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For most of us, the bicycle is our first taste of freedom on wheels, but nothing quite compares to the exhilaration of that first motorcycle ride. Whether it was an XR50, a YZ80, or the iconic Trail 70, these machines became our tools of adventure, transforming us into mini Jeremy McGraths, Bob 'Hurricane' Hannahs, and Evel Knievels. Our backyard battlegrounds bore witness to epic battles, as our beloved first kid-sized motorcycles endured the trials of broken levers, dented tanks, and crumpled fenders that accompanied our pursuit of two-wheeled glory.
While many of those vintage relics have faded into the past, it's time for us to pass on our passion to the next generation, albeit with a tad less daredevilry. Fortunately, there's a plethora of options available today to get kids off the couch and onto a motorcycle, all while ensuring safety and parental control. Be mindful of your child's size, riding abilities, and your budget, but rest assured, any one of these five machines is bound to ignite a passion for two-wheel adventures.
Yamaha PW50The Yamaha PW50, a perennial favorite, has introduced countless riders to the joys of motorcycling over its four-decade legacy. Although it hasn't undergone significant changes since its debut in 1980, there are compelling reasons to consider the PW for your young rider, even if you aren't firmly in the Team Blue camp.
Yamaha's PW50 maintains its old-school design with a steel backbone frame, drum brakes, twin rear shocks, and a telescopic fork, offering approximately 2 inches of travel. Its trusty 49 cc two-stroke, reed-induction single-cylinder engine produces around 3 horsepower, promising years of reliable service. Boasting maintenance-free mag wheels and a driveshaft, the PW50 eliminates the need for tedious spoke tightening or chain maintenance, thanks to its auto-lube system.
The PW50 also excels in terms of accessibility, making it suitable for beginners aged roughly 3 to 7. Weighing a mere 90 pounds and featuring a seat height of just 18.7 inches, it's exceptionally user-friendly. Equipped with a centrifugal automatic transmission, there's no clutch or gear-shifting involved; simply twist the throttle and go. Plus, an adjustable throttle stop empowers parents to maintain control over speed progression.
While the Yamaha PW50 is an ideal choice for absolute beginners with minimal maintenance needs, it's worth noting that it's somewhat pricey, being only $100 cheaper than the CRF50 at $1,699.
Building on a rich legacy of mini-moto excellence, the Honda CRF50F stands as the gold standard for youth motorcycles. Affordable and built to withstand the test of time, the CRF50F offers a versatile platform that kids can grow into, provided they can keep the adults at bay. After all, this bike played a pivotal role in shaping the 50 cc pit bike scene.
Honda's 50 cc formula has remained largely unchanged over the years, delivering a reliable SOHC 50 cc air-cooled four-stroke engine that produces just over 3 horsepower. It's paired with a three-speed transmission featuring an automatic clutch, introducing young riders to gear-shifting without the hassle of stalling.
Most other components on the CRF50F are standard, including 10-inch spoked wheels, drum brakes, chain drive, and an adjustable throttle stop. Suspension travel is enhanced, providing roughly 3 inches of travel through an inverted fork and rear monoshock.
With a weight of 111 pounds and a seat height of 21.6 inches, the CRF50F caters to riders aged 4 to 9 years old. Those who grasp the basics of gear-shifting can confidently ride the CRF, with training wheel kits available to ease the transition. The concept of changing gears may pose a slight challenge, but it's a crucial aspect that adds longevity to the bike's appeal. Even as skills improve, the CRF50F remains a fun choice until riders are ready for a 110 cc upgrade.
Honda's CRF50F doesn't offer anything particularly unique in the 50 cc youth segment, but its affordable MSRP of $1,799 is a significant advantage. This price point is $780 less than the Suzuki DR-Z50, although the Suzuki boasts an electric start feature, making it a matter of personal preference.
KTM 50 SX MINI
Tailored more for the racetrack than off-road trails, the KTM 50 SX MINI might seem like a niche addition to this list. However, among every ten parents purchasing a bike for their kids, there's invariably one with dreams of podium finishes, and that's precisely what the KTM 50 SX was designed for.
The KTM 50 SX MINI takes all the race-worthy features of the KTM 50 SX and packages them into a smaller, more accessible frame. It boasts a chromoly steel frame, a reed-induction liquid-cooled 49 cc two-stroke engine with an expansion chamber, and genuine WP XACT suspension offering nearly 6 inches of rear travel and 4 inches at the front. Much like its larger counterparts, this mini KTM features 10-inch wheels with black anodized aluminum rims, disc brakes, and MAXXIS MX-ST tires.
In many ways, the 50 SX MINI resembles a miniature KTM motocrosser more than a child's toy, but it delivers an exhilarating riding experience. Equipped with a multi-disc automatic clutch, it's a simple twist-and-go affair, and the clutch can be easily fine-tuned for the track and rider using a tool-free clicker system. A power reduction kit is also available to enhance safety during the learning phase.
While the KTM 50 SX MINI fulfills childhood dreams, it's primarily a purpose-built track machine. It demands closer supervision due to its high-strung nature, kick-start operation, and the pronounced expansion chamber that emits substantial heat. Additionally, it comes at a premium price of $4,199, which might be a tough sell, even for youngsters who have earned a spot on Santa's Nice list.
STACYC Electric Stability Cycles
Transitioning from fueling up, changing oil, and cleaning carburetors can be a daunting prospect, and conventional motorcycle maintenance isn't everyone's cup of tea. Even dedicated internal combustion engine (ICE) enthusiasts can envision scenarios where a quick battery swap and a simple twist of the throttle would suffice. This is where bikes like the STACYC 12eDrive come into play, helping youngsters establish the basics at an early age.
STACYC Electric Stability Cycles are renowned for their electric strider bikes, featuring low-slung frames and lightweight construction, making the leap from "Flintstoning" to twisting the throttle a seamless transition. The 12eDrive stands as STACYC's most accessible option for ages 3 to 5, with a seat height of just 13 inches and a weight of 17 pounds ready to ride. Its 20 Volt, 2 Ah Lithium-ion battery provides 30 to 60 minutes of riding on a single charge, and the bike offers three power modes with top speeds of 5, 7, and 9 mph.
Even if you steer clear of exotic options like the KTM 50 SX, there's no denying that a motorcycle can be one of the priciest items on a child's wish list. Thankfully, there are alternatives to the major brands, and the SSR SX50-A is one of the most budget-friendly choices available. Having subjected an SSR 125 pit bike to a substantial amount of abuse, it's safe to say that these machines offer surprisingly good performance given their price point.
Priced at just $569, the SX50-A may be a basic motorcycle, but it comes with a few welcome surprises on its spec sheet. Powering it is a carbureted 50.53 cc air-cooled two-stroke engine, producing a competitive 2.4 horsepower. The transmission is fully automatic, featuring an adjustable throttle stop, and the bike weighs a mere 48.5 pounds. Notably, the SSR is equipped with a tether switch that can shut off the engine in the event of a crash, enhancing safety.
Given the rigorous use that youth motorcycles typically endure, affordable options like the SSR SX50 deserve consideration. While they've made significant strides in recent years, it's advisable to have someone mechanically inclined in the family to handle occasional loose fasteners.
In conclusion, these five motorcycles cater to the diverse needs and preferences of young riders and their families. Whether you opt for the time-tested Yamaha PW50, the versatile Honda CRF50F, the track-ready KTM 50 SX MINI, the electric simplicity of STACYC Electric Stability Cycles, or the budget-friendly SSR SX50-A, you're sure to kindle a lifelong love for motorcycling in the next generation. It's a thrilling journey that begins with the twist of a throttle, creating cherished memories that will last a lifetime.