ATV vs Dirt Bike for Trail Riding: Stats, Safety, and Fun

In terms of fun, it’s difficult to choose between an ATV or a dirt bike. You are guaranteed to enjoy an adrenaline-fueled experience whenever you ride an ATV or a dirt bike, but there are some things that set them apart. If you are wondering if an ATV or a dirt bike is better for trail riding, you arrived at the right place.

ATVs are generally regarded as the best option for trail riding. Even though ATVs and dirt bikes feel quite similar when riding off-road, the four-wheeler is better for trail riding because it runs better on mud and it excels at going up steep hills where two wheels just aren’t enough. However, this doesn’t mean that riding the ATV is 100% safe and that you don’t have to worry about a single thing. If you are an avid trail rider, you already know that you often have to swerve quite often, especially when there is no road and you are riding between trees.

Keep on reading to see what are the differences between ATV vs dirt bike for trail riding. Make sure to stick around for the end because I will also show you the pros and cons of ATV vs dirt bikes.

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ATV vs Dirt Bike for Trail Riding: Which is Safer?

dirt bike coming out of water

If there is one thing that all off-road enthusiasts will agree about, it has to be the fact that you can’t let yourself get carried on this type of adventure. It’s easy to forget all about safety when you are riding faster than the wind. Safety should always be the highest priority and this is why it’s better to choose an ATV for trail riding. You will be able to go through muddy roads without having to worry that you will slip and fall. That’s not all. The ATV is also less intimidating to ride, so you can top the speedometer on your next trail riding adventure.

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Some might argue that the ATV is heavier than the dirt bike and this makes it more dangerous. That is actually true, and a report from Hopkins Medicine proves that two wheels are safer than four in off-roading. On the other hand, we need to consider how easy it is to fall off a dirt bike in comparison with the ATV? Keep in mind that trails are often muddy and it’s super easy to slip when swerving with a dirt bike. So, the ATV takes the safety point.

Does Comfort Matter to You?

Are you a big fan of enduro sports? If that is the case, you will have a blast bringing the dirt bike to your next trail riding experience. Generally, you will want to stand up when riding a dirt bike. The reason behind this is that you can’t afford to get knocked off the seat whenever you hit a bumpy trail. Your hips will act as an extra suspension system that keeps you safe when riding. Sitting in this attack position will make you feel like a badass, and there’s no doubt about that. However, I have to agree that it doesn’t offer the most comfort. Your legs will start feeling heavy after 15 minutes of riding. Pair this with your hands having to constantly stay fixed on the handlebar, you are in for quite a workout!

If you don’t feel like “working out” when trail riding, the ATV is the “go to” vehicle for you. The ATV allows you to sit down when riding, which is more comfortable and easier on the legs. You can always stand up when you want to feel the wind’s breeze or get a better view of the surrounding area. If you can purchase or rent a more professional-type ATV, you will find that it comes with a rather large seat and big footpegs/foot racks that make it possible for you to move a bit and find the best position, even while you are riding.

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Are You a Beginner or Experienced Rider?

Single ATV on Road

If you are a beginner who wants to experience wants to get a taste of the off-road world, trail riding is always the best way to go. This is thanks to the fact that trails will take you on amazing rides and show you incredible views that you couldn’t have checked out if you didn’t bring an ATV or dirt bike. It’s easy for beginners to find it difficult between ATVs and dirt bikes, we’ve all been there. They all have their pros and cons.

Beginners are always advised to start with ATVs. The chances of falling off an ATV are lower than with a dirt bike. The four-wheeler also allows you to carry a passenger. In fact, most people who ride ATVs pick this vehicle because they can bring their significant others on their fun adventures.

ATVs are certainly easier to learn and there is no arguing about it. You don’t need more than 5 minutes of instructions and you are good to go. The instructor will show you how to use the brakes, gas, turn signal, and how to swerve. It’s that simple!

The only thing that you need to do in order to stay safe when riding an ATV on trails is to keep the appropriate distance from the other vehicles. In the event that they need to brake, you need to have enough time and space to react. If you are not familiar with off-road dirt biking, having your first ride on trails is not always a good idea. The agile dirt bikes might seem a bit too intimidating.

Are You Looking for an Adrenaline Rush?

Do you want to have the experience of a lifetime when trail riding? If yes, you can’t go wrong with a dirt bike. Even though ATVs can go as fast as bikes, there’s something that dirt bikes do better. Really better! We are talking about jumping. Jumping a dirt bike will make you feel like you are flying for 1-2 seconds. There’s no other rush like this! While you can try and hit all the bumps in your road with an ATV and jump, the feeling will not be the same.

Depending on the trails that you are picking, there are multiple routes that you can check out with a dirt bike that you would otherwise not be able to access. Dirt bikes have an easier time riding on a single track or through tight spaces. If you are open to riding on more dangerous roads, picking a dirt bike will ensure that you will have the adrenaline rush that you are looking for. Just make sure to wear the proper safety equipment.

Dirt Bikes are Easier to Haul

Dirt Bike Wheelie

One thing that most people forget to think about when searching for the best vehicle for off-road adventures is that they also need to haul them. Some states don’t allow ATVs or dirt bikes on public roads and this is why you need to haul them. That’s not all. You don’t want to spend a couple of hours driving an ATV or dirt bike that is designed for trail riding on public roads because that just isn’t fun. With that in mind, dirt bikes weigh far less and are easier to haul.

The average dirt bike weighs under 200 pounds. This is significantly less than full-size ATVs that can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. As you can imagine, loading the ATV is not very fun. There are many extra security measures that you need to take when hauling an ATV because you need to make sure that it doesn’t move.

Another annoying issue that ATV riders need to deal with is towing. If something happens to the four-wheeler and you need to tow it, you have to find a heavy-duty vehicle that can pull up to 1,000 pounds. If something happens to a dirt bike, you can just pick it up with help from a friend.

Are You Carrying Passengers?

As previously mentioned, the four-wheeler is the best choice if you are planning to carry passengers. Since it’s so big and heavy, the rider and the passenger will be safer than on a dirt bike. In fact, motorcycle riders need to make sure that whoever they carry on the bike’s “passenger” seat knows how to handle themselves.

If you are swerving right and the passenger leans towards the left, you will have a bad time. It’s also worth mentioning that not all ATVs are ideal for dual-riders. In fact, most of them are designed for a singer rider for safety reasons. However, this type of ATVs is smaller.

No one says that you can’t bring a passenger on your dirt bike. In fact, I’ve seen many dads carrying their kids on dirt bikes. However, they were not jumping and riding at maximum speed. All dirt bike riders need to be aware that riding with a passenger can be tricky when traveling off-road and you need to be more responsible.

ATVs Are Better for Kids

ATVs in woods

In case you are thinking about bringing your kids with you trail raiding, ATVs are the way to go. Dirt bikes are designed for adult use and in fact, kids under 16 years of age are banned from riding dirt bikes in some states without adult supervision. There are special ATV models that are adapted to kids and they are much easier to learn how to ride than a dirt bike.

The special modifications that manufacturers make to ATV for kids will lower the chance of injuries and make driving safer. However, this doesn’t mean that safety is guaranteed. Wearing full protective gear is always advisable, especially for kids!

One of the reasons why beginners find it easier to go trail riding with ATVs is because they are more stable than dirt bikes. The four wheels ensure that the rider can’t fall.

On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to avoid falling off a dirt bike when you first start learning. Therefore, ATVs are safer to ride on trails and if you are bringing the entire family with you, four wheels are always your best bet.

Are You Worried About Fuel?

What’s great about dirt bikes (other than their speed) is that they are cheaper than ATVs and all other four-wheelers. You can find a good dirt bike for an affordable price and make things even better, they have an amazing fuel economy.

However, this was to be expected since bike engines are smaller and weaker than the ones used by ATVs. So, if you are looking for a vehicle that has great fuel usage even when riding off-road, the dirt bike is for you!

Another amazing thing about choosing to go with a dirt bike is that there are so many dirt bike enthusiasts and groups that you will have an easy time finding friends. Dirt biking is more than a simple hobby. It has evolved as a sport and there are thousands of riders all over the world.

With a simple Google search or by joining a couple of Facebook groups, you will always find people who are looking for new riders to join their group.

So Which Should You Pick?

First off, I want to mention that you can choose both and have no problem. The ATV and the dirt bike have their unique pros and cons that make them better suited for certain drivers. If you had to ask a professional, the ATV is the more “functional” choice for trail riding. This is because the ATV is easier to ride while still providing a super fun experience. You can also carry passengers safely, and this is a big win in my book.

Bob Kelly

Hey there, my name is Bob and I've been riding ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs for most of my life. Going on outdoor adventures has always been my passion. I love sharing tips and tricks with beginners who are getting ready to join the world of outdoor enthusiasts. You can reach me at if you want to get in touch.

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