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Electric Dirt Bike vs. Gas Dirt Bike | The Ultimate Guide

The electric dirt bike and the gas dirt bike are very similar, but with a few key differences. Whether you’re a beginner buying your first dirt bike or an expert looking for an upgrade, it’s important to know the difference between these bikes to know what’s right for you.

An electric dirt bike is powered by a lithium-ion battery and therefore saves on operating costs, whereas a gas dirt bike is powered by either a two-stroke or a four-stroke engine and has more power. Electric bikes tend to be more expensive, but are easier to maintain than a gas dirt bike.

This article will discuss the differences between gas dirt bikes and electric dirt bikes, as well as their similarities and some things to take into account when purchasing a dirt bike or maintaining one that you already have. 

Know Your Environment

Before you make a choice about the right dirt bike for you, you should develop a clear picture of how and where you’ll want to use the bike. Most bikes can be used in multiple kinds of environments, but you’ll find that knowing what environment you’ll be riding in will help you find a bike that is especially well suited to your needs.

There are two main kinds of dirt biking: motocross and off-roading. Within motocross, there are three primary forms of competition: racing, freestyle, and supercross. There are also competitive forms of off-roading, with the main being enduro.

Motocross takes place on an outdoor track that is groomed for bikers. You’ll know what to expect as you take laps around the course and move through the preset ramps and turns. Motocross is both a recreational activity and a competitive sport. 

Motocross Racing

During an official motocross race, about 25 to 30 riders ride around the course for a certain number of laps, and the first to finish is considered the winner. In championship events, the fastest riders compete in a series of rounds leading up to a final race.

Freestyle Motocross

Freestyle motocross is like motocross racing in that it is performed on a set motocross course, but instead of being judged based on speed, riders are judged based on acrobatic stunts as they complete laps. 

One kind of freestyle motocross is big air, where the riders are given two major jumps covering a distance of 75 feet in which they can perform a stunt. In this kind of event, judges consider originality and difficulty and give a rating on a scale of 100. 

Another kind of freestyle motocross, simply called freestyle, involves two routines, each lasting 14 minutes and 90 seconds. During this time, the rider takes laps around the motocross course, performing a series of jumps at different lengths and at different angles. In this case, judges also evaluate the skill and originality of stunts and give a rating on a scale of 100. 

Supercross

Supercross is an indoor form of track racing that is very similar to motocross but technically considered its own sport. These courses are shorter than motocross courses and involve steeper jumps and harder obstacles, which are less similar to the natural terrain. Supercross tracks are also shorter than motocross courses.

Off-Road Dirt Biking

Off-roading, or trail riding, takes place on natural trails that span hundreds of miles and have endless unknown obstacles: rocks, holes, steep slopes, and tight corners. Off-roading bikes need to have bigger tires with more rubber padding and softer suspension to be able to handle these obstacles. 

Off-roading is also more doable with a push-button start than a kick start because you’ll need to start and stop the bike more often. These bikes are also often heavier than racing bikes because they have bigger gas tanks (if applicable) and more features built for comfort. 

However, all kinds of dirt bikes can be ridden for motocross or for off-roading. Different models simply have better performance in different areas. 

Enduro

Enduro racing happens on off-road courses, and are given points based on the rider’s timing. The race takes part in stages, and riders are allowed to re-fuel or service their vehicles at certain stops along the way. If they do not keep to this schedule for stops, they can be penalized and lose points.

Endurocross

EnduroCross is a mix between enduro racing and supercross, and is usually conducted on indoor tracks. Riders are judged based on both the time that it takes them to finish the course, like in enduro, and based on how well they navigate course obstacles, like in supercross. 

In EnduroCross, obstacles generally resemble outdoor obstacles, including rocks, boulders, fallen tree trunks, water, and mud, as well as giant tires and other obstacles. 

Gas Dirt Bikes

History

Gas-fueled bikes have been used since the 1800s, and racing came soon after. Motorcycle racing became popular in the early 1900s. These events all occurred on rough, open terrain, and races became official by the 1920s in the UK, funded by factories like BSA, Norton, and Matchless.

By World War II, motorized bikes took a lighter form with less rigid frames, better shock absorption, and suspension, looking more like the dirt bikes that we see today. The speed and power of these bikes improved due to these and other innovations in engineering.

By the 1960s, motocross became popular internationally, both in the United States and Japan. Major auto manufacturers Suzuki and Honda began producing dirt bike models designed for off-roading.

Since then, the engineering of motocross bikes has developed to improve speed and overall performance, but the basic design of the gas dirt bike has remained the same. 

Maintenance

Gas dirt bikes require regular maintenance of the engine, as well as the exterior of the bike. This includes washing and drying the bike and keeping a close eye on its performance, as well as changing the oil and air filter like you would for a car. 

The following steps are important to take for a gas dirt bike. Some of these are the same as what you’d do for an electric dirt bike, and some are unique. Generally, a gas dirt bike will require more steps in the maintenance routine.

  1. Gently wash your bike after every ride, using brushes and water, but avoiding getting water or dirt into the engine. You can, however, use a powerful stream of water, even a power jet.
  2. Dry the bike before checking for hardware problems. You can use a leaf blower to make the drying process faster.
  3. Check for oil leaks.
  4. Check for leaks in coolant and brake fluid.
  5. Clean dirt from the chain and let it dry.
  6. Inspect the chain for weak points or tension issues
  7. Lubricate the chain with chain lube like this Klotz UpLon lubricant or this Maxima Racing Oil.
  8. Lubricate the levers and cables, any moving parts.
  9. Inspect and tighten bolts.
  10. Check for frayed or bent control cables.
  11. Check your throttle for twisting issues.
  12. Make sure your air filter is clean and coated with oil.
  13. Check your tire pressure after every ride.
  14. Change your oil at least after every 8-10 hours of riding.
  15. Grease your engine to seal out water and dirt.

Technology

A gas dirt bike engine comes in two varieties: two-stroke and four-stroke. Both are internal combustion engines with pistons, cylinders, fuel, exhaust, and a crankshaft, although the four-stroke varieties operate more similarly to large vehicles like buses and cars. 

The dirt bike engine works by igniting a combination of fuel and air to move pistons up and down inside the cylinder, turning the crankshaft, which then turns the rear wheel of the bike. The clutch and the transmission allow you to control the rate and intensity at which this happens. 

Most gas dirt bikes are classified according to the size of the combustion chamber, measured in ccs. 1,000 cc is equal to about 0.22 gallons, and most engines are somewhere in the range of 250-350 cc. You may also find bikes classified according to the number and shape of cylinders, like in cars.

It’s important to note that the lubrication process is different between a two-stroke and a four-stroke engine. A two-stroke engine mixes oil and fuel, and so either needs a fuel pre-mixed with oil or needs oil injected into a reservoir that combines with fuel on intake. 

Having an oil reservoir means that you don’t need to worry about measuring the proper ratio of fuel to oil, but if something breaks in the pumping system, your engine can undergo serious damage.

The four-stroke engine is only ever lubricated through the use of an oil reservoir, which does not mix oil with fuel. 

Electric Start Gas Bikes

Some gas bikes have an electric start mechanism, making them hybrids mostly reliant on engine power but with a small battery and some electric features. The push-button start is the most common electric feature and allows the bike to start more quickly and smoothly.

Best on the Market

250cc Hawk Dirt Bike 5 speed Manual transmission, Big wheel, Electric kick start
250cc Pro-Hawk 5 speed Manual transmission, Big wheel, Electric kick start
125cc X-PRO Kids Dirt BikeBuilt for kids, 4 speed Manual transmission, Kick start, Big wheel
110cc X-PRO Kids Dirt Bike Built for kids, 4 speed Manual transmission, Electric kick start
Fit Right 49cc Kids Dirt BikeBuilt for kids, Aluminum big wheel, 2 stroke engine

Electric Dirt Bikes

History

Electric bikes were invented first in the 1890s, then evolved throughout the 1900s along with gas-powered bikes. However, very few electric bikes were available on the market for purchase at this time, even though they had been invented. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that electric bikes really became available to consumers. 

During this time, electric bikes moved through a heavy lead-acid battery design to a lighter lithium-ion battery design, which made for more lightweight bikes. This led to speed improvements and extended the range that the bikes could go before needing to be charged. 

Maintenance

Electric dirt bikes require regular maintenance to prevent failure and injury, and to keep you from having to pay for repairs. Make sure to wash your bike after every ride, and to inspect components for hardware issues before they become a problem on the track or trail.

The following steps are important to take for the maintenance of an electric dirt bike:

  1. Very gently wash your bike after every ride, using brushes and water, but avoiding any powerful streams of water. It is very important not to get water into the electrical components.
  2. Dry the bike before checking for hardware problems. You can use a leaf blower to make the drying process faster.
  3. Check for leaks in coolant and brake fluid.
  4. Clean dirt from the chain and let it dry.
  5. Inspect the chain for weak points or tension issues.
  6. Lubricate the chain with chain lube like this Klotz UpLon lubricant or this Maxima Racing Oil.
  7. Lubricate the levels and cables, any moving parts.
  8. Inspect and tighten bolts.
  9. Check for frayed or bent control cables.
  10. Check your throttle for twisting issues.
  11. Check your tire pressure after every ride.
  12. Don’t store your bike in direct sunlight, or anywhere that the battery might overheat.
  13. Avoid opening electrical components, as they are difficult to seal and susceptible to water damage.
  14. Recharge the battery.

Technology

Most electric dirt bikes today are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which can be charged by removing the battery pack from the bike, turning it off, and plugging it into a general power outlet. Some bikes come with a spot for the charger on the bike so that you’re sure to have it when and where you need it.

Most electric bike batteries will charge within 2 to 6 hours, depending on their range. Some charge at a rate of about 15 miles per hour, while others charge faster, at a rate of 25 miles per hour. Generally, the bigger the range, the faster the battery will charge. 

Some more expensive models charge the battery as you ride, transferring energy each time you use the brakes. This can extend the life of your battery by 5-10%, although it also makes pedaling more difficult. 

Batteries last longest if they are charged before they run out of power, and so you’ll want to recharge the battery after every use if possible. There is no harm in unplugging the battery before it is fully charged. 

Many bike owners carry an extra battery so that they can make long trips and extend their range without worrying about stopping to charge. Without recharging, an electric bike will generally make it to about 22-56 miles, although some can go for over 70 miles.

You can extend the life of your battery by using the appropriate gears for different speeds and situations and by using a lower assistance setting on the bike. 

Lithium batteries tend to last 500 charging cycles before losing much of its power, and up to 1200 cycles on some bikes. This translates to about 10,000 to 30,000 miles of total bike usage. 

An electric bike can usually reach about 20 miles per hour, although some can go up to 28 miles per hour.

Best on the Market

Electric dirt bikes have become more advanced in recent years, now including high-quality brakes and suspension systems. These are ten of the best electric dirt bikes currently on the market:

KTM Freeride E-XCGreat for off-roading, Energy recuperation technology that means charging less often and for less time
Zero FXAllows you to adjust settings for different kinds of terrain, Includes Eco-friendly mode, Includes Sport mode, Top speed of 85 mph
Cake Kalk ORMade for off-roading, Unique design, Innovating engineering
Cake Kalk INKSimilar to the Cake Kalk OR, but sturdier, Top speed of 50 mph, Range of three hours
Cake Kalk&Street legal, Similar in style to the Kalk OR design
Oset 24.0 RacingBattery-powered, Appropriate for a wide range of ages
KTM SX-E 5Made for beginner, junior riders, Quiet, ideal for noise-restricted areas
Husqvarna EE 5Suited for kids, Adjustable seat height, Range of two hours for general riding, 25 minutes for racing
Oset MX-10Starter bike for young kids, Maximum speed of 22 mph
Oset 12.5 RacingBuilt for young, beginner riders

Similarities Between Electric Dirt Bikes and Gas Dirt Bikes

History

Both electric and gas-powered bikes were invented in the 1800s and improved in performance and style throughout the 1900s. 

Maintenance

Both gas and dirt bikes require regular maintenance to keep performing well and prevent the occurrence of mechanical failures, which can cause major accidents and injuries. All dirt bikes are also expensive to repair, so maintenance is also important from a cost-saving perspective.

No matter which kind of bike you have, it’s important to wash and dry it after every ride, and make sure that no liquids are leaking, no matter whether or not oil leaks are a concern. There is also coolant and brake fluid to consider, which both kinds of bikes have. 

Both kinds of bikes also have chains that need to be checked and cleaned, as well as bolts and control cables. Tire pressure and brake liquid levels should be maintained in either case, too. 

Technology

Both gas and dirt bikes are powered and need to be re-supplied with energy from time to time, and work through the use of a clutch and transmission. For this reason, the experience of riding and guiding a bike is generally similar between an electric and gas bike.

Differences Between Electric Dirt Bikes and Gas Dirt Bikes

History

Although gas and electric bikes came onto the scene at roughly the same time, gas bikes were available to consumers at a much earlier time and were at the heart of early motorized racing. It wasn’t until about a century after their invention that electric bikes became purchasable and usable for racing purposes. 

Maintenance

Electric dirt bikes are easier to maintain than gas dirt bikes because they do not require engine maintenance. Oil changes and leak checks, air filter cleanings, and engine maintenance are all unnecessary or not relevant to an electric bike, but are necessary for the owner of a gas dirt bike. 

However, the electrical components of an electric dirt bike are very sensitive to water and overheating, so it’s very important to be careful washing the bike with water and to keep the bike in temperature-controlled environments.

Technology

Where electric bikes are fueled by a lithium-ion battery, gas bikes are fueled by either a two-stroke or four-stroke combustion engine. Generally, the battery-powered model will have a longer range before needing a new supply of power, but the gas engine will top out at higher speeds. 

Cost

Although both electric dirt bikes and gas dirt bikes come in a range of prices, depending on the model, electric dirt bikes will usually be more expensive. However, gas dirt bikes involve more maintenance expenses, and so the cost can also build over time. 

How to Choose a Bike

When choosing which dirt bike to purchase, there are a number of factors you’ll want to consider. First, make sure that you understand the context you’ll be riding in. You should know what kind of terrain you’ll need to be ready for, how long you expect to ride, and how fast you need to be able to go. 

If you are a beginner purchasing your first dirt bike, you’ll likely want to choose a secondhand bike with a gas engine, which is easier to find and generally cheaper for the amount of power that you get. 

If you have some experience riding and want a bike that will go longer distances and be easier to maintain, and have the money to spend, you’ll likely be happiest investing in an electric bike. 

Consider these factors as you look through your options, whether you choose gas or electric. 

Bike Size

Your height, weight, arm length, and leg length are all relevant in picking a bike, and so the best way to find a good fit is to sit on the bike and see how it feels. Notice how heavy the bike feels, whether your feet can sit flat on the ground and whether you can reach the handlebars with a straight back and 90-degree angle in your elbows. 

You should have room to reach the pedals without more than a slight bend in the knees, without being cramped. 

Tire Size

Dirt bikes are made with a smaller wheel in the rear, which helps with fast acceleration, and a larger wheel in the front, which allows you to ride smoothly over rocks and other rough terrains. 

If you’re hoping to spend more time off-roading, find a bike with smaller wheels and more rubber, which can take more of a beating from rocks and other obstacles. 

In general, larger wheel sizes means for a more comfortable ride for beginners.

Motor Size

If you’re choosing a gas bike, check for a value measured in cc, like 250cc or 450cc. This stands for cubic centimeters and will tell you how big the dirt bike’s cylinders are. Higher numbers and larger cylinders mean that the bike will have more power, while lower numbers and a smaller cylinder size means less power. 

Note that high and low cylinder sizes do not always go along with the size of the bike itself. A smaller bike can have a larger engine, and a larger bike can have a smaller engine. Other factors, like ground clearance, can be a reason for differences in bike sizes. 

Two-Stroke vs. Four-Stroke Engines

In gas bikes, you will have the choice between models with a two-stroke engine and models with a four-stroke engine. Two-stroke engines will speed up more quickly, whereas four-stroke engines will have more consistent power and more reliable motors. 

Best Bikes for Beginners

The following are the best dirt bikes for beginners, based on ease of use and durability.

The Honda CRF250X – Beginner Dirt Bike

  • Electric, push-button start for quick and easy starting and stopping
  • High ground clearance good for inconsistent terrain
  • Four-stroke engine and consistent speed
  • Easy to find replacement parts
  • Easy steering
  • 250cc

The Honda CRF230F Beginner Dirt Bike

  • Reliable four-stroke engine
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable seating
  • Lower ground clearance
  • 230cc

The Yamaha YZ125 – Best Beginner Dirt Bike

  • Introduced to the U.S. in the 1970s
  • Well-known trick bike
  • Very lightweight
  • Easy motor to maintain, rebuild
  • 125cc

The Yamaha TTR-50 – Kids Beginner Dirt Bike

  • Tailored for kids
  • Four-stroke engine
  • Only three gears, can be left in one gear for learning
  • Training wheels
  • Speed control mechanisms to keep the bike from reaching its highest speeds
  • Highly available
  • Electric start

The Kawasaki KLX110

  • Highly customizable, upgradable
  • Four-stroke engine
  • Low center of gravity
  • Four gears
  • Easy to balance

Conclusion

Electric dirt bikes and gas dirt bikes are very similar in function, but are different in that electric dirt bikes tend to have less power but are easier maintenance and are more environmentally friendly. Electric dirt bikes also tend to be more expensive, and so are better for riders with more experience than for beginners.

Levi Bath

I'm the co-creator of OffRoad Lifestyles. I live in Loveland, Colorado with my wife and 3 kids. My wife and I have spent a lot of time out on the sand dunes near Walden, CO and we both love offroading and camping.

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