Horsepower vs. Torque: What’s the Difference?
Horsepower and torque go hand-in-hand in painting a picture of the power of your motorcycle, ATV or side-by-side. However, they’re two different pieces of the puzzle on how your machine performs.
What is Horsepower?
This one is straightforward. It’s the amount of power the engine produces. The higher the number, the more powerful the engine. You might see it a couple of different ways in the specs. If you’re just seeing horsepower next to the number, that’s generally an indicator of the maximum amount of power the engine will produce.
On the other hand, it’s sometimes conveyed by telling you how much horsepower the engine produces at various RPMs. But horsepower isn’t a direct illustration of speed. A lot of variables come into play that can cause differences in top speed between two different machines with the same horsepower. The weight of the vehicle is one, and the other is its torque.
What is Torque?
While horsepower measures power, torque measures the force that the engine — and in turn the wheels — can generate. If you’re dragging things behind your ATV or UTV or looking for hole-shot on your bike, this is the number. Higher torque at low RPMs is what you’re looking for when you want that motorcycle or ATV to leap off the line.
Measured in lb-ft, a higher number will deliver more towing power or more acceleration when you open the throttle since there’s more force to turn the wheels. And torque and horsepower are related. You can derive your horsepower with the equation Horsepower = Torque x RPM / 5,252. The 5,252 is the conversion factor between lb-ft and horsepower.
What’s the Difference Between Horsepower and Torque?
In terms of how it feels on your ATV, UTV or motorcycle, torque is the feeling of being pulled backwards when you accelerate. The more force you feel, the more torque you have. Horsepower is the power behind that pull. For speed, you’ll always need horsepower. But for towing, quick starts, or operating with lots of hills, you’ll want some torque behind those wheels.
On paper, you need to remember that those numbers mean different things on different machines. A heavier machine won’t go as fast or have the hole-shot as a lighter machine with the same horsepower and torque specs.