Have you been curious about the future of dirt bikes and fitting a turbo on to the engine? Sounds exciting, but why haven’t they done it?
Well, our findings over the last 10 years are quite straight forward.
Dirt bikes don’t need turbo chargers in order to perform well and often perform worse with the rear tire spinning too aggressively for the dirt. It’s also not commercially viable for manufacturers like Yamaha, KTM and Honda to fit turbos on to their dirt bikes, even for motocross or enduro racing. There are some prototypes and home-made versions with turbo-chargers, but nothing has developed in the mainstream market.
Many riders get too excited about the power prospects and don’t realize that their machine is fast enough already. If you don’t have enough power, the best way to achieve these outputs is to actually go up in engine size or to switch to a race-ready manufacturer like KTM.
Turbo-Charged Dirt Bikes
Fitting a turbo on a dirt bike just simply isn’t something that you need. Dirt bikes just don’t have the space capacity to get a turbo fitted, unlike the engine bay of a car. Space really is at a premium there and you’d have to reduce your fuel tank size among other things to even stand a chance.
We’ll also add in the fact that dirt bike turbos also weigh about 100lbs or 30kgs. That’s a lot of weight already for a dirt bike to haul around. So any power gains you’re looking to achieve would mostly be taken up by this additional weight, as well as the lack of space availability.
Probably the most common reason why this doesn’t work out well for the rider is the crazy amount of torque. It’s much like electric dirt bikes where their torque can be so excessive in that you simply lose traction. If your goal is to increase your acceleration speeds, then these gains may not eventuate with a turbo as you simply can’t get enough weight on that rear tire to keep it from breaking ground.
AMA and Motocross Rules
The American Motorcyclist Association Motocross Division is unlikely to ever approve the notion of turbo-charged dirt bikes in events. Generally, once something has sudden successful time in any racing season, that same thing is rolled out into mainstream dirt bikes through stores across the country.
Thus, the biggest lead in taking these mainstream is also the biggest hindrance. Yet that hindrance is justified for the reasons outlined above – it hasn’t been done because it isn’t feasible commercially at scale. If KTM or Yamaha saw a future here, then they’d invest a few million which they haven’t yet. That’s a tell-tale sign.
Dirt bikes in both the recreational and competitive landscape are built for linear power delivery. Turbos aren’t linear and thus, riders would be frustrated pretty quickly in the constant breaking of traction. Yep, we’ve said that twice now.
You’re unlikely to ever see turbo dirt bikes in a commercial sense anytime soon. Yet it isn’t actually wishful thinking here. Go on YouTube and you’ll find some good examples. If you did want this done to your dirt bike, then some service operations do exis.
Then again, you can find some used dirt bikes with turbo models on Craigslist and Gumtree, but the gains from these machines are questionable. Most commonly, the rider/owner has regretted their decision.
As they are, dirt bikes do already run exceptionally well, with 4-strokes coming a long way in the last 10 years to become the bike of choice for many motocross riders. With electric dirt bikes being the way of the future, we naturally aspirated dirt bikes continuing to shine until the lights of such factories are switched off.