Facts About Dirt Bikes

by Rob Wagner

Dirt bikes are lightweight, off-road motorcycles built with a rugged frame, special tires and stiff suspension to navigate hilly, rough terrain in all types of weather. Dirt bikes are used in motocross racing events held in North America, Europe and Asia. Adverse conditions require these bikes to be specially constructed, with many high-performance components incorporated into street motorcycles, including cruisers and sports bikes.

Size

This 2007 Kaswasaki 250 is lightweight with a high ground clearance.

Dirt bikes are used with an emphasis on agility and lightweight maneuverability, and as a result they have an engine size less than 500cc.

Two and Four

The 2007 Yamaha 250 has longer front forks than a street bike.

The bikes are powered either by a two-stroke or four-stoke engine with the smaller two-stroke mixing oil and gas simultaneously, while a four-stroke reuses the oil much like an automobile.

Licensing

Riding dirt bikes require agility.

Dirt bikes are not licensed because they are illegal on streets and highways, but some U.S. states require a sticker registration fee.

Origins

The father of the modern dirt bike: the BSA MX3.

The father of the modern dirt bike is the British-made BSA, which was the leading dirt bike among American riders when motocross became popular in the United States in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Types

Steve Cordova executes a freestyle move, illustrating the lightweight nature of dirt bikes.

By the 1970s, Japanese motorcycle makers muscled out the British bikes with Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Honda leading off-road competition.

Off-Road versus Street

Dirt bikes don't need to be licensed because they are illegal on the street.

Compared to street bikes, dirt motorcycles have stiffer suspension with extended forks for more travel when executing jumps, knobby tires for traction on soft surfaces, and high ground clearance to navigate hilly terrain.

References

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Yamaha, Kawasaki