilst riding which means novice riders can set preferred map positions according to their riding style and conditions.

Tarah Giegher shares her experience of riding the Alta electric dirt bike.

Tarah Gieger Rides the Alta Redshift EX from Alta Motors on Vimeo.


If you are looking at buying a trail bike, the message is, take your time, do your research and try out as many bikes as you can. For those riders not into a lot of maintenance, an electric dirt bike could be the answer. Either way, trail riding is awesome fun and getting the right bike makes it that much better.