Best Dirt Bike Pistons & Maintenance Tips

Riders often overlook the importance of replacing dirt bike pistons at regular intervals. When it comes to high-performance engines, like the ones found in both 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines, replacing a piston should not be underestimated and finding the best dirt bike piston for your needs should be a priority.

Failing to replace your dirt bike piston can lead to additional wear and damage that could eventually result in a total and complete engine failure. Something which is much more expensive to fix than sticking to a regular piston replacement schedule.

With so many dirt bike piston options on the market, it can be a tough choice when looking for the best dirt bike piston. The most frequent issue for riders is choosing between a cast or forged piston. In either case, these are the top dirt bike piston brands to consider.

Best 2 Stroke Dirt Bike Pistons

Wiseco 2-Stroke Piston Kit

Wiseco have been making pistons for ages and have come to make top quality products that are built to deliver extreme performance while being incredibly durable and long lasting.

This 44.50 mm bore 2-stroke dirt bike piston kit includes the fantastic Pro-Lite pistons which are CNC machined with the rider in mind. Wiseco’s Pro Lite pistons have been built with racing in mind. These pistons are chosen by many of the top racers around the world of hard enduro, motocross and superbike racing.

The Wiseco 44.5 millimeter 2 Stroke piston is forged at high pressure offering many advantages over a stock cast piston. Having been in the game for so lon, Wiseco developed pistons for all types of high performance engines from ATV’s to snowmobiles. All the Wiseco pistons are manufactured in the US within their own plants and with the use of their own tooling.

The best part of having pistons built right at home is complete control over the quality of their products. All the Wiseco pistons are put through rigorous testing with their in house dynos. Multiple testing methods are utilized to develop the best aftermarket dirt bike pistons. 

The high pressure forging process results in pistons with much stronger molecular bonds capable of withstand intense performance pressure over many hours of riding time. Each of the forging steps is tailored to creating the optimal strength to weight ratio for meeting high performance dirt biking expectations.

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Best Piston Kit for KTM & Husqvarna

Vertex 23375B Replica Piston Kit

Vertex is a brand that manufactures pistons out of Italy. Vertex is run by the All Balls Racing Group which is home to some of the best aftermarket pistons and other racing gear for all different sorts of high performance sports. They combine OEM grade manufacturing facilities with a top quality supply chain making Vertex on the largest suppliers of aftermarket parts.

Vertex offers both cast and forged replacement pistons for motorised vehicles like snowmobiles, ATVs, UTV’s and dirtbikes. The replacement kit has all the parts you will need to properly replace your piston, rings, pins and clips.

Vertex are confident in their products. So much so that they offer a 1-year warranty should your bike not run as desired with their kit installed.

In the kit you will find 3 sizing options denoted by A, B, and C.

A: matches your stock piston size which is best used in a new cylinder.

B: is a slightly larger size which is best used after a top end rebuild.

C: is two sizes above the OEM sizing.

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Best OEM Replacement Dirt Bike Pistons

Athena OEM Replacement Pistons

Athena have been in the market of developing high performance parts for ages. Originally founded in 1973, Athena comprises 7 companies which manufacture a wide variety of dirt bike and ATV parts.

All Athena products meet the UNI EN ISO 9002 quality standards and have a core focus of durability, reliability and continual improvement in product quality and manufacturing.

One of the companies in the Athena Group is the Aftermarket Divison which specialises in motorcycle replacement parts from gaskets to pistons and a whole range of other parts suited for every bike and model from mopeds, ATV, snowmobiles and dirt bikes.

Their forged pistons for off road riding are some of the best dirt bike pistons on the market at an affordable price. Their kits are fully completed with all the parts you would need like rings, pings and clips.

Athena are constantly testing and improving their pistons to ensure optimal rider quality and satisfaction. This continual improvement have quickly established Athena as one of the best dirt bike OEM replacement part manufacturers world wide.

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JE Dirt Bike Pistons

JE Pistons have a very impressive collection of titles under their belt. Top professional racers in motocross, supercross and enduro have all ridden with JE Pistons right to the top stop of the podium.

JE have been at the forefront of developing and creating high performance dirt bike pistons right from the very beginning. With a focus on 4-Stroke pistons, JE have worked together with other world renowned brands like Pro Circuit Racing and together they have developed a world class set of pistons by the name of Pro Series.

JE offers some of the best high compression pistons for dirt bikes. These forged pistons by JE are built for performance and high end durability which are braced for high intensity environments. The Pro series pistons come in all different compression ratios and have two-ring designs which are used widely across the automotive sphere.

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When To Replace A Dirt Bike Piston

As an expert will tell you before starting an inspection on your dirt bike engine is that your dirt bike needs regular servicing. Dirt bike pistons are no different. 

If you’ve ever taken a look inside your owner’s manual, you’ll most likely find a section on piston maintenance that explains that regular piston maintenance and replacement should take place every 30 hours.

This might sound like a short time frame – and it is for most riders. Replacing a piston every 30 hours is far too often for most weekend riders. This timeframe is intended for extremely high-performance conditions. If you’re a pro racer or serious rider, replacing your piston every 30 hours or so would be a good idea.

In reality, the replacement period for most riders depends on a number of factors:

  • How aggressive of a rider are you?
  • How well is your dirt bike maintained
  • What type of dirt bike you have
  • The type of pistons you ride with
  • Engine size
  • Air filter maintenance
  • Riding terrain

All these factors make it very difficult to assign a “one size fits all” piston replacement period for dirt bikes. Scheduling regular engine maintenance checks like compression and leak-down testing would be the best solution to determining whether or not you’re due for a piston replacement. 

Upgrading To A Forged Dirt Bike Piston

Forged pistons offer many benefits over their cast piston counterparts. They’re stronger and are forged at much higher temperatures, which means their strength is able to withstand more wear and tear than cast pistons and needs to be replaced less frequently.

Since forged dirt bike pistons are manufactured with different types of aluminum alloys which grants them more tensile strength due to the more compact molecule structure created in the manufacturing process. Cast pistons on the other hand are not manufactured under the same high-pressure environment. The compounds used in cast piston manufacturing are not as strong as a forged piston which results in dirt bike riders having to replace cast pistons more frequently.

How Many Pistons Does A Dirt Bike Have

The typical dirt bike engine consists of a piston, barrel, and cylinder block which house the valve train. Different bikes have a different number of valves, however, most dirt bikes have single cylinder engines and just one piston, regardless of being a two-stroke or 4-stroke.

How Often Should You Change A Piston On A 2 Stroke

The answer to how often you should change the pistons on a 2-stroke is the same as how often you should change the pistons on a 4-stroke. According to most service manuals, you should replace them every 30 hours. In reality, casual weekend riders can use the same pistons over a longer period of up to 50 hours or more if the dirt bike is well maintained. Ensuring you’re riding with the best 2-stroke oil in your bike will help improve your piston lifetime. For non-two-stroke riders, these are the best motorcycle oils to consider.

How To Clean Dirt Bike Piston

Cleaning a dirt bike piston is something serious riders – as in professionals never do. This is largely due to the fact that they strip the engine down and replace all the parts after every couple of races.

Cleaning a dirt bike piston is also something that casual riders don’t do nearly often enough. It’s not the easiest job for those that are not mechanically sound enough to work on an engine, although it’s not too difficult if you follow clear instructions.

There are four main components that need to be cleaned and maintained to prevent your piston from losing performance or completely ruining your engine. Here is an in-depth guide on removing carbon from a Two Stroke engine. A quick tip on cleaning your piston is to make sure that you prevent any dirt from entering unwanted areas like your carburetor. Should you need to clean your carb, try out these great carb cleaners.

How To Break In A New Dirt Bike Piston

There’s a lot of controversial information on the internet when it comes to breaking in a new engine. One common misconception is the heat cycles method which you should avoid. This method is intended for steel sleeve air-cooled motorcycles. 

Heat cycling increases the chances of blow-by as the engine needs to be loaded when new rings are installed. A loaded engine puts pressure on the back of the rings, which forces them against the cylinder wall. Unless you have undergone a full engine rebuild, you don’t need to be overly concerned with breaking in a new piston.

The best way to achieve a good ring seal is to break it in with an aggressive ride—after a thorough warm-up.

Starting your bike and warming up the engine through a mix of idling and revving (mostly revving) before hitting the track or the trails is enough to break in a new piston. The magic will take place while you ride as your piston seats itself.

Last Checkpoint

Choosing the right piston for your dirt bike doesn’t need to be a difficult decision. Stick to the basics. Go with the leading brands and identify the price point you’re willing to pay. The top dirt bike piston brands include JE Pistons, Vertex, Athena, and Wiseco. Each of these piston manufacturers offers great quality products that will meet your needs.

One Comment

  1. Currently I have installed on my 2009 Yamaha YFZ450 a Niche brand cylinder and since I bought it from a previous owner I assume it has thr complete piston kit from that same brand. I have heard many comments its a non-reliable chinese brand, therefore I want to replace the entire kit having in mind getting into racing the next season, although I am currently doing just some amateur riding.
    I have heard very good comments of the CP Carrillo pistons too.
    The brands I am considering are depending on the price, the following:
    CP Carrillo
    Cylinder Works
    Whats your experience with any of those brands?
    I want to get the most performance out of my machine without sacrificing any reliability and durability, with a cost-effective set.

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