Pit Bike vs Dirt Bike: What You Need To Know

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Dirt bikes are pretty similar, but there are no fewer differences between them than similarities. In fact, some features make dirt and pit bikes completely different vehicles.

With that said, how do pit bikes compare with dirt bikes? And which one would be better for you?

Let’s try to find that out!

Pit Bike vs Dirt Bike

What Is a Pit Bike?

Pit BikeA pit-bike is a relatively small off-road motorcycle designed primarily for bit bike racing, though pit bikes may be used on other race course areas as well. Pit bike racing is fairly similar to motocross, but pit bikes are more compact and lightweight.

Pit bikes are commonly based on the Honda Z50R motorcycle which was introduced in 1979 as Honda’s solution to the increasing demand for mini dirt bikes. 

The typical wheel size for pit bikes is 14 inches for the front and 12 inches for the rear wheel. Besides, pit bikes usually use four-stroke engines and, of course, compact frames.

Pit bikes are particularly popular among younger riders since they are easier to operate than regular dirt bikes. With their shorter wheel base and lower center of gravity, pit bikes deliver an easier handling experience for less skilled riders. 

Pit bikes aren’t street-legal in the US since they lack devices required by state and federal laws. You can make a pit bike street-legal, but know that it probably isn’t street-legal by default.

What Is a Dirt Bike?

Dirt Bike

“Dirt” doesn’t refer to a specific bike type. Instead, it just refers to the purpose served by a motorcycle. This means that any motorcycle designed to be operated off-road can be considered a dirt bike. Following this logic, pit bikes are also dirt bikes but smaller and lighter.

Dirt bikes (also called off-road bikes) are designed for riding on rough off-road surfaces such as sand, gravel, mud, or snow. And since the purpose of dirt bikes is very different from regular street motorcycles, there are plenty of design differences between them.

While this post’s purpose is to overview the differences between pit bikes and dirt bikes, we think that it would be great to outline the differences between dirt bikes and street motorcycles as well. This would allow you to better understand what dirt bikes really are.

So, here’s how dirt bikes differ from street motorcycles:

  • Dirt bike tires are studded and have more treads for better off-road traction. Street motorcycles don’t need as aggressive tread profiles.
  • Dirt bike tires are usually narrow to allow for easier maneuvering. Street motorcycles have wide and slick tires that are designed to ensure a stable and comfortable ride.
  • Dirt bikes have smaller and lighter frames than street motorcycles. 
  • Dirt bikes usually don’t have extras like GPS systems or stereos. This is done to keep dirt bikes lightweight.
  • Dirt bikes are usually made of plastic. This is again done to keep them light. Street motorcycles are generally made of metal.
  • Dirt bike seats are narrower and positioned closer to the handlebars to allow for better mobility for the operator.
  • Dirt bike suspension is specifically designed to handle abuse. Off-road bikes very often use advanced hydraulic and spring systems. Street motorcycles, on the other hand, have simpler suspension designed for use on flat surfaces.

Types of dirt bikes

It’s also worth talking about the different types of dirt bikes. As mentioned above, “dirt” refers not to a specific bike type but a purpose a bike is designed for.

The types of dirt bikes are as follows:

  • Motocross. Motocross bikes are designed to be raced on short off-road tracks filled with obstacles. These bikes have long-travel suspension that’s specifically designed to withstand jumps at high speed.

As mentioned above, pit biking is very similar to motocross, so much that you could say that pit bikes are just smaller motocross bikes.

  • Enduro. Enduro bikes are off-road bikes designed for competing over longer courses. Since enduro courses may include public roads, enduro bikes are equipped with hardwire like horns, lights, number plates, and silencing that make them street-legal.
  • Rally raid. Rally raid bikes are enduro bikes with much larger fuel tanks and engines. These bikes are designed for very long distance riding.
  • Trail. A trail bike basically is a less rugged enduro bike. Trail bikes also are designed for off- and on-road use, but they are less durable since they aren’t designed for competition. Trail bikes also tend to have mirrors, indicators, and other instruments that make them more convenient for on-road use (some states do require this kind of equipment).
  • Trial. Trial riding is an off-road competition where riders demonstrate their balancing skills and precision. Speed isn’t a priority in trial riding, so trial bikes tend to have smaller two-stroke engines that can accelerate quickly.
  • Track. Track bikes are used on off-road oval courses. Due to this, track racing is pretty similar to NASCAR but taken off the road. Track bikes often do not have brakes and rear suspension to maximize weight efficiency, as well as are often able to take only left turns. To put it short, track bikes are optimized specifically for oval courses.

Since there are plenty of dirt bikes out there, the pit bike vs dirt bike comparison becomes a bit more difficult. While “dirt bike” and “pit bike” both are general terms, “dirt bike” implies many more biking disciplines.

With that said, it is still possible to pinpoint some general differences between dirt and pit bikes.

Pit Bike VS Dirt Bike – What’s the Difference?

Let’s now talk about the differences between pit bikes and dirt bikes. We would like to cover 6 key differences that distinguish pit bikes from dirt bikes.

Engine

Pit bikes: pit bikes mostly use four-stroke engines with a displacement of 50-140cc, much smaller than what you’d typically see on a dirt bike. Power aside, four-stroke engines imply a few benefits for pit bikes.

In four-stroke engines, the piston completes four separate strokes when turning the crankshaft – intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust. While this implies that four-stroke engines are heavier and more complex than two-stroke engines, it also means that four-stroke engines are more fuel-efficient. Little to no fuel is wasted in the intake cycle, unlike two-stroke engines.

Aside from that, four-stroke engines deliver a steadier and more predictable power delivery. The powerband is also smoother, which makes pit bikes easier to operate. This is one of the reasons why pit bikes are popular among the youth.

On the other hand, four-stroke engines are more expensive to maintain since they have many more parts in them. However, four-stroke engines tend to live longer than two-stroke engines since the latter run at a higher RPM and require more frequent shifting.

Dirt bikes: some dirt bikes may use four-stroke engines, but they typically use two-stroke engines.

Two-stroke engines complete a power cycle in two strokes rather than four. Intake and exhaust occur simultaneously, and the end of combustion and the beginning of compression happen at the same time.

Two-stroke engines are less fuel-efficient and less environmentally-friendly. In a two-stroke engine, the burnt oil is released into the air with the exhaust.

Not only that, but two-stroke engines tend to live shorter than four-stroke engines since they require frequent shifting and operate at a higher RPM.

And yeah, two-stroke engines have less smooth power delivery which makes them difficult to control for less skilled riders.

On the other hand, two-stroke engines have an edge when it comes to maintenance costs, simplicity, and power. If you didn’t know, a two-stroke 125cc engine is roughly the same as a four-stroke 250cc engine in terms of power. And since dirt bikes can have up to 300cc two-stroke engines, they are much more powerful than pit bikes.

While dirt bikes commonly use two-stroke engines, some dirt bike types use four-stroke engines. Four-stroke engines used in dirt bikes are more powerful than in pit bikes – 300-400cc displacement is pretty common, and some bikes reach as much as 750cc.

Body

Pit bikes: pit bikes have a more compact and lightweight body that allows them to easily cover the confined pit courses. Pit bikes’ small frames also make them more suitable and convenient for younger riders.

What’s pretty important about pit bikes’ smallness and lightness as well is that they are easier to store and transport.

With that said, since pit bikes have smaller frames, they aren’t as great off the road as dirt bikes. Overcoming obstacles is more difficult for them because of their shortness, so there are fewer off-road areas where you can safely and comfortably ride a pit bike.

Dirt bikes: dirt bikes have regularly-sized frames since they don’t have to cover narrow courses. Due to this, dirt bikes are less convenient in storage and transport, and they aren’t as good for kids as pit bikes. However, dirt bikes are better and safer off-road since they aren’t limited by a small frame size.

Tires

Pit bikes: pit bikes tend to have smaller 12-14-inch tires. Usually, the front tires are sized at 14 inches while the rear are at 12 inches. The tires are obviously sized down to become compatible with smaller frame sizes.

Dirt bikes: dirt bikes usually have around 18-inch tires. Not only are dirt bike tires larger, but they also usually have an additional layer of rubber on the outside surface of the tire that makes them better in a wider range of off-road conditions, especially on uneven surfaces.

Suspension

Pit bikes: pit bikes come with pretty decent suspension that allows them to safely and without damage to cover pit courses. With that said, since pit bikes’ small frames make them worse off the road, their suspension quality is inferior to that of dirt bikes – pit bikes simply don’t need as great suspension systems.

Dirt bikes: dirt bike suspension tends to be better than that of pit bikes since dirt bikes are better suited for off-road biking. With that said, how good the suspension is exactly will significantly differ from dirt bike to dirt bike.

Motocross dirt bikes have great long-travel suspension that allows them to withstand high jumps at high speed. On the other hand, enduro or trail bikes may have worse suspension since they are designed to cover long distances rather than jump around.

But overall, dirt bikes’ suspension is going to be superior to that of pit bikes.

Maintenance

Pit bikes: pit bikes tend to require maintenance less frequently than dirt bikes, partly because of their four-stroke engines. Four-stroke engines are a little more reliable than two-stroke engines.

With that said, when four-stroke engines do require maintenance, they can become a nightmare. You have more parts to deal with, not to mention that repairs tend to be more difficult and more expensive. This also applies to cleaning.

Dirt bikes: dirt bikes are somewhat easier to maintain due to their two-stroke engines, but you may have to do maintenance a little bit more frequently. Still, it’s a little cheaper and easier to do than on a bike with a two-stroke engine.

But if your dirt bike has a four-stroke engine, then the maintenance and cleaning will be no easier than in pit bikes.

Price

Pit bikes: pit bikes are quite expectedly cheaper than dirt bikes. You can easily find pit bikes under $1,000, though you may need to pay more than that if you are looking for a really rugged pit bike for competition.

Dirt bikes: dirt bikes cost much, much more than pit bikes, with prices often reaching $10,000. Competition Honda off-road bikes, for example, cost no less than $7,000. Trail bikes start at a little over $2,000, though they can also cost close to $10,000.

Which Bike Type Is Better For You?

Well, given all of the above, we think that it’s pretty easy to make a choice here. Dirt bikes and pit bikes aren’t interchangeable – you can’t use a pit bike as a dirt bike and vice versa. This means that you should go for whatever bike will be able to satisfy your needs.

With that said, if you are looking for an off-road bike for your kid, a pit bike may be a great option for them. A pit bike will allow your kid an easier entry into off-road biking for less money. Do remember though that pit bikes can’t challenge rough terrain.

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