Over the years I've owned a lot of different dirt bike brands, and since I started riding in 1996 I've seen technology improve enormously. The best brand most certainly changes every year; so to keep this fair to the manufacturers, I'm giving you the top 7 brands on the planet, listed in no particular order.
The best dirt bike brands top 7 list
Honda has been producing dirt bikes since the late 1960's, so they've had plenty of time to perfect their design. They were the first manufacturer to use a full aluminium frame on a motocross bike back in 1997; and if you've done any research you'll know that all of the top Japanese brands are now using this design on their race bikes.
I've owned many of Honda's 2-stroke CR models, and I'm still a big fan, but unfortunately they stopped producing 2-strokes back in 2007 due to emission regulations. If you want a 2-stroke, the 2002-2007 model CR's are still great fun, and the handling and power is awesome.
If you don't fancy a 2-stroke, they have a wide range of 4-stroke dirt bikes, all of which are fantastic. Honda dirt bikes are available for kids, and adults, with a range of fun, enduro, and motocross bikes, so there's plenty of selection for everybody.
Top Honda dirt bike choices include:
- Cr 250/125 R (Motocross)
- CRF 250/450 R (Motocross)
- CRF 250/50 RX (enduro)
- CRF 110 F (kids)
- CRF 150 R (Kids, learners)
Yamaha are another brand that have been in the motorcycle game for a very long time. They made their first motorcycle back in 1955, and the bike went straight in and won the Mt. Fuji Ascent Race, and the Asama Highlands Race. Not bad for a new motorcycle manufacturer!
Yamaha continued to pave the way for dirt bike design, being the first manufacturer to introduce monoshock suspension to a motocross bike in 1975, featured on the YZ-250. Although it's evolved lots since then, the YZ model is still in production today, and is still one of the best 2-strokes available.
Yamaha's motorcycle sales are the second largest in the world, and they have a wide range of dirt bikes to choose from. They offer motocross, enduro, dual sport, and a range of fun off road bikes, both 2-stroke and 4-stroke.
This range includes models that are so good that their designs haven't been unchanged for many years. This includes the legendary YZ 125 and 250 motocross bikes, and the PW 50 kids bike that hasn't changed in over 30 years.
Top Yamaha dirt bike choices include:
- YZ 125/250 (Motocross)
- YZ 250/450 F (Motocross)
- WR 250/450 F (Enduro)
- YZ 250 FX (Enduro, trail)
- PW 50 (Very young kids)
- TT-R 125 (Learners)
- YZ 65/85 (Kids)
An Austrian brand, and relatively new to the dirt bike world in comparison to the last two, but don't be fooled by this. By the end of 2016, KTM had racked up more than 260 world championship titles, making the company one of the most successful brands in motorsports.
KTM are a brand well known for their 2-stroke dirt bikes, and the 250 SX is the fastest 250 two-stroke you can find. In 2017 KTM unveiled a unique feature that would give new hope to the 2-stroke dirt bike. A fuel injected system that cuts emissions and fuel consumption, and removes the need for pre mixing fuel.
KTM aren't only 2-stroke pioneers, they're also putting a lot of focus on what's said to be the future of enduro - electric dirt bikes! They offer the freeride ex-c that's road legal for 17 year old's and over, and it even charges it's own battery when freewheeling down hills.
Top KTM dirt bike choices include:
- 250/450 SX-F (Motocross)
- 125/250 SX (Motocross)
- 50/65 SX (Kids)
- 250/450 EXC-F (Enduro)
- 250/300 EXC TPI (Enduro)
Another Japanese manufacturer that needs no introduction, Suzuki started manufacturing motorcycles in 1952. They made their name back in the 1970's when they were able to dominate the world motocross GP championship for 10 years in a row!
I was a big fan of Suzuki 2-strokes when I started riding dirt bikes, the thing that always stood out was the handling, it was simply unmatched at the time. Like Honda, Suzuki stopped production of the big 2-strokes due to emission regulations, and the only 2-stroke dirt bike they now offer is the RM 85.
They have a smaller range of dirt bikes than the other Japanese brands, and they have struggled to compete with other manufacturers in recent years. One of the biggest problems we've seen is their weight, with their 450 enduro bike being 17 KG heavier than KTM's 450 offering.
Top Suzuki dirt bike choices include:
- RMx 450 Z (Enduro)
- DR-Z 125 L (Learners)
- DR-Z 50/70 (kids)
- RM-Z 250/450 (Motocross)
- RM 85 (Kids)
Husqvarna's roots go right back to 1689 when the Swedish manufacturer started producing rifles! Their first motorcycle was produced in 1903, and they continued to produce them until 1987, until the motorcycle division was sold to Cagiva.
The brand name disappeared for many years, but fortunately in 2013, Stefan Pierer who owns 51 percent of KTM bought the company. Because of this, modern Husqvarna 2-strokes feature the same pioneering fuel injection system as seen on the KTM's.
If you look at Husqvarna and KTM models, you'll notice that they are almost identical. The frames, engines, and even some of the plastics use the same tooling. So you can assume that they are both pretty equal, and with KTM's history, that's a very good thing!
Top Husqvarna dirt bike choices include:
- TC 125/250 (Motocross)
- TC 65/85 (Kids)
- FC 250/450 (Motocross)
- TC 50 mini (Young kids)
- TE 250/300 i (Enduro)
- FE 250/450/501 (Enduro)
Kawasaki are another brand that I've tried and tested, and although their early bikes didn't impress me due to reliability issues, their modern bikes are something else. Over the years they've won the AMA motocross championship 36 times, including two recent 2017 and 2018 wins in the 450 class.
If you're looking to race, the KX models are a great choice for motocross. They offer the KLX 250 which will work for enduro, but unfortunately it really isn't a worthy contender when up against brands like KTM and Yamaha. They also have some great fun/learner bikes that are perfect for beginners.
Top choices include:
- KX 250/450 (Motocross)
- KX 65/85/100 (Kids)
- KLX 110/140 (kids/learners)
Still a very new brand to the dirt bike world, but proving themselves as very worthy competitors for the battery powered market. With a waterproof motor and battery, race suspension, and heaps of power, the Alta Redshift has received awesome feedback and reviews.
Their road legal EX enduro version produces 42 horsepower, and will run for 2 hours on a single charge! The MX and EXR versions have a massive 50 horsepower, and the battery will last 1.5 hours. They've received great reviews from top racers such as grant Langston, and Nate Adams, and the future is looking great for this manufacturer.
We've seen Nate Adams competing in the X-games using the Alta Redshift, Ty Tremaine took first place in the Geneva supercross, and many pros are now switching over to electric bikes. The cost is still a little high, but as technology improves and more of these dirt bikes are sold, prices will definitely become more affordable. Alta is definitely a brand to keep a close watch on!
Top Alta electric dirt bike choices include:
Redshift MX/MXR (Motocross)
Redshift EX/EXR (Enduro)
Last, but certainly not least is a brand that offers exceptional quality and high performance. TM are an Italian brand, formed in 1976. They're a small company in comparison to the rest on this list, but that doesn't make them any less worthy of their place here.
The name may not be familiar to some, but they run three world championship teams, and produce 1300 motorcycles per year. They're well known as the Ferrari of motocross, because of their exotic looking dirt bikes with anodized blue fittings, blue wheels, and shiny aluminium frames.
Something else that stands out is the placement of the fuel tank on their 4-stroke models. Instead of the regular placement at the front of the seat, it's directly underneath the rider, under the seat! This is done to better centralise the mass of the bike, and proves that they're not afraid to be different.
They have a great range of 2-stroke and 4-stroke machines for motocross and enduro riders, and all of their most recent models have received great reviews.
Top TM dirt bike choices include:
- MX 250/300/450 FI (Motocross)
- MX 125/250 (Motocross)
- MX 85 (Kids)
- EN 250/300 (Enduro)
- EN 250/450/530 FI (Enduro)
The best dirt bike brands: Which one to get
So you've learned a bit about the top dirt bike brands available to you, but which one do you choose? As I said at the start, the top brands change each year, so finding the best brand for any particular year will require a bit of research. This means you will have to check out reviews of the models you like, and compare them to the rest of the competition on this list.
Thanks for checking out the best dirt bike brands! This list was based on my personal favourites, and from a lot of web research. If you don't know which bike to choose you can check out MX vs Enduro HERE for a little help on which sport you may enjoy best.
You can also find all of the essential gear you'll need before riding by going HERE, or take a look at the recommended gear section HERE.