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Source: The Complete Motorcycle Book: A Consumers Guide, by Jim Bennet

Trail Bikes, or off-road bikes, are designed to take you wherever you want to go, accepting the terrain as it comes. These bikes are built for dirt, mud, sand, clay, brush, desert, swamp, jungle and ancient forest. Trail bikes are usually characterized by the following features:


  • Single cylinder
  • High routed exhaust system
  • Chain final drive
  • Relatively high power-to-weight ratio

Frame, suspension, and steering:

  • Minimal seating
  • Long trael suspension
  • Neutral steering geometry
  • No center or side stands
  • High fenders
  • Straight across handlebars
  • Smaller, weaker disc brakes

Wheels and tires:

  • Deep, biting tire tread patterns
  • Relatively strong wheels

Control and gauges:

  • Often none
  • Sometimes a speedometer or tachometer

Electrical system:

  • Small headlights (if any)
  • Incorporated blinkers and taillights (if any)
  • Loud horn
  • Electric start (on newer bikes)
  • Relatively simple and lightweight charging and ignition systems

Off-road bikes are classified by the type of racing competition in which they are designed to compete. The American Motorcycle Association sanctions nine different types of dirt riding: hare scrambles, hare-and-hound, enduro, trials, motocross, dirt track, hill climb, ice racing and reliability enduro. Competitors’ off road bikes are customized for each type of competition. Even so, to satisfy this wide-ranging market, only four basic types of motorcycles are built: enduro, motocross, trials and cross-country.

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