I just bought my first 2-stroke bike a few months ago. Its a 2005 KTM 250 EXC. I’ve always preferred 4-strokes because they lack the “hit” and I always thought they had more low-end. I was ready to buy a 450 4-stroke but started looking into 2-strokes. The more I researched, the more I learned that 2-strokes can be as good, if not better than 4-strokes in the woods.
The 250 has been great. Its much lighter than a 450, and to my surprise runs well at extremely low rpm. The stall resistance is amazing and the engine lugs as well as any 4-stroke I’ve ridden. It seems that a 4-stroke will flame out before the 2-stroke. I thought I’d miss the engine braking of a 4-stroke, but I’ve never even thought about it on my 250. I think it makes me a better rider.
I started looking at 2 strokes to save weight. That was the biggest factor. The guys at Woodsracer.com and KTMtalk (2-stroke forum) got me thinking about the easy maintenance (no oil or filter changes) and simple rebuilds. I briefly looked for a used 250cc 4-stroke (Honda and Yamaha), but almost all of them were rebuilt! The life of those early motors was questionable, and the cost to rebuild is high. The latest versions might be better (and the KTM has a good reliability and durability reputation), but they still don’t have the performance of my 250cc 2-stroke.
My friend bought a Ski-Doo 2-stroke for the same reason… less weight. The newer E-tecs look impressive. Its now used in outboards and sleds.
There’s usually some good discussions at KTMtalk about the merits of 2-strokes in the “2-stroke” forum and “Which bike to buy”. Like I mentioned, I was ready to buy a 450 until I started reading over there and at Woodsracer.
For trail riding I think a KTM 2-stroke is better than any 4-stroke for the vast majority of riders. Plus they have easy maintenance and are easy to rebuild. But, people have been brainwashed into buying 4-strokes. I know, I was one of those that had a negative view of 2-strokes. Now I know that they are much better than the general public thinks. With direct injection I think we’ll be in the golden age of dirt bikes. I hope it happens soon.
Another example is the time I bought a small outboard for my row boat. I was convinced that the new 4-stroke outboards were the way to go for noise, smoke, etc so I bought a 4-stroke 6hp Merc. I knew they were heavier, but what I didn’t realize was that fact that the little pigs have no power at all. Plus they are louder than a 2-stroke, vibrate like crazxy, and stink just as bad, maybe worse. I’ve read several forums where sailboat users have had similar experiences. The little 2-strokes can get a boat on a plane quickly, but 4-strokes have a hard time. Some of those guys even think the 4-stroke hp ratings are misleading. I got rid of the Merc and would rather get an old twin cylinder 2-stroke, which would probably weigh the same as the 6hp 4-stroke but with twice the power and no vibration.
Those same sailboat guys also said that the Honda 4-strokes that they bought would crap out at the worst time. These guys sail the world and were counting on the Honda reliability, but based on what I read it seems like they got stranded. 4-stroke outboards seems to be a scam, at least in the smaller displacements.
That’s my story and I’ve been trying to tell my friends and co-workers that the 2-stroke isn’t dead, its actually the future of combustion engines.
Jason, Portland, OR