Honda XR100R Review – The Bullet-Proof Dirt Bike

Honda XR100…….. What comes to mind when you hear this? For adults, we think “pit-bike”, but for young riders we see it as the beginner bike. Not just A beginner bike, but THE beginner bike. Although it hasn’t changed much in the past 20 years, the docile XR100 is probably the best dirt bike to learn on. It is big enough for adults, yet has a short enough seat height for a kid (just over 30″). It’s smooth power makes it easy to ride, and has enough torque to do most anything the bike should handle. These are key factors as to why it’s so popular, but lets dig into why it and its modern-day twin, the CRF100F, have become such a success…

I Just Want To Ride!

This slogan pretty much sums up Honda’s line-up of trail-bikes. You can roll the XR 100 off the showroom floor and ride it! Unlike motocross bikes, you shouldn’t have to adjust anything on the suspension, carburetor/FI system, gearing, or add other ‘race-mods’ before riding it.

The Do-It-All Starter Bike

’97 Honda XR100R

Why is it the best dirt bike to start out on? It’s extremely easy to ride, and has every control you’ll ever use! Kick-start, throttle, brakes, clutch, suspesnion…. What more do you need from a “First-bike”? The XR100 is easy enough for a kid to kick-start it, so you don’t need the added weight of a battery and starter; although one could come in handy when stalled on a hill. The engine is very forgiving with its clutch and buttery-smooth power. It’s a lot more difficult to stall this on the trails than a motocross bike. Even though the newest CRF100F only puts out a measly 6 horsepower, it’s still enough to chug around the property with an adult on the saddle.

Suspension

For what it is, suspension on the XR/CRF 100 is pretty versatile. While I don’t recommend racing one in its stock form, it sure can take a beating. Many adults and bigger kids (me) like to rip around on these bikes; hence why finding a roached XR100 for sale is common. Why do we do it? Because it’s so fun on a smaller bike that you can just whip around. All in all, the stock springs are meant for some under 130lbs that trail rides. It will last longer than it should if you jump it, but you risk breaking the frame, handlebars, and possibly more. Stiffer springs and an aftermarket frame cradle are a must if you’re going to race/jump this bike.

Engine

The 100cc four-stroke air-cooled engine that powers the XR100 and CRF100 has virtually stayed the same over the past few decades (other than the CDI ignition upgrade in ’92). It may not be up to date with today’s four-stroke motocross bike technology, but why change something that already works, and works well! The power is very smooth and manageable, and can still get you out of a lot of messes. Due to a heavy flywheel and low gearing, stalling is not an issue on the XR 100. It offers just enough power to hand you loads of fun, yet wont’ get you or a beginning rider into too much trouble. This 100cc engine is commonly used the sheer pleasure by many adults. It is an excellent starting point because it’s cheap, easy to work on, and has the potential to be a fast little machine. XR100’s are used to make pit bikes, supermoto, flat-track, and mini motocross for these reasons.

Reliability

This is where Honda gets its name. The reliability of the Honda XR machines are at the top step. If you keep up on maintenance (which isn’t much), the XR100 will last for years, if not decades, on the stock engine. Keep oil in it by changing it after about 10-15 hours of use (depending on the riding conditions), keep the air filter clean, and don’t let the gas go bad. It’s pretty common to see well used XR 100’s from the early-mid 90s with as little as a piston re-ringing or valve-shimming. It’s amazing how long these things will last, especially for how high they rev (no rev-limiter).¬†Reliability¬†is one of the main reasons adults use this engine for their pit bikes. Even after modifying the engine it can still last a long time.

Honda CRF100F

The Sky Is The Limit…

While a stock XR100 is fairly restricted to more skilled riders and weekend warriors, there are endless mods and upgrades you can do to beef up this bike to make it more potent. A pipe and heavy duty suspension upgrade may be all it takes to provide hours and hours of fun. However, some of us that are more on the edge like to go a step or four further… This can turn into an all-out pit bike build that starts with an XR 100 engine as the power-plant, but uses a modified chassis/suspension from an 85cc 2-stroke motocross bike. (In fact, I’m about to start one of these builds and will hopefully finish it this summer, so stay tuned for a full article/video on it!).

You Should Buy An XR/CRF100 If You:

  1. Want cheap fun
  2. Enjoy riding more than maintaining
  3. Want to learn how to ride a motorcycle
  4. Like pit bikes
  5. Trail ride
  6. Like the 4-stroke power curve
  7. Want an easy to ride bike
  8. Want a back-up bike

You Shouldn’t Buy An XR100 If You:

  1. Expect a race bike in stock form
  2. Don’t like having fun

Add a gallon of gas and you’re in for some serious fun…

-Tom Stark

3 thoughts on “Honda XR100R Review – The Bullet-Proof Dirt Bike”

  1. My son has a 2003 xr 100 all stock, what can I do to give it a little more umph? He’s been looking at a 2006 TTR 125 but I am not sure this is going to have any difference in power that he would be happy with. Any suggestions on the XR would be appreciated.

    1. The question is, how much do you want to spend? A 120cc big bore kit with a good cam, aftermarket exhaust, better air filter, and re-jetting the carb would nearly double the power (which still isn’t much), but by that time you might want to look at a bigger and faster bike (85cc 2-stroke or CRF150).

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