Best Beginner Dirt Bikes for Trail Riding and Motocross for 2023

This in-depth guide includes a complete list of the best beginner dirt bikes for 2023.

In addition, you will learn:

Choosing your first dirt bike doesn’t have to be difficult. In this guide, you will find out what you should take into account when choosing your first dirt bike—that is the selection criteria. We will cover such details as different riding styles, dirt bike sizes and seat heights, engine types, and must-have features for good beginner dirt bikes.

In summary, here are the top 3 best beginner dirt bikes available for this 2022–2023 season.

Top 3 best beginner dirt bikes for trail riding are:

Top 3 best beginner dirt bikes for motocross are:

Now let’s get started.

Two beginner dirt bikes riding on a training track

How To Choose the Best Beginner Dirt Bike?

Next, we will discuss the main selection criteria that will help you to choose the best beginner dirt bike for you.

1. Select the Correct Dirt Bike Category Matching Your Riding Style and Locations

To successfully choose the best beginner dirt bike for you, the very first thing you need to consider is the riding style and locations you plan to ride.

Let’s begin by discussing how each riding style or available riding locations affect your available choices.

The basic general high-level riding styles or disciplines are:

Each one of these riding styles often favor a certain type of dirt bike that is tuned and configured to increase performance to match the track and obstacle styles. It is safe to say that choosing a motocross dirt bike for trail riding is the wrong way to go and will cause plethora of issues, unless you are willing to tune and setup the dirt bike from ground up. Still at best you are compromising.

When choosing the dirt bike size that best fits your height and weight, all of these categories will have great options to choose from without having to compromise. Unless you know what you’re getting into, stay within the dirt bike category that matches to the trails and riding style you plan to ride.

Most dirt bike manufacturers categorize their dirt bike models at least for motocross and enduro style categories. This should be your first area to focus on.

Generally speaking, it is best to choose a correct category dirt bike and then adjust the dirt bike to fit your height and weight. Most dirt bikes can be lowered for shorter riders and adjusted to fit taller riders. Same goes with matching your weight.

2. Narrow Down the Options Based on Your Experience Level

Don’t let your height or weight choose the dirt bike size for you. Instead, choose the dirt bike matching your experience level. There are plenty of good dirt bikes for beginners in all size categories and the rest can be tuned to match your size.

If you are a beginner rider looking to buy your first dirt bike, you might be thinking that the dirt bike size or seat height is the primary decision criteria. This is because you want to feel comfortable and stable on the chosen dirt bike to learn the basic skills.

Many of the best dirt bikes for beginners may feel tall when testing them on the shop floor. Most riders under 5′ 8″ or 175cm and under will feel like the seat height is too high to comfortably learn dirt biking and basic techniques.

However, as you gain more experience, you start gaining a better balance and learning the basic techniques. This makes riding easier and the seat height bothers you less and less.

If you are 5′ 6″ (167cm) or shorter and a beginner, choose the dirt bike from the beginner dirt bike size section that matches well to your riding style. You are going to be switching to a full-size dirt bike within the first year anyway.

More experienced rides 5′ 6″ (167cm) or shorter, look for a full-size dirt bike within the matching riding style that offers easy lowering options.

Keep in mind that it is by far easier to lower or raise and tune the correct dirt bike to your height and weight than modify the dirt bike to fit another riding style.

3. You Can Adjust the Dirt Bike Size to Your Height and Weight

Once you have chosen the dirt bike category that fits your riding style and experience level, you need to fine-tune the dirt bike to your height and weight.

This is important: most beginner and advanced riders forget or simply do not know how important it is to tune the dirt bike to fit you. The suspension, handlebars, and forward controls should be adjusted to your skill level as well as height and weight.

The primary areas to focus on are setting the suspension to your weight, tuning the handlebars to your height, and lastly, configuring the grips and levers to your liking.

In addition to tuning, modifying the dirt bike size or seat height is relatively simple and affordable. If you are a shorter rider, there are several options to lower the dirt bike suspension, typically up to 2 inches or so. In addition to suspension, you can change the seat to your liking and gain another inch or two if needed. You should also be able to find second-hand dirt bikes that are already lowered.

If you are a taller rider, for example over 6 feet (182cm), you can also fit the dirt bike to your height by using handlebar raiser blocks and matching taller handlebar. Pushing the handlebar forward will also increase the rider space and help with getting the forward controls and ergonomics in place.

4. Check Against Must-Have Features for Best Beginner Dirt Bikes

Additionally, there are few other dirt bike features that are important when choosing the best dirt bike for beginners. Next, let’s discuss some of the must haves in detail.

Beginners Should Favor Lightweight Dirt Bike Models

When choosing your first dirt bike, the weight of the dirt bike can be one factor. In addition to learning how to ride the dirt bike, you need to be able to load and unload the dirt bike to pickup truck bed or trailer.

Picking up a heavy dirt bike several times a day is also common when learning to ride. In many riding style categories, you have several options to choose from, so pay attention to the curb weight of the dirt bike.

Choose Electric Start Over Kick Start Dirt Bike Models

An electric starter is a must feature for any good dirt bike for beginners. Some older models and commonly the MX or motocross models still use kick starts only and this may be a problem for beginner riders.

Additionally, maybe the worst combination for a beginner dirt bike is an older four-stroke dirt bike with a kick start. They are notoriously difficult to kick start when hot. Furthermore, as a beginner, you will stall the bike on a regular basis. Kicking it over multiple times a day will wear out even the strongest of us, so make sure you choose the dirt bike model that has an electric start. It’s a must for the best beginner dirt bikes.

Select Light Clutch Pull Models

Before buying the first dirt bike, you need to know what the clutch pull is like in that particular bike. When learning the basics, using the clutch is among the very first things you need to learn.

If the clutch is difficult to pull in and operate, you will struggle with it a lot. When testing dirt bikes, make sure to test the clutch pull continuously several times. If you cannot pull the clutch in for at least 10–20 times repeatedly with 1 or 2 fingers when the dirt bike is idling, you will have issues with it later. Making the clutch pull lighter is not easy.

Pick a Reliable Dirt Bike

All dirt bikes require some basic maintenance. However, when choosing the best beginner dirt bike to start learning with, make sure to stick with reliable models. If you buy second-hand dirt bikes, you should make sure the dirt bike starts well and has no idling issues. Bring a friend who can test the dirt bike before buying it.

It is important to make sure all controls, brakes, levers, bearings, and suspension are working as they should. Learning how to ride dirt bikes with incorrectly set and poorly performing dirt bike is difficult.

5. Select Engine Options and the Engine Size

Interestingly, the engine size is the last of our selection criteria for the best dirt bike for beginners.

Most of the dirt bike size categories offer several engine sizes to choose from. You also have the option to choose from three main motor categories: four-strokes, two-strokes, and electric dirt bikes.

Read also: Sur-Ron X review, unboxing and full ride review.

While there are no simple answers to engine size or power options, few general guidelines can help you decide between available options.

It’s good to note, that the engine type or size and the dirt bike size have no direct correlation. You can find small and big engine sizes in all dirt bike categories, all the way from beginner dirt bikes to full-size race dirt bikes.

In a nutshell, the larger size engines will provide more torque. This helps when learning the clutch control as the dirt bike is not stalling as easily. This is especially true with 2-stroke engines.

Overall, selecting the correct engine size for you should follow the riding style first and foremost. Next, focus on your skill level.

For beginners and first time riders, we recommend four-stroke beginner dirt bike models that are easy to handle and have lower tuned, more forgiving engine performance. They also stall much less and are generally well tuned for a more mellow power delivery.

Four-Stroke Engines

Four-stroke engine dirt bikes come in all sizes. Generally speaking, 4-stroke dirt bikes are a popular choice for motocross, supercross, adventure or dual sport, trials, faster styles of trail or desert riding, and enduro.

Two-Stroke Engines

Two-stroke dirt bike models are popular among enduro and technical, lower speed disciplines, such as single track, hard enduro, and trials.

Electric Dirt Bikes

Have you noticed, that electric dirt bike models are also becoming a great option in all dirt bike size categories, from kids to youth, women, and adults riders alike? The electric motor offers a great torque, a predictable power delivery and a very easy to operate, clutchless and gearless operation. Read more about electric dirt bikes in our complete guide to electric dirt bikes.

Where Can I Test Best Beginner Dirt Bikes?

In this section, we discuss different options to test beginner dirt bikes.

If you have no previous experience with any dirt bikes, we recommend spending some time testing few options out there.

Firstly, testing different dirt bikes will help you to decide the general direction to go with, such as riding style, engine type, and must have features for you. Secondly, you will get to know your local trails and tracks to further help making the decision on your first dirt bike.

1. Visit Dirt Bike Manufacturer Demo Days

Many of the dirt bike manufacturers are organizing new dirt bike model lineup demo days. You can go sign up and test all of the dirt bikes you want for free. It’s a great way to see different models and size them up. In fact, they usually have a small beginner-friendly and safe testing area available for new riders.

2. Visit Local Dirt Bike Dealers Demo Days

Your local dirt bike dealers are also organizing their own separate events. It’s another opportunity to find lots of several types of dirt bikes and models to test out.

3. Attend Race Weekends

You can attend dirt bike race weekends as a spectator for a small entry fee. The bigger venues typically have local dealers or manufacturers on site to present their dirt bike models and at least you can test sit and eye the models.

4. Rent To Test

Renting out dirt bikes is another option to get hands on to the best beginner dirt bikes before committing to buy. You can find local dirt bike rental companies and check if they have the models you are interested in.

5. Attend Training Events

Find your local dirt bike coaches or trainers that can offer beginner dirt bikes for rent with the training class. This might be the best option, as you can test the dirt bike and learn new techniques at the same time.

6. Test Friends’ Dirt Bikes

If you already have friends who ride, test their bikes. Many riders will let you test their beginner dirt bikes, simply because they once were beginners also and remember how difficult it was to choose their first dirt bike.

7. Visit Local Ride Days to Meet Other Riders

If you show up to a popular riding spot, you should easily find beginner riders and people who are willing to help you with choosing and let you test ride their dirt bikes.

Additionally, search for your local dirt bike riding association or club and check their schedules. Likewise, they organize ride weekends and usually you can attend the ride days for a small spectator fee. Typically, they pack several hundred riders including many beginners like you and it is a great way to get into the sport and find likeminded riders to talk to.

Best Beginner Dirt Bikes for 2022

Here is a list of the best beginner dirt bikes available for the fall of 2022 to spring 2023. This list includes options from the 2023 lineup as well as some dirt bikes that you can find second hand.

If you are a short or a tall rider, be sure to check out our ultimate dirt bike size chart. The list includes all popular dirt bike models with their seat height, engine sizes, curb weight, and more. It is an easy way to find the models that fit your height and weight as well as the overall dirt bike sizes.

We categorized the list of the best dirt bike for beginners under different riding styles so you can easily find the best dirt bike option for you.

First, let’s check out the best beginner dirt bikes for trail riding; including enduro, off road, cross country, and single track models.

Top 8 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes for Trail Riding

1. Best Beginner Dirt Bike for Trail Riding – Winner: Beta XTrainer

Our winner for the best beginner dirt bike for trail riding is the 2022 Beta Xtrainer.

In summary, this lightweight 2-stroke enduro / trail / single track style dirt bike features a mellow and tame 300cc engine with plenty of low-end torque. Furthermore, this makes this dirt bike easy to ride and stall resistant and a great option for the best starter dirt bike.

Best beginner dirt bikes for trail riding - Winner: Beta Xtrainer
Our winner for the best beginner dirt bike for trail riding is the 2022 Beta Xtrainer.

The Beta Xtrainer is the best fit for trail riding, enduro, and single track riding styles.

The Beta Xtrainer may look big but it offers a full-size dirt bike frame with a seat height of just 35.8″ or 910mm. This means that riders around 5′ 4″ (162cm) can still comfortably reach the ground. You can also lower the dirt bike further if needed with aftermarket suspension parts.

The Xtrainer is also very light. Beta has used a lighter, 43mm front fork design to shave weight. Additionally, the seat and the top of the bike is also very narrow, and the front of the seat sits low and evenly all the way to the front. The overall feeling is smaller than in comparable dirt bikes, and that’s a good thing.

Additionally, the clutch lever pull is light and highly adjustable. Likewise, same goes for brakes. Everything feels high quality and reliable.

We have first hand experience on the Beta Xtrainer and recommend it to beginner riders focusing on trail riding, single track riding, enduro, and similar styles.

Beta Xtrainer Specifications

Check out more details at the Beta Xtrainer home page.

ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat
Height
Curb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
Beta XtrainerOff Road292.3cc
2-stroke
35.8″ (910mm)216lb (98kg)
no fuel
80/100 R21110/100 R18$7,999
Our WINNER for the best beginner dirt bike for trail riding: 2022 Beta Xtrainer, specifications

2. Runner-Up: KTM 150 XC-W / Husqvarna TE 150

The runner-up for the best beginner dirt bike for trail riding is the 2023 KTM 150 XC-W / Husqvarna TE 150. These bikes are essentially the same dirt bike with only few differences in parts.

Runner up for the best dirt bike for beginners for trail riding: KTM 150 XC-W
The runner-up for the best beginner dirt bike for trail riding is the KTM 150 XC-W / Husqvarna TE 150.

Much like the Beta Xtrainer, the KTM 150 XC-W / Husqvarna TE 150 models are the best fit for trail riding, enduro, and single track riding styles.

The reason why we picked this dirt bike is the overall lightweight, modern suspension and easy-to-operate electric start with a kick start and a very light clutch pull. For these reasons, it makes a compelling and competitive choice for your first dirt bike.

The 150cc two-stroke engine has more low-end torque compared to some of the other small engine models. This makes it easier to learn to use the clutch. It can also be lowered easily with aftermarket lowering kit and has tons of aftermarket options to fine-tune it to the rider’s preference.

KTM 150 XC-W / Husqvarna TE 150 Specifications

Check out more technical details about the KTM 150 XC-W on the KTM website.

ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat
Height
Curb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
KTM 150 XC-W / Husqvarna TE 150Enduro143.99cc
2-stroke
37.8″ (960mm)213lb
(96.8kg)
no fuel
80/100 R21110/100 R18$9,799
Our runner-up for the best beginner dirt bike for trail riding: 2023 KTM XC-W / Husqvarna TE 150, specifications

3. Third Place: Beta 200RR

The Beta 200RR is another great option for enduro, trail, and single track riders. This lightweight dirt bike with a low seat height and a narrow frame is a good option for beginner riders for its small and manageable size.

Third place for the best dirt bike for beginners for trail riding: Beta 200RR
Our choice for the third place for the best beginner dirt bike for trail riding is the Beta 200RR.

When we tested the 200RR model last year at a local Beta demo day, this model was a positive surprise. The Beta 200RR feels very small, nimble, narrow, and easy to maneuver. Furthermore, it felt much lighter than many of the other models on this list. It surely is a great choice for a beginner rider looking to buy a model that can be used for a longer time instead of just for learning the basics of trail riding.

Check out the full details about the Beta 200RR on the manufacturer’s website.

Beta 200 RR Specifications
ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat
Height
Curb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
Beta 200RROff Road190.2cc,
2-stroke
36.6″ (930mm)214lb
(97kg)
no fuel
80/100 R21110/100 R18$9,299
Our third place for the best beginner dirt bike for trail riding: 2023 Beta 200RR, specifications

4. KTM FREERIDE E-XC

KTM has entered the full-size all electric dirt bike category with their Freeride model lineup. Surprisingly, the Freeride E-XC was originally designed as a beginner trail bike with a mellow and easy to learn 2-stroke engine.

Back in 2018, KTM transformed this lightweight model to full electric keeping its beginner style approach and it has gained popularity ever since.

We recommend this model as an option to beginners because the Freeride E-XC is easy to ride and it is easy to learn the basic trail riding techniques with it. In short, it does’t have a clutch or use gears.

It also makes maintenance and tuning much more simple and, therefore, it is a very viable option for beginner riders wanting to get into trail riding.

5. Yamaha YZ125X / 250X

Yamaha YZ125X and YZ250X models offer a very lightweight aluminum frame. Both models are known for being reliable and well proven for cross country and trail type riding, including enduro. Many riders like the overall high quality suspension and very light clutch operation, although some parts and design options may seem outdated.

In particular, these models are the best fit for taller riders as they have a seat height of over 38 inches (970mm), which usually means a good fit for riders 6 feet (182cm) or taller. Be sure to check out our full dirt bike size and seat height chart for more models fitting your height.

6. Yamaha TT-R230

The Yamaha TT-R230 is a good fit for shorter riders and people looking to start with one of the easiest trail bikes. This beginner dirt bike offers a great low-end torque and a hard-to-stall engine, which makes learning the clutch control easier. The low, just over 34-inch (869mm) seat height makes this beginner dirt bike easy to handle.

7. Kawasaki KLX140R F

The Kawasaki KLX140R F is a great option for women or short riders. The KLX is a common choice for beginner trail riders as it offers a low seat height of 31 inches (861mm) making it a great option for teenagers and youth riders alike. While the model is not the lightest option out there, the KLX seems to be a popular first choice for many shorter riders out there. We like its low price and the ease of use together with a great engine that is a good fit for beginner riders.

8. Honda CRF250F

The Honda CRF250F is a great four-stroke beginner dirt bike. The 250cc engine combined with a low seat height of just under 35 inches (884mm) makes a good combination for beginner riders. The engine has plenty of low-end torque and an easy-to-operate clutch.

We like the overall size of the dirt bike and the low seat, however, the overall weight of 265lb (120kg) can be an issue for some riders.

Top 6 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes for Motocross

Next, let’s focus on the best beginner dirt bikes for motocross.

1. Best Beginner Dirt Bike for Motocross – Winner: KTM 250 SX-F

The winner of the best beginner dirt bike in the motocross category is the KTM 250 SX-F.

This modern and lightweight 250cc four-stroker is a great choice for beginner riders for motocross. We like the overall high quality and reliability of the leading motocross brand out there, but also the shear power and performance these models offer. If you are tall enough and have the basic clutch skills, testing out this KTM 250 SX-F is a must.

Best beginner dirt bikes for motocross - Winner: KTM 250 SX-F
Our winner for the best beginner dirt bike for motocross is the KTM 250 SX-F.

The reason we picked the 250SX-F as the winner of the motocross category is the very light overall weight combined with a great engine. This combination makes it easy to control the bike and to learn the motocross basics.

Motocross dirt bikes are tall and this one is no exception. With the seat height at 37.7″ (958mm), this model is best suited for riders 5′ 8″ or 172cm and taller.

Check more details about the KTM 250 SX-F on the KTM website.

KTM 250 SX-F Specifications
ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat
Height
Curb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
KTM 250
SX-F
Motocross250cc,
4-stroke
37.7″ (958mm)223lb
(101kg)
no fuel
80/100 R21100/90 R19$9,999
Our winner for the best beginner dirt bike for motocross: 2023 KTM 250 SX-F, specifications.

2. Runner-Up: KTM 150 SX

Our second choice for the best beginner dirt bike for motocross is the KTM 150 SX.

Sadly, KTM is no longer producing this model for the 2023 lineup. However, you can still find these models second hand. This super light and nimble motocrosser is a great beginner dirt bike. The only reason why it’s second on our list is the availability.

Best beginner dirt bikes for motocross - Runner up: KTM 150 SX
The runner-up for the best beginner dirt bike for motocross is the 2022 KTM 150 SX.

This popular option has a 150cc 2-stroke engine making it fun and fast at the same time. A slightly larger engine compared to 125cc motocross models offers more low-end torque. Furthermore, arguably offering the best and lightest clutch pull out there for any motocross dirt bike, this beginner model is an ideal dirt bike to begin your motocross riding sport.

KTM 250 SX-F Specifications
ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat
Height
Curb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
KTM 150
SX (2022)
Motocross150cc,
2-stroke
37.4″ (950mm)193lb
(87.54kg)
no fuel
80/100 R21100/90 R19$7,499
Our runner-up for the best beginner dirt bike for motocross: 2022 KTM 150 SX, specifications

3. Third Place: Kawasaki KX250

Our third choice for the best beginner dirt bike for motocross is the 2023 Kawasaki KX250.

Kawasaki has updated their popular KX250 model with a brand new engine and gearbox. They have focused on a more user friendly gearing and performance increases in terms of both the engine power delivery and the suspension design.

Best beginner dirt bikes for motocross - Third place: Kawasaki KX250
Our choice for the third place for the best beginner dirt bike for motocross is the Kawasaki KX250.

The KX250 is equipped with a modern electric start and a light clutch pull by a new hydraulic clutch design. A relatively high seat height makes this a good fit for 5′ 8″ or 172cm and taller riders.

Find more detailed Kawasaki KX250 specs on the manufacturer’s website.

Kawasaki KX250 Specifications
ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat
Height
Curb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
KTM 150
SX (2022)
Motocross249cc,
4-stroke
37.8″ (960mm)237.7lb
(107.8kg)
80/100 R21110/90 R19$8,499
Our third choice for the best beginner dirt bike for motocross: 2023 Kawasaki KX250, specifications

4. GasGas MC 250F 

Another great model for beginner motocrossers comes from GasGas. The MC 250F is a lightweight and modern dirt bike that has made the top lists many times in recent years.

As GasGas self describes it: “It’s our ‘little’ 4-stroke that’s big on fun and guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face!”. Their 2023 lineup has seen several upgrades and offers similar performance parts as the KTM dirt bikes.

With a dry weight of only 218lb or 99kg, the MC 250F is one of the lightest MX or moto models our there. The seat height is listed at 37.4″ or 950mm.

5. Honda CRF250R

The recently updated Honda CRF250R jumps on the same level as the other modern 250 class motocross dirt bikes.

One of the upgrades Honda made for the 2022 models was a completely new engine. The engine now offers much more usable low-end and mid-end power range. For this reason, it made the list for the best beginner dirt bikes for motocross.

It is much easier to learn the basics of dirt riding with the new engine. The low-end torque of the newly designed engine helps prevent stalling. The gear box seems to be a good fit also, making this a good option for any skill level.

6. Yamaha YZ250F

It would be silly to not mention the Yamaha YZ250F on this list.

The legendary YZ250F has won many motocross competitions and comparison tests in the past few years. And for a good reason: it is a great motocross dirt bike. The recent model years have seen much needed upgrades and improvements to the popular model lineup, which further has helped Yamaha win many podiums.

The reason why the Yamaha YZ250F is not in our top 3 of the best dirt bikes for beginners for motocross is simply because we feel that it may lack in few areas for beginners.

Mainly, it is tall and on the heavier side. With a seat height of 38.2″ or 973mm, it is the tallest one on our list. The wet weight around 234lb makes it a better fit for a taller rider.

Secondly, it is powerful! This means that learning the basic techniques might be more difficult while trying to tame all that power.

Conclusions

Finding the best beginner dirt bike takes a little effort and requires testing out the different models. The best way to get things started and find your best starter dirt bike is to attend several dirt bike events and visit riding spots and try out the different options.

When I started riding enduro style single track, I chose the KTM 350 XCF-W as my first beginner dirt bike. This turned out to be a poor choice for the trails and the riding style I wanted to do as well as my skill level.

Going back, I wish I had spent a little more time focusing on the riding style and types of trails I was going to be mostly riding. However, I learned the basics with it and quickly found my next dirt bike.

It’s also a good idea to check the second-hand market for used beginner dirt bikes since many of the beginner dirt bike models listed in this article are well kept and have usually low hours.

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Last updated: September 21st, 2022