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Dirt bikes make spending time in the great outdoors worthwhile. Feeling the wind whistle through your helmet and hearing the sound of the engine makes everyone feel more alive. That feeling can’t happen though if you don’t have a bike or need another to support your growing hobby. While I’m in the market for a new or used dirt bike, I always look at a variety of factors to help me understand the general condition of the bike, one of the most important factors though is how many miles are on the bike.
Anything over 20,000 miles is considered high mileage for a dirt bike. The average dirt bike runs 3,000 miles per year, so multiply how many years old your dirt bike is by 3,000 to find out what average mileage would be for your bike.
Discussions about mileage and hours and usage are all are topics centered around finding a previously used dirt bike and making it your own. Below we talk about how miles and hours affect the performance of a bike, as well as what I do, and what you can do, to gauge the condition of your model.
Most people you talk to about mileage will assure you that mileage is not an important issue with dirt bikes. Those people are right, to a point. There is quite a big difference between a bike that has gone 20,000 miles on the sand dunes and a bike that has gone 10,000 miles over rocky cliffs.
The circumstances in which the bike was ridden have a lot to do with its current condition, much more than the number of miles. Looking the bike over will be much more helpful than just averaging the miles and hours on the dirt bike.
Because we live in a world full of cars, our brains automatically want to know the mileage of all vehicles. By default, we think that if a car or motorcycle has high mileage, then it has been overworked and is bound to break down in a few miles, and while this may be true in some instances, most of the time, a dirt bike’s condition cannot be properly gauged by the number of miles it has traveled.
Anything over 20,000 miles is usually considered high mileage for a dirt bike. A dirt bike is ridden 3,000 miles per year on average. However high mileage is less important for a dirt bike and it’s far more important how that bike was cared for during its life.
Some good information about bike mileage can be found on Reddit forums from people who have a variety of different dirt bikes. They share the mileage they have put on their bikes and the repairs they have had to make because of mileage. Their insight agrees with what a lot of people I know in the dirt bike world are saying.
- “It is my belief that with modern bikes from reputable manufacturers mileage is only important if there are known issues that tend to occur at a certain mileage. For instance, I know that gearbox input shafts on BMW r1150 oil heads are likely to fail at around 90-100k km., which is a costly repair – but the engine itself will go 300k or more as long as you’re on top of your maintenance.” –Your_Average_Russian
- “My 04 Honda Shadow 1100 Sabre has 45, 000 miles on it and I haven’t had any major issues other than replacing a few old parts like the battery.” –DeepSouth337
- “109 000 km and counting for my Yamaha XJ900. The only annoying thing is plastic parts at this age and mileage. It just shatters in unexpected places at times.” –GrassWaffle
- “Depends on how it was ridden. Dirt miles are so much harder on the machine than paved miles. Look at what tires they’ve put on–street slicks are a good sign. I rode 100k on my first KLR (15k of it dirt. It was super-janky–but ran great–when I sold it); bought my second with 44k (all hwy, tho). It was real nice. The test ride will tell you how hard a life it’s had.” (found here)
Mileage is a question often asked by those new to the dirt bike world or those who are just curious, but as we can see from the above comments, mileage has yet to be a real factor for dirt bike riders because it doesn’t give you a clear picture of where the bike was ridden or how well the bike has been maintained.
Oftentimes, if the mileage is high, that will mean a slight price drop compared to a dirt bike that had a lower amount of miles. As a matter of fact, you will find that most dirt bikes don’t have an odometer at all. If there is no odometer, then how would you be able to gauge its condition? Often, you will see that dirt bike users use the measurement of hours instead of miles because it is easier to estimate how many hours someone has spent on a bike.
You may be wondering why people gauge conditions through hours rather than mileage, but the explanation is found in the original intended use of motorcycles.
“Dirt bikes and ATVs were originally considered “equipment” rather than the fun all-terrain vehicles we enjoy today. On equipment, maintenance is measured in hours with an hour meter as you are not really traveling miles, but likely idling for long periods doing work or whatever is required of the tool/equipment.”Source
Because of this, vehicles on roads use mileage as a measurement, and off-road vehicles use hours as a measurement.
People who ride dirt bikes typically ride between 50 and 200 hours per year, depending on a variety of different circumstances. On a dirt bike forum, you can see the range of responses as listed out below.
- “Before I had kids I was running up well over 200hrs a year…now, I have 2 kids under 3 and I get probably around 80 hrs a year…..still offloading bikes for around 200hrs.” – nawill
- “about 200+…pretty much every weekend for about 5hrs a ride” –Bloo
- “100 in a good year, 50 in a bad year.” –RMJay84
How many hours someone rides a bike will often show in the number of miles on the bike, but it is helpful to know how active a person has been with the dirt bike you are considering. It is also helpful to know what is recommended by manufacturers.
For example, the Honda manual for a dirt bike suggests that you change out the pistons every 15 hours. On the dirt bike forum, crfmxer said, “Honda recommends changing the piston every 15 hours under RACING conditions. I have over 150 hours on my 450 and it still runs like the day I got it and not 1 valve adjustment was ever needed.”
Neither miles nor hours will be a perfect indication of the condition of the bike, but they will help you to gauge the use of the bike and how long it’ll be before it needs further maintenance. Even with plenty of hours and miles, a bike may still be in great condition if it was treated well and was checked out frequently by its rider.
Other Ways to Gauge a Dirt Bike’s Condition
A bike with a lot of miles can still be a quality bike if the previous owners took proper care of it. Did they ever do maintenance on the bike? Where did they ride the bike? What is the riding style of the person who rode the bike? All of these are valid questions you can ask—though some you may not be able to find solid answers for—and they are helpful in better understanding a dirt bike.
Sometimes, dirt bikes will have a log of all the maintenance done on them throughout their life. A record full of maintenance can mean both something good and bad. Is the maintenance just oil checks or tire checks? Or is it a long list of replaced parts and time spent in the shop?
If the maintenance record is the first option, then that is a showcase of good ownership. They were consistently ensuring that the bike was in good working condition and that more rides wouldn’t damage the engine. If a bike has had a long list of repairs in its history, it may be proof that while the previous owner fixed the bike, they were pretty rough on it in the first place and needed all those repairs.
Even if they don’t have a log, you can examine the bike yourself. Check the oil, air filter, spark plugs, and other general maintenance like leaks or dents in the side of the body. Also, look under the bike for other red flags.
- Exhaust pipes on dirt bikes get a lot of flack. Normally, they end up bouncing around a lot, but you want it to still be in a secure place and mounted well. Plus, when you start up the bike, you can listen and see if you hear any exhaust leaks and check for dents in the exhaust system which could lead to problems.
- Not only should you look for dents on the obvious body, but you should also look underneath as part of the frame could be dented or cracked from rough use.
- Jump on the bike and check to see if the brakes adequately stop the bike without making any loud and alarming noises. While on the bike, you can also check out the suspension and see if it bounces back as it should.
- Check the tires too! Any bad wear spots could indicate hard use on the tires. You can also find the digits on the side of the tire to see how long ago new tires were installed. 6 years is about the time a tire would need to be changed out.
- Look at the brake levers and kick-stand. These will be damaged if the bike has had a hard crash. They often will be either bent or really scratched up, and this will help you to see the more general condition of the bike.
- Start the bike when it is cold to listen for any alarming sounds, and then give it a ride to listen as well.
NEED TO KNOW WHAT ELSE TO CHECK? Take a look at this used dirt bike checklist if you want some very specific things to check on any dirt bike that you are considering buying used. There are a couple of cool “ninja tricks” on this list that might save you from buying a real lemon!
In addition to these suggestions always be sure to know where the bike was ridden. Did they drive it through the dirt, sand, rocks, or only on the highways? Who were the previous owners? Do they say they have maintained it? Does it look like they have maintained it? Have you test-ridden the bike?
Always take it for a spin beforehand and try out the brakes and accelerator as well as listen to the sounds it makes. Here’s a series of questions you can ask the person you are buying it from and yourself.
Questions to Ask to Gauge Condition of a Used Dirt Bike
- What type of dirt bike riding will you be doing? Will the bike you’re looking at hold up to that standard?
- What is the bike’s service history? Have they kept a record?
- What are the things that stand out after you test ride it?
- What price do they want to sell it at? What is your budget?
- Are the oil and coolant full?
- Has the engine been rebuilt? What major repairs have been made?
- How many repairs do I want to make on a used bike that I may buy?
- What kind of environment has this bike been stored in?
- How do the wheels look? Are there any cracks in the plastic or frame?
- Did you check the bearings? Swing-Arm? Fork seals? Filter?
- How well does the exhaust pipe work?
- Is the identification number on the bike visible? Is it scratched off? Make sure it isn’t illegal!
Each of these suggestions will help to ensure that the bike you’re looking at is in good condition. Watch for these in conjunction with the number of miles and hours spend on a bike and gauge its use, but hopefully, when taken good care of, a bike should last you quite a few years!
If you’re told that the bike might need to be rebuilt soon, don’t let that be an automatic disqualifier in and of itself. If you’re new to dirt biking you might be surprised to learn that dirt bikes need to be rebuilt more frequently than many other vehicles. You can learn about how often a dirt bike needs to be rebuilt, and how much it costs, here.
Buying a used bike can be incredibly difficult as you try to juggle all the features of the bike, as well its use, and trying to evaluate the previous owner. Each of these things makes it worthwhile, and soon you will be flying high on a great new used bike!
More Resources if Your Buying a Used Dirt Bike
- How Long Do Dirt Bikes Last—These Parts Break First! – This article will tell you exactly how long dirt bikes last and which parts will break first. Also, what you need to watch out for that indicated your dirt bike needs a rebuild.
- Average Dirt Bike Cost (With 31 Prices of New and Used Bikes) – Want an idea of how much used dirt bikes cost in general? Knowing this will help you spot which bikes you find for sale are good deals and which aren’t.
- How to Buy a Used Dirt Bike on the Cheap – Really important rundown on some places to look and ways to go about getting your hands on a dirt bike when you don’t have a lot of money to throw at this hobby. These are the not-so-common tricks that can get you a crazy good deal if you keep your eyes open.