XR100 Vs. TTR125 – Best Beginner Trail Bike?

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.

2003 TTR125L
2003 TTR125L

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.

Handling

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?

2000 XR100
2000 XR100

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.

-Tom Stark

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