If you’re a fan of motorsports and the outdoors, chances are that you’ll love off-road racing. There are several ways to enjoy off-road racing and the best vehicles for that are off-road go-karts, dirt bikes, ATVs, sand rails and dune buggies.
Two of the most common vehicles are go-karts and dirt bikes. While both are designed for rough terrain and delivering an extremely fun and adventurous experience, they are quite different in nature. In essence, a dirt bike is a two-wheeled motorcycle, whereas an off-road go-kart is a four-wheeled powered vehicle.
Similarities and Differences Between Off-Road Go-Karts and Dirt Bikes
There are plenty of other similarities and differences between both off-road vehicles. In this article, we’ll be comparing their speed, handling, safety, drivetrains, frames, seating position and more. Below is a quick comparison between the dirt bikes and go-karts!
Steering: Steering Wheel
Speed: 25 – 45 mph (average)
Speed: 45 – 65 mph (average)
At first glance one may think that both go-karts and dirt bikes look different, even though they are designed for the same purpose. While both of these vehicles are designed for off-roading, dirt bikes are also driven on dirt bike tracks, whereby go-karts are usually driven along trails.
Dirt bikes have the ability to do dune jumps, however a lot of skill is involved with that. Off-road go-karts on the other hand are much easier to operate and don’t require balancing. They’re also unable to make huge jumps, due to the weight of the frame.
That brings us to the second aspect: the frame. Go-karts typically have a one or two-seater configuration, where the driver and passenger sit inside the vehicle. Dirt bikes are ridden without a passenger on the pillion. Compared to a go-kart, the dirt bike seating position is also much higher.
As dirt bike riders sit on top of the bike, the frame is much narrower. To accommodate both passengers, off-road go-karts are usually wider. That’s also because of the roll cage and larger frame.
When it comes to off-road go-karts vs dirt bikes, both vehicles are rear-wheel powered. This means that the engine is connected to the rear wheel (axle on a go-kart), via a sprocket and a drive chain.
Both off-road go-karts and dirt bikes don’t have differentials and transfer power from the engine directly to the rear wheels – or a single rear wheel for dirt bikes.
One of the most noticeable things between both vehicles is the number of wheels. As dirt bikes are motorcycles, they have two wheels – a front wheel and a rear wheel. Both wheels are much larger than go-kart wheels, which give the bike high ground clearance.
Off-road go-kart wheels on the other hand are much smaller. Go-karts have two rear wheels and two front wheels. These wheels are wide apart and help to keep the center of gravity low, to avoid flipping the go-kart over.
Go-karts are easy to handle and operate. The driver is required to maneuver the kart using a steering wheel, and accelerate and brake using the respective pedals.
Dirt bikes are much harder to operate, as some bikes have a manual transmission, requiring the rider to steer the bike using the handle bars, as well as accelerate, brake and shift gears.
In addition to that, dirt bike racers also need to balance the bike with their body position, so that it doesn’t topple over. This means that dirt bikes are inherently harder to operate and require more skill.
Both vehicles have suspensions, as they are designed for off-road racing. Suspensions are required to cushion impact and also to maneuver on uneven terrain.
Dirt bikes have one suspension system in the front (called front fork), and one in the rear. Off-road go-karts on the other hand have four suspensions, two in the rear and two in the front. In that sense, one for each wheel.
Each of these suspensions consists of a shock absorber and a coil spring.
When comparing top speeds, dirt bikes are typically faster than off-road go-karts. A standard dirt bike can reach a top speed of about 45 – 65 mph, whereby a standard off-road go-kart reaches top speeds of about 25 – 45 mph.
Go-karts have a heavier frame and therefore accelerate slower than dirt bikes. On the other hand, go-karts are more stable due to the lower center of gravity and a wider frame, which distributes the weight effectively.
Safety is where off-road go-karts score most of the points. Go-karts for off-road use are designed with safety in mind. The driver and passenger each have a multi-point seat harness.
Due to a lower center of gravity, the chances for a go-kart to topple over, compared to dirt bikes, are much lower. Dirt bike riders have to balance the bike’s positions using their body.
Moreover, off-road go-karts are equipped with a roll cage that keeps passengers safe, in case of a rollover. When it comes to dirt bikes, there is no form of protection from getting flung off or toppling over.
It’s important to note that for both vehicles, it’s always recommended to wear the necessary safety gear to ensure that drivers and passengers are as safe as possible, at all times.
So, What’s More Fun to Ride?
Let’s get to the ‘million-dollar’ question! When it comes to off-road racing, what is more fun, riding a dirt bike or driving an off-road go-kart? Well, I think you can guess what the answer may be, having read through the article: it depends!
However, I don’t wish to leave the answer at that. Let me share with you why I think that there are several aspects to consider first before being able to answer the questions.
The answer to this question depends on what is more fun for you! For example, consider skill set, speed, safety, handling, number of passengers and application.
If you’re the type who is looking to jump over dunes with a high top speed, with more freedom, then dirt biking may be more fun for you. However, do take note of the safety aspects as well.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an off-road racing experience with comfortable seating, good protection, stable handling, lower speeds and racing on dirt trails, then off-road go-karts may be the best option for you.
Therefore, the only person who will be able to answer this is you. For me, I’m all about go-karts, so you definitely know my answer! I hope this breakdown between off-road go-karts vs dirt bikes helped. Happy racing!