One of the quickest ways to get some roost thrown in your face on the track is to start a conversation about 2 strokes vs. 4 strokes and then wager an absolute opinion about what bike is better.
As you well know, our world rides a number of different sized bikes available in a 2-stroke or 4-stroke. You’ve got engine sizes of 85, 100, 125, 250, 450 as well as those smaller, in-between and larger than the sizes listed. Plus, you sometimes have a choice between a 2-stroke and a 4-stroke in the same engine sizes. Regardless, debating between the two and trying to convince the passionate 2-stroke crowd that 4-strokes reign supreme and vice versa is usually an exercise in futility.
We get it! However, we also understand the need for many to do some research and decide on what size bike is right for their budget, experience, riding style and where they ride. After extensive interviews with many employees who ride at MotoSport we’ve decided to tackle a most common question which is comparing a 125cc 2-stroke vs. a 250cc 4-stroke dirt bike.
Opinions begone! What you read is simply the thoughts and advice from “The Guys That Ride” who shared their experience riding a variety of bikes on the track or trail.
Choosing Between a 125 2-Stroke and a 250 4-Stroke
First, don’t misunderstand and think because the 250 is greater in size than 125 that the 250 4-stroke is more powerful than the 125 2-stroke. In fact, 2-stroke bikes with the same engine displacement typically have significantly more power than their 4-stroke counterpart. So, before jumping on the power bandwagon first figure out where you fit in the following categories:
Dirt Bike Riding Style
Track, trail, racing, enduro – many types and styles of dirt bike riding exist. If you love banging around wood trails, backcountry roads or racing against other 2-strokes – then of course the 2-stroke is probably your best bet. Additionally, the pop a 2-stroke provides on the top-end is addicting and something the 4-stroke simply does not have. Aggressive and skilled riders love the challenge a 2-stroke offers and the fun factor associated with riding it.
Racing is a different story. The 4-stroke bike offers a smoother and is easier to ride as the powerband on the 2-stroke requires more shifting. The 2-stroke wears the rider out faster therefore for long rides and some styles of racing, especially against other 4-strokes, the 4-stroke bike is the best choice.
Finally, beginners should find the 250 4-stroke easier to handle. The 2-stroke dirt bike brings such a burst of power (another reason why 2-strokers love it!) a beginner might have a hard time controlling the ride. Additionally, with the extra shifting and braking required to ride a 2-stroke, the 4-stroke is an ideal way to start our great sport.
In light of this however, the 2-stroke forces you to learn the major fundamentals of dirt bike riding that make you a better rider. Power control, shifting, breaking, cornering and even staying upright (2-strokes are much lighter bikes) can all be mastered on the 2-stroke allowing you to easily transfer to the heavier 4-stroke models.
Once you get the fundamentals down – then you can enter the 2-stroke vs. 4-stroke debate!
One of the reasons why the 2-stroke invites such a cult following is for the fact it is easier to maintain the bike.
You can really take a 2-stroke to the limits – bust it up a bit – then repair it relatively easy and for much less cost than a 4-stroke. The 2-stroke bike is also a great way to learn how to maintain, fix, and upgrade a dirt bike. Unless you’ve been wrenching for years, any fixes to a 4-stroke might require the services of a skilled mechanic and that equals more money.
The bottom line on maintenance is the 2-stroke is easier and cheaper to rebuild and maintain. In fact, the 2-stroke is a great bike to learn the ins-and-outs of not only routine maintenance but repairs and upgrading. The 4-stroke bike requires less short term maintenance but when it’s time for repairs – you’ll pay a heck of a lot more than your 2-stroke.
Now, if we can contradict what was said earlier - Beginners might find the 4-stroke easier to ride but beginners also tend to crash more. So, if you’ve never ridden and worry about cost, a 2-stroke may be your best choice so in the event of inflicting serious damage on your first ride out, getting back on two wheels is much less costly.
One aspect to the 4-stroke dirt bike is it does not require you to mix gas. Now, this may be a pro for you but one opinion we can probably weigh in on here is you’ve got to mix the gas at least once in your dirt bike riding life. Yeah, it’s a pain but mixing gas is just how it’s done. Until you’ve mixed gas you can’t say brraaappp!
This isn’t even a debate. The 2-stroke wins hands-down. The bike itself is cheaper and as noted earlier much easier to maintain. It’s true that it may require more frequent maintenance than a 4-stroke, however, the cost of 2-stroke maintenance in the long run is often cheaper than the infrequent costly repairs of the 4-stroke.
The other benefit as touched on earlier is the relative ease and cost of DIY maintenance on the 2-stroke. The 4-stroke has more parts, valve cams, cam chains and complex components that unless you’ve worked on a 2-stroke you won’t even know where to start. Parts are more expensive on the 4-stroke and likely you’re paying for mechanic fees too.
The hidden benefit to a 2-stroke is there is no better dirt bike to learn how to wrench on then the 2-stroke. Once you figure out how to replace old or broken parts or upgrade, for example, the exhaust system, the 2-stroke equips you with unmatched experience you can take with you on ride day. Your 4-stroke breaks down on the track, you're probably done for the day.
The Bottom Line Between the 125 2-stroke and the 250 4-stroke
Choosing between the 125 2-stroke and the 250 4-stroke ultimately comes down to your comfort level on a variety of fronts. If budget is a major concern, even if you’re a beginner, the 2-stroke may be the best option. If a generous friend can help you get comfortable riding a dirt bike then all you’ll need to master is the quick starts on the 2-stroke and you’re off and racing.
If money is no object or you’re a veteran rider looking to experience a different bike, then we can absolutely recommend the 250 4-stroke. As one of our employees said, he’ll never forget his first love – the 2-stroke – but after mastering the clutch and brake system, switching over to the 4-stroke was like a dream.
Written By: AndrewT