Dirt Bikes vs. Motorcycles: What is the Difference?

POSTED BY Andrew Kass||

When comparing dirt bikes vs. motorcycles, it’s clear that they both look a bit alike, but besides both having two wheels, there are numerous differences. Dirt bikes and motorcycles are designed for different terrains and different types of riding. Each type of bike has its own unique style, based on the needs of the rider.  In addition, hybrid-style bikes begin to blur the lines and distinctions between dirt bikes and street motorcycles. The construction, design, and materials of these bikes set them apart.



Tires on a dirt bike are studded and have extra tread for additional traction. The tires are narrow to allow for easy and quick maneuvering. Motorcycle tires are wide and slick, as the needs for traction are more minimal. The wide tires allow for a smooth ride and help the bike grip the road for a stable ride, as well.


Dirt bikes are traditionally smaller than motorcycles. The frames are smaller, more compact, and the seats are narrow. There are no accessories or “extras” that build up the size of the bike, like stereos and GPS systems. Motorcycles are generally made of metal, while dirt bikes are often constructed with plastic in order to remain lightweight. Motorcycle engines are heavy, and the seats are wide. They are constructed for comfort during long rides, not short jaunts over rugged terrain.


Again, the frame of the dirt bike is smaller and lighter than that of a motorcycle. The dirt bike is designed to take jumps quickly and easily and to be maneuvered through hills, valleys, and rough riding conditions. The light frame can be easily manipulated and controlled, far more so than the heavy frame of a street motorcycle. Street motorcycles are built to ride smoothly and look good. Their metal construction is not as easily maneuverable but allows for a steady control and a smooth ride through road conditions.


The seats of dirt bikes and motorcycles are different, as well. Dirt bike seats are smaller and more narrow, while motorcycles have heavy, thick seats designed for comfort and to absorb the impact. The position of the seat of the dirt bike is forward with low handlebars, again to allow for greater control of movement. Motorcycle positions are generally set farther back, with high handlebars. This position favors comfort and enhances a smooth ride.


Dirt bikes are, not surprisingly, built to absorb major shock on jumps and rough terrain. The suspension system, therefore, is advanced and uses hydraulic and spring shocks. Although street motorcycles can use hydraulics, they are not designed for the ongoing abuse achieved on riding rough terrain. Instead, motorcycles have limited suspension that is adept more at cruising on flat surfaces.

As you have read, there are numerous differences when measuring the differences between dirt bikes vs. street motorcycles. It is always best to use the right bike for the conditions you expect to encounter. Obviously, your bike needs will vary based on whether you expect to travel through rocky terrain and mountains, or over long, winding roads. Whether you choose a dirt bike or a motorcycle, if you are involved in a crash, the team at Kass & Moses can help. Contact them today with any questions you may have regarding motorcycle or dirt bike crashes. Or visit our blogs to learn more about motorcycle helmets and safety.