motocross vs enduro

Motocross VS Enduro: What’s the difference, and which one to start

In Beginners, riding tips by darrellsmith6 Comments

The battle is on: Motocross VS Enduro! Two very similar sports, with almost identical looking dirt bikes, but with a few big differences. If you're unsure how these two differ, you're definitely not alone. So in this post we'll look at all of the differences between the bikes and the two sports, to help you decide which one is for you.

Motocross VS Enduro: The bikes

motocross vs enduro bikes

Let's kick off the first round by taking a look at the bikes and their main differences.

Motocross Bikes

Motocross bikes are built to be as light and as fast as possible. The bikes aren't made to reach stupidly high speeds, but they will reach their maximum speed very quickly. Top speed is not talked about in motocross bike specifications, and really has little to do with the design of these bikes; but the top speed of a 450 cc 4 stroke will be around 75 mph.

The manufacturers cut down on weight wherever possible, by using small fuel tanks, less electrical waterproofing, and no kickstand.

To accelerate off the start line, out of corners, and up hills as fast as possible, motocross bikes will have a very close ratio gear box. You can adjust the gearing slightly by changing sprockets, but this type of gear box really isn't desirable for highway use. These bikes do not appreciate being ridden gently, they like to rev, and they like to make a lot of noise.

The exhaust system is a straight through design, with no spark arrestor, and little silencing. If you want to use a motocross bike for enduro racing, the standard exhaust will need replacing to meet noise regulations.

Motocross bikes aren't built for comfort, or for riding long journeys. They feature stiffer suspension, a harder seat foam, and a lighter flywheel which makes for more aggressive power delivery.

The tyres are designed for off road use only, and are illegal when used on the highway. Although these tyres are super grippy on the dirt, they provide little traction on the road.

Enduro Bikes

Enduro bikes will always be heavier than motocross bikes, due to all of the extras needed to make them street legal. These bikes will need to be ridden on the road between race sections, so these extras are essential.

Manufacturers will add front and rear lights with handlebar switches, direction indicators, brake light switches on levers, a horn, a number plate holder, speedometer, rev counter, and an ignition barrel for more security.

Other things that add to the weight are a kickstand, a thicker seat foam, hand guards, and a bigger fuel tank. Some older bikes also had heavier metal fuel tanks because the plastic tanks would not pass evaporative emissions regulations. The low density polyethylene that motocross tanks were made from let the gas vapour pass right through. Newer models use a different plastic, so this is only an issue on older bikes.

Enduro bikes require road legal tires, but these tyres also need to have good off road capabilities. Obviously these tyres wont compare to motocross tyres on the dirt, but they are very good.

A street legal exhaust system is required to lower the noise levels, these will be slightly heavier than a motocross exhaust because of the larger silencer. A spark arrestor is also required by law, these are placed in the exhaust to help prevent sparks exiting the exhaust, which could lead to a forest fire. A spark arrestor will add a little weight and zap some of the engine power, but to stay legal there's no way around it unfortunately.

The suspension will often have less travel than motocross suspension, it will also be softer, as will the seat foam. This makes an enduro bike far more comfy to ride for long periods.

To make the bike more suitable for street use, manufacturers fit a heavier flywheel to the engine. This makes the revs build slower to give the rider a smoother power delivery, without zapping horse power or torque.

Which bike wins round one?

  • Power - Size for size, motocross bikes will usually put out the same, or very similar amounts of horsepower. For example the KTM 450 EXC enduro bike VS the KTM 450 SX-F motocross bike, both offer 62 horsepower.
  • Road use - Enduro bikes are more friendly for road use. Conversion kits are available for motocross bikes, but the gearing means the engine will be constantly screaming its cogs off.
  • Track use - You can use an enduro bike on the track, but it will be no match for a motocross bike that's purpose built for the job.
  • Night use - If you wish to use a motocross bike at night, you will need to buy a lighting kit. Enduro bikes have lights already fitted meaning you can race through the night.
  • Comfort - Motocross bikes are built to race for 45 minutes, comfort for long rides isn't considered. Enduro bikes are softer and will be much more comfortable for longer trips.
  • Weight - Enduro bikes will be much heavier. If we compare the KTM 450 EXC enduro bike VS the KTM 450 SX-F motocross bike, the enduro bike is 20 LBS heavier.
  • Acceleration - If you want fast acceleration the motocross bike wins every time.
  • Top speed - Because of their gearing, enduro bikes will have a better top speed. The KTM 450 EXC is good for 95 MPH.
  • Maintenance - With stiffer suspension, and a more highly-strung engine, motocross bikes will require more maintenance in the long run.

So in the battle of the bikes, which one wins for you? If you're having trouble deciding, a look at the two sports will definitely help. So let's get to round two...

Motocross VS Enduro: The sport


motocross vs enduro racing

Motocross races are held during daylight hours on purpose built dirt tracks, hence the bikes being made for off road use only, with no lights. Over the years, different forms of the sport have emerged, including supercross, freestyle motocross, and arenacross, which can all be held indoors. To be competitive in any of these forms of motocross, you will need a purpose built motocross bike.


Motocross races are held on large outdoor tracks, and consist of two classes: 250 cc (250 cc four-stroke or 125 cc two-stroke dirt bikes) and 450 cc (450 cc four-stroke or 250 cc two-stroke dirt bikes).

Riders will line up at the starting gate, and when the gate drops the race will begin. When the race starts a timer will begin, and each race will last 30 minutes, plus two laps. Each class will compete over two races (motos), and their scores will be combined to determine the overall winner.

Supercross and Arenacross

Supercross tracks are far more complex than motocross tracks, consisting of huge jumps, whoops, rhythm sections, and banked burms. The tracks are very tight, and racing will usually take place in stadiums, both indoor and outdoors.

There are two rider classes which are identical to motocross, but the races are much shorter. Races will last 15 minutes plus 1 lap for the 250 cc class, and 20 minutes plus 1 lap for the 450 cc class. Racing supercross takes far more skill and physical endurance than motocross, and riders will normally follow a strict training schedule.

Arenacross is very similar to supercross, and is considered a stepping stone to the Supercross series. Races are held in much smaller venues, but the tracks are very similar to supercross tracks.

Freestyle motocross

Freestyle motocross courses consist of huge jumps, both dirt and ramp hits, and riders must impress the judges by pulling their best tricks in a set time. There's various events including best trick, best whip, and step-up.


motocross vs enduro sport

Enduro courses have little in common with motocross tracks. Courses are mostly natural terrain, marked out through woodland, with the odd man made obstacle thrown in to spice things up.

Courses range from a few miles long around a small area of woodland, to hundreds of miles cross country. It's possible to compete in shorter enduro races on a motocross bike, as these courses are usually completely off road. But the bigger courses will feature road crossings, and you may need to ride to separate stages along the highway, so a street legal bike is essential.

If you like the sound of shorter courses, the hare and hounds races are really fun. These races vary around the world, but courses I've ridden in the UK are generally 5 or so miles long, consisting of up to 200 riders.

One of the toughest enduro races in the world takes place in Austria. The Erzberg rodeo happens every year, and riders from all over the world compete for the prize. The highlight of the rodeos is a hare scramble where 500 riders compete over 4 hours, passing 20 checkpoints on the 23 km track. Sounds like good fun right?


You don't have to compete; many riders don't even see it as a race, they ride simply for a bit of fun, after all, that's why we all started riding dirt bikes!

If you don't want to enter races, it's possible for motocross riders to find a practice track and enjoy a few laps with friends.

The same applies to enduro riders; you can take your bike out on the trails, plan a route, camp, or just have fun riding and finding new challenges. If you decide to ride trails and travel long distances, be sure to pack a tool kit and plan for the worst case scenario.

Motocross VS Enduro: The winner is...  

So after two rounds, which one wins for you? I've done both and I really wouldn't be able to choose between the two. Motocross and enduro racing is very demanding, both physically and mentally, but at the same time they're really fun.

Thanks for checking out Motocross VS Enduro. When you've made your choice and you're ready to buy a bike, check out my used dirt bike buyers guide HERE.

Or return to the xtreme motox homepage


  1. You seem to have mistaken “dual purpose” for “enduro”. An enduro bike is not necessarily street legal at all, and may use the very same knobby tires that a motocross bike uses. Yes, it will likely have lights on the bike – front and rear, but very likely not signal lights.

  2. Hi,

    Im just starting out in offroad biking (at 34!) and really appreciate the info here!
    I had a general idea about the different styles but its nice to see the detailed information


  3. Looking to buy a bike for fun only, no racing involved although I would definitely like to take it to a track, also would love to take it up into the woods no crazy enduro trails just fireroads and such what would you recommend?

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