5 of the best motocross bikes for beginners
© KTM Images/Red Bull Content Pool
Looking to buy your first MX whip? Check out the best starter bikes money can buy.
Motocross is without doubt one of the coolest forms of motorsport on Earth. Launching through the air onboard a dirt bike is an adrenaline rush like no other and unparalleled in its awesomeness.
But if you didn’t get started spinning laps around your local motocross track before you’d even entered primary school, then from the outside, this off-road spectacle may seem a little daunting – and perhaps a little inaccessible.
But it's actually surprisingly easy to get started. These days you can get a heck of a lot of bike for your money. So without further ado, we’re going to take a quick look at a selection of bikes just right for someone who wants to dip their toe into the wonderful world of moto.
Two-stroke v four-stroke
Before we dive right in, here’s a short summary for the uninitiated of the differences between two-stroke and four-stroke machines.
In the main, two-stroke bikes are cheaper to buy, run and maintain. They are simple to work on and they sound very cool. It is often said that two-stroke machines are more fun to ride, too. However, a two-stroke bike will need servicing more frequently and will also be more difficult to ride fast.
Four-stroke bikes, on the other hand, are easier to ride due to their smooth power delivery and are more competitive in race situations. But four-strokes are more expensive to maintain, a lot heavier and harder to kickstart if you don’t have the luxury of an electric starter.
Here’s our pick of the five best motocross starter bikes (scroll down for our pick of the best kids’ bikes…)
1. KTM 250 SX-F
Why do we like it? Competitive straight out of the box, lots of power, easy to ride fast
If you’re looking to jump straight onto the start line, the KTM 250 SX-F is your best bet. This bike is regarded by many as the most competitive 250cc four-stroke on the market. KTM have claimed 10 of the last 11 MX2 world championship titles with this machine – and you just can’t argue with those numbers! In 2011, the 250 SX-F changed from a carburetor to the more modern (and preferred) electronic fuel injection (EFI) system. Our advice is to go for a 2012-model onwards. In 2012, electric starters were also fitted as standard – and trust us, you’ll be wanting one of those! With a boatload of smooth and usable power, the KTM 250 SX-F is very easy to ride at pace. You can find pre-2012 machines for around £2,000 and a 2016 model for just over £3,000.
2. Yamaha YZ125
Why do we like it? Reliable, good handling, great standard spec, top build quality
The YZ125 is a two-stroke machine perfect for those just getting started in the sport. This bike is known to be insanely reliable, thanks to Yamaha’s awesome build quality. Renowned for its great handling capabilities, the YZ125 boasts arguably the best standard suspension setup of any motocross bike. The YZ125 may not be the fastest bike in its engine class, but it might well be the most fun for your buck. Yamaha haven’t developed this machine much since 2005 – but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? You should be able to find a 2005+ model YZ125 for under £2,000.
3. Honda CRF450R
Why do we like it? Super powerful, great build quality and reliability, easy to ride
So far we’ve only talked about the smaller capacity MX2 machines, but if you are looking for outright power, the Honda CRF450R may be the bike for you. Honda's bikes are famed for their build quality and reliability, and the CRF450R lives up to those standards.
In 2013, Honda updated this bike to include twin pipes, air forks and significant engine changes. For 2017, Honda made further improvements to the engine characteristics of the machine. If you’re a sucker for power, the CRF450R is a great choice for an open-class racer just getting started. Its got tons of power, whilst still being usable and easy to ride for a beginner. You’re looking at prices starting from £2,500 for a 2013 model.
4. KTM 150 SX
Why do we like it? Factory bike feel, light, powerful
KTM is one of very few manufacturers to make a 150cc two-stroke motocross machine – and the 150 SX might just be our favourite dirt bike of all time. It’s as light as a feather, whilst having more torque and more power than a 125, so it really does feel special. It’s like riding a full factory 125 for a fraction of the price. Trust us on this one: if you swing your leg over a 150 SX, you will not be able to stop smiling. A 2013 model will cost you around £2,500, or you can pick up a brand new one for just over £6,000.
5. Honda CR250
Why do we like it? Cheap to run, powerful, investment potential (seriously!)
So this one is a bit of a curveball. Honda actually halted production of their CR250 two-stroke back in 2007. But despite that, the CR250 most definitely has a place in the Dirt Bike Hall of Fame. The CR250 was made famous by the ‘Greatest of All Time’ Ricky Carmichael during his first undefeated season.
Being the last two-stroke machine that Honda produced and the almost legendary status of the bike, the CR250 has built a cult following. If you do it right, owning a CR250 could be the cheapest way to get started in motocross – and it could even make you a bit of money in the end; if you find the right bike, these machines are, in fact, going up in value. Once again these bikes are amazingly reliable, and beautiful to gaze upon to boot. With awesome power, the CR250 provides a great feeling whilst riding. You’ll have a blast aboard one of these, and when it comes time to retire or move on, you’ll probably get your money back! The models to go for are from 2001-2007. If you do enough searching, you’ll find a good one from £2,000 upwards.
And the three best bikes for kids getting into motocross…
1. Yamaha PW50
A good 90% of motocross racers across the world probably got their start on a Pee Wee. These twist-and-go bikes are designed for the real youngsters aged between 4-6. These bikes are incredibly safe, not too fast, and the best way to learn the basics of the sport. It's also possible to pick one up for around £500, and they'll hold their value if you need to shift it once it has been outgrown.
KTM 65 SX
The ultimate race machine for 9-to-12-year-olds, the KTM 65 SX is the first step onto a geared bike. Unlike the days of old, kids these days get to race fully-fledged, top-of-the-line race bikes. And that’s all thanks to KTM and the 65 SX. Expect to fork out around £1,500 for one, but like the PW50, you should be able to recoup most of that once it's outgrown.
The Husky TC85 is perfect for kids aged between 12-16. Out of the box, the TC85 is as competitive as they come. These bikes are quite literally just mini versions of the adult equivalents – the perfect steed to get your racing career started. And as these get closer to the real deal, so do the prices – expect to pay around £2,000.