All motorcycles are fun – whether they are a quad bike or a dirt bike. But there can only be one winner, so let’s see which is better.
Which is better: Quads or Dirt bikes?
Dirt bikes are simply regarded in the industry as better than quad bikes and much more popular too. You can go faster on a dirt bike than on an ATV quad bike, while also being safer and easier to ride on the road. However, quad bikes have their place if you have a trailer and want to haul lots of gear and go hunting.
Let’s look at some of the key differences between these types of bikes.
Quad bike vs Dirt bike safety
When you’re riding, you want to be safe. That’s why you invest in some very good quality protection equipment.
If you’re new to the offroad world, then quad bikes just appear safer. After all, there are 4 tyres so you don’t need to worry about balance.
Actually, the opposite is true. Dirt bikes are safer than quad bikes. The faster you go, the more dangerous it is to ride a quad bike.
Quad bike dangers
More people die each year as a ratio from ATV accidents than compared to dirt bikes. Here’s why:
- Riders feel as though they are safer on 4 wheels and often drive in a reckless manner
- Quad bikes are heavier and will easily pin down an injured rider in the event of an accident
- They roll over very easily even at low speeds and in Australia, is a key reason for deaths on farms.
So while it’s easier to learn how to ride motorcycles by using a quad bike, there is little value beyond this other than hauling equipment on farms.
Dirt bike benefits
The benefits of dirt bikes are then quite obvious:
- The weight of a dirt bike is significantly lower than a quad
- Riders can lean into corners and lower the centre of gravity
- If the rider crashes, then the bike weighs a whole lot less
- They are actually a whole lot more fun because they are lighter
Even for children, we wouldn’t recommend quad bikes. If they can pedal a bicycle then they can certainly ride a 2-wheel dirt bike very easily.
Verdict: Dirt bikes win for safety
Upfront and ongoing costs
Because dirt bikes are inherently much more popular around the world, it simply costs less to buy a dirt bike. You’ll generally pay 30% more for a quad bike, both new and used.
Quad bikes have 4 wheels so those extra components also put up the price. And because they’re less popular, it’s harder to find parts with dealers often needing to order them in from overseas or interstate.
Most motorcycle mechanics have limited knowledge of quad bikes so you’ll need to find one who knows their craft. This again will incur additional costs for you.
Now let’s say you also want to performance modifications. Dirt bikes are easy with many options available, while there are limited choices for quad bikes.
For many people, you also need to purchase a trailer and have space to store this. Let’s not forget a set of quad-bike ramps as well.
Dirt bikes don’t require trailers to haul them around. You can either ride to the local trails if your dirt bike is registered or use a truck tailgate, van or rear platform.
Verdict: Dirt bikes are cheaper upfront and ongoing
Offroad tracks to explore
You’re probably looking to buy either a dirt bike or a quad bike to explore some tracks. While it might sound easy, both are quite different.
Dirt bikes only require a single track. Quad bikes need more space and will struggle to get around trees.
It’s interesting actually because ATV means All-Terrain Vehicle. But they can’t really access all terrains technically.
Dirt bikes can also be registered to ride on the road between riding spots. Quad bikes will require a trailer or van.
Actually, it’s so much easier to haul a dirt bike as well. You can fit 3 bikes in the same space on a trailer where you could otherwise fit 1 quad bike.
So already by now, we can see that dirt bikes can explore many more tracks than quad bikes. On any weekend ride, you’ll find 10x more dirt bikes out there.
Some places actually band quad bikes entirely because of the track damage they cause. On the flip side, dirt bikes are more than welcome to explore.
Finally, if you want to go on some multi-day treks, then quad bikes severely limit this. It’s impossible to get full road registration on a quad bike, though restricted registrations are available for farmers.
Dirt bikes can carry all of your camping gear and extra fuel for a truly epic adventure. Plus you can also take a passenger on the back in some instances.
Verdict: Dirt bikes can access many more places more easily
Speed and Performance
Now let’s get into actually having fun. That is – you twist the throttle and suddenly the powerband really kicks in. You’ll feel this on a dirt bike, but not so much on a quad bike.
Dirt bikes have better performance than quad bikes. They are available in many different engine variants and you can tune/modify them quite easily with aftermarket parts. This includes suspension, tyres, handlebars and exhausts.
Most quad bikes won’t go past 50 miles per hour or 70km/h. 450cc dirt bikes will do twice these speeds and then a little bit more.
When it comes to the corners, dirt bikes are faster. You can learn into the corner and ‘dig’ yourself in for the quickest cornering time. When riding a quad, you’ll feel it wanting to tip over and send you flying.
While having 2 wheels at the rear might appear that quads are quicker in a drag race, dirt bikes still often win. This is because dirt bike riders can more easily prevent the front tyre from lifting up.
Verdict: Dirt bikes have better top speeds and overall performance
Multi-tasking with quad bikes and dirt bikes
While it’s fun to pop wheelies, do epic jumps and otherwise play around in the dirt, some people simply need more.
It’s time to give quad bikes some credit. In our opinion, you can simply achieve more with quad bikes. They have been built as modern-day work-horses.
If you want to go hunting, fishing, haul some firewood or merely mend some fences, then this is much easier on an ATV. These vehicles were built for this task.
Keen 4×4 owners like to tow a quad bike behind them in a trailer. Once they reach a section in the track which is too technical, they use the quad bike to explore further.
You can also tow small trailers behind a quad bike which you simply can’t do with a dirt bike. These trailers could hold some deer or freshly cut firewood for home.
Verdict: Quad bikes are better for multi-tasking
Learning to Ride each machine
Many people claim that children will learn the controls best with an ATV and we would agree. However, children do learn the controls very quickly.
Once they are past this stage, there is little value in having them on an ATV. They are just too dangerous given the bad cornering ability and heavy machine weight.
If your child can already pedal a bicycle without training wheels, then they will learn how to ride a dirt bike very easily. You can, therefore, wipe quad bikes off their list.
Many manufacturers are coming out with electric dirt bikes now for children. This means there is no clutch or gears to worry about, so your child can simply focus on riding properly.
And because the electric dirt bikes have no hot engine and no fuel, they are inherently lighter and quieter too. This means your neighbours won’t get annoyed at all.
Overall, children will be safer with a dirt bike. They will learn everything within a few rides and paired with the right protection gear, will do just fine.
Verdict: Both adults and children will learn a quad bike easier, but be safer on a dirt bike in the long term.
So, which one should you get?
While dirt bikes are the obvious choice for us and for the wider community, some people still need ATV quad bikes. If you’re a farmer or hunter, you’ll benefit more from having 4 wheels to haul your gear around.
If you’re looking for speed, performance, fun and safety for yourself and your kids, then go with a dirt bike. You’ll often be much better off in the long term.