Choosing the ideal type of dirt bike can get quite tricky. There are dozens of factors that you have to take into consideration to make the right decision. Aside from choosing between a 4-stroke and a 2-stroke bike, you might also have to make the choice between a 250cc and a 450cc dirt bike.
The main difference between 250cc and 450cc dirt bikes is the power they offer. If you are an advanced rider who is looking for a fast, powerful dirt bike, a 450cc bike may be right for you. However, if you’re less experienced or you don’t need much power for your riding, a 250cc dirt bike is best.
The 7 key differences between 250cc and 450cc dirt bikes are:
- Power and torque
- Riding on the street
- Who they’re designed for
However, power and speed aren’t the only factors that need to be considered when choosing between 250cc and 450cc. Below, we cover all the advantages and disadvantages of both sides, as well as key differences between them to help you make the right choice.
Table of Contents
The most obvious difference between 250cc and 450cc dirt bikes is the power the two bikes offer. 250cc bikes tend to have up to around 40 horsepower, while 450cc bikes often top out at closer to 50-55 hp. These numbers are important, but also important is the torque these bikes offer.
450cc bikes can muster 30-35 pound-feet of torque at their peak, but for 250cc bikes it’s usually closer to 17-19 pound-feet. While the higher power numbers generally mean the bike will be able to go faster, having more torque means you’ll put that power to use much easier.
This is a big generalization, and it changes depending on RPM and whether it’s 2-stroke or 4-stroke, but basically the higher the torque the faster the bike will accelerate. This means, with a high-torque 450cc bike, you’ll get moving off the line much faster than with a low-torque 250cc. This can make the powerful bikes more difficult to control for beginners.
Again, this is a big generalization, and the horsepower of the bike is also still important to consider as that generally determines how fast you’ll be able to go in terms of raw top speed. But the general idea is that 450cc bikes are usually more powerful and therefore faster than 250cc bikes, despite their heavier weights.
Even though 450cc dirt bikes are often more powerful than 250cc bikes, they are also much heavier. This is definitely something you need to consider as a lot of riders consider heavy dirt bikes to be quite uncomfortable to ride. The main reason for that is that they are much more difficult to control.
You use your arms and legs to control your dirt bike, and while the engine will move it forward, you need to be able to move left and right. As with anything, the heavier it is, the harder it is to move it around. So, if you’re not too experienced controlling a dirt bike, or if you aren’t particularly strong, it may be more difficult to control a heavier 450cc dirt bike.
The weight differences often aren’t too significant, but depending on the model you choose it could be 20+ lbs of difference. With a heavier dirt bike, stopping distances also increase, and so while the weight is something you will likely get used to, the additional learning curve makes it an obstacle absolute beginners may not want to face.
As you can probably assume, dirt bikes with 450cc engine displacement are usually more expensive than their 250cc counterparts. Their price is usually higher due to the fact that they are more powerful and provide better performance. That is also why 450cc models are often not as fuel-efficient as the 250cc ones, which is a minor but still important consideration.
However, keep in mind that the models with 250cc engines are also usually more than sufficient for most beginner riders and can still provide decent performance. Therefore, if you have a limited budget or if having a more powerful engine isn’t as important to you, 250cc still makes a pretty good choice. For absolute beginners, 125cc bikes are really best.
If you’re into racing (more on that soon) then a 450cc dirt bike will likely be the one to go for, but you will have to spend a bit more compared to buying a 250cc bike. The actual difference in price between the two types really depends on the dirt bike’s brand, model, and other features, and not all 450cc dirt bikes are more expensive than all 250cc dirt bikes.
One of the biggest advantages when it comes to 250cc dirt bikes is that they are less dangerous. As they can’t reach speeds as high as 450cc bikes can, and they have less torque, any accidents involving them are often less severe than those involving 450cc bikes. Minor accidents with 450cc bikes are also more likely to occur as they accelerate much faster than the 250cc ones.
Not only that but, as we have already mentioned, 450cc bikes are more difficult to control and so the chances of having an accident are increased. So, if you don’t think you have enough experience to ride a 450cc dirt bike, it’s definitely safer to opt for a 250cc option.
However, regardless of what type of motorcycle you are riding, safety equipment is always a must. Helmets are not up for debate, and you may need other safety gear too to minimize your risk of injuries when riding a dirt bike. However, ultimately how safe a dirt bike is to ride comes down to the person riding it.
Another very important thing to consider is whether you are planning on using your dirt bike for off-road tracks and trails, or for city riding. If you are going to get a street-legal dirt bike for city riding, 250cc is a much better choice. They are not too slow but not too fast either.
Plus, due to the size of 450cc dirt bikes, the city riding might end up being quite inconvenient and uncomfortable. While riding in the city you will most likely have to act quickly a lot more often. As handling the bike at low speeds can get very tricky with 450cc models, we recommend you go with a 250cc model if you plan to do much riding on the street.
On the other hand, if your plans are to buy a dirt bike for racing, 450cc models are always a better choice. Not only are they faster, but they also accelerate faster too. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no 250cc models that could compete with the 450cc ones, it is just that 450cc bikes are better for racing in general.
Imagine you had an average 250cc dirt bike and you had to race with someone who has an average 450cc model. If you both had similar skills, the chances are that you would probably lose that race on a 250cc model. Still, racing with a 250cc bike first will make you a much better racer when you switch to 450cc as you will have much more experience on a less powerful dirt bike.
Therefore, if you are still lacking some experience and you want to become a professional racer, you should try riding dirt bikes with various engine displacements. If you start with a 125cc first, you are more likely to be a better racer on a 250cc model than someone who has never ridden a less powerful dirt bike.
7. Who They’re Designed For
The final main difference between 250cc and 450cc dirt bikes is who they’re designed for. While it’s not always the case, 250cc bikes are aimed more towards intermediate dirt bike riders, and those that perhaps just ride as a hobby or from time to time.
450cc bikes on the other hand, with their higher price tags, power, and top speeds are mainly designed for those that need the extra power. This may be for those that spend a lot of their time on the trails, or for racers. Considering how you plan to use your dirt bike – and how often – is therefore the final thing to consider when choosing your next dirt bike.
250cc dirt bikes tend to be easier to ride than 450cc dirt bikes, especially if you don’t have any or much experience riding any kind of dirt bike. 450cc dirt bikes may be easier to ride depending on the trails you’re riding, but the lighter weight of 250cc bikes generally makes them easier to ride.
When it comes to which type of dirt bike is easier to ride, things get a bit more complicated than you might expect. There are multiple different factors that can impact the overall experience of riding a certain dirt bike. Therefore, in order to figure out which one will suit you better and be easier to ride, you have to take your style of riding into account.
Riding any kind of dirt bike is not something that comes easy to beginners. It requires quite a lot of effort, time, and attention just to learn the basics. For some people, especially beginners, riding a dirt bike could be exhausting and difficult. However, the more you practice and the more experience you gain, the better and easier the riding will become.
The Simple Answer
If you’re asking this question, it’s unlikely that you’re a highly experienced dirt bike rider. You’re likely either an absolute beginner or a rider with some experience on 125cc bikes. So, in this case, the simple answer is that 250cc dirt bikes will be easier for you to ride than 450cc bikes – at least at the start. But the learning curve isn’t always that steep.
When considering which one is going to be easier to ride it’s important to factor in everything else, like the model, the size of the bike itself, and whether it’s 2-stroke or 4-stroke. With more power at your fingertips, a 450cc bike will take more getting used to, but it may make the kind of riding you’re doing (high speed trails or racing) much easier.
On the other hand, if you are going to make it street legal and ride around town a lot, you’ll likely find the much lighter 250cc bike easier to ride. A 250cc dirt bike is usually easier to ride on trails for those with much less experience too, mainly due to the shallower learning curve when compared with moving on to 450cc bikes.
450cc dirt bikes are generally 5-10 mph faster than 250cc dirt bikes, but this will largely depend on the model of the bike and how it’s set up. A 450cc dirt bike tuned and geared in the right way can be very fast, but dirt bikes aren’t designed for top speed so it’s not the best metric to use.
To consider the average top speed differences between 250cc and 450cc dirt bikes, we compare a few different models in the table below. Note that top speeds are estimates and will vary depending on the year of the model. Also note that, as dirt bikes aren’t designed for top speed, some of these numbers may require gearing changes to truly achieve.
|Yamaha YZF||65 mph||80 mph|
|Honda CRFR||80 mph||87 mph|
|Suzuki RM-Z||70 mph||80 mph|
|Kawasaki KX||87 mph||94 mph|
|KTM SX-F||85 mph||90+ mph|
When people hear that dirt bikes with 450cc engine displacement are faster than the 250cc models, they are often wondering how big the speed difference is. However, the answer to this question is not as simple as it may seem as there are lots of different models with different weights, horsepower, and torque.
4-stroke engines are more environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient as they operate in 4 steps. The first one is intake, the second one compression, the third one is the combustion step, and finally the fourth one is the exhaust phase.
2-stroke engines, on the other hand, function a bit differently. As their name suggests, they operate in 2 steps. The first one is an upstroke that consists of ignition and compression, while the second one is a downstroke that consists of combustion and the exhaust phase. 2-stroke engines often weigh less than 4-stroke engines, helping give them a bigger power to weight ratio.
The weight of the bike, whether it’s 4-stroke or 2-stroke, and the power and torque levels are all far more important metrics to consider when choosing between 250cc and 450cc dirt bikes. You’ll likely never take your dirt bike to its top speed on the trails, and so these other factors will be more important to consider when making your decision between the two.
The advantages of 250cc dirt bikes are:
- Better for less experienced riders
- Lighter than 450cc bikes
- A little easier to work on
- Usually cheaper
250cc bikes are definitely better for less experienced dirt bike riders, but they’re often still a bit too powerful for absolute beginners. They’re easier to control than 450cc bikes because they’re much lighter and they are less powerful. They’re also usually a fair bit easier to work on than 450cc dirt bikes.
Because 250cc dirt bikes are lighter, slower, and easier to control than 450cc dirt bikes, they’re often safer too. You’re not only less likely to get into an accident with one of these bikes, but if you do it’s likely to be less severe than if you were on a faster, heavier bike.
Disadvantages Of 250cc Dirt Bikes
The disadvantages of 250cc dirt bikes are:
The main disadvantages of 250cc dirt bikes lie in the power department. These bikes are not going to be as fast as their 450cc counterparts, and this largely comes down to the larger engine displacement and higher power and torque numbers those bikes can provide. However, how important this is depends on the type of riding you plan to do.
If you plan to do a lot of racing, or just general high-speed trail riding, the lack of power with a 250cc dirt bike is going to be quite a disadvantage for you. However, if you’re a casual rider, or one with less experience, you’re not going to miss the extra power, and instead it becomes an advantage as the bike is easier to control.
Advantages & Disadvantages Of A 450cc Dirt Bike
The advantages of 450cc dirt bikes are:
- Very powerful
- Ideal for racing
- More fun to ride
The main advantage of a 450cc dirt bike is the disadvantage of the 250cc option. These bikes are generally quite powerful, and this makes them really fast too. These are the bikes to opt for if you plan to do a lot of racing, or if you just put a lot of value on the torque and power your bike can offer.
One important point is that 450cc dirt bikes are often just more fun to ride than 250cc bikes. This is clearly highly subjective, and whether or not they’re fun to ride depends on where you’re riding them, but the power they offer and the trails these bikes can take on can lead you on some very fun adventures!
The disadvantages of 450cc dirt bikes are:
- Heavier than 250cc bikes
- More difficult to control
- Usually more expensive
As with the 250cc bikes’ disadvantages, the disadvantages of 450cc dirt bikes are really only disadvantages if you see them that way. They’re heavier than 250cc dirt bikes, but their increased power accounts for this if you can handle it. This does make them a little more difficult to maneuver, but once you have experience it’s nothing too significant.
450cc dirt bikes do tend to be more expensive than their 250cc counterparts, but if you’re into racing or high-speed trail riding, this is likely a price you’re willing to pay. The price difference will also depend largely on the brand and the model, and there will be 450cc dirt bikes out there that are cheaper than some 250cc options.
250cc and 450cc dirt bikes both come with advantages and disadvantages that you should take into account before you choose which one to buy. If you are less experienced and you don’t think you can handle the weight and power of a 450cc dirt bike, it’s far better and safer to opt for a 250cc instead.