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Off-road Motorcycles (Dirt Bikes)

KTM 250SX (motocross)

An off-road bike is just that; a motorcycle designed for off-road use. That includes closed course tracks as well as trails. They generally are light weight, have longer travel suspension, lack street legal equipment (horns, turn signals, brake lights, etc.), lack wind screens, have knobby tires, have lower gearing, good ground clearance, etc. This is a very broad category that includes mini bikes, off-road recreational (trail) bikes, enduro, motocross and trials. This category includes bikes for almost everyone, no matter their size or riding ability.

Off-road Recreational

Yamaha TT-R50

These bikes are intended for the casual off-road rider. They tend to be lower in performance, have lower-end components, require less maintenance, and have a lower seat height and a lower purchase price. They may not be competitive if you were to race them against true race bikes, but they can still be a lot of fun to ride. A good example of a bike in this category is the Honda CRF230F, the successor to the Honda XR200. If you’re new to dirt bike riding this (or the CRF150F) would be a good type of bike to start on.


An enduro is a motorcycle rally event where riders follow a predetermined route, often through the woods, and are required to “hit” checkpoints at certain times. Riders are penalized for arriving at checkpoints late or too early. An enduro motorcycle is one that is intended for more serious off-road / trail riding. Many are ridden recreationally, but have been designed with competition in mind. Some are more race-oriented than others. They come equipped with higher-end components such as fully adjustable suspension, higher performance motors, head light and tail light, better brakes, trip meter and possibly a speedometer. Some are street legal (dual sport). Some have an aluminum frame and fuel injection these days. Some off-road recreational bikes could also be classified as enduros.


A motocross bike is a race bike designed for racing around a dirt track consisting of large and small jumps, whoops, short straight stretches and often tight turns. The surface can be hard-packed, loose, muddy or some combination. The indoor version of motocross is supercross; the races are held in a stadium where dirt has been trucked in to build a track. The bikes have high performance, quick revving motors for fast acceleration and long travel suspension suitable for absorbing the big impacts when landing jumps. They are very light weight and usually incorporate the latest dirt bike technology. They are very high maintenance machines and in stock form do not make the best trail bikes. They don’t have lights, trip meters or even attached side stands. These are special purpose motorcycles. If you compare motocross and competition enduro bikes from the same manufacturer, they can be quite similar in a lot of aspects and may share a lot of components, but there are often differences in steering geometry, suspension (damping and spring rates, travel), fuel systems, gearing and power characteristics, weight, fuel capacity as well as others. Both bikes can generally be ridden under the same conditions, but the enduro version is optimized for trail use, and the motocross version is optimized for a motocross track.


Trials (not trail) riding or “observed trials” is a sport in itself. It involves riding over obstacles and terrain that in some cases would be challenging to walk or climb over. Riders may ride over logs, stumps, boulders, up short cliff faces or steep banks and rocky creek beds. During competition, the riders “earn” points if they put their feet down, drop their bike or ride outside the marked course. The rider with the lowest score wins. The motorcycles are specially designed for this type of riding. The bikes look quite different when compared to other dirt bikes. They are very light weight, geared very low, have extremely low “seats”, have special low pressure tires, etc. These bikes are ridden standing up very slowly, and riders require great balance. It’s a very entertaining sport to watch.

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