CRF50 Vs. PW50 – Best Kids Dirt Bike?

Buying a dirt bike for your kid can be one of the best feelings for both your kid, as well as yourself. Choosing the right one can be a hard decision, but either bike can fit the bill. There’s a few major differences between the Honda CRF50F/XR50R (Same bike, just different body style), and the Yamaha PW50, so lets see what each of them have to offer.

Engine Comparison

CRF50F
CRF50F

For both being 50cc, the engine’s are quite a bit different. The Honda has an air-cooled four-stroke with a three speed semi-automatic transmission, while the Yamaha has a two-stroke, oil-injected engine with a centrifugal-clutch. They are both pretty much bullet-proof as long as you regularly change the oil and keep the air filter clean.

Neither have electric-start, but the Honda engine is a more versatile. In stock form it’s already more powerful and has three gears, making it easier for your kid to get past certain obstacles. The aftermarket has a lot more to offer as well for the CRF/XR 50. It is one of the most popular pit bikes for adults, so there’s plenty of engine, suspension, handelbars, and other hop-up parts available to fit the riders needs.

However, if you want a light and mellow power-band without having to change gears, the Yamaha is a great starting point. It also has a throttle-lock feature that you can set to lock the throttle at a certain position so that your kid doesn’t hold it wide open and get into trouble as easily.

Suspension

Neither have that good of suspension from the factory. The CRF50 is going to be a little better, but still isn’t good enough for racing on. Of course, these are just kids dirt bikes for beginning riders, so they are plenty good for trail and play riding. The Honda once again has plenty of aftermarket options for forks, shocks, and swing-arms if you are willing to shell out the dough though.

PW50
PW50

Size

Size may be the most important factor, depending on how small your little boy or girl is. If you’re looking for the lowest seat height and lightest bike, the PW50 has the CRF beat. Its seat height is only 19 inches, and weighs a shocking 86 pounds when wet with fluids. This is substantially lower than the 110 lbs of the Honda.

In The End…

It depends on the nature of your kid. If your boy or girl is small and barely knows how to ride a bike, the PW50 is probably the better choice, due to it being smaller, lighter, and smooth on power. However, almost all kids grow out of the PW’s within the first year, so there’s a good chance you’ll be needing another bike soon after. Whereas the Honda will last a little longer since it’s a little more powerful, has a 3-speed transmission, and plenty of aftermarket parts for upgrading. You can usually get a couple years out of the ol’ Honda 50 before needing a bigger dirt bike, depending on how fast your kid grows and learns.

What’s Hot?

Honda:

  • Bullet-proof 4-stroke engine
  • 3-speed semi-auto trans.
  • More versatile
  • Plethora of aftermarket parts
  • It’s red

Yamaha:

  • Mellow 2-stroke engine w/ simple oil-injection
  • Low seat height and light-weight
  • Low maintenance engine and shaft drive
  • It’s blue…?

Hopefully this will give you a better idea on which little dirt bike to buy for your kid to get into this awesome sport. Feel free to leave a comment or question. Have fun, and remember to wear proper safety gear!

-Tom Stark

Yamaha YZ125 Review – Is It The Best 125 Two-Stroke Ever?

Since there’s not much hope in the economy coming back in the near future, dirt bikers are resorting to things that will give them the best bang for their buck. As a result, 125cc two-strokes have been rising in the used market. Why? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. First of all, you can rebuild the top-end for $150 or less, which can be done in your garage with a little mechanical motivation and patience. They are great dirt bikes to start out on for motocross, as they teach you how to control the throttle, clutch, and controls. Probably the best part about a 125 2-smoker is that they’re an absolute blast to ride! They’re light, quick, snappy, and besides, who doesn’t like the smell of race gas and pre-mix in the morning?!

Which Decade?

Yamaha hasn’t changed their 2-strokes for a while. However, this doesn’t mean it’s outdated. In fact, that’s quite the opposite, as Yamaha has been building quality 2-stroke motocross bikes for years. As long as they make them, riders continue buy them. They are often the first dirt bikes to sell in a dealer, but let’s take a look at why these bikes are so popular in the first place.

1990’s YZ two-strokes are fairly similar. In ’96 they made some changes that lasted until the end of 2001. These are still considered some of the best motocross bikes, especially the 1999 model. They are fast, reliable, and are just a great overall bike.

In 2002 the frame changed, making it lighter, narrower, and more flick-able. However, many people didn’t approve because it switched to a 5-speed transmission. 125’s have a narrow power-band as it is, and some riders just like having that extra gear.

2005 and 2006 are biggest years for the Yamaha YZ125. In ’05 they changed to an all aluminum frame, made some engine changes, as well as changing back to a 6-speed transmission.

2006 Yamaha YZ125
2006 Yamaha YZ125

Power

Power has never really been an issue when it comes to the YZ125. In amateur ranks, these small-bore two-strokes can hold their own against 450’s with the right rider. Of course it can be harder to ride them faster, but they have the ability, and it’s extremely fun doing it. Although 125’s are known to have little to no bottom-end power, the YZ125 has always seemed to have a little more torque down low than the others in its class, making it manageable if you need to lug it in tight areas. Once you get to the mid-range you can start to feel the inner-beast come alive, especially on the later models. As soon as you hit the power-band on one of these tiddlers, you’ll know why they are so addicting. It may scare you at first if you’ve never ridden a two-stroke motocross bike, but you’ll be begging to do it again and again until there’s no more premix in the tank… Throw a pipe on this thing and get it properly ported, and you have race-ready engine on your hands (not that it isn’t with a stock engine).

In 2005, the YZ125 got a new engine and carburetor, which greatly improved the bike. It’s so crisp and fast that you don’t need to touch the bike to be competitive. Although, as the saying goes, it’s easier to make a fast bike faster… Slap a pipe on there, get it ported, run some race-gas, re-jet, and she’s ready to haul the mail!

Handling

While it’s light, fast, and flick-able, some people don’t like the way YZ125’s handle as much as other late-model 125’s. The CR125 has been at the top of its class in the handling department since the 3rd generation chassis came out in 2002. That bike handles extremely well with comfort. The 2002 and newer YZ125 are not far behind though, so don’t let that be the determining factor.

2005 was the first year of the aluminum frame, which is still claimed to be one of, if not the best 125 two-stroke made. It’s lighter, faster, handles better, and just overall rides more like a modern motocross bike.

Suspension

Yamaha continues to provide top-notch suspension in their motocross bikes, and the YZ125 is no different. The older bikes from the 90s left something to be desired compared to modern mx bikes, but in the 2000’s they have some of the best suspension out of the box. Bottoming-resistance is one of the leading factors of it being at the top of its class. The ride isn’t as harsh as some of the other bikes, but like any other motocross bike, you will want to get it re-valved if you weight less than 140lbs or more more than 170lbs depending on what kind of riding you do.

In 2006, which was the last year of any major updates, the YZ125 received new SSS forks, which are considered a big upgrade. If you can find a good deal on clean ’06, buy it! If you find a nice ’05, I would definitely buy that too. For someone that’s not a pro rider, you probably won’t notice much of a difference between the two. Besides, most racers get their suspension re-valved for their weight and riding style anyway.

You Should Get A YZ125 If You:

  1. Want a light, nimble, quick bike
  2. Like mixing gas and the smell of premix
  3. Want to go back and learn the basics
  4. Like snappy power
  5. Want a dirt bike that’s cheap to maintain
  6. Want to rub it in when you beat friends on four-strokes
  7. Don’t want to make the jump all the way to a 250F
  8. Want to rebuild top-ends at home

You Shouldn’t Get A YZ125 If You:

  1. Don’t like mixing gas or the smell of premix
  2. Want a smooth and very predictable power-curve
  3. Like checking valve clearances
2001 Yamaha YZ125 2-Stroke
2001 Yamaha YZ125 2-Stroke

I’ve owned my share of YZ125’s, and they’ve all been great. The most reliable motocross bikes I’ve owned, and they’re just so much fun to ride. Of course, the newer the better, but even a 1999 YZ125 is a great bike to get started in this awesome sport. Check out my other articles on how to find deals on used dirt bikes!

-Tom Stark

 

XR100 Mods – Top 5 Things To Make It Faster

Do you have an XR100 sitting in your garage that is getting a little outdated, but don’t have the money to buy another bike? If you a little extra cash, though, there are some cheap ways to make your little ol’ Honda faster and more fun to ride.

5.

Before you go any faster, you may want to consider bracing up your frame with a frame cradle. They can be a little costly, but if you are going to be jumping or doing any kind of racing, it is a must. An xr100 relies on the stress of the engine and its mounts to hold it together, making it flex and eventually break. A frame cradle adds much needed rigidity to the frame, taking the stress off the engine.

4.

Next you’ll want to upgrade the suspension. Yes, you’re probably asking why we’re not doing any “go-faster” mods. Trust me, we’ll get there, but your bike must be able to handle the abuse before it can dish more out. Every adult that’s ridden a stock xr100 knows the suspension is less-than-satisfying. In two words; it blows. Literally, it bottoms out just riding over bumps if you weigh anything over 140lbs. Heavy duty fork springs are a cheap upgrade, and can be swapped out at home with some basic shop tools. A heavy duty rear shock is around the same price. So for less than 200 bucks you can have an xr100 that rides much better, and is ready for those “go-fast” mods.

Stock XR100
Stock XR100

3.

Like many other things on this dirt bike, the intake is highly restricted. Honda XR’s run rich from the factory, and this is one of the main reasons why. Swapping out the entire intake system for a pod-filter would be the least-restrictive and provide the most power gain, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re doing supermoto with the bike. It’s out in the open, so it’s more susceptible to sucking in water and dirt. A free mod you can do is drill several 1/2″ or 1″ holes around the around airbox. This will allow more air to get in and to the engine. You can also pull off the air-filter and remove the back-fire screen on it. It restricts air-flow, and an xr100 has very little chance of starting a fire by back-firing.

Another common intake mod that xr100 owners do is replace the carburetor with one from an ATC200X. That’s right, an old Honda 3-wheeler. An XR200 carb will fit as well, but the 200X is the most because it’s a slightly bigger bore than the XR100 carb (24mm vs. 22mm) and bolts directly onto the xr100. If the throttle cable is too long, just buy one from a CR80/CR85. The 200X carb will likely need to be taken apart for a cleaning, so you might as well re-jet while you’re there (or get a rough estimate on where to start).

2.

An aftermarket exhaust is relatively cheap and easy way to hop up your XR100. Not only does it open it up for more power, but it sounds a lot better than the choked up stock exhaust. You may not need to re-jet the carburetor with just an exhaust, but if you do the previous intake mods, you will need to re-jet to make it run smooth and get the most power out of the modifications.

1.

If  you want to spend a little more dough, you can do a lot of different things to the engine. A big bore kit is fairly cheap and easy to do, and a hotter camshaft will give it some ‘giddy-up’. You can get the cylinder head ported, shaved, and/or blueprinted if you’re looking to keep stock displacement. For those that want to go all out, there’s “Super Head” kits that come with a complete top-end, including a larger cylinder head with bigger ports and valves to increase air-flow. For this kind of money you could buy another dirt bike, but, if you’re racing it in a highly competitive class and have a lot of extra cash, I’m definitely not going to stop you.

Socalxr XR100 Conversion
XR100 conversion built by Socalxr

Before you do any of the last three mods, though, you should know that in order to get the most out of the bike, modifications should be done to all of them. In other words, you’ll gain a lot more horsepower if you open up the intake AND get an aftermarket exhaust, as opposed to just doing one or the other.

In the end, it’s going to take either a lot of money or time (or both) to make an XR100 competitive on the motocross track. But that’s not what an XR100 is intended for; it’s a fun, backyard, play-bike. If you have the mechanical abilities and motivation, check out my budget xr100/rm80 conversion build for some ideas on how to build the ultimate pit bike for adults…

-Tom Stark

2003 Kawasaki KLX300 Review – Rival of The Honda XR


It’s always been known that Honda XR’s are pretty much bomb-proof trail bikes. It would seriously take some long and hard abuse to kill one of those things. But in this day and age, the XR is becoming more of an out-dated piece of machinery compared to the modern high-tech dirt bikes. Kawasaki has been making the liquid-cooled KLX300R trail bike since 1997, but in 2003 it got a nice face-lift. The KLX300 is in the same class as Honda’s XR250R, but even with the extra displacement, it will still be hard to beat the mighty, air-cooled XR.

More power is better, but it won’t do you much without having good handling, suspension, ergonomics, and reliability, as well as light-weight. Combining the five would give you the best trail bike possible; extra horsepower is a bonus in my book. But since riders aren’t all the same size, shape, and skill, it’s hard to make the best overall bike possible. Kawasaki succeeded in some areas, yet didn’t quite meet the standards in others when building the KLX300.

2003 Kawasaki KLX300R

One of the first things I noticed about this bike is that it has mx-style inverted forks, unlike its XR competitor. This makes it feel and ride more like a motocross bike, but with really plush springs.

Handling is surprisingly good on the KLX300. It’s easy to turn and will go where you want it to. It does get a little twitchy going fast over rough ground, but it handled every terrain I rode on excellently. The bike doesn’t feel too bulky, and the seat is low and comfortable; perfect for my short frame and legs. It’s easy to squeeze your legs right up against the frame and let the bike do most of the work. Although, hanging on with your arms is awkward at first. I’m not really sure what Kawasaki was trying to do when they made the handlebars. They are really wide, low, and weak. Unless you’re an odd-ball that likes the fit of the bars, they would be the first thing to go.

Although the KLX300R has motocross-style suspension, it does not perform exactly like it. It’s a smaller and cheaper version of it. You can’t tune the forks and shock as you would be able to on a race bike. With that said, many KLX owners have swapped out the stock forks for a pair from an older KX250 (there may be a future article on how to do this if I get enough responses). With some adjusting of what clickers I had, the bike was finally riding like it should. I’m a light rider, and I had to have the clickers almost all the way in for it to be stiff enough. I do occasionally jump the bike, but its main use was riding single track trails, so the suspension couldn’t be too harsh. If you weigh over 150 lbs (68 kg) you’ll probably need to get stiffer springs, and it will be well worth it once the bike is set-up the way you want.

Weighing in at 231 lbs makes it the lightest bike in its class. This is a huge bonus because you definitely feel the extra weight on heavier bikes when shifting around on the trails, or when you are picking the bike up after a spill. It’s not as light as a 2-stroke, but definitely lighter than a 450cc off-road dirt bike.

As far as reliability goes, the KLX300 is as close to bullet-proof as you can get. There were a couple problems in the engine, but the main one was the cam/timing chain tensioner. After a few thousand miles or so of wear it would get caulked down, causing the chain to be loose and make noise. Many new KLX owners get frightened by this because it often makes a loud knocking noise. The same thing happened to my 300R, and I thought for sure it was piston-slap since the noise was really loud and would go away once the bike was hot. I eventually bought a new tensioner just for the sake of it, and when I was taking out the original one, it didn’t even look crooked or broken. I was hoping that it would still somehow be the problem, and I was right. I started up the bike with the new one in and it purred like a kitten.

Other that, I haven’t a problem with this bike. As long as you change the oil/filter, clean the air filter, lube chain, etc. when you should, this bike will last a long time. Check the valves and timing chain every year or two, as well to make sure they aren’t worn or have moved.

2003 Kawasaki KLX300R

Lastly, when I said power was just a bonus on a trail bike, I didn’t exactly mean that power doesn’t matter, because it does…. From some help of the extra 50cc’s, the KLX300 is the most powerful in its class. More horsepower and torque than the XR250R and DR250. Don’t get too excited, though, because the 24 ponies it puts out makes a very smooth and linear power curve. This is mainly thanks to the Keihin CVK 34mm constant velocity carburetor. It uses the pull of vacuum to move the slide up, which takes away any “snap” the bike would have had. It simply robs torque and horsepower that this bike could’ve had.

On the flip-side, having a very mellow power-band makes the bike extremely easy to use and allows it to putt up steep hills with ease. You shouldn’t have trouble going through tight trails, no matter the conditions, because it will put what power it has to the ground with a good rear tire on.

All-in-all, there are ups and downs to the Kawasaki KLX300R, but most of the flaws are easily fixable. I wouldn’t mind getting another one of these in the future for going on long trail rides. So, let’s review what this bike has to offer…

What’s good?

  • Lightest four-stroke in its class
  • Very easy to ride
  • Motocross-style features (inverted forks, liquid-cooling)
  • Smooth power-curve to putt up hills
  • Sips on gas
  • Reliable
  • 36 in. seat height
  • Very quiet for riding in people-dense areas

What’s not?

  • No electric-start
  • No hot-start (often floods if you stall, making it harder to start)
  • Low, wide, and weak handle bars
  • Inverted forks are not fully-adjustable
  • Throttle requires you to turn it too far
  • Engine is choked up with the small carb. and exhaust

Haul your KLX300 with an Aluminum Motorcycle Carrier.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to comment!

P.S. Stay tuned for a future article or two on how to hop-up your KLX300 for cheap!…

-Tom Stark

YZ125 vs. YZ250F – The Trillion Dollar Match-Up


Does the monster torque of the YZ250F make it that much better than the light and snappy YZ125? (I would have said million dollar, but that’s inaccurate since that would be like pocket change here in the U.S.) We have to dig a little deeper than what the media and government says. I think we all know that most motocross companies are pushing for the four-strokes because they are “eco-friendly” by not producing as much pollution as the two-strokes, as well as costing much more to repair because there are twice as many parts that can break. But for this battle we will totally scratch those opinionated facts out because they don’t mean a thing in the motocross realm.

I have ridden Yamaha’s YZ250F’s and YZ125’s, and can say that they are two different kind of animals. Both Yamaha motocross bikes have plenty of power and will require some balls to ride fast, but are about as reliable as you can get as far as motocross bikes go. Each bike has its ups and downs, but the question is, “which one is better overall?” Well you’ll have to wait until the next article after I do a little more research on these bikes……. Just kidding.

YZ125

Ahhh, the smell of pre-mix in the morning! Are two-strokes making a come-back? Well, I’ll cover that in a future article… The YZ125 is a serious piece of art. It’s been rated the number 125cc motocross bike in magazines and websites more than any other 125 two-stroke. The light-weight makes it flick-able, the raw horsepower begs it to be revved to the moon, and the suspension is top notch. There’s no question that this bike is ready to race right out of the box. Although you might have to re-jet the carburetor if you are riding in an extreme climate.

How Does It Handle?

Pretty much any modern 125 two-stroke is going to handle well these days, and the YZ is no exception. The handling is among the best in its class. It will ride any berm and the front end will stick pretty well in those pesky ruts. What I like about the 125 is that it has a really low center of gravity compared to the four-stroke, so it made it a lot easier to lay in down in the corners. I am a shorter rider (5’6”), so having a bike that handles well in corners is a must. The YZ125 felt comfortable to ride and cockpit was narrow while the 250F was a little more bulky.

What’s The Suspension Like?

You want good suspension? You got it! The YZ125 suspension set-up is great right off the showroom floor. If you weigh more than 180 or less than 140 lbs then you might want to consider getting some softer fork and shock Springs though. The stock suspension has really good bottoming resistance and can handle a lot. It feels great on any kind of obstacle. Although it may be a little mushy for A or pro riders. The forks soaked up most of the braking bumps and the bike was very controllable in the air and in the corners. It felt stable at all speeds.

What About the Engine?

The engine may be the two-strokes’ greatest set-back against the 250f, but it is no slouch. Any skilled rider will be competitive on this little ripper. The YZ125 may not have the torque that the 250F does, but it has the horsepower to make up for it. Yamaha’s 125 is known for it’s do-it-all engine. It does have more bottom-end power than any other 125 two-stroke I’ve ridden. The mid-range has some punch, and the top-end is never-ending fun. All you have to do is keep this bike on the pipe then you will be able to pass those 250F’s, that’s it.

Additional Notes…

Above are the main topics that riders ask about when deciding which bike to get. I just wanted to give you a few more facts about this bike that could factor into your decision. The YZ125 is a great motocross bike to start out on, and is perfect for younger riders just stepping up from and 85 that don’t want a big four-stroke. This bike is cheaper and easier to maintain. The cost to rebuild any 125 will be less expensive than a 250F just because it’s a two-stroke and has less moving internal parts. That doesn’t mean you will be spending less, because if you don’t maintain it, it will break down eventually. The YZ125 has always been very easy to start. If it’s not, then you have a problem. One of the only extra things you have to do to this bike is add pre-mix to the gas before you put it in the tank and ride.

YZ250F

It’s bigger… It’s badder… Is it too much for the two-smoker to handle??? The YZ250F has been the top selling 250cc four-stroke motocross bike. Is there a reason for this? There must be, so let’s check it out!

Does It Handle As Well?

A simple question, and it will be responded with a simple answer… “no.” You can do anything you want to the bike, such as lowering the radiators, reducing the weight, or shaving the seat, but it’s never going to handle as well as the two-stroke unless you do major modifications. That does not mean it handles poorly. Over the years Yamaha has turned their YZ250F tank into one of the best handling four-stroke dirt bikes. The newer the model, the better it gets. The main difference between this bike and the 125 is that it’s top-heavy, meaning the center of gravity is at a higher location on the bike, causing it to be less stable. This is most noticed in the corners, so laying it down will be a little more difficult for shorter or younger riders.

How About Suspension?

Suspension on the 250F is great for 140-175 lb amateurs, similar to the 125. It has good bottoming resistance and handled jumps with ease. Not much else to say except that the suspension on the YZ250F’s worked well for me.

Does The Engine Make Up For It?

The first time I rode a YZ250F I was blown away. Torque across the entire rev-range was unbelievable. This bike gives you the traction and power down low that you will never get from the 125. The “power-band” is not as fun as the two-stroke. The torque, though, will pull any 2-stroke out of corners. After riding a 250F for a while, the smooth, yet powerful engine just got a little…… I don’t know if I should say it…. boring. It just wasn’t as fun to ride around on as the two-stroke. Racing the YZ250F would be a different story. It’s not exactly about riding whichever bike is more fun, it’s about riding faster and more comfortably than the other riders. This bike helps out a lot on that part, but is it good enough to beat the 125?

Notes:

The YZ250F was the first four-stroke motocross bike in the 125 class, and has been the most reliable 250F the entire time. Take care of it and it will take care of you. The first years, 2001 & 2002, the bike had manual-decompression, making it a little more difficult and time-consuming to start. That can be fixed with an ’03 or newer exhaust cam because Yamaha switched to auto-decompression. The YZF250 is probably the easiest 250F to kick start. I was usually able to start mine in 1-2 kicks when they were cold.

The bad part about owning a 250F is that it can grenade if you don’t maintain it properly. If it does just “happen” to blow up, the cost of repairs can be enormous, especially if you have a shop to do it. This is one of the only reasons why I don’t like the four-stroke motocross bikes, otherwise I would buy more of them.

And The Winner Is….

Neither bike, because they are just as good as each other…… You didn’t want to hear that, did you? Good, because it’s not true! After comparing the characteristics of these bikes that have been rivaling each other for the past decade, there are still pros and cons that each bikes has. My decision would be to go with the YZ125 because I love two-strokes and don’t like big bills when they explode. For a racing scenario where money is no option and the only goal was to win then I will choose the YZ250F. It has the torque and horsepower that will beat the 125 on almost any track, the suspension is great for me out of the box, and it’s just plain easier to ride faster. That’s why the Yamaha YZ250F is still the better bike in most cases for this match-up.

Furthermore, there are so many variables to consider because not every rider is the same and rides similar terrain. If you have a big bank and want to be on par by technology standards then the 250F is the bike for you. If listening to a two-stroke WOT is music to your hears, and you want to learn better riding techniques as well as a bike that’s easier to maintain then a YZ125 is a perfect bike.

Remember… whatever bike you choose, have fun and ride hard! Good luck!

-Tom Stark