The Difference Between Horsepower and Torque
Often when you are shopping for a Dirt Bike, Snowmobile, or ATV you will see two terms: Horsepower and Torque. We know they're important. But we may not know exactly why they are important, and how they are different. Another thing we need to look at is why they're important at all.
Lets take a look at the physics behind each, how they connect, and what that means for us as buyers and riders.
Horsepower is unit of measurement of Power. Power means the rate at which work is done. Horsepower is directly the result of Torque and RPMs (Revolutions Per Minute). To branch away from science : It's basically how fast you can go.
Torque is a measurement of force to rotate an object around an axis. It's measured over distance, not speed. When you use a wrench to tighten or loosen a bolt, you are applying torque. Torque is the strength of force, not the speed at which it is applied. It's basically, for ATVs and such, how quickly a speed can be reached.
A big difference between Horsepower and Torque is focused on RPMs. At low RPMs you want stronger Torque. At high RPMs you want Horsepower. Imagine this. You are on a Dirt Bike on a big hill. It's torque that lets you gather some speed to get up the hill. The more torque the faster you will be able to get that speed. Then, after the hill, you are on a straightaway. The faster you go here is Horsepower.
Often people will ask which is better, Horsepower or Torque. It's a silly question. That's like asking which is better, an apple or an orange. If I am making an apple pie, or just like apples more, I will say apple. The person that wants orange juice, or just likes oranges more, will say oranges are better. It's opinion and situation, there is no answer.
Take a look at how you want to ride. In general, having more Torque will mean it's easier for you to go through turns and get your speed back. It is more of a relaxed ride. If you want to go fast, reaching high top speeds, you want to consider Horsepower first.
Having one without the other is just silly, as I'm sure you can tell. Having a lot of torque will allow you to get up to top speed very fast, no matter what you are carrying or what surface you are on. But that top speed is going to be very slow. If you just have horsepower, sure you can go fast, but it will take a very long time to get there, and each turn and stop you must make will take a long time to recover from.
The best way to choose which one is more of a priority is to look at your preference and situation. If you are racing on straightaways and want to go for speed, consider Horsepower first. If you are working more, pulling weights or there are lots of turns and hills, consider Torque first. The two are connected, in the end, so never completely skip consideration for one. Once you get the right balance of Horsepower and Torque you will have a machine that responds exactly as you like.