Best Trail Dirt Bike for Trail Riding

In the search of the best trail dirt bike, I put popular trail dirt bikes to the test and selected the best dirt bike for trail riding, single track, and enduro.

In this post, I will cover the general differences between popular dirt bike models and the best choices for different trail riding styles as well as the what makes a good trail dirt bike.

In summary, I chose the KTM 300 XC-W as the best trail riding dirt bike. If you wish to skip the selection criteria and read more why I chose this model, click here.

If you are a beginner rider, take a look at my post about the best beginner dirt bikes for trail riding for models that are best fits for beginners and my recommendations for women riders at best dirt bikes for women for trail riding and motocross.

In this post, I focus on finding the best options for advanced and more technical single track riding.

Let’s get started!

A dirt bike rider testing the best dirt bike for trail riding on a single track


Dirt bike manufacturers typically build dirt bikes specifically for the different riding styles, such as motocross, enduro, trail, single track, trials, etc.

When selecting the best trail dirt bike, I felt it is only fair to compare dirt bikes specifically designed for trail riding and dirt bikes that are commonly used in trail riding. These models are typically using model names such as cross country, enduro, trail, and sometimes simply off-road. They make the cream of the crop and will generally have the best trail riding dirt bikes to choose from.

My focus was to find ideal options for riders who are looking for the best trail motorcycle for all kinds of technical trail riding, specifically for slower, technical, and hard enduro style conditions. These riding conditions usually set a few additional selection criteria for the engine type, power delivery, and suspension requirements.

So, if you were ever wondering about the engine type, sub-model, or dirt bike configuration, just keep reading and find out what makes the best dirt bike for trail riding or the best woods dirt bike.

Let’s begin with the best engine options for single track riding and trail riding.

Best Engine Types for Trail Riding

Dirt bikes in general can be divided into three main categories based on their engine type.

Each engine type—2-stroke, 4-stroke, or electric—has its pros and cons when it comes to trail riding.

All engine types are great, however, generally speaking they excel in different areas. All of these engine types produce power very differently.

In modern dirt bikes, the maximum power is really not an issue in most riding conditions. Instead, I am looking for the maximum traction and a controllable power delivery which can be tuned while maintaining a great low-end torque. Wow, that’s a lot. But let’s discuss why I feel this is important for any great trail dirt bike.

2-Stroke Trail Bikes

Two-stroke engines generally produce power differently than four-stroke engines and the power delivery can be adjusted with a power valve. This engine type provides a great base for fine-tuning. They also lack engine brake, which changes the riding characteristics and clutch operation.

Additionally, two-stroke engine dirt bikes tend to be lighter and can feel easier to handle around tight single track and wooded sections of the single track, making them a great choice for a good trail motorcycle.

The KTM XCW 300 is a popular option for the best trail dirt bike in 2023.
The KTM XCW 300 is a popular choice among single track riders.

4-Stroke Trail Bikes

The best 4 stroke dirt bike for trail riding is a typical choice for faster, more open wide style tracks or desert style riding. Deep, sandy, and faster or wider two track style trails usually are in favor of four-stroke engines. This is because of the high revving engines that can produce high amounts of usable power in higher engine revolution area.

While many 4-stroke models may be easier to stall since they lack low-end torque and run at much higher temperatures, there are still good options for trail riding. They are great options for desert style or fast paced high speed trails where you cover more distance and mostly ride at higher gears. Also, sandy and muddy conditions sometimes favor 4-stroke engines.

The best 450 dirt bike for trail riding typically is designed specifically to the trail riding, with gearing and engine power delivery designed to match the trail riding style.

Electric Trail Dirt Bikes

Electric dirt bikes are rapidly cornering a good size position on the trail riding dirt bike market. The electric KTM Freeride E-XC already made the fourth place on my best beginner dirt bikes for trail riding list.

The electric motors are excellent power sources and make great alternative option for many single track riders. Furthermore, they are much more powerful, provide a flat torque all across the power curve, and have no hesitation or delay. Ideally, this is what we want. However, the weight and range are still an issue. Additionally, the lack of the clutch or gears will keep this model in the beginner category for us.

To Sum Up

Overall, I favor engines capable of producing predictable and tunable low-end torque.

In my experience, 2-stroke engines are by far the best fit for technical trail riding and for these reasons, my choice for the best trail dirt bike will have a two-stroke engine.

If you’re a fan of the Redbull Hard Enduro World Championship or similar hard enduro national series, you’ve probably noticed how popular the two-stroke dirt bikes are. This is because the modern two-strokes produce plenty of power, and more importantly, a lot of low-end torque in a very lightweight and compact form.

In my opinion the best 2 stroke dirt bike for trail riding comes from the KTM or Husqvarna model line up since they seem to be the leader in new technology and R&D.

Ideal Engine Sizes for Trail Riding

Another thing to consider is the engine size. Now that I have chosen a two-stroke engine, let’s talk about engine sizes and how they affect your riding style and single track riding.

Smaller two-stroke engines typically lack low-end torque but are also much lighter. Furthermore, if we are sticking with the full-size frames for adults, your choices typically range between 150cc to 300cc engines. They serve a good purpose for single trail riding. If you’re looking for the best woods dirt bike, test the smaller engines for more lightweight and quicker turning ability.

Many veteran dirt riders will prefer slightly lower power options and recommend the smaller 25cc engines. Undoubtedly, some of the best 250 dirt bike for trail riding are KTM 250 XC or XCWs and the Yamaha YZ250x.

Beginners may think smaller is easier but consider this first. Small engines produce a lot of power but the power is delivered in the high rpm area with the power valve open when “on the pipe”. This means that the rider needs to be very comfortable with using the gas and ringing the engine in higher rpms to produce adequate power. This can be scary and may result in launching the bike in technical uphill sections.

For a beginner (however, not as the first bike), I would recommend the 200cc engines or even 250cc. If you are a beginner, take a look at my list of the best beginner dirt bikes.

With these engines, it’s important to adjust the power valve to a setting, where the power band area is tuned very high on the rpm area so that the power delivery is smoother and lacks the big hit when the flap is fully open. This makes the engine power delivery smoother and not as explosive.

My choice for the best trail dirt bike is definitely equipped with the 300cc engine size. This legendary 2-stroke engine class has massive amounts of very controllable and tunable low-end torque and a comparable 450cc 4-stroke level maximum power.

Dirt Bike Models Designed for Trail Riding

Enduro bike manufacturers typically offer separate sub-models specifically designed for enduro style dirt biking. The differences are small but some of them play an important role when selecting the model best fit for trail riding.

Typically, you will find suspension, engine tuning, gearbox or gearing ratio, and similar changes among the enduro models compared to motocross or track models.

For example, KTM produces the XC and XC-W models. The XC (Cross Country) model has a linkage style rear shock, whereas the XC-W runs the PDS style shock. They also have different triple tree and front suspension configuration and components.

These differences are important when considering the best trail motorcycle. Additionally, I feel that the manufacturers have done a great job with tuning the sub-models to fit the riding style.

I like the more hidden PDS style rear shock for the technical trails as it offers more protection and clearance for large obstacles. Many manufacturers are using the linkage style rear shock, which in many cases can offer superior performance but can be easier to damage in rough conditions.

It’s also good to mention that I cannot recommend supercross or motocross lineup for a technical single track. It’s like trying to hit doubles on a motocross track on a trail bike. And it’s not going to end well. The suspension is just so different and too stiff for trail riding.

However, some motocross and supercross models, such as the SX models, are popular among advanced riders. In this case, the riders will change the suspension completely to custom or trail riding versions. They mainly do this because of the engine and the gearing differences when maximizing total performance.

My choice for the best dirt bike for trail riding is going to have a PDS style rear shock with a wide ratio gearbox designed for hard enduro. Common dirt bikes that fit this criteria are from the KTM XC-W (or XCW) series. The added protection level makes a solid selection criteria for the best trail riding dirt bikes, especially for hard enduro riding.

The Best Trail Dirt Bikes

All right, let’s get to it and select the best trail dirt bike. Here are the winners and runner-ups for the best dirt bikes for trail riding:

  1. KTM 300 XC-W TPI
  2. Husqvarna TE 300
  3. Sherco 300 SE Factory


Putting it all together, selecting the winner was easy.

Side view of the best trail dirt bike KTM 300 XC-W
WINNER: The overall best trail dirt bike is KTM 300 XC-W.

KTM continues to produce awesome trail dirt bikes in many size categories. The new model offers a great feature set and no wonder it is the choice for many pro-level riders for hard enduro and trail riding. I feel like it’s the best dirt bike for trail riding and technical single track.

For more details, take a look at my KTM 300 XCW detailed test and review.

This lightweight 2-stroke dirt bike comes with “almost ready” to race setup. It still needs to be tuned to your riding style, however, even a stock KTM 300 XC-W packs a good punch. Add some protection and you cannot find many excuses or cons with this dirt bike. It is my choice for all kinds of technical enduro, trail riding, and single track formats.

Make / ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat HeightCurb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
KTM 300
37.8″ (960mm)228lb
no fuel
WINNER: The overall best trail dirt bike, KTM 300 XC-W and its detailed specifications.

Runner-Up: Husqvarna TE 300

Owned by KTM, this Husqvarna trail dirt bike is very similar to the model above.

Side view of the runner-up for the best trail dirt bike Husqvarna TE 300
The runner-up: Husqvarna TE 300.

The TE 300 made the second place for the best dirt bike for off road. The main reason it didn’t win was the linkage style rear shock. Other than that, this model has slightly better components than the KTM above, but overall they are very comparable dirt bikes.

Make / ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat HeightCurb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
Husqvarna TE 3001. Enduro293.2cc
37.4″ (950mm)234.6lb (106.4kg) no fuel80/100-21110/100-18$11,199
The runner-up, Husqvarna TE 300, and detailed specifications

Third Place: Sherco 300 SE Factory

The third place goes to Sherco SE FACTORY.

Side view of the third best trail dirt bike Sherco SE-300
The third place goes to Sherco 300 SE FACTORY.

When Sherco updated their 2-stroke engine to a counterbalanced version back in 2021, it made this SE 300 a viable competitor for the best trail motorcycle. It made third place on this list because of the great suspension. Sherco is using the KYB suspension components that many consider superior to the WP Xplor suspension KTM and Husqvarna prefer.

I have tested the 2020 and 2021 models and they both felt excellent. However the older 2020 and under models feel very rough because of the missing counterbalanced engine and the vibrations it causes. If you buy the SE 300 as used, stick with the 2021 models and up.

Make / ModelRiding StyleEngine TypeSeat HeightCurb WeightTires / FrontTires / RearMSRP
Sherco 300 SE
37.4″ (950mm)228lb
no fuel
The third place goes to Sherco SE FACTORY, shown here with specifications.

What is the best 250 trail bike?

In my opinion the KTM XCW 250 is the best trail bike in the 250cc category.

What is the difference between cross-country and trail dirt bikes?

Cross-country dirt bikes are built for speed and efficiency on smooth trails, focusing on performance and endurance. Trail dirt bikes are more versatile, designed to handle various terrain and obstacles, offering a balance of power, suspension, and maneuverability for off-road adventures.

Are 2 strokes better for trail riding?

Yes, in most trail riding the 2-stroke engine performs better, runs cooler, provides less fatigue and is easier to operate.

Can you use a motocross bike for trail riding?

Yes, however you are not likely going to like it. The motocross dirt bikes are tuned to large jumps and faster speeds, which means the suspension is rough and quickly tires you out.

What is the best used trail dirt bike?

The used KTM XCW or KTM XC models between years 2017 and up make great options for the best used trail dirt bike. You can find them in Facebook marketplace for around $4,000-$7,000.

In Conclusion

This year’s winner for the best trail dirt bike is the KTM 300 XCW. It is also widely available as used and has a great selection of aftermarket parts and accessories.

From my experience, the top 3 trail bikes listed above are very close to one another. Realistically, it comes down to minor details and personal preference when choosing the correct model for you from this list of the best dirt bikes for trail riding.

If you have a chance, go and test out each of these models on the manufacturers demo days or find a local dealer who’s letting you to test out the new models. This can help narrow down the best option for you.

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