What Is A Pit Bike?

We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site we may earn an affiliate commission.

If you have ever been around or considered purchasing a dirt bike before, the term ‘pit bike’ may have passed your ears. In this article, we’ll explore what’s a pit bike and what makes them unique.

What Is A Pit Bike?

The most common vehicle on two wheels in the United States is the bicycle. However, there are other types of motorized vehicles that are also popular in this country.

There are a world of different vehicles used across America, many of which have their own motorsports, uses, and functions.

Today we will cover what a pit bike is, how it differs from other motorized bikes, and how it can be used in different settings, and which you may choose to purchase depending on your own situation.

Here’s what you need to know about pit bikes.

Pit Bike Origins

In essence, a pit bike is essentially a smaller and earlier form of a regular dirt bike. Pit bikes were likely designed way before the dirt bike and are likely what inspired the creation of the latter.

So what do dirt and pit bikes have in common? A dirt bike is essentially a pit bike that has been souped-up and optimized for a motocross circuit, and often has different mechanical make ups, although remains largely similar to its predecessor, the pit bike.

Historically, the pit bike came from the world of two wheel motorized vehicles which boomed after the second world war.

The use of motorized bicycles came from a need to move around the staging areas or ‘pits’ of racing events, usually car racing events.

They were originally colloquially termed ‘clown bikes’ due to their small size in comparison to the generic motorcycle, but this eventually spurred on the creation of the minibike market which has boomed since the 21st century and the modernization of mechanical engineering.

In the modern day, since the boom of the minibike market in the 1960s there are now separate pit racing events held specifically for pit bikes, as well as dirt bike racing for motocross dirt bikes.

However, the two have slightly different mechanical parts that suit different situations, let’s explore these differences.


One of the major differences between these two vehicles is the engine. While both can be characterized by their horizontally air cooled engine and open cradle frame, a pit bike and dirt bike can often be differentiated by their engine.

A pit bike engine is often a four-stroke motor which will allow a 50-1400cc range.

Yet pit bikes will commonly not exceed 250cc, the four piston engine instead enables easier handling and more steady and reliable power output.

For similar reasons they also have a smoother powerband to help with operation and handling. 

Many pit bikes can be made street legal by making a few simple modifications, such as adding lights and brakes. It’s important to check with your local authorities to find out what is required in order to make your pit bike street legal.

As a pit bike is smaller and often ridden by younger pit bike riders, an engine that has controllable power which remains steady is preferable.

The other side of this coin is that a dirt bike will usually have a two stroke engine. A two stroke engine will allow the engine to reach full acceleration quicker, but this will in turn reduce control and handling. 

A dirt bike with a four-stroke engine is more designed for long journeys and transportation.

These have a much higher maximum speed than a pit bike which it can accelerate to at a steadier pace than a two stroke engine.

People sometimes confuse dirt bikes and motocross bikes. Let’s see what the difference between them. Motocross bikes are dirt bikes designed for off-road racing. They typically have more suspension travel than other dirt bikes, and they’re usually equipped with larger-diameter tires. Motocross bikes are usually not as heavy as other full size dirt bikes.

Body Shape

This is another clear difference between a dirt bike and a pit bike. A pit bike, made for maneuverability in a pit lane, is always going to be a lot smaller in terms of frame size, than a dirt bike.

A large frame may be required on a dirt bike in order for more mechanical function but also as a way to enable off road handling and maneuverability.

When on an off road track you need the big frame to clear potential obstacles. A pit bike would struggle to get through branches etc.

The smaller frame of a pit bike enables much more mobility and is ideal for the smoother and straighter tracks within a pit lane.


The choice of tires on the two vehicles hints greatly at how they are used. In most situations pit bikes don’t have wheels so focused on creating friction and traction as a dirt bike would. 

Designed for smoother and clearer terrain, common in the pit lane, a pit bike has smoother wheels often, although not always.

What Is A Pit Bike?

A first bike has gripping wheels with a bobbly surface in order to create friction and traction on off road terrains as well as street roads.

Moreover, to accommodate the larger size, dirt bike wheels are often around 18 inches whereas pit bikes are around 12-14 inches. This accommodates the size of each bike’s differently sized frames.

Which Is Best For Me?

This totally depends on your purposes and who will be using it. 

As mentioned, a huge difference is size here. Pit bikes aren’t used so often in the pits anymore, since motor sport racing has changed a little over the years. So these days many people will buy a pit bike for pit bike racing for younger drivers.

Children and young teenagers can use a pit bike pretty easily, they are often engineered for this purpose and called minibikes.

They are safer for the younger folk as they go at much lower speeds and thanks to their engines they can’t accelerate as fast as a dirt bike.

So on the other hand there are dirt bikes which are larger and faster. A dirt bike should mainly be reserved for those who want to use them as a mode of transportation, race them, or use them on off road tracks. Dirt bikes go faster and are more dangerous.

In terms of price, a dirt bike is often worth a lot more than a pit bike. A pit bike is rarely ever totaled in an accident unless severe, many people will sell second hand pit bikes as a result which can be very cheap.

On the other hand a dirt bike will be much more expensive as they are often bought new and the customer usually wants them to be in optimal condition for safety as well as operation.

The speed factor as well as the more complex engineering, and ultimately size, will make dirt bikes much more expensive.

Final Thoughts

In simplicity, a pit bike is a smaller version of a dirt bike, they were designed to get around the pits and staging areas of motor sport events with speed and ease.

As a result they are much smaller than dirt bikes which are optimized for pit bike motocross. The most obvious difference between the two is usually engine type but also size of the frame.

We hope you have learned something about motorized bicycles, what a pitbike is, motor sports, and the mechanics of these vehicles.

More Articles You Might Find Interesting:

How To Change Dirt Bike Tire

How To Wheelie A Dirt Bike

Ashley Addams