Types of Dirt Bikes

by Renee Miller
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dirt bikes in the air image by MAXFX from Fotolia.com

Dirt bikes are lightweight motorcycles that are intended for riding off road. Most designs include rugged tires and suspensions. Dirt bikes are made to handle riding cross-country over rough terrain like dirt, mud and rocks. Dirt bikes are available with two-stroke and four-stroke engines and may have several different features but are usually grouped into four categories.


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Motocross bikes are designed for racing in closed-course competition. They utilize single-cylinder engines that are designed for fast speeds and their suspension systems have to be able to handle the jumps and the rapid acceleration required on a motocross track. Motocross bikes are built light, without speedometers, lights, kickstands, mirrors or electric starters which weigh the bike down and aren't needed on the race track. This style of dirt bike usually has a long, flat seat which allows the rider to shift his weight rapidly to give more traction around corners. Riders in motocross races are usually standing so comfort is not a huge consideration in a motocross bike's design.


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An enduro bike is similar to a motocross bike in appearance but it is designed for a slightly different purpose. With a lighter frame, enduro bikes are typically used for longer races that combine street racing with off-road racing through rough terrain. Enduro bikes offer different features than the motocross bike such as turn signals, mirrors, headlights and silencers that reduce engine noise in order to enable riders to ride on asphalt surfaces. However, because of their minimal personal comforts and abundant suspension, enduro bikes aren't really suited for casual long-distance road travel.

Trail Riders

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Trail rider bikes are designed to handle long rides through rough terrain. They are not designed for high-speed racing like motocross bikes are and don't jump well. Trail riders look very similar to enduro bikes. The foot pegs are located in a more natural position to allow for a comfortable ride and handlebars are placed higher to make turning at slow speeds easier. Trail riders are lightweight with minimal plastic framing, long suspensions and larger tires. This style of dirt bike rides better over a variety of dirt surfaces than anywhere else.


Dual-sport bikes are equipped with headlights, turn signals and mirrors as well as speedometers in order to make them street legal. They can be ridden over dirt or asphalt surfaces and are designed to run better than a street bike over rough terrain and be smoother and quieter than a dirt bike on asphalt surfaces. Most dual-sport bikes use single-cylinder engines because of the simplicity and lighter weight which is useful over rugged terrain but the dual-sport bike is usually heavier than the enduro or motocross bikes, because they aren't really designed for competition. This type of dirt bike is ideal for new riders to learn on because the controls are in plain sight and because they're easier to balance than other types of bikes. Because they don't use a lot of plastic and chrome, dual-sport bikes are also less expensive.

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