What is the Difference Between a Pit Bike and a Dirt Bike?
April 26, 2021
Within the motorcycle industry, there are many different types of motorbikes and each serves its own purpose. However, a bike style that is constantly mixed up by many novice or advanced motorcyclists is a pit and dirt bike.
In simple terms, a pit bike is the smaller sibling to a dirt bike. Throughout all aspects of the pit bike, it has a decrease in everything. In size, engine power, suspension, and more. The pit bike is more for people just wanting to enjoy a dirt bike but in a less risk-averse way.
They’re great for beginners or children and you can still have just as much fun on a pit bike as a dirt bike. In this article, we’ll be breaking down each important element of a motorcycle and comparing both a pit and dirt bike to uncover the true differences between them.
Engine Type & Size
Probably the most important element to consider on a motorbike is the engine type and size. Dirt bike engines are either 2 or 4 strokes and are between 50-1400cc. However, the highest CC found in most dirt bikes is around 500cc.
Most pit bikes that are available on the market are four-stroke and typically don’t go beyond the 250cc range. Due to its small frame size having a higher CC than 250 wouldn’t be compatible. Four-stroke motors are much smoother than a two stroke as they don’t have harsh biting points.
This makes it much safer for beginners or younger children to ride, the power will be much more stable and controllable. Sometimes the powerband can seem uncomfortable for any novice and they can easily be put off riding as they won’t know how to control it.
Unlike a pit bike, a dirt bike can be both two and four-stroke engines. Typically, two-stroke engine types that are found in dirt bikes are the lower CC’s versions, and four strokes the higher. The main difference between the two engine types is that the two-strokes are much quicker off the mark and have faster acceleration, this is due to the powerband. With four-stroke engines, they’re found with higher CC’s and have a higher top-end speed.
Another difference is that a four-stroke bike is much better on fuel than a 2 stroke. This is due to how the fuel is burned through the combustion process.
Pit bikes are normally only sold as four-strokes whereas dirt bikes can be two or four.
Dirt bikes can be found in a much higher CC and are generally more powerful than pit bikes.
Pit bikes are looked at as a beginner or child’s bike.
Moving swiftly down the list and this is how you can identify the visual difference between both a pit and a dirt bike. This is rather easy to do without further or due, let's get into this.
When I think of a pit bike, I think low CC and a beginner’s bike. Having that information planted in my head makes me quickly understand that a pit bike's frame is small. It’s lightweight and tightly compact to make it easier for children or new bike riders to maneuver. They’re low to the ground, sometimes making it hard for a large adult to ride one.
Now a dirt bike is much larger, this is needed to clear obstacles that may be in your way. Having this large body is useful but a lot harder for any beginner to start with. A dirt bike’s size can seem daunting at first and can quickly put-off anyone who is inexperienced. But nevertheless, when you get used to the sizing it’s much more versatile.
A pit bike frame is much smaller than a dirt bike.
As a beginner, a pit bike is much lighter and easier to maneuver.
Dirt bikes typically have a much larger frame than most dirt bikes making them harder to ride for the inexperienced.
Tire treads are an important aspect of keeping grip in certain environments, you are able to purchase both dirt and street tire treads depending on your main source of riding.
Both street and dirt tires treads can be found on a pit bike depending on the main source of the environment when riding. In simple terms, if you are riding on mud you’d want off-road or dirt treaded tires which have deep knobbly treads. Whereas street tires are much smoother to allow for extra grip on concrete.
A dirt bike has a similar style to a pit bike, both tires can be fitted on a dirt bike and they’re commonly found in a 50/50 mix. Around half of the dirt biking community ride street and the other riding dirt. It really does depend on the environment they want to use their dirt bike in.
However, there is a difference in tire size with pit and dirt bikes. Unlike a pit bike that has 12-14 inch tires, a dirt bike will have much larger ones at around 18” (depending on the size).
Dirt bike tires are typically much larger than pit bike tires.
Another important aspect of a bike is it’s suspension systems, they’re vital in stopping the impact that can occur on your arms while riding and make it a much smoother ride in bumpy terrains.
As you’re now aware, pit bikes are generally smaller bikes. Therefore, meaning that their forks and suspension are a lot smaller. Due to this, they have a less impact-resistant suspension mechanism. This also suits the bike completely fine as you won’t be going through as rough terrains as you may do with a dirt bike.
Dirt bikes are larger and much faster, this requires them to have bigger forks and suspension to minimize the impact on your body will feel. Having solid yet smooth suspension is important to keep you stable and safe while riding a dirt bike.
As a pit bike is smaller and slower they require less impact-resistance, meaning they’re equipped with much smaller forks and suspension than a dirt bike.
Dirt bikes require larger suspension due to the speed and potential scenarios it can occur. For example, rocks, jumps, and bumpy terrains.
Speed & Acceleration
Now onto the exciting part. If you’re like me and an absolute speed junky you want to keep your eyes peeled for this next one.
You’re now aware of the engine types and sizes that are found in both pit and dirt bikes. Typically, pit bikes don’t go above the 250cc range and are normally found in four-stroke engine types.
Because of the low CC and four-stroke engines, makes them much slower than most dirt bikes that can be found on the market. For the sheer size of the bike, most pit bikes I’ve ridden are more than fast enough for most people. Considering the size of the bike it can really pack-a-punch and is generally pretty enjoyable to be able to travel at such speeds on a small “dirt bike”.
If you purchase a 50cc pit bike I’d expect you to see speeds of 20-25 Mph (32-40 Kph) and the higher 100-250 cc pit bikes usually max out around 40-45 Mph. Their acceleration is okay and depending on your bodyweight it’ll get up to speed fairly quick, but not as quick as a two-stroke engine.
As for dirt bikes, you can find this in both two and four-stroke engine types and can go all the way up to 750cc. Although you are able to purchase dirt bikes that are 50cc, that share similar speeds and acceleration as your ordinary pit bike. The much higher CC bikes can have more powerful acceleration and a higher top-end speed.
As mentioned, the two-stroke version of this bike will accelerate at a much quicker rate than a two-stroke. However, a four-stroke engine will have a much higher top-end speed and will be easier to control.
Dirt bikes are found in higher CC’s and therefore have higher top-end speed.
Unlike pit bikes, dirt bikes can have two-stroke engines. Meaning they can accelerate at a much faster rate.
Overall Safety & Skill Level
Although both skilled and unskilled individuals can enjoy riding both bikes. I would say there’s an entry-level to both of them and to be safe you should try to stick with it.
As you’re now aware, pit bikes are generally the smaller bike and therefore are much slower. Making it a much safer bike for beginners or unskilled motorbike riders. If you can, it’s a great place to start and learn how to maneuver and control a bike. I would always recommend someone to use a pit bike to begin with if they’re worried about getting on a dirt bike.
Dirt bikes can be found with much more powerful engines and can seem frightening to any amateur. This is understandable and especially if you hop onto a two-stroke for the first time. The acceleration is much harsher and can easily turn into a disaster if the rider isn’t able to correctly control it. Meaning that dirt bikes are considered less safe than pit bikes.
Dirt bikes are larger and faster, meaning that the potential risk behind riding them is massively increased.
Pit bikes are more for beginners or people that aren’t comfortable with riding a dirt bike.
Sound isn’t that important for everyone, but something that most definitely needs to be mentioned.
This style of bike is found in four-stroke form, which suggests they have a much deeper “growl” than what can be found in two-stroke engines. However, the short mufflers found on all pit bikes can make this growl very loud for the size of the bike.
If you like the sound of bees, then a two-stroke bike will give you just that. Both two and four-stroke dirt bikes are pretty loud and in fact, all bikes are loud and quietness isn’t really an option.
Dirt bikes have two-stroke engines that sound like a swarm of bees, something that isn’t available in pit bikes.
As you’re able to pick up second-hand pit or dirt bikes for relatively cheap, depending on the quality. I’ll only suggest an average pricefor brand new bikes.
These bikes are smaller and less powerful making them a cheaper alternative than a dirt bike. Pit bikes can vary between $1,000-3,000, depending on the brand, build, and additional extras. In terms of upkeep with pit bikes, you’ll have to consider oils, fuel, tire changes, and other mechanical issues that may occur. But overall, it’s much less than a dirt bike.
New dirt bikes can vary hugely. From around $2000 to $10,000 depending on the brand and build. They’re also much more expensive to maintain a good quality, especially if you purchase a two-stroke motor. As a rule of thumb, two-stroke engines are much more fragile than a four-stroke engine and are typically worse on both fuel and oil, but cheaper to keep up with.
Dirt bikes are a lot more expensive to purchase and upkeep than pit bikes.
What is Better: A Pit Bike or Dirt Bike?
The all-important question, which is better: a pit bike or a dirt bike. This really does depend on many factors, so let’s break them down to help your decision.
Skill-level barrier –After reading this article, you may be aware that the skill-level barrier between both pit and dirt bikes is massively different. A pit bike is considered “training wheels” for beginners or children that are just beginning on their motocross journey.
Although a pit bike is considered safer for most beginners doesn’t mean they’re not fun. By far, hopping onto a pit bike never fails to put a smile on my face. The speed they’re able to achieve while being so small is rather amusing and enjoyable.
Versatility –In terms of being able to achieve more, the dirt bike outweighs the pit bike. With a dirt bike, you’re much higher from the ground and can go a lot faster. Meaning that you’re able to experience more from what you would do on a pit bike.
With a dirt bike, you’d be able to climb hills, jump large obstacles and even ride on a public road (if you legally are allowed)
Costs –As mentioned above, there is a huge difference in cost. I understand that most people don’t have that type of money to just purchase a new dirt bike. They’re expensive and a pit bike might be a better option if you’re on a lower budget.
However, purchasing a second-hand dirt or pit bike for your first motocross bike isn’t a bad idea and it’s most definitely something I recommend you do. This way, you wouldn’t be so upset with damaging it and it’s a lot more fun when you’re not thinking about that.
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