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Motocross vs Enduro: What Is The Difference?

If you’re new to the offroad competitive racing world, some of the lingo is confusing including the difference between enduro and motocross.

While enduro and motocross motorcycles share many of the same components, they are used for different riding conditions. Motocross competitions require the competitor to race in a closed-circuit environment, and thus the gear ratios are shorter, the top speeds are lower and they have higher torque. Enduro motorcycles are used for open country racing with larger fuel capacities and wider gear ratios to reach faster speeds.

Let’s delve a little deeper on the more suttle differeences between both types of dirt bikes.

Enduro vs Motocross

It’s easy to simply dismiss both of these motorcycles as dirt bikes, but they are certainly used for different occasions. Those racing MX will have a hard time taking the same motorcycle into the Enduro area and claiming a top 10 finish, while the same is said for taking an Enduro motorcycle on a closed-circuit race track.

For casual trail bike riding, you’re much better off with an enduro motorcycle. At first the power will seem very aggressive but it’s the type of dirt bike that you can grow into overtime as opposed to getting bored in the first 2 months.

Gross Weights

One of the key differences is weight. Enduro motorcycles are designed to operate at very high speeds and deal with rough terrain including gnarly sections of rocky outcrops, water crossings and hill climbs. On the other hand, it appears MX riders have it easy with their well-groomed tracks.

Given their tracks and close proximity to fuel (the race tent), the fuel tanks are smaller on motocross motorcycles and they don’t have navigational aids such as map rolls, nor will you see them sporting an adventure fairing.

Differences in Engines

In addition to the weights, the engines can be quite different too in both type and capacity.

In years gone by, the 2-stroke (called by many as the 2 bangers) was the weapon of choice on the dirt tracks, while enduro motorcycles didn’t need so much torque and found the 4-stroke to be a better option. However, 4-stroke engine technology has really caught up in recent years and you’ll find plenty of 4-strokes keeping up with their 2-stroke counterparts.

You’ll also find a difference in the engine capacities. A motocross rider will get more than enough power to win championships with a 250cc MX bike and anything more will be quite a handful to handle on the tight motocross track. Meanwhile, an enduro motorcycle really becomes a race weapon at 300cc and above, with 450cc being typical for some of the toughest enduro races in the world, including Dakar.

Many years ago it was the 600cc and high classes that claimed wins. Technology has really improved where a 450cc is more than enough to cruise at 100+ miles per hour.

Jumping and Stuntwork

Jumping around and getting 10 feet of airtime looks great, but only one of these dirt bikes allows you to really do it safely. Motocross dirt bikes are born to jump and get significant airtime based on how light they are and the constant flying (several jump sections and tabletops on each lap) that the riders do behind the handlebars.

Most enduro dirt bikes can’t go jumping because they are just so heavy. That said – in the right hands – any of these can get some decent airtime and be used. They’re just harder to throw around on the tracks. As for wheelies, well these bikes are certainly built for it!

Everyday Liveability

You may want to use your dirt bike for more than just racing. Thus, can you use a motocross or enduro motorcycle for weekend trail rides? Well, yes you can!

Of the two types of dirt bikes, an enduro is better for casual trail riding. They’re much easier to get registered and more comfortable to ride over longer distances.

A motocross bike has a more aggressive throttle and a smaller fuel tank, paired with being louder, given that riders still choose the 2-stroke options in the market. They are perfect for throwing around in tight forest tracks yet keeping up with the pack in the wide-open trails and flat terrain will be more challenging as the gear ratios and powerband just doesn’t allow for high-speed pursuits.

Reliability and Life Cycle

You don’t want to buy a dirt bike and then realize how expensive they can be to maintain. If you’re racing competitively, then you’re going to be spending quite a bit on maintenance.

Generally speaking, enduro motorcycles have a longer lifespan and it’s not uncommon to see a Dakar motorcycle coming back for its 2nd or 3rd event year after year. Meanwhile, a motocross bike will need a top end rebuild pretty soon and if it’s racing in the AMA National Series, will be retired within 1 to 2 seasons.

In Summary

Both forms of competitive dirt bike racing are seriously fun to watch and tough to compete in. We’re talking fast speeds and seriously high risks, and just finishing is often something to commend.

Either way, you’ll have plenty of fun on both types of dirt bikes. You may wish to consider a more conservative trail bike if you’re just getting started and build up your experience over time.

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