If you’re thinking about buying or renting a dirt bike or an ATV, then one thing you probably know for sure: there’s nothing quite like riding through the off-road dust and desert. Yet the question remains whether you should set out on 2-wheels or a quad, and while both vehicles are a great way to enjoy the sport, there are a few things you should know about each before you make up your mind.
Provided that you receive the appropriate training and never skip on the necessary protection equipment, both dirt bikes and ATVs are safe vehicles designed for the exploration of off-road tracks. That being said, a study conducted by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University surprisingly found that when crashes do happen, they tend to be significantly more dangerous in the case of ATVs. It sounds counterintuitive to begin with, but there are a couple of reasons why this actually makes sense.
The first has to do with the vehicles themselves. While an ATV usually weighs just under 900 pounds, a dirt bike weighs approximately 250 pounds. This means that the former is much more likely to cause serious injuries than the latter if, and when it flips. It’s an important detail to consider, but it’s also noteworthy that the only reason an ATV would flip in the first place is if the rider is not paying enough attention. In fact, the same study from Johns Hopkins suggested that ATVs might be more dangerous than dirt bikes simply because people perceive them to be safer and are therefore less careful when riding them. The lesson here seems to be that a dirt rider should never get sloppy and always wear protection gear, regardless of whether the vehicle is a bike or a quad.
Beginner vs. Seasoned rider
Statistics aside, the ATV is definitely a favorite with beginners, and rightly so. After all, it does have four wheels, and that means it’s much easier to balance for those who have no experience with bikes. If you’re new to the sport, an ATV is almost always the right way to start. It’s secure and comfortable, it crashes much less than a dirt bike if you don’t intend to jump or speed, and it allows you to learn the limits of traction while improving your riding skills. If, on the other hand, you’re already a seasoned rider, then it’s worth considering a dirt bike not only for the added thrill, but also for a number of practical reasons having to do with the type of adventure you seek and the ways in which you want to go about it.
The roads you take, the things you do
When you get down to it, the choice between a dirt bike and an ATV has a lot to do with how you intend to ride. Take the route you have in mind, for instance. An ATV might be the right wheels for all-day comfort and an extended trip, but many off-road tracks are actually single-tracks, which means that you cannot explore them on a quad. If you’re looking to delve into the local woods, tour the mountains, or pass through narrow river canyons, then a dirt bike is likely the only way to do so. What’s more, you should consider that an ATV is a difficult if not impossible haul, while dirt bikes can easily fit into a truck.
Conversely, however, an ATV will make it possible for you to carry more stuff on board. When you set out to explore and need to bring along a small tent, you can fit everything in a backpack and the dirt bike will suit you just fine. When you’re out hunting or farming, however, the ATV can be a small truck on its own, with plenty of space for game or other heavy hauls.
At the end of the day, then, it’s really all about the way you want to ride, provided, of course, that you do so responsibly. Want to take it easy and learn the tricks of the trade? A quad is the best way to get started right away with minimal risk of crash. Already a seasoned rider looking to adventure deeper into the unexplored? The dirt bike is likely for you.