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The debate around ATVs vs. dirt bikes has been going around in off-riding communities for years. At face value, both models are quite similar to each other. On a closer look, there are many differences in terms of their design and use.
None of them can be said to be better than the other, as it depends on your locality and what intentions you have for your vehicle. This article will hopefully offer insight as you decide which bike to buy.
1. Dirt Bikes are Safer than ATVs
ATVs are often deemed to be safer than dirt bikes, but studies presented by a John Hopkins team prove otherwise. ATVs are involved in fewer accidents but with deadlier outcomes than those of dirt bikes.
Victims of ATV incidents were found to be 50% more likely to succumb to their injuries and 55% more likely to be taken to the intensive care unit in comparison to victims of dirt bike crashes.
ATVs seem safer since they are more stable and sturdier. They, however, roll over quite easily and since there is no crash protection for the rider, the effects of the roll can be deadly.
ATVs weigh twice the weight of dirt bikes, and while you can get away with sprains and strains in a dirt bike crash, ATV accidents often mean broken necks and backs.
ATVs also impact more significantly on bystanders when they lose control. Riders are often thrown clear off dirt bikes. With ATVs, however, they usually flip and fall on the rider.
Studies also illustrate the common recklessness of riders on ATVs. In most states, wearing protective gear like helmets while on a dirt bike is law, but it is not the same case with ATVs.
Dirt bikers are sold on the safety illusion of ATVs and go minimal on protective gear. Even if riders on dirt bikes and ATVs both wear helmets, the one on the ATV will be more severely injured in the case of a crash.
ATVs are particularly hazardous for a rider under the age of 16. Parents often buy bigger models for kids with the view that they will “grow into them”. Kids end up riding machines that are too big and powerful for them, putting them at direct risk.
2. Dirt Bikes are Cheaper than ATVs
If price is a primary concern, then the obvious choice is a dirt bike. Dirt bikes are simpler by design, and they use fewer materials during manufacturing.
You will part with more money to buy an ATV of the same rider class as a dirt bike. Dirt bike mods and accessories are also more plentiful by the fact that dirt bikes are more popular.
Maintenance costs also pile up more with an ATV. You have two tires to replace on a dirt bike than the four on an ATV. Transportation and storage costs also vary between the modes.
ATVs typically take up more space. Up to three dirt bikes can be arranged on a pickup while only one ATV can be fitted into the same vehicle.
3. ATVs are Easier to Learn than Dirt Bikes
If you handle an ATV after just 5 minutes of instruction, you will find it easy to control it. You will also fall less often than you will do on a dirt bike. The process of learning the mechanics of a dirt bike is much more intensive, and it can take even years.
Off-road riders even use ATVs before they transition to dirt bikes. The nature of dirt biking trails also necessitates more in-depth instruction than that for ATVs.
4. ATVs are More Functional
ATVs are designed for a much wider range of activities than a dirt bike. An ATV winch can help you pull and drag heavy machines, and you can pull a buddy’s ATV if they get stuck on a trail.
ATVs are quite popular in hunting as it easy and efficient to transport game and transport equipment. It is, however, illegal to hunt from an ATV in most states, although you can use the vehicle to access hunting zones.
ATVs also come in handy when on camping trips as you can carry all the necessities. The vehicle’s other uses include snow plowing, lawn mowing, seed spreading, loading logs, and field plowing. These functionalities make ATVs more popular in rural areas.
The multiple uses of ATVs are incredibly impressive as you can move any heavy equipment and customize it to fit your needs at any time.
If you want to carry anything with a dirt bike, it will have to go into a backpack. Dirt bikes are more recreational in this sense, and you cannot expect to achieve much out of it except riding on trails.
5. Dirt Bikes are Better at Racing than ATVs
Dirt bikes are better at racing and have higher speeds than ATVs. A dirt bike can move efficiently in narrower spaces, making it more ideal for making maneuvers than ATVs.
Dirt bikes are also more forgiving on landings and are lighter. ATVs are less fit for racing because not only are they heavier, but they also have slower speeds.
Drivers can perform more tricks and stunts on dirt bikes as you will often see in motocross competitions. On ATVs however, it can be dangerous to perform many tricks, especially for an inexperienced rider.
6. Dirt Bikes offer More Adrenaline Rush
Off-road riding brings with it the adrenaline rush associated with competitive sports. Your vision is focused on the continually changing conditions while your feet and hands work in perfect precision to manipulate brakes, throttle, gears, and clutch.
A rider also shifts their body weight in different positions to maintain balance. Your brain will be working consistently to analyze the information around you and make strategic decisions.
If you are looking for the full off-road experience, a dirt bike will be your best bet. Dirt bikes are often driven hard and riders make sharp inclinations and steep descents. ATVs are mostly used for hauling things around.
7. ATVs have a Longer Season
ATVs are designed to function in difficult conditions and enjoy a longer season than dirt bikes. During winter, all you will need are snow tires on your ATV, and you are good to go.
You can even use an ATV to plow snow and clear the driveway and other areas. The design of the ATV can accommodate a range of terrains, from snow, mud, and sand.
Riding a dirt bike in snow is not advisable as you can slip and get injured, which means that your bike will mostly be in your garage in the course of winter.
8. ATVs are More Comfortable than Dirt Bikes
The suspension of an ATV makes it more robust and generally well-built because they are functional machines. ATVs offer a more relaxed seating position, unlike a bike rider where riders can often be seen standing more than they sit.
Dirt bikes have a rougher suspension which makes them well-suited for trail racing. People with back problems or those who are very small or tall will find it is better to ride an ATV than a dirt bike. Comfort is quite important as it influences the distance your body can endure.
9. ATVs are More Forgiving for Kids and Beginners
Dirt bikes are fashioned for adult use and in some localities cannot be used by children under 16 years of age while some states even require adult supervision for kids on dirt bikes. Some ATVs, on the other hand, are adapted for kids.
A dirt bike is suited for aggressive driving making it dangerous for children. It is also more challenging for a child to handle a two-wheel vehicle than a four-wheeled one. It is therefore much easier for a kid to balance on an ATV than on a dirt bike.
ATVs are manufactured with unique modifications for children, including low engine power, and special driving instruments and seats. These modifications reduce the injury risk and make driving safer. Children should, however, be in protective gear to operate either an ATV or a dirt bike.
10. ATVs Last Longer than Dirt Bikes
ATVs are designed for many functionalities, and so their construction is tailored to take as much impact as possible. They take the same amount of beating as dirt bikes but are able to resist more wear and tear.
Dirt bikes typically move at higher speeds causing the internal and external components to degrade prematurely. Dirt bike riders are regularly buying parts for their bikes, and after a while, it will be imperative to buy another one.
ATVs are tougher, and you will often see 20- and 30-year-old models still in use. If durability is a concern, an ATV would be the better selection.
11. ATVs are More Stable than Dirt Bikes
ATVs come packed with four wheels making it the more stable vehicle of the two. This stability makes it easy to ride and manipulate an ATV while keeping the risk of accidents low when compared to a dirt bike.
Because the dirt bike features only two wheels, it is more vulnerable to surrounding conditions like wind. This attribute makes it especially dangerous to take a dirt bike to the highway as it will be impacted by the drag caused by driving side to side with bigger vehicles.
12. Dirt Bikes are Easier to Haul
A dirt bike is generally under 200 pounds when it comes to weight. It is therefore easy to transport. Even if you encounter an incident or a malfunction, you can carry the bike by yourself. The logistics of handling a dirt bike are more favorable.
With a full-sized ATV, however, you will encounter the same problems present with transporting a machine of around 1000 pounds. Some trucks even struggle to carry a single ATV. All you need with a dirt bike is a normal-sized pickup, and you are good to go.
13. ATVs can Carry Passengers
Off-road driving is more enjoyable when you can share the experience with someone else. A dirt bike safely fits only the rider, and if you want company on the trail, you will have to look for people interested in the sport as well to ride their vehicles. It is not recommended to carry other passengers on a dirt bike, especially children.
ATVs are often designed with some allowance on the back, where passengers can ride. Most people do this, although it is not an advisable practice. ATVs are generally more comfortable although you will be putting the safety of the passenger at risk.
14. Dirt Bikes are More Fuel-Efficient
Bikes are generally cheaper than ATVs, and this translates to fuel economy. This is because they have weaker engines in comparison to ATVs.
Dirt bikes are not always fuel efficient as energy consumption can spike during races when they are navigating through many obstacles. Fuel usage is generally affected by the conditions in which either vehicle is used.
The two models are however designed for riders who don’t care so much for fuel consumption but the thrills that come with off-road driving.
Dirt bikes have a more prominent enthusiast community
Dirt biking has evolved into more than a sport to a celebrated culture. A quick search on the internet will reveal many forums and groups where riders meet and discuss various topics. You will be exposed to tutorials, blogs, and online training available for all classes of dirt bike riders.
It will also be easier to find other enthusiasts who live near you and learn from them. These communities organize tours, and you will learn a lot when on trails with more experienced riders. If you do not know anyone with an ATV, it is more convenient to opt for a dirt bike.
15. Dirt Bikes are Faster than ATVs
Even though ATVs have a stronger motor, they can’t compete with a dirt bike in terms of speed. Dirt bikes are much faster than ATVs thanks to their light weight and the ability to take sharp curves. The speed test is also true when the two vehicle types are tested on a straight road.
Dirt bikes have a better power to weight ratio, making them accelerate much faster than an ATV with the same engine.
Which Should You Buy? Dirt Bike or ATV?
There are convincing reasons to choose both, and you may be already overwhelmed by the advantages and disadvantages of the vehicles.
An ATV is ideal for riders who will be taking leisure rides and want more out of their vehicles. It can come in handy with various tasks such as handling heavy equipment.
Dirt bikes offer the promise of thrills and incredible memories. If you are adventurous, a dirt bike can satiate your hunger for dangerous pursuits.
A dirt bike is also a better choice for people who would like to venture into professional racing. The most mindful thing you can do on either is to be safe and follow the law.