There are dirt bikes and then there are “pit bikes” which are a whole different animal which allows cheap entry into the sport.
Curious if they are worth buying instead of a normal dirt bike. Besides, what does a pit bike do exactly?
Pit bikes are similar to dirt bikes yet are smaller, lighter and cost much less. For small children and teenagers, pit bikes represent a more affordable alternative and with much of the safety elements of normal dirt bikes. Given their lower costs, the engines aren’t as powerful or reliable, and the racing circuits are much smaller.
These are sometimes called ‘pocket rockets’ due to their small frames yet with some snappy power in such a small engine housing. They’re interesting to see and certainly fun to ride, at least for a little while.
Many riders tend to outgrow these pretty quickly. They’re good for some cheap thrills but aren’t suitable for dirt bike racing.
Pit Bikes compared to Dirt Bikes
If you think of dirt bikes as the industry standard, then pit bikes are their ‘mini-me’ version. Smaller, easier to lift up and easier for kids to handle. If you’re learning to ride, then a pit bike can often be a viable alternative.
Pit bike engines are usually between 50cc and 150cc in capacity given how small they are. Compared this to a dirt bike where 250cc or 450cc are typical, where as adventure motorcycles (the big grown up version of a dirt bike) are 650cc and up to 1200cc!
Now, unlike dirt bikes which can be ridden on motocross circuits, on enduro tracks and up and down steep hills, you probably don’t want to take the same risks on a pitbike. They just aren’t designed for such aggression!
To ride pit bikes, you’ll need to have a relatively flat area. Rocky outcrop areas and hilly terrain aren’t suitable, nor is sandy tracks or deeply rutted areas.
Not only is this due to their smaller engine power, but their tires just aren’t up to the same grippy standards. So you won’t be making epic cornering passes while holding on for dear life.
Are these just a dangerous version of a dirt bike? We’ve discussed the safety considerations of dirt bikes previously and see some real concerns with pit bikes. And it isn’t surrounding the police or local law enforcement either.
You see, here at Frontaer, we’re all about kids being safe on dirt bikes. By having an enjoyable riding experience, they’ll want to keep riding again and again. This develops into adult life where they continue to shine, and next minute you’ll have grand-kids riding. The ultimate gift!
Typically, these are Made in China and use inferior build components. Thus, pit bikes can break more easily and leak hot oil all over the rider more easily. Likewise, important things can break at high speeds like the chain or break.
Now, this is only marginally more likely to happen. There are more important things to focus on including the riding gear. Most people who turn to pit bikes aren’t wearing all the right gear and should really spend some time in the local MX dealership to get some good protection apparel.
Likewise, it does cause people to become somewhat irresponsible with their dirt bikes. This is especially so as pit bikes are illegal in most countries around the world apart from private property. They’re not even welcome in some MX parks and riding clubs.
Be careful of hot engines which on a typical dirt bike is likely to be well covered. Pit bikes are cheap and so the engineers don’t put much effort into genuinely protecting the rider.
Buying a Pit Bike for a Child
Instead of paying $2,000 or more for a normal dirt bike for younger hands, you could spend less than half on a pit bike. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, don’t be so quick to rush out there and buy some special that you saw online.
You’ll need to ensure you buy the right bike for their height and ability to handle a motorcycle. They are likely excited about this prospect already but ensure you don’t go too big or small when buying. To say it another way – meet them where they are already.
Just remember that the motorcycle will be less powered than the dirt bike equivalent. If they have found an 80cc dirt bike to be perfect, then an 80cc pit bike will fit them well but with less weight but consequently less power.
Now – buying replacement parts is one challenge. Because these bikes are cheap, they tend to wear through parts quickly and getting replacements could mean ordering online and waiting a week or two for the courier to come to the front door. Keep this in mind if you plan on riding a few times per week.
Adults and Pit Bikes
We generally don’t recommend adults to get pit bikes as their power is lacking for any real-world fun. Sure, they’re great for squiriting around a flat and open track, but they will struggle to do any decent hill climbs or to be leaned over in a corner.
Most of these bikes are low quality too and if you weigh more than 200 pounds which most of us are, then you are putting quite a bit of strain on the suspension. Trying to replace the suspension on these bikes can be challenging if you’re not a dirt bike mechanic. Your local dealership won’t touch it either unless they are the dealership selling that specific pit bike.
If you’re serious about riding off the beaten path, then invest in a proper dirt bike for yourself. Sure – your kids can still have a pit bike to learn the skills necessary to advance in their journey, but you might be underwhelmed in what is offered.
Why are Pit Bikes Cheap?
Pit Bikes are manufactured at a price and are designed to be a toy more than a serious offroad machine. They serve a demographic of people who can’t afford a genuine dirt bike, yet don’t want to miss out on some weekend thrills.
You won’t see these bikes winning any motocross trophies as they can’t live up to such performance expectations. They’re just cheap bikes for those who can’t afford much.
Given their cheap nature, they also only last a few years before finding their way to the landfill. On the flip side, dirt bikes tend to last at least one decade and sometimes up to 3. It isn’t uncommon to find a pre-2000 dirt bike for sale for less than a pit bike, paired with parts available still. The Honda CR250 is one example.
Now – don’t let their cheap nature put you off. If your kids have been nagging you for a pit bike yet the bank account doesn’t quite line up, then going with a pit bike, for now, is a great middle ground.
The only good thing that pit bikes have going for them is the price tag. Their pricing brings them to the attention towards those who can’t afford to go riding. It’s good that this segment is served as all kids should have the right to get out there and start riding from a young age.
Yet if you can afford it, we’d recommend buying a proper dirt bike. These have incredibly good resale values so you’ll get some decent dollars back when you sell the bikes to another family and upgrade. Compare this to pit bikes which are known to be ‘slow lemons’ in the dirt biking community, and you’ll struggle to get much for it when you sell.
Most dealerships these days offer flexible payment solutions including financing. Thus, genuine dirt bike ownership might be closer in reach than what you initially believe.