4 Stroke vs. 2 Stroke

Yes, we’re going there. The debate that will probably never end in the dirt bike world. 

It doesn’t matter if you have been riding your whole life, or if you’re new to the sport, you have been faced with the 4 stroke vs. 2 stroke dilemma. Unfortunately, there is not a clear cut answer. If you watch motocross or supercross on TV, you’ll see almost exclusively 4 strokes. If you go to your local enduro, you’ll see mostly 2 strokes. 

So which type of dirt bike is the best? I think that’s the wrong question. Chances are if you are reading this, then you’re not getting paid to ride your dirt bike. This is not a profession for most of us average riders, so instead of overthinking the “which bike is the best” question, why don’t we reframe it to “which bike is the most fun for ME?” Something that we like to call “the smile factor.” Which bike puts the biggest smile on your face and leaves you antsy to get back out on the trail. 

Now with all of that said, there are a few key factors that can help you make the decision. Here we go, the thumper vs. screamer argument settled once and for all:

4 Strokes: 

  • Smoother, more linear power delivery
  • Sounds cooler in my opinion :)
  • Better on more wide open trails (desert, flowy singletrack)
  • No pre-mix
  • Stalls more easily 
  • Requires more maintenance (will need a top end sooner than the 2Ts)
  • Better dual sport bikes if you want to make it street legal


2 Strokes: 

  • Snappy, quick throttle response
  • Better on tight, technical mountain or woods singletrack. Also, the better option for hard enduro
  • Lugs better in low RPMs and more difficult to stall
  • Depending on the bike, will require pre-mix gas (TPI bikes are the exception) 
  • Easier to maintain (doesn’t need top ends as often as the 4Ts) 
  • More options when it comes to trail/enduro bikes

Hope this helps you make the right choice. Good news is that dirt bikes are dirt bikes, so it’s hard to make a wrong decision. Just get out there and have fun, ride something that puts a big ole smile on your face, rinse and repeat! 

 - Leave a single track


  • john barnhart

    Article should note that larger displacement 4 strokes (350 cc and up) have MUCH longer powerbands than 2 strokes. 4 strokes might make good power over a 6,000 rpm range where a 2 stroke might make good power over a 3,000 rpm range. So 2 strokes almost always require more shifting. My preference is 2 stroke for trails but 4 stroke for tracks.

  • carl salvato

    IMHO I would say 2T are the better choice. I’m saying this mostly because of how much easier it is to work on the engine. All the reasons that Kyle has listed for a 2T I would agree 100%. Mixing gas is not that difficult, especially with a Ratio-Rite.

  • Parker

    Love seeing theses on your website. I’m a 2 stroke fan and will probably always prefer them over a 4 stroke due to the type of riding i do. sometimes when I’m in the desert or see some fun looking jumps i wish i had a 4 stroke but that’s a pretty rare occurrence for me. I would add that 4 strokes overheat more easily in general. the heads on them are covered in more metal and the additional friction from more moving parts and higher RPMs cause more heat specially at lower speeds.

    Kyle is the man. I’ve been watching his videos for years now and come for the advice, high quality riding videos and the occasional gag at the end of the vids. Would love to see the enterprise grow beyond merch. Its great to see more tools and utility items in the store.

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