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Dirt bikes are built to withstand rugged trail conditions and perform well for long stretches of time. Of course, no machine lasts forever, especially when it’s being put through rough riding conditions. How long can you really expect your dirt bike to last?
Most dirt bikes will last for about 3 to 5 years, 12,000 miles, or about 600 hours of ride time. However, dirt bikes can continue running for many more years if proper long-term maintenance and rebuilds are performed. Some bikes can last 40 to 50 years if repair parts continue to be available.
A good dirt bike is something you’ll want to keep for as long as possible. Once you get used to all its quirks and riding style, it can be hard to switch to a new one. However, sometimes it just isn’t practical to keep repairing an older bike and it’s time to get a new model. If you’re truly attached though, you can pretty much make a bike last as long as you want.
Below is a chart with a basic maintenance schedule. Bikes wear down at different rates and some may need more or less upkeep than others. However, it’s a good idea to follow a schedule like this to keep everything in good condition.
|2.5 hours (or after every ride)||Inspect the entire bike, clean air filter, lubricate exhaust pipe and drive chain.|
|5 hours||Change oil, replace drive chain.|
|10 hours||Change oil filter.|
|15 hours||Replace transmission oil and piston (including rings and pin).|
|25 hours||Change fork oil.|
|30 hours||Replace fuel line and pump filter.|
How Long Should a Dirt Bike Last?
The lifespan of a dirt bike is hard to calculate in exact terms. Some people like to measure by miles, while others judge by the hours or years that it lasts. Depending on how often you ride your bike, one of these metrics might be more useful than the other.
For instance, if you love to ride your bike on long trails or have made a street-legal model that can travel on roads, miles might be the most accurate gauge to look at. On the other hand, if you only ride it for short spurts on the weekends, maybe hours will help you track the lifespan more easily.
Generally speaking though, you can expect an average dirt bike to last for at least a few years (3-5 is standard) and most riders will put about 3,000 miles on their dirt bike each year. If you ride less frequently and stay up-to-date on your maintenance, you can make a bike last much longer.
Sometimes expensive dirt bikes do last longer than cheap ones though. This is mainly due to the design and high-quality materials that were used to build them. However, any bike can break down if the rider doesn’t put effort into maintaining the systems that need to be replaced, cleaned, and monitored.
If someone buys a bike and doesn’t take care of it, it will inevitably break down pretty quickly. Some dirt bikes can last less than a year if the owners are particularly reckless. If your bike starts to have serious malfunctions within 1 to 2 years, you might want to rethink your riding/maintenance habits to prevent this from happening in the future as this is a very short period of time for a dirt bike to last.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people are still riding bikes that are several decades old! Those who have models from the 80s and 90s love their classic models and tend to take great care of them. These older models are not inherently better than the newer ones, but it’s all about the level of care the owners give.
Unfortunately, some bikes can’t be maintained forever because their parts stop being produced. If owners can’t find a specific part, it becomes harder and harder to keep an older bike in good condition. So even if a bike doesn’t break, it may be phased out of the market because its parts are no longer in high demand.
Do Dirt Bikes Require a Lot of Maintenance?
If you want your bike to last for a long time, then you’ll have to do a fair amount of maintenance.
Some people just want a cheap dirt bike that they can have fun with and enjoy until it chokes and dies. That’s not inherently bad, but it can be unsafe and it deprives you of having the experience of getting used to your same bike over time.
So yes, if you want your bike to last for at least a few years, you’ll need to perform a fair amount of routine maintenance.
Get used to doing some basic checks before/after every ride you take. If you catch problems early on and stay on top of the cleaning and lubrication, serious issues aren’t likely to sneak up on you.
After every ride, you should:
- Wash your bike off
- Lubricate the chain, cables, and pivot points
- Tighten bolts, caps, and other items that could shake loose
- Clean the air filter (or replace it as needed)
- Check tire pressure and remove anything caught in the spokes
- Inspect brake pads for wear
- Check for fluid leaks
- Check oil, gas, and coolant levels
- Look for any particularly worn or broken pieces
Beyond the everyday maintenance, there are other things you will need to deal with as well. Certain pieces will wear out over time and will need to be cleaned or replaced on their own schedule.
The tires, engine, chain, clutch, battery, fuel line, radiator coolant, and brake fluid are some important elements that will need to be taken care of on their own individual timelines. We’ll discuss these parts and their lifespans in detail later on.
These things will need to be replaced or serviced somewhere between every 6 months to 5 years. It’s a good idea to do a thorough maintenance check every 6 months so that a mechanic can verify that everything is in working order.
It’s a good idea to get in the habit of getting your dirt bike serviced at the beginning or the end of each riding season. Schedule a regular appointment with a mechanic or auto shop so you can ensure your bike is in good shape for the years ahead.
Signs Your Bike Needs a Rebuild
If you want to commit to keeping the same dirt bike for multiple years, there are some danger signs you’ll want to keep an eye on. Most bikes just don’t break down without warning.
Rebuilding a dirt bike engine is a major part of extending its lifespan. Most dirt bike engines last between 1 to 5 years. Remember that if it breaks down, you’re not going anywhere until you rebuild it or get a new one.
Obviously that 1 to 5 year range is pretty wide and you won’t want to undergo the expensive and labor-intensive process of a rebuild unless it’s time to do so. So what are some warning signs to keep an eye out for?
Signs to Watch For
- Difficulty Starting the Engine – You should be able to get up and moving quickly, so a sputtering or stalling engine is no good. If your engine is hard to start, this could be due to a variety of issues including a maladjusted decompression system, worn valves and gaskets, and fueling problems.
- Reduced Power – This can happen for many reasons but a very common cause is due to low compression in one of the bike’s cyclinders.
- Excessive Noise or Vibration – This can be caused due to loose or worn bearings, worn valve-train, or many other serious causes. However, this can also be due to something simple like an exhaust leak or chain issues.
- Blue or White from the Exhaust – Generally this occurs because the engine is burning oil as it’s running due to worn piston, piston rings, or cylinder. This symptom is really only seen on 4-stroke dirt bikes.
- Thick, Creamy, or Milky Engine Oil – Milky engine oil is usually due to water being introduced into the crankcase. This is usually due to a cracked cylinder head from overheating. Also, the oil might be thick and creamy simply due to lack of regular maintenance oil changes.
- Metalic Debris in the Engine Oil – Metallic debris is usually the result of something breaking down inside the engine.
If your bike is experiencing any of these issues (or several at once) it’s time to seriously consider a rebuild, or at least take your bike in to get inspected and serviced. If you want to see how much it really costs each time you rebuild your dirt bike, take a look at this helpful guide: Rebuilding a Dirt Bike: How Often to Do It, Average Cost, and More.
How Many Miles Can You Get Out of a Dirtbike?
If you’re buying a dirt bike second-hand, it’s a good idea to know what is considered to be high mileage for these vehicles. Just like buying a used car, you don’t want to buy something that’s already on the verge of death.
As mentioned above, most people put about 3,000 miles on their dirt bikes every year and they tend to last on average between 3 to 5 years. Therefor, the average dirt bike has a life expectancy of between 9,000 to 15,000 miles.
However, some bikes can make it up to 20,000 miles before they start to break down. So if you’re buying a used bike, if it has a mileage that reads between 15,000 to 20,000 (if there’s an odometer on the bike), you should know that you’re getting a heavily used model. It might still be okay if it’s been well-maintained but beware of these well-worn options.
You can find a list of exactly what to look for in a used dirt bike to indicate how much life it has left, and the exact questions you should ask the previous owner before you buy in this guide on dirt bike mileage and buying a used dirt bike.
“Bar none, the absolute biggest factor affecting the life expectancy of any dirt bike is how well it’s been maintined. If you’re buying a used dirt bike, judge the previous owner as much as you judge the bike itself.”– John Hayes (DirtBikePlanet.com)
Recreational dirt bikers tend to travel about 2,000 to 3,500 miles per year. However, some people use their bikes for transportation and have even made them street legal. So because they ride them more regularly and across longer distances, their bikes can get up to 7,000 to 10,000 miles per year (here are a few examples of owners who have done that).
Bikes that are ridden more frequently will inevitably age more quickly. So if you plan on buying a used street-legal bike, make sure you check the mileage first! Even a bike that’s only a couple of years old could be pretty worn out.
How Long Do 4-Strokes Last?
Another factor that influences the longevity of a dirt bike is the type of engine it has. 2-strokes and 4-strokes are both quite popular, but 4-strokes are more common to find in the modern market.
4-stroke engines generally last for a maximum of 500 hours if they are well-cared for and ridden casually. If they are used for racing or heavy-duty off-roading they will wear out more quickly. Many riders consider anything over 100 hours to be getting into the “danger zone” for 4-strokes.
If you have a 4-stroke engine and know you have passed the 100-hour threshold, it’s time to consider a rebuild or buying a replacement. But if you mainly use the bike for commuting and casual trail riding, you can easily extend the expected lifespan beyond the 100-hour mark. Just stay up to date on your maintenance and don’t push it too hard if you want it to last.
How Long Do 2-Strokes Last?
Many classic dirt bikes are 2-stroke models since this engine type was far more common in the past. Many riders recommend performing a thorough inspection and/or top-end rebuild after every 20-30 hours of heavy riding.
When it comes to casual trail riding, 2-stroke dirt bike engines should perform well for up to 100 hours before any serious work needs to be done to the bike. Once you hit the 100-200 hour range, it’s important to buy a new bike or do some big repairs.
Most riders advise against buying a used dirt bike that has over 200 hours on it, but some riders have pushed this limit to the max! One rider claims that their bike lasted 900 hours by the time they finally sold it and switched to their current model (source).
The average lifespan of a 2-stroke and 4-stroke dirt bike is almost identical and it depends primarily on how well the bike is maintained. As long as both of them are well-cared for, they will last about the same amount of time (although their maximum lifespans do vary a bit).
What Wears Out on a Dirt Bike
As a dirt bike gets older, its parts don’t all wear down at the same rate. Some parts of the bike are simply put under more strain than others depending on whether you use your bike for racing or just casual trail riding.
Almost every piece of a dirt bike will need to be replaced eventually if you want to keep it for several years. Some major elements that will need to be monitored and replaced include:
We discussed the engine in detail above, but it’s arguably the most important major component of a dirt bike. The engine of a dirt bike usually lasts 1 to 5 years or 100-200 hours of use.
Tires are another must-have for dirt bikes to operate. A good set of tires on a dirt bike will usually last between 2 to 3 years before they need to be replaced. However, riding over rough terrain and jagged objects can significantly shorten your tire’s lifespan.
If you plan on riding through the winter months, you’ll also want to consider switching to snow tires or converting your bike into a snow bike. See more information about snow bikes here.
Regularly checking your dirt bike’s chain should be part of your routine maintenance. If this wears out or breaks, you won’t be able to continue riding. Most dirt bike chains should be replaced every 4 to 6 months and cleaned and lubricated after every ride.
The fuel line ensures that your engine can continue to function so it’s critical to make sure it’s in good shape. A dirt bike’s fuel line and fuel pump filter should be replaced every year or after every 30 hours of riding, whichever comes first.
The clutch system can last for a fairly long time, but it can still wear out eventually. A dirt bike’s clutch should be replaced when it starts slipping, which is generally about every 30,000 miles. The good news is you’ll also be replacing the transmission oil as well during this process.
A good dirt bike battery will last 3 to 5 years. This is the average lifespan of many bikes, so when the battery goes down, many people will simply move on to a new model. However, if you want to keep your bike for longer, make sure you replace the battery within this time frame.
Dirt bikes run on a lot of fluids. This includes the gas, oil, coolant, brake fluid, transmission oil, and so on. If these liquids run out or are improperly mixed it can cause long-term damage to the bike. So before every ride, make sure you have the proper amount and quality of fluids in your bike to keep it running smoothly.
Dirt bikes are finely-tuned machines that have a lot of moving parts. If one thing breaks, it will affect the whole system. That’s why it’s important to keep everything in good shape!
Dirt bikes are reliable machines that can withstand a lot of wear and tear throughout their lifespan. An average bike can be expected to go steady for between 3 to 5 years (as long as the rider isn’t too crazy with it) and following a proper maintenance schedule can make it last much longer!
Old, well-maintained models have demonstrated that dirt bikes don’t have a set lifespan. If dirt bikes are well cared for and rebuilt when necessary, they can last pretty much forever!
Some people aren’t interested in this level of commitment and effort, but those who are will be happy to know that their bikes can stay by their side for many years to come.
More Helpful Resources
- The Best Types of Coolant to Use in a Dirt Bike – Ensuring your dirt bike has the proper coolant type (and amount) is one of the most important maintenance items. Don’t just get any coolant, get one of these coolants which are the best for dirt bikes.