How to Choose the Best Motocross Motorcycle as a Beginner

Motocross is without a doubt one of the coolest forms of motorsport on earth. Riding a dirt bike gives you an adrenaline rush, a distinct sensation filled with fascination.

But if you haven’t done laps before on the motocross track, then at first glance, this off-road adventure can seem a little intimidating, and perhaps a little inaccessible.

But it’s actually surprisingly easy to get started with this adventure sport and it’s pretty easy to ride a dirt bike. Lately, there is a huge list of motocross bikes available on any used motorcycle store. But before digging into it, let’s take a quick look at which motocross bike will be ideal for you as a beginner rider.

Origin of Motocross

Origin of Motocross

The history of Motocross dates back to the early twentieth century, when the first competitions were held in Great Britain, especially during the 20s, when the first cross-country motorcycle races were held, different from Trial (overcoming obstacles) and reliability competitions – the idea was to conduct a high-speed off-road riding competition and the winner would be the one who crosses the finish line first. The first ever competition took place in Surrey in 1924. The name Motocross was formed by merging two words – motorcycle and cross-country.

Post the Second World War, the sport gained popularity from the national arena to the international level and at this moment the first team competition known as the Motocross des Nations took place, this race were held on motorcycles with a displacement of 500cc. Although Belgian rider Auguste Mingels was the sole winner, Great Britain dominated the team event and took their first Trophy. Since then, motocross bikes gained popularity and is still the most cherished dirt machine for a rider.

Types of Motocross Bikes

Motocross is a sport for those who love extreme sports. It requires a special motorcycle adapted for sharp turns while overcoming obstacles. Moreover, it requires honed skills and at least minimal experience. Every rider who has achieved mastery was once a beginner. In order to be successful, choosing the right type of motorcycle is most essential.

There are primarily three main classes of motocross bikes:

Mini Motocross: These are 2 stroke motorcycles with engine displacement ranging from 50cc to 85 cc. They are capable of supporting up to 90 kilograms of weight. These motocross bikes are great for beginners in early ages.

Lite Motocross (MX2): These are 2 stroke and 4 stroke motorcycles with volumes ranging from 125cc to 450 ccs. They are ideal for beginner riders.

Supercross: These are powerful and heavy cross bikes with engine displacement ranging from 250cc, 450cc, and beyond 500 ccs. They are intended for experienced riders only.

Difference Between 2 Stroke and 4 Stroke Motocross Engines

So the first question that comes to the mind of any beginner rider is which engine should he choose a 2 stroke or a 4 stroke? Here we must first of all consider and compare these types of engines. We will consider enduro motorcycles that have a similar price point. New and expensive motorcycles, that’s another story altogether.

2 Stroke and 4 Stroke Engine of Motocross Motorcycle

The stroke of the working cycle of an internal combustion engine (ICE) is the stroke of the piston from one dead center to another. One stroke of the internal combustion engine corresponds to a 180-degree turn or half turn of the crankshaft. In a 4-stroke, the working cycle is carried out in two crankshaft revolutions, and in a 2-stroke, it is one.

2 Stroke Motocross Engine

It takes a lot of time to find a good, inexpensive 2-stroke enduro bike that has all the paperwork. Since they are all performance oriented, they require more time and money on maintenance.

Due to the aggressiveness of this type of engine, 2-stroke is not quite suitable for beginners. They are “Antsy” and can cause you some inconvenience, ruin your first impressions of riding a dirt bike.

However, if you need to rebuild the engine after a breakdown, it is easier and cheaper than a 4-stroke.

Advantages:

  • An excellent motorcycle for become a pro rider, aimed at future competitions, it helps to acquire the necessary skills and abilities.
  • Considerably less mechanical parts and is easy to repair.
  • Economical with a little wear and tear.
  • Inexpensive spare parts and service.
  • Fast engine overhaul in the field is possible.
  • Simplicity in operation.
  • High maximum revs allow accelerating for a long time in one gear.
  • Lighter weight (10-15 kg compared to 4T, depending on the brand).
  • A beautiful sound that provokes high speed riding.
  • Shows excellent results on soft soil or sand.

Disadvantages:

  • Narrow working range in terms of gears. We have to do frequent switching.
  • The engine is sensitive to weather changes and the carburetor is quite demanding.
  • Take a lot of time to prepare for a race.

4 Stroke Motocross Engine

Basically, this range is from 250 to 450 ccs, as this class is used in the Enduro and Motocross championships. Motorcycles with a 250cc engine have less power (30-35 HP for high performance motorcycles)

Motorcycles with a 450cc range have decent horsepower (35-50 HP for high performance motorcycles). 450 cc engines require slightly less maintenance than a 250 cc engine due to the power reserve and engine load.

Advantages:

  • High torque allows less frequent gear changes than in 2T.
  • Smooth acceleration and cornering.
  • More powerful bikes than 2T.
  • Shows excellent speed results on hard tracks as well as soft trails.

Disadvantages:

  • High performance engine, thus requires a lot of skill
  • Difficult to repair, maintain, requires the help of professional mechanics.
  • High cost replacement parts.

Advice: Choose a motorcycle that matches your physique. If you are not tall enough, choose a lighter one. It will most likely be a motorcycle with an engine capacity of 250 cc, since they are lighter and with a low seat height. For taller riders, it’s better to choose a bike with a longer suspension travel and a tall seat height.

Nevertheless, don’t go for a big, and all performance oriented enduro bike at the start. Almost all top enduro riders have honed their skills on lighter bikes. Look for a bike that has around 80 to 90 kilograms of weight, and relatively less power when compared to the latest engines. Better to have some fun and enjoyment with the first year of riding experience while gradually increasing the power of the motorcycle rather than struggle in the very first year with your motorcycle, and not enjoy the moment.

Kick Start vs. Electric Start

For 2-stroke motorcycles, ‘kick-starter’ is quite normal and pretty easy to start. For instance, the high performance 2 Stroke KTM 300 can be started easily by wearing flip flops. Some recent models have an electric starter which is considered a great add-on.

Kick-starter on a 4-stroke motorcycle, on the other hand is just awful. On a flat surface, kick start on a 4-stroke will not create many problems. But if you stall on a steep incline or your rear wheel hangs on a log, it will be difficult to start through kick. All in all, if you are looking for a 4 stroke motocross bike, make sure it has an electric start.

PS: There is a reason the electric starter is called “Magic button”. This button makes your ride a little more enjoyable.

How to Choose a Motocross Bike as a Beginner?

This is a most common question that arises in a beginner’s mind who is about to engage in motocross for the first time. True, it is unlikely that you will get an unambiguous answer to such a question, because everyone has their own ideas about the ‘ideal bike’, but it is quite possible to get acquainted with the characteristics of a good beginner bike.

So, while choosing a motocross motorcycle, pay attention to:

  1. Build quality: Remember that this type of motorcycle will be used for frequent jumping and off-road riding, so a reliable suspension is a guarantee of your safety. It is not always possible to determine its strength by naked eye, so choose a reputable brand that is acclaimed for quality.
  2. Manufacturer: The top 5 companies with steady growth in sales include Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and KTM. You will be better off if you stick to these brands.
  3. Price: Low cost is the first hint that build quality is poor. The price of a good bike with an engine capacity of up to 50 cc starts from $1200, and for 125 cc it usually starts $2500

Motocross Bike as a Beginner

A motocross motorcycle does not have headlights and turns, a speedometer, they are not registered anywhere, and a license is not required to operate this technique. These motorcycles are designed for special dirt tracks only. While shortlisting a cross-country motorcycle as a beginner, you need to pay attention to:

  1. Engine capacity and power.
  2. Suspension (very crucial in this sport).
  3. Stability and reliability.
  4. Affordability and maintenance cost.

Should I Buy a Used or New Motocross Bike as a Beginner?

There is a huge task involved in finding a functional used motocross bike when compared to a brand new bike. Sometimes they are not very well maintained, have cheap replacement parts, or the engine requires a lot of investment. You may find these on sale for around $500, but after buying such motorcycle, its overhaul can cost a fortune. In short, you are better off buying a brand new bike that will leave you trouble free for many years. Nonetheless, if you are still willing to buy a used motorcycle, don’t count its age or the number of previous owners; instead focus on the bike and its overall performance. You can find a 20 year old bike in perfect condition, while a 2 year old could possibly be unkempt and dead.

Engine technology has been developed in recent years. The gearbox has undergone a drastic change and we now have six speed transmissions in modern motocross bikes. Also, in place of the carburettor we now have fuel injection which has resulted in low maintenance and decreased fuel consumption. Additionally, the suspension of a 10 year old motorcycle is not comparable to a new generation motorbike which is equipped with modern fork and shock absorbers. These changes are probably the most dramatic upgrades between old and new enduro bikes.

Advice: Modern bikes are much more pleasant and forgiving for new riders. Try to choose something more modern with easy to find replaceable parts.

Top 10 Motocross Bikes for Beginners

KTM 250SX-F Motocross Bikes for Beginners

KTM 250 SX-F

A true package that requires minimal modifications and adjustments, 250SX-F can be sent straight out of the box to the track. It has immense amount of power, and is quite easy to operate, making it the most popular among beginner riders.

If you want to go straight to the finish line, the KTM 250 SX-F is the best choice for you. Considered by many as the most competitive 250cc 4T motorcycle in the market, KTM have competed in 10 of the last 11 MX2 World Championships on this bike! In 2011, the 250 SX-F swapped out the carburetor for a more modern (and preferred) electronic fuel injection (EFI) system.

Our advice is to choose a 2012 model. In 2012, electric starters came fitted as standard – and trust us, you’ll definitely want one of these! KTM 250 SX-F has smooth torque which is very easy to operate. You can find a 2012 model ranging from $2,500 to $3,500 and the 2016 model for around $4,000. Of course, it all depends on the condition and, to some extent, on the region of sale.

Yamaha YZ125 Motocross Bike

Yamaha YZ125

Why did YZ125 hit the top list of beginner motocross bike? Firstly, you won’t find any rider who owned this motorcycle, and was not satisfied with its performance. Secondly, it is the most reliable motorcycle with excellent handling and technical specifications, additionally; its build quality is top notch. The YZ125 is a 2 stroke machine ideal for those just starting out in sports. This bike is renowned for its insane dependability, thanks to the amazing state of the art technology. The YZ125 boasts the best standard suspension for a motocross motorcycle.

It may not be the fastest bike in its engine class, but, unquestionably the most interesting one in the market. Since 2005, YZ125 has undergone some changes; a new aluminum frame and a KYB SSS (Speed-Sensitive System) front fork. Until 2005, prices for this model ranged from $1,500 to $2,500, while the recent models are priced around $3,500 to $5,000.

Honda CRF450R

Honda CRF450R

Super powerful, excellent build quality, reliable, and easy to operate, these are some of the key characteristics of Honda CRF450R. It is the most popular model of Honda among novice motocross riders. Although it is not a true motocross bike, rather, an enduro with more flywheel weight for better low end torque, and a bigger gas tank.  

Until now, we only talked about MX2 motorcycles of lower power and cubic capacity. But if you are looking for a powerful dirt bike, the Honda CRF450R is just what you need. Honda motorcycles are renowned for their build quality and reliability, and the CRF450R, absolutely meets these standards.

In 2013, Honda revamped this bike to include two exhaust pipes, fitted an air fork, and made significant changes to the engine. In 2017, Honda went further and made even more improvements to this motorcycle’s engine performance. So, if you are a power lover, the CRF450R is a great choice for the aspiring open-class rider. It has tons of energy and at the same time, it is easy to use and easy to operate for a beginner. A brand new CRF450R is price around $9,599, whereas, a good condition used one can be bought for around $5,000.

KTM 150 SX

KTM 150SX

Having an Austrian origin, KTM 150SX is a lightweight, agile, and powerful motocross bike. KTM is amongst the only few manufacturers in the world that can build a 150cc 2-stroke motocross, and this, unquestionably; can be your all-time favorite off-road bike.

It is feather-light with a comparable agility of rivals Kawasaki and Yamaha, while still delivering more torque and power. Therefore, it can really be called special. And, we are pretty sure that it will even compete very well on the track against any 4-stroke 250cc model. This is not a common model in Europe and America, there are very few of them on sale. But if you are thinking about having one, then most likely you will have to purchase it from a private seller or auctions.

The older models may cost around $3,500, and if you are looking to purchase a brand new one from your dealer, it may cost you around $7,699. The 150SX is ideal for beginner crossovers, but make sure you are not fooled by any Chinese analogues of this model that are available in the market.

Kawasaki KX85-I

Kawasaki KX85-I

The Kawasaki KX 85-I cross-country motorcycle has been produced since 2001 to the present. This model is particularly useful for training motocross amongst children and adolescent riders. It features a steel frame, powerful 2-stroke engine, KIPS (Integrated Power Valve System) and long-travel sports suspension. An important advantage of this motorcycle is the price (pre-owned usually priced $1,400, whereas, a new bike is priced around $4,499), which allows riders to get an excellent motocross in order to get acquainted and learn some basic skills.

It has a small 85 cc engine, and a combined weight of just 67 kilograms, which is low, even for motocross bikes. Given these characteristics, or rather thanks to them, the motorcycle can easily reach speeds of up to 115 km/hour. While on off-road, this kind of speed is not particularly needed, but fast acceleration of this bike is indeed appreciated.

Yamaha YZ85

Yamaha YZ85

The Yamaha YZ 85 motocross model appeared in 2002 as a budget version of full motocross motorcycles designed for motocross training for children and adolescents under 16 years of age. For adults, the Yamaha YZ85 LW (Large Wheel) version is offered in parallel, equipped with 19 inch and 16 inch wheels (instead of 17 ‘and 14’ on the regular YZ85).

The model was based on a single cylinder 2 stroke liquid-cooled engine, with a volume of about 85 cm³, producing 29 horse power and 17 NM’s of torque.

Other features of the Yamaha YZ85 LW include a steel frame, fully adjustable sports suspensions, disc brakes, 5 liter fuel tank, 6-speed gearbox, and a carburetor power system.

Since 2015, the model has received minor changes in the ergonomics and geometry of the chassis, while the external motorcycle has not changed in any way. In 2019, the model received new brake discs, a slightly increased curb weight (by 2 kg), as well as improvements in ergonomics, which slightly affected the overall dimensions. You can find this bike in any used motorcycle store for around $1,500 and a brand new can be purchased for around $4,600.

Honda CRF150R

Honda CRF150R

The Honda CRF150R crossover motorcycle model appeared in 2007 as a replacement for 2 stroke models, and in particular, the Honda CR85R. Having similar technical characteristics to the 2 stroke 85cc models, the Honda CRF150R can only compete in the Supermini class (2T 85cc models compete in the Mini Class).

The Honda CRF 150 was based on a 1-cylinder 4-stroke liquid-cooled engine producing 23.8 hp. power and 14.1 Nm of torque. The engine is highly accelerated, with 4 valves and one camshaft (Unicam); maximum performance is at 10,000-12,500 RPM.

The chassis of the Honda CRF 150 features a steel frame, fully adjustable Showa suspensions (inverted fork and mono rear shock) and disc brakes front and rear.

The main modifications of the Honda CRF 150 are; Honda CRF150R (regular version) and Honda CRF150RB (Expert version) for pro riders. It features 19 inch and 16 inch wheels (instead of 17 inch and 14 inch), increased rear suspension travel, increased saddle height, increased wheelbase (due to an elongated swingarm) and a rear sprocket with 56 teeth.

The Honda CRF150R model is one of the best motocross training bikes for children as well as adults (RB Expert version). However, being a high performance sports bike, the Honda CRF150R requires frequent maintenance and has short engine service intervals. The base price for a brand new CRF150R is around $5,199, whereas, pre loved 150R can be sourced from dealers for around $3,500.

Kawasaki KX125

Kawasaki KX125

The Kawasaki KX 125 cross-country motorcycle was first introduced in 1974 and for many years was only available in the North American market. Since 1988, the model has appeared in the markets of Europe and Japan, and since 1990 – in Australia.

The model is the “little brother” of the Kawasaki KX 250 and has a lot in common with it, in particular, the frame and chassis. Even the updates in both the models took place in the same year.

Despite the long history of production of the Kawasaki KX125 and a huge number of generations, models should be considered starting from 1990 – it was then that the motorcycle received an inverted fork and features of modern cross-country models. In addition, earlier versions are hardly available on the market.

The Kawasaki KX125 features a 2-stroke liquid-cooled engine with a power valve system (KIPS), a steel half-duplex frame, adjustable sports suspensions, disc brakes, 21 inch and 19 inch wheels, an 8.5 liter fuel tank, 6-speed Gearbox, and 87 kg dry weight. 2008 was the last year of production of the model, after which it finally left the market and did not receive further development. Instead, a 4-stroke modification of the Kawasaki KX250F was introduced. You can find this bike on craigslist for around $1,500 or less depending on its state.

Kawasaki KX250F

Kawasaki KX250F

The Kawasaki KX250F motocross model appeared in 2004 as a replacement for the 2 stroke motocross versions of the Kawasaki KX250 and Kawasaki KX125. The first version of the motorcycle was developed jointly with Suzuki. Thus, in the initial years of production, there were two absolutely identical models on the market; Kawasaki KX250F and Suzuki RM-Z250.

In 2006, KX250F went through restyling and revamped itself to differ from RMZ250, standing out as an independent model. The updated version received a new generation frame, redesigned engine, suspension, and Renthal handlebar. By 2017, Kawasaki introduced the next generation KX250F. The engine and suspension settings were changed again, the size of the front brake disc increased, the curb weight decreased by almost 2 kg. And by 2020, the model was revamped again with a new engine, larger brake disc sizes (270 mm and 250 mm) and other small differences.

The latest model (2021-22) of Kawasaki KX250 is priced around $8,399 and comes along with a new frame, new engine, new electric starter system, and an advanced hydraulic clutch drive.

Honda CR250

Honda CR250

The Kawasaki KX250F motocross model appeared in 2004 as a replacement for the 2 stroke motocross versions of the Kawasaki KX250 and Kawasaki KX125. The first version of the motorcycle was developed jointly with Suzuki. Thus, in the initial years of production, there were two absolutely identical models on the market; Kawasaki KX250F and Suzuki RM-Z250.

In 2006, KX250F went through restyling and revamped itself to differ from RMZ250, standing out as an independent model. The updated version received a new generation frame, redesigned engine, suspension, and Renthal handlebar. By 2017, Kawasaki introduced the next generation KX250F. The engine and suspension settings were changed again, the size of the front brake disc increased, the curb weight decreased by almost 2 kg. And by 2020, the model was revamped again with a new engine, larger brake disc sizes (270 mm and 250 mm) and other small differences.

The latest model (2021-22) of Kawasaki KX250 is priced around $8,399 and comes along with a new frame, new engine, new electric starter system, and an advanced hydraulic clutch drive.