What Is the Difference Between a Dirt Bike & a Motorcycle?

by Zach Lazzari
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The dirt bike and motorcycle are both two-wheeled vehicles. The two types of bikes have visually different designs and perform different functions. In addition to the distinct street motorcycle and off-road dirt bike, hybrid-style bikes are constructed for road and off-road riding. The differences between a dirt bike and street motorcycle are evident in the construction, materials and overall design.


The frame on a dirt bike is small and light. The dirt bike is built for mobility and jumping, and the frame cannot be heavy. A heavy metal frame is hard on the suspension and more difficult to control and manipulated. Dirt bike frames are often constructed from hard plastics with limited metal. The street bike is built for stability and style. The frame is typically constructed from metal with a large, heavy design.


The street motorcycle is built for cruising on flat surfaces, and the suspension is limited. The dirt bike is designed to absorb shock on jumps and rough roads and tracks. The dirt has a suspension system with hydraulic and spring shocks. Look for the rod connecting the frame to the wheels. The rod with a hydraulic tube attached is common on dirt bike designs. Some street motorcycles also use hydraulics to smooth out the ride, but the hydraulic tubes are not built for heavy impact.


The tires on a dirt bike are narrow and have nobs and tread for traction. The street motorcycle does not require aggressive traction, and the tires are slick and wide. The wide tires provide stability on the road while maintaining a smooth riding style.

Seat Position

The seat position varies on street motorcycles. Low-rider positions with high handlebars and forward seating positions are both common. The low-rider positions are typical on heavy bikes built for cruising, while the forward positions are designed for speed riding. The dirt bike seating position is always forward with a low set of handlebars. The position is designed for maximum visibility and control.

General Size

The size of a dirt bike is much smaller than a low rider or street racing motorcycle. The street racing motorcycle uses thin metal or plastic bodywork. The dirt bike has a narrow seat, plastic body construction and no additional accessories like stereo systems. The racing and cruising motorcycles use metal, larger engines, wide seats and accessories for long-distance comfort.

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