So you’re looking to get into off-roading but not sure where to start. Some of your friends ride dirt bikes to go exploring terrain, while others prefer ATVs. This all feels new to you, and you’re wondering which vehicle would serve you best. Some of it may depend on personal preference. We depend on personal preference a lot in deciding which car to get, so it makes sense that it would be the same situation for off-roading. However, there are other factors to consider as well.
There’s an ongoing debate regarding if dirt bikes are safer than ATVs. Some people believe the mere presence of four wheels on the ATV automatically makes them safer than the two-wheeled dirt bikes. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the case. In 2010, researchers looked at data from thousands of accidents and concluded that ATV accident victims were over 50 percent more likely to end up in an intensive care unit as a result of their injuries than people in off-road motorcycle accidents. Even more alarming is the finding that people in ATV accidents were 42 percent more likely to be placed on a ventilator in the hospital.
Researchers aren’t quite sure how to account for the difference, although it looks like dirt bikers are more likely to wear a helmet than those on ATVs. Another factor is the respective weight of the vehicles. You don’t want either a dirt bike or an ATV to roll over on you, but ATVs are heavier and more likely to crush you.
And if you think an ATV is automatically safer, you may be more likely to speed and drive recklessly. That’s a recipe for disaster regardless of if you’re wearing a helmet (and you should definitely be wearing a helmet).
Beyond that, think about where you’ll be riding. Is it easier to picture yourself going through muddy terrain in a dirt bike or an ATV? Take both kinds of vehicles for a test ride if possible and see which one you feel most comfortable on. At a dealership, talk to the sales team about your lifestyle and see if they have any recommendations. ATVS are usually more expensive than dirt bikes, but there are exceptions, especially if you’re getting a higher-end dirt bike.
Get up close and personal with the vehicles on the sales floor. Ask questions about everything from the seat material on the ATV to the perforated tubing on the dirt bike muffler. You’re going to be spending thousands of dollars on whatever vehicle you get, so it’s important to avoid any surprises.
Storage space is also a factor. Some people have enough room in their garage for a dirt bike, but not a bulky ATV. If you and your friends are hauling multiple vehicles from one location to another, you’ll find that dirt bikes can be loaded and unloaded more easily. You can also fit more dirt bikes onto the back of the vehicle you’re using to haul them.
None of this means you should run out and buy the first dirt bike you see. ATVS are still popular with plenty of people. Everyone’s needs are different, after all.