Right now, there is an overwhelming amount of brand names for dirt bikes out there. You still have your traditional powerhouses like Yamaha and Kawasaki. But as off-reading has become more popular, many more manufacturers have entered the fray.
Buyer beware, as some of these just do not offer the same build quality as others. It’s also easy to overlook manufacturers such as Honda and KTM. At the moment, Kawasaki and Yamaha are in a neck and neck race worldwide for top dirt bike sales.
But top-selling does not necessarily mean top quality all the time. Scroll down below for a head-to-head comparison of all the leading dirt bike brands.
It’s hard to go wrong with the leading brands. According to Consumer Reports, Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, and Suzuki are among the most reliable for both motorcycles and dirt bikes. You can add Austrian-based KTM to this list as well.
Yamaha has shown itself again and again to be one of the best brands in terms of durability. They are well-known for pushing out motorcycles that are capable of lasting 200K+ miles on the road.
This durability extends into their motocross line, as in-house research shows high marks in customer satisfaction.
With KTM, you may notice that the prices are on the high end. However, there’s a good reason for this. KTM brings their A-game when it comes to choosing high-quality parts for their dirt bikes. In addition to motocross, the company is also Europe’s leading manufacturer of motorcycles.
KTM prioritizes producing 2-stroke engines, which makes the company a bit of an outlier in this industry. Instead of converting to 4-stroke, the company has tried its hand at producing more environmentally-sound 2-strokes. KTM’s craftsmanship gives them an upper hand with the traditionalist crowd.
Kawasaki is certainly a name synonymous with the motocross industry. At their price point, Yamaha is their biggest competitor. Some have suggested that you get more bang for your buck with Kawasaki over Yamaha. Scroll down to the next section to learn for yourself why they may have a good point.
In a crowded field, it can be easy to overlook Suzuki. But this would be a big mistake. In the last couple of model years (2022 and 2023) the Japanese manufacturer has introduced several new and exciting models.
The company has also kept its existing models at a stable price, which is not something that many of the other manufacturers have done. With dual-injector fuel delivery systems and smartphone-based tuner apps (source), this is not the time to sleep on Suzuki.
It’s hard to pick any one brand to answer that question. That’s why the answer has been subdivided into different categories, as you’ll see below.
If you are new to dirt bikes, then you are highly encouraged to avoid anything that has an engine over 300cc.
Note: cc refers to the total volume of air and fuel being pushed through the engine by the cylinders.
It’s hard to beat Honda when it comes to bikes for beginners. The company hasn’t a wide assortment of offerings under 300cc. Honda also manufactures one of the most popular youth dirt bikes with a fuel injection system: the CRF110F.
In terms of power, KTM is hard to top. The KTM 450 SX-F has a top speed of 123 MPH and 54.8 horsepower. This makes it the fastest dirt bike available today.
It’s not just the 450 SX-F either. KTM has 3 different models with 250 xc or more, including one with a 2-stroke engine.
The Kawasaki KX450F packs quite the punch. It has a 4-stroke engine with a 5-speed transmission and direct fuel injection. It’s a perfect example of why Kawasaki is easily one of the most recognizable brand names in the motorsports industry.
It offers slightly less horsepower and torque than the likes of the Honda CRF450R, the KTM 450-SX-F, or the Husqvarna FC 450. However, it is more favorably priced than most of its leading competitors and the Kawasaki brand always scores highly in customer satisfaction.
This is certainly not just the case with the 450, as you’ll find that the entire Kawasaki lineup is friendly towards the budget, even when compared to equivalent Yamaha models.
The Husqvarna TE150i is widely considered to be one of the most versatile bikes on the market. It has an electric start, oil injection, and fuel injection.
It’s also much easier to handle versus similar dirt bikes from other brands, making it an appealing choice for novice riders and experts alike.
Although Yamaha is indeed fresh off back-to-back motocross and supercross titles (source), this hasn’t necessarily translated to increased sales volume. Yamaha reports said lower-than-expected sales numbers globally in 2021.
In the meantime, Kawasaki has reported a strong surge in sales, particularly in the Australian market where sales jumped a whopping 42.1% in early 2020.
You are always encouraged to steer towards the recognizable brand names mentioned above. These days it’s easy enough to find incredible deals online for bikes carrying brand names such as Apaq and Upbeat. These are primarily also referred to as “pit bikes” that are manufactured overseas.
If it seems like it’s too good to be true, then it very likely is. Brands like KTM and Yamaha may set you back as much as $8-12K when all is said and done, but at least you know that you are purchasing a reputable brand.
The leading brands have better warranties and it should be much easier to find a replacement part. On the subject of warranties, the major manufacturers of Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, and Suzuki offer strikingly similar coverage (source) for motorcycles, dual-sport models, and dirt bikes.
In terms of build quality, KTM is at the top of its game. However, these bikes are also pricier than the likes of Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda. As discussed above, it’s hard to beat Kawasaki for a balance between affordability and performance.
However, the other leading brands should not be overlooked. As mentioned in the sections above, it all boils down to what exactly you are looking for.