Let’s face it, motocross is not a cheap sport. When races cost around $30 per class, then paying for gas (both bike and vehicle), parts that break, memberships, and the list goes on. Although it seems like dirt bike racing is only for the wealthy, especially in this economy, I can help get you get started into this awesome sport by showing you how to find a cheap race bike. Not a beat-up POS, but something that runs or may just need some TLC.
This Is A RACE Bike We’re Talking About Here
Before I go into much detail, there are a couple things I must tell you. If you aren’t willing to do some mechanical work, or even learn how, there’s no use buying a motocross bike. If you want to buy a dirt bike and not have to do much of anything to it, get a Honda XR. Motocross bikes are high-tech race machines, so they will break sooner or later. By keeping up on simple maintenance you will help prevent major failures and big repair bills, though.
Lastly, before I get started, if you are on a budget then do not get a four-stroke motocross bike……. I repeat, DO NOT buy a four-stroke. Although they are easier to ride faster and have many advantages over two-strokes, you don’t want to get one and have to put 2k into it because it ran out of oil or dropped a valve. You’ll be right back where you started. If you really want to stay on a budget then start out with a two-stroke, trust me.
What Bikes Are Good?
Now the reason I said $1500 is because you almost always have to put some money into a used dirt bike. You should be able to find a decent bike for around $1000, so you have 400-500 if it needs any work. There are many good two-strokes to start out on, so finding one shouldn’t be that difficult. The hard part is finding one that hasn’t been beat on and neglected, too much. Yamaha’s have always made great two-strokes, both 125 and 250’s. 2001 and newer were excellent bikes. If you want a 6-speed YZ125 then don’t get a 2002-2004, but that doesn’t mean they are bad bikes. 2005 and newer would be the optimum choice because they switched to all-aluminum frames, but finding a cheap one may take some time.
Your best bet for a Honda is probably a 2000-2001. The CR250 those years has been touted as one of the best in its class. The engine is powerful, suspension is good, and handling is great (even though it’s not quite as good as the 4th gen; 2002 and newer). The aluminum frame CR125 is known by its “slow-as-a-snail” engine just because it has no-bottom end power, and the power-band isn’t as usable as other 125’s. I think this bike would fine for beginners if it’s properly set-up and geared, as the handling is great. There are many things you can do to the CR125 to make it more competitive; most of which are cheap (more on that in a future article). 2005 and newer CR’s finally became good all-around bikes, but by then the four-strokes took over and Honda quit making their two-strokes after 2007.
Suzuki two-strokes are good all-around, but you’ll want a 2001 or newer. Kawasaki didn’t make the greatest 125’s early on, but that could be easily changed, if you put money into them. 2003 and newer are great if you can find them.
What To Look For In A Cheap Dirt Bike?
A cheap bike is fairly easy to find… Finding one that needs the least amount of work is what you’re looking for. Generally, the lower the hours a bike has, the better the shape it will be in. When searching through the classifieds after you decided which bike to get, look for a motocross bike that has been maintained. If the owner actually took care of it, you won’t have to replace as many parts. A stock bike will probably be the best because it won’t have been tampered with. Don’t worry too much if it has modifications though.
Work ‘Em Down!
Once you find a relatively nice bike, the first thing you should do is try and work the person down on his/her price. Remember, patience is key. In most cases, the longer you wait on buying a bike, the more willing the owner will be to go down on their price. Whatever you do, do not let emotions get in the way. I know this may sound dumb when talking about buying a bike, but I know of many people that were too anxious when looking for bikes that they either bought the first one they looked at or didn’t wait for the seller to go down on their price. Do not be discouraged if the first bike or two is not in your budget or is too beat up. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BUY IT! Just walk away if the owner is being less than honest or if he/she won’t budge on their price (unless of course it’s already a steal).
Going To Look At Your Future Baby…… Maybe?
When you go to look at a bike, there are many things you’ll want to check over. The main parts that wear out or break are: levers, tires, suspension, top-end, brakes, clutch, chain/sprockets, handlebars, radiators, subframe, wheels, and plastics. The cost for these parts add up quickly, but a lot of them are maintenance, so if they are worn/broken then you should deduct some from the price of the bike. Levers, brakes, and sprockets are relatively cheap, but the main areas you should be concerned about are the engine, suspension and chassis (whether they’re worn, damaged, or straight). Also, you may want have the owner take the seat off to get a look at the air filter. If it’s clean then he/she probably takes at least some care of their bike.
P.S. Used two-strokes almost always need a new piston, so that should be one of the first things you do to the bike after buying. Even if the previous owner said it was just rebuilt, it’s a good idea to pull the jug and find out for yourself. I’ve made the mistake of not doing this and it cost me dearly. Besides, you’re only down about $25 in gaskets if it’s fine, and you’ll have a clear-conscience.
Bring Cash, Test The bike, Keep Silent…
After you look the bike over real well, ask if you can ride it. Remember to bring cash because some people won’t let you ride the bike without it. As you’re letting the bike warm up idling, listen for any knocking, rattling, or other unusual noises in the engine. Once the bike is warm take it for a spin, going through all the gears and using the clutch. Everything should be crisp and tight. Signs of a worn-out clutch are slipping, not fully engaging, or whacking the throttle wide open and the clutch disengages. A clutch kit runs around $100-150, possibly more if it needs a basket or hub.
Don’t Jump For Joy Yet
If everything checks out on the test run then proceed by checking over the bike once again just to make sure there’s no major damage. Remember what I said about being patient. The longer you stall while looking at the bike, the higher chance of the seller reducing his/her price or telling you something about the bike he/she didn’t before (very common if the seller has a big mouth). When you make an offer (if you haven’t already over the phone or email), it’s usually best if you go about 200-300 below what they’re asking in cash. Possibly more if you think he/she is willing, based on his/her mood and what they’ve told you. But if they seem pretty firm then offer $100 less. If they really want to sell the bike, money talks.
They Didn’t Take My Offer…..?
Don’t worry if the seller didn’t take your offer. There are several things you can do after this… First of all, there’s a good chance they will counter your offer and go in-between their asking price and what you offered. If it’s still a good deal then go for it. If they don’t take your offer, though, you can offer a little more to see if they bite. Otherwise, if the bike just isn’t worth much more than you offered because it’s so beat up, all you have to do is walk away and find another bike…. There are plenty more out there, it just takes time.
Here’s The Typical Scenario
Let’s say you buy a 2003 YZ125 for $1000 that’s in relatively nice shape. Not that bad of a deal, but it needs a little work. The previous owner said he did the usual oil changes, but that’s about it. It’ll need a new air filter for sure ($20). The chain and sprockets are pretty worn and will need to be replaced soon ($100). Plastics have some scratches but aren’t broken. The levers are bent ($20), and the bars are a little tweaked, but are fine if you bring them back with a little muscle. Brake pads are almost to metal ($50). All fluids should be flushed and replaced: oil, coolant, brake fluid, fork oil ($50). Fortunately the previous owner just replaced the rear tire, and the front still has plenty of tread, so we’ll leave that alone. Now before you go and start tearing parts off this bike and tuning it up, I HIGHLY recommend you get a Manual for your bike. If you want access to more manuals online, CyclePedia has many to choose from. It will make your work MUCH easier, and you won’t be breaking bolts from improperly torquing them.
Last, but not least, is the engine (Like I said before, I’d recommend taking the top-end off to see what it looks like, even if the previous owner said it was just rebuilt). On this bike the piston has some usual wear marks, but it and the cylinder are not scored. So, we’ll just order a new top-end kit: piston, ring, circlips, and wrist pin ($90), as well as a new top-end gasket kit ($20).
Most of These Parts Can Be Bought From Amazon.com
Let’s do the math!
- ’03 YZ125: $1000
- Manual $25
- Filter: $20
- Chain/sprockets: $100
- Levers: $20
- Brakes: $50
- Fluids: $50
- Top-end/Gaskets: $110
This reaches a grand total of………
$1375 for a great bike that will last for quite some time……. Which leaves you with $125 for gas, replacement parts, modifications, or towards your next bike! Good luck, and don’t forget to be patient!