Off-road motorcycles are anything with two wheels that navigates tough off-road terrain. Learn more about these machines at Dirt Rider.
Off-road motorcycles, or dirt bikes, are any motorized two-wheeled machines that are designed to be ridden in dirt, sand, mud, grass, or gravel—essentially anywhere but the street. These motorcycles are designed to be ridden cross-country and raced in series such as Grand National Cross Country (GNCC), National Enduro, Sprint Enduro, Big 6 Grand Prix, National Hare & Hound, West Hare Scrambles, EnduroCross, and the World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS). However, they are very versatile and can tackle everything from local motocross tracks to riding in sand dunes.
Off-road motorcycles are normally equipped with an 18-inch rear wheel, softer suspension, a kickstand, and a large fuel tank. They sometimes have different transmissions, off-road-specific tires, skid plates, and hand guards in stock form too. Their counterparts, motocross bikes, feature stiffer suspension and a smaller gas tank in order to cut down on weight.
Dirt bikes grew in popularity in the United States in the late 1960s and have not stopped improving since then. Dirt Rider reviews every dirt bike and off-road motorcycle model that is released. Our off-road motorcycle reviews feature some of the top bikes from Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha, GasGas, and Beta.
Riding off-road is just as dangerous as riding on the street. You might not have to worry about cars and hazards on the road, but you do have to take into consideration the environment you’ll be riding in. The basic gear that every dirt bike rider should wear is a dirt bike helmet, goggles, gloves, jersey and pants, and boots. These items will keep you safe in the case of a crash or any other mishap that may occur while you’re riding off road.
It’s not truly your dirt bike unless you’ve modified it to your liking. Aftermarket parts for dirt bikes are not limited to just grips and graphics; there are internal engine modifications, full exhaust systems, and even A-Kit forks and shocks that you can purchase and install.
Off-road motorcycle racing is not just limited to gigantic, multistage, multicountry events like the Dakar Rally. There are lots of local events and races, especially for off-road, enduro, and motocross. Hare scrambles are popular racing events held all over the country. These races are held in the woods on the East Coast and in the deserts of the West Coast, and are typically completed on off-road or enduro bikes. They are grueling, both on the rider and the off-road motorcycle.
The most televised off-road motorcycle racing events are the AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross series. Supercross races are held in arenas and stadiums on tighter, more technical courses. Motocross races take place outdoors with a combination of natural terrain and man-made obstacles. Both types of racing have jumps, turns, berms, whoops, bumps, and ruts.
Other popular off-road motorcycle racing events are Grand National Cross Country (GNCC), National Enduro, Big 6 Grand Prix, Hare & Hound, EnduroCross, and the World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS).
An enduro motorcycle is similar to a cross-country, or “off-road,” bike but usually has a wide-ratio transmission, softer suspension settings, a headlight, and a taillight. These motorcycles are made for the exploration of terrain, rather than just racing through it. A close relative of the enduro bike is the dual sport motorcycle.
The dual sport is the street-legal, road-going version of the dirt bike. What it makes up for in on-road handling, it loses in off-road capability. Its street-oriented tires and suspension are decent for light off-road and single-track use, but would never handle the demands of a motocross race. Some popular dual-sport bikes are Kawasaki’s KLR650, Honda’s CRF250L models, and Suzuki’s DR-Z lineup.