The Difference Between a Motocross Bike and a Trail Bike

The Difference Between a Motocross Bike and a Trail Bike

There has been some long debate over whether a motocross bike and a trail bike were the same thing, the two machines look similar but actually they were built for different terrains. One for a track and the other traversing back trails in the wilderness. So, what is the difference between the two? The short answer is almost nothing! If the bike is from the same manufacturer, and the same model then they would look identical in a showroom. However, to ride off road a bike has to be upgraded and customized.

The Differences

In motocross the focus is on racing and who can finish first, and to achieve this the machine is normally considerably lighter than a trail bike. Firstly, you need to change the suspension for a motocross bike as the track can give an excessive amount of pounding and wear and tear. Trail bikes are designed to give smoother rides and they are upgraded so that they can negotiate the difficult terrain. A trail bike often has headlights and a kickstand and is far heavier than a motocross bike. The start of the race is a really important factor for a good motocross bike and often the sprockets are upgraded so they have less teeth which gives more punch off the line. The two bikes may look similar but with a trail bike you will have a softer ride and more engine torque, with a little less power at the top end.

Changing a Motocross Bike into a Trail Bike

If you already own a motocross bike and want to try trail riding for a change you will have to address four key areas.

  • Gearing
  • Suspension
  • Protection
  • Extras


A motocross bike is designed to take big jumps, cornering at high speeds and navigating whoop sections. So before going off road, you will have to adjust the rebound and compression for a smoother ride. Perhaps it is a good idea to get the whole suspension revalved and re-sprung by the dealer.


In motocross, bikes have to undergo many different speeds and track conditions, but trail riding is all about terrain from flat open land to undulating forest. To cope with this a trail bike will have to have its gearing adjusted, sometimes for different days. To get tight, low speed gearing you will be advised to gear up a couple of teeth on the rear sprocket, and the reverse is true for long distances and higher speeds.


Motocross machines are stripped down to be as light as possible, but you will need a sturdier bike to ride trails and it should have good protection with items such as radiator guards and skid plates, and an essential is wrap around hand guards to protect the hands and more importantly the controls.


You can add more weight in trail riding, so perhaps full protection, a larger fuel tank, and a spark arrestor to bring down the noise will be required. So perhaps at first glance a motocross bike and a trail bike may look the same, but they are indeed very different as they a built for completely different uses.