2 or 4 Stroke? | Bytown Motorcycle Association
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How many strokes would you like?

Are 4 strokes better than 2?

Depends... First - what's a stroke anyway? A stroke is the up or down travel of the piston in the cyclinder, or the travel of the piston between the top and bottom of the cylinder (or vice versa). Gasoline powered engines can burn the fuel in either two stokes of the piston, or in four strokes (intake, compression, power, exhaust strokes). What is best for you? Speak with one of our helpful dealer sponsors for help on this question.

Strokes, Schmokes, So what does it matter?

2 stroke and 4 stroke engines have completely different characteristics, particularly power curve characteristics that make a very big difference in the riding experience. In brief:

  • 4 stroke bikes are more plentiful, more environmentally friendly, heavier, and produce power and acceleration in a very flat or even (predictable) power curve. They pull like a tractor. A 4 stroke dirt bike provides a more stable straight line ride in the rough stuff, and substantial deceleration when you roll off the throttle - and are heavy to pick up when you drop them. 4 strokes have a heavier feel, with a "planted" heavier feeling front end, and are more work to handle in very rough terrain. 4 strokes are more expensive as they have more complex engines and more engine components. If you are typically or frequently riding high speeds (80kph+), a 4 stroke might be more suitable.
  • 2 stroke bikes are generally 20-30 lbs. lighter than the equivalent sized 4 stroke, and have a distinct power curve (or hit) in which the most power and fastest acceleration is produced. Old 2 strokes did not produce much torque or power below the power curve, that is not true with modern 2 strokes that pull very hard right off the idle. These bikes do produce visible smoke from the exhaust, and having a lower centre of gravity and less weight, are much easier to lift up from a fall. On the trail, they tend to have more vibration in the pegs, and tend to be more footloose, that is bounce around the trail a bit more (vs. the straight line tracking of a 4 stroke), at first disconcerting, but that feeling disappears soon. 2 strokes have a very light feel, with a front end that feels very light, and are less work to handle in very rough terrain/tight trails. 2 strokes depend upon oil mixed in the gasoline to provide engine lubrication, meaning you need to mix oil into the gas, it is this oil that produces the blue smoke of a 2 stroke. 2 strokes are less expensive to build and buy with their simpler engines, but none are street legal that we are aware of. They can be blazing fast - my 300cc 2 stroke leaves my 400cc 4 stroke in a cloud of smoke, up to about 80 kph, when the 4 stroke keeps accelerating to speeds I don't dare go...

How can I tell the difference looking at them?

For the most part, the bikes look the same, except one big telltale sign. The 2 stroke has that big fat pipe (expansion chamber) coming out of the head and wrapping around before attaching to the exhaust pipe. The 4 stroke does not. The 2 stroke sound is "ringey-dingey", whereas your neighbour's Harley Davidson is definitely 4 stroke.


Thanks Eric McSweeney!

Current bikes: KTM 300 XC-w, KTM 400 EXC, Yam TTR-125

Favourite riding area: Any area you can ride is a great area, but both Calabogie and Limerick are special to me. Biking in the Kootenays is really awesome, but I look forward the exotic areas like Nevada or Costa Rica like those other lucky guys.

Most memorable ride: has to be riding to the top of Paradise Mountain in BC - riding above the tree line in what is like a moonscape with a lot of shattered shale that shreds knobs!

Favourite event: well the Boogie for sure - the 2011 Boogie provided weather and riding from heaven!