Is a Dirt Bike a Motorcycle? What Makes The Difference?

Man Riding Motocross Dirt Bike

There are numerous advantages to owning a dirt bike, making this motorcycle appealing.

I’ve had my eyes on a dirt bike for a long time now. I’m a huge fan of bikes, and I love the thrill of riding one. However, I’ve noticed that many people don’t know the difference between a dirt bike and a motorcycle. So today, I thought we’d look at some of the differences.

Motorbikes and dirt bikes are two different things.

It is a two-wheeled vehicle with no pedals and is run by a motor. So, both the motorcycle and a dirt bike are the same in this definition. However, motorcycles can be distinguished from dirt bikes by design and function. Here, let’s take a closer look:

  • Frame – the dirt bike is designed to jump around obstacles. Hence, its structure is light and small. If the frame is heavy, it will be difficult for a rider to control and manipulate. The most common material for a dirt bike’s frame is hard plastic and some metal. On the other hand, street bikes are designed and built for stability and style. It is usually large and heavy because of the metal that makes up most of its body. 
  • Suspension – a motorcycle is designed for roads. For this reason, the suspension play is limited. On the other hand, a dirt bike has to run and jump on rough terrain, thus, the hydraulic and spring shocks. 
  • Tires – Dirt bike tires are slim and have nobs and tread for traction; the street motorcycle is slick and wide and does not require traction. The important thing for a street motorcycle is to have stability while keeping the ride smooth. 
  • Seating Position – There are many kinds of street motorcycles, and each of them has a different seating position. There’s the low-rider with high handlebars and then the forward seating position. Low-riders are common on cruisers, while forward (aggressive) seating is typical of sports and speed riding. The position is always forward for the dirt bike, coupled with low-set handlebars designed for maximum control and forward visibility. 
  • Dirt bikes are smaller and slimmer compared to street motorcycles. On the other hand, street motorcycles are wider, heavier, with larger engines, and equipped with accessories for long-distance riding. 
ALSO READ  Can You Ride a Motorcycle While Pregnant? Safety First

Street legality

Although both the dirt bike and street motorcycles are motorized vehicles, legally, they are VERY different. For one, most states do not allow dirt bikes on street roads. Dirt bikes are not equipped with regulation accessories such as headlights, turn signals, horns, side mirrors, and switches. For most states, a dirt bike is exclusively an off-road vehicle. 

Dual Sports Bike

However, one version of a motorcycle is flexible enough to handle both the smoothness of a street and the demands of rough terrain; it’s called a dual-sport bike. 

Dual-sport motorcycles, also known as dual-purpose or on/off-road motorcycles or adventure motorcycles, are street-legal bikes designed to handle off-road situations, making them enjoyable to ride.


  • It has a dirt bike chassis
  • It has added lights, mirrors, signals, and instruments that make it possible to license them for public road use. 
  • They are taller than other street motorcycles. There is more room for suspension travel because they have a high center of gravity. This makes them suitable for rugged terrain.
  • Adventure motorcycles are also designed for long-distance touring on paved or unpaved roads. Its engine, frame, seating position, and overall design give it a solid high-speed, long-distance travel capability. 

Although it has dirt bike capabilities, note that a dual-sport motorcycle is a large motorcycle. It won’t be as quick as a dirt bike made for speeding around dangerous race tracks.

A difference in safety

There is a huge difference in the riding approach, which also means safety-wise, there is a difference. Both motorcycles can be dangerous; however, they can be mitigated with proper training and discipline. The key here is to react correctly and promptly in certain situations that might put you at risk. For instance, wearing the appropriate riding gear, observing defensive riding, using your training and skill when riding, et cetera. 

ALSO READ  Why Does My Car Sound Like a Motorcycle? Mechanical Issues.

Should you buy a dirt bike or a street bike?

It really depends on your goal. Do you want more off-roading or street riding? Why not get both if money isn’t an issue?

The important thing is you buy the type of ride with the purpose in mind. You can use a street motorcycle for commuting to work daily. You can use a dirt bike to pound the dirt and jump around obstacles on weekends. 

A difference in skill

Dirt bike riders have different skills than street motorcycle riders. For example, when riding street motorcycles, hanging off the inside of the seat is the right way to approach corners. However, when riding dirt bikes, your butt and weight should be on the outside of the seat.

Learning to ride the two motorcycles will distinguish between safety, comfort, and riding efficiently. Just remember, take it slow if you’re still learning how to ride a  street motorcycle or a dirt bike. 

Places where dirt bikes are off-limits

You can’t ride a dirt bike on city streets because they’re not designed for it, and the tires will quickly wear out.

You might also discover that your vehicle isn’t allowed on certain sidewalks. Even though it’s only a short walk to the building entrance, you may find that you can’t park there.

Certain states do not allow dirt bikes to be ridden on residential and city streets. So, to avoid getting fined and penalized, make sure you do your research before you ride your dirt bike in your neighborhood. 


The most significant difference between a dirt bike and a street motorcycle is the off-road capabilities. Dirt bikes are meant to jump around, flip, and go off-road, whereas street motorcycles are designed to handle on-road situations.

ALSO READ  Is Owning a Motorcycle Cheaper Than A Car? [Chart Compare]

If you want to go off-road, you can get a dirt bike. However, if you’re going to go on-road, you can get a street motorcycle. 

On the whole, dirt bikes are more fun to ride. Still, if you’re looking for a reliable motorcycle for commuting, then a street motorcycle is a better option. 

This is the best motorcycle to get for commuting and a fun weekend ride. It’s an all-around motorcycle that will get you where you need to go.

I hope I was able to help shed light on dirt bikes and their difference compared to a street motorcycle. Whatever ride you’ve chosen, always remember to ride defensively, be on proper riding attire, and think about your safety.

Ride safe!