The Honda XR100/CRF100 and Yamaha TTR125 are among the most popular beginner bikes. Why? Because they are easy to ride, have a clutch, and require very little maintenance compared to a motocross bike. Change the oil and filter regularly, as well as lubing the chain, and these will last virtually forever. So the question is, which one is the better bike?…
There’s No Replacement For Displacement
As you would imagine, the TTR125 has a little more power than the XR100. It has quite a bit of torque for being an air-cooled engine, but nothing that will scare you. The Honda is very smooth and has a linear power-curve, so no surprises there. The flywheels are heavy on both engines, so they are slow to rev and harder to stall, making it great for someone learning how to use the clutch.
Both bikes have a five-speed transmission with about the same ratios, so not much to dispute there. First gears are very low, so you may want to change the gearing (sprockets) once you’re used to riding the dirt bike.
Some people may say the TTR is a bit finicky when it comes to tuning the carburetor. We’ve had a couple of these bikes and the only problem we’ve had is when they sit for months at a time (this happens on any bike when gas is left in it). Just pull the carb off (which is very easy), clean out the jets and passages with compressed air and/or carb cleaner, and we were up and running again!
Suspension – It Is What It Is
Not much to see here, as both dirt bikes are using suspension components that are decades old in technology. This isn’t necessarily bad, especially if you are just a casual trail rider, as it makes these cost very little to buy and maintain. Comparing the two, there’s not a lot of differences in fork and shock set-up. If you weigh over 140 lbs, you’ll want to get heavier springs no matter the kind of riding you’re doing. Jumping is not recommended unless you make some modifications to the frames to strengthen them, but that’s not what these bikes are for. For a younger kid that just wants a dirt bike to ride around and have fun, either is a great choice, as they will teach you all of the controls and skills needed on a motorcycle.
If you’re brand new to dirt bikes, handling on a dirt bike won’t be as big of a factor as ride-ability and reliability. However, there are some differences between the XR/CRF 100 and TTR 125 as far as handling goes. The Yamaha weighs a little more; particularly if you get the LE model with the larger wheels and Electric start. After riding both bikes, the 2001 and newer Honda feels a little slimmer handles a little better in the tight stuff. The 2000 and older XR100R’s have a wider seat and tank, but are more comfortable on your butt. The TTR front-end isn’t the greatest, as it wants to slide out a little more, but that’s probably because we were pushing it too hard (that’s what happens when you put an adult on a bike like this!).
So Which Bike Would I Buy?
Honestly, I would buy either dirt bike if I found a good deal on a clean one, which is the most important thing when looking for a used bike. If I could choose one over the other, it would probably be the Honda. Not because it’s red, but because Honda just knew what they were doing when the built the XR/CRF-F lineup. They’re easier to find, the engine is simple, and aftermarket parts are widely available.