One of the eternal questions since our sports exist, in addition to 2t or 4t , is this : can I do enduro with a motocross bike? and backwards?
And it is true that from the beginning and until about 20 years ago, enduro was practiced with motocross motorcycles without problems -in some countries it is still like that- . Many of the riders were adapting mostly Japanese dirt bikes for racing or just outings. In the 80s and 90s it was common to see how dirt bikes with a little preparation took the first places in National and Enduro World Championships.
It was also common for many fans to adapt these bikes for enduro or use bikes based on motocross models with hardly any changes, such as the famous Honda CRE, Yamaha WR or Suzuki RMX. Nowadays the two disciplines have been separating, the Japanese have lost part of their interest in enduro and the bikes offered by the brands are much more specific than in the past. European brands such as KTM , Husqvarna or Sherco took over the enduro market and it is rare to find leading Japanese motorcycles in competitions today, as could be the case with Honda Redmoto, the Italian team with official blood.
Motocross is another world, and despite the great competition from KTM and Husqvarna, the Japanese brands continue to enjoy great health, winning championships on both sides of the Atlantic and offering high-quality machines. The American market is completely different, and there it is allowed to ride without a license plate in the countryside, so dirt bikes are used for enduro and cross country on a regular basis.
In fact, the XC models offered by many brands, including Yamaha and Honda – like the CRF 450X on which the Redmoto models we have in Europe are based – are exclusive to the American market. Offering many of the benefits of both worlds and being specific motorcycles for that market, with the benefits of enduro motorcycles -18 rim, adapted suspensions…- but without the extra weight required by the lights or the necessary elements to comply with the strict European regulations. traffic.
But then, what are those differences and how do you notice them?
Most motocross and enduro bikes share some essential elements, such as the chassis and bodywork, which aesthetically makes them look very similar and it seems that only the lights are the difference. But there are many differences that are not seen but that when we get on one or the other make them behave in a totally different way and make us understand what they are intended for.
Many of those differences are found in the engine. Although both bikes can mount the same crankcases and the external appearance is the same, the answer is totally different. Starting with the sound, the enduro bike has a more restrictive exhaust system that makes the bike offer a more contained sound. This system obviously limits the power with respect to the dirt bike that already, due to the fact of having a freer exhaust, offers a more aggressive and instantaneous response.
In the enduro engine we usually find a soft touch of gas , normally caused by a lower compression of the engine and by a smoother and more progressive mapping that helps us in trial tracks or slippery areas common in enduro. On the motocross bike, on the other hand, the throttle response is more aggressive and powerful, because on a circuit there is always good traction and we are looking for maximum acceleration. The motocross bike offers more power from the start, and this extends throughout the rev range, being fuller, faster and more stretchable than an enduro bike.
Another big difference in the engine is the gearbox. Enduro models usually have 6 gears while cross models have 5 . The stagger is very different, with the first much shorter on the enduro model, and the fifth and sixth much longer. This means that they have different gear change points on the same motocross circuit, and there will be many sections that with Enduro we would normally do with one more gear.
On the other hand, if we do extreme enduro trials or areas with a cross bike, we will notice a very long first and a very aggressive touch of gas that will make it more complicated for us in these situations, where we will also notice another of the great differences, the clutch.
On enduro bikes it is usually hydraulic and with softer springs that make it more progressive and adjustable. This way we can help ourselves from it in many situations that occur in an enduro. The motocross clutch, except in European motorcycles, is usually cable, it has a more direct touch and harder springs that make it less progressive. The lever travel is less, because a more direct drive is sought and to be able to transmit all the power at once, on the other hand in enduro we look for a clutch similar to trial, which allows us to make it skid to climb steps and other obstacles.
To finish with the mechanical differences we cannot forget the cooling system. Many enduro bikes today have an electric fan controlled by a thermostat, and even an expansion tank, while cross bikes do not have either of these two elements. This in a time trial or fast zones is not important, but if we do extreme zones with a motocross bike, it is most likely that we will get the antifreeze to boil very easily, while the Enduro bike will activate the electric fan and the engine will stay cooler , and if it boils over, the expansion tank will collect the antifreeze and then return it to the system.
The character of the motorcycle
We have talked a lot about the engine, but there is another big key which is the suspensions . These will determine, even more importantly, the character of our bike and are another of the great differences between the two disciplines. At first glance they may seem the same, but once we get on them the differences are remarkable. A standard enduro model usually offers a much softer setting than a motocross one. Starting with the lower stiffness springs, and usually mounting a faster hydraulic setting. This makes the suspension more “spongy” absorbing all the small potholes and stones that we can find without the bike losing its trajectory.
On the contrary , the motocross bike offers a hard setting , adapted for the typical jumps of the specialty. Stiff springs for impacts and tighter hydraulics for big bumps and to avoid bouncing on jumps . This allows us to jump with confidence and it will be more difficult to bump in any situation, but the smaller bumps are transmitted with greater intensity to the rider.
With these differences, it is easy to see that if we jump with an enduro bike, the easiest thing is for us to hit bumps , and we will not be able to ride comfortably either in braking or whoops. Also, even for learning to do motocross, the enduro bike is worse on jumps as it bounces more on landings and can make us lose our balance more easily.
On the contrary, if we do stony areas with a motocross bike, it will be very difficult for us to keep the direction straight since the suspension is so hard that it will not absorb the stones and they will continuously deflect the wheel. The slower rebound will cause the bike to lose a lot of traction when taking small bumps and it will be more difficult for us to find traction on the climbs. In addition, all the potholes are transmitted to the pilot, tiring him much more.
Some brands like KTM have the exclusive PDS system for Enduro models. This rear suspension system eliminates linkages, which is a great advantage to overcome obstacles more easily. The PDS was used years ago in all KTM models but the demands of the American market that demanded a linkage system were ultimately stronger than the engineers’ beliefs, and for years motocross and cross country models have been mounting linkages while that the PDS is kept only for Enduro.
There are more components that differentiate one motorcycle from another but they are not so decisive. One of them is the rear wheel, 18 inches on the Enduro models and 19 on the motocross ones . This is due to the fact that lower pressures or mousse are used in enduro and that it is common to find stone or cut steps that can make it easier to puncture. The 18 rim has a larger ball and with a mousse it allows the tire to deform and offers a greater traction surface, being also more difficult to puncture.
Enduro bike handlebars are often narrower than motocross ones . It is because these bikes are designed to circulate between trees and narrow areas, while motocross bikes can afford a little more width since the circuits are wider spaces.
Motocross bikes generally have higher seat height and lower ground clearance . On the circuits there are no such big obstacles and it is not necessary to put your feet up in almost any situation.
Lastly, the electrical system is more complex on the enduro bike due to the lights and indicators. Some time ago there were more differences but with the incorporation of the electric starter to most motocross bikes, and the battery and all its elements, this difference is no longer so noticeable in terms of weight.
So, can you do a specialty with the other bike?
It depends somewhat on the bike, especially if it offers electric start or not, but as a general rule, doing enduro or extreme enduro with a motocross bike is an ordeal. Due to the kick start of many not so old models, due to the clutch, due to overheating, due to the very long first one and due to the greater height of the seat. All this makes it much more difficult for us if we want to do complicated trials.
To roll on paths or trail areas, we can spend the day, although we will end up more tired of using the clutch in slow areas and disgusted by having the engine “cast” in fast areas.
On the contrary, doing motocross with a standard enduro motorcycle is also complicated. Its closed-gear engine will ask us to change gear in the middle of the curve, the suspension will be very soft and we will have to be very careful not to fail on the jumps because we will hurt ourselves. In addition, if we carry a mousse, we will surely shatter it and have to change it, along with the bulbs of the motorcycle that may burn out and the headlight will be broken by some other rider with a stone.
In a serial state we will not enjoy much of any of the experiences. Another thing is that we adapt our motorcycle in one way or another to bring it closer to the other specialty and thus achieve something more versatile . We can stiffen the suspension of the enduro bike or mount a competition kit that maintains some of the sensitivity but with a more progressive stiffening, which allows us to jump safely. Remove some electrical elements, and change the final development so that the second and third are like those of the dirt bike.
On the motocross bike, if we want to do some cross country, we will mount an 18 rear tire and we can also soften the suspension , mounting a more intermediate setting and softer springs. We can program a smoother engine map for a more progressive delivery, and we can shorten the gear to get a shorter first in the slow zones. A light kit could also be mounted and the motorcycle approved, but the cost is close to €1,500.
Therefore, if we want a motorcycle for both specialties, we will have to modify it. We will never be able to practice both sports perfectly with the same motorcycle and that is why manufacturers offer specific motorcycles for it. I know that it is not easy to have a motorcycle, as it is to have two, so I recommend doing the specialty for which the motorcycle we have is intended and being able to alternate a few years in enduro and other motocross if the case arises. If you are lucky and you can have both, go ahead because you will enjoy to the fullest either doing motocross or enduro, and without a doubt you will notice the differences and how each one makes it easier for us on their terrain.