Those words from my oldest son were exciting to hear... and scary. This is the kid who rammed his Power Wheels into our fence repeatedly while aimlessly staring around and foot fully planted on the throttle.
It was no doubt the same thing my parents thought when I begged them for my own motorcycle. They probably wrestled with the idea of a bike that would be safe and fun, but not so fast that I could get into a lot of trouble.
At age 12, they decided on a Suzuki FA-50 moped. I think they figured that would be a slow and safe starter bike. But little did they know that the bullet-style signal indicators made great slingshots for friends with skateboards and the bike did fairly well through fields even on slick tires.
The huge array of options nowadays could be seen as intimidating, but it’s really a good thing. There are a lot of great options to choose from and some great deals floating around on reliable older models that have kept their value and are just waiting for an excited 4-6 year old to swing a leg over.
Besides price, some consideration does need to be made regarding your child’s size and weight relative to the bike you’re about to buy. If the bike is too big or too heavy, you may find your kid is reluctant to ride since it isn’t fun or it's tough to maneuver. Likewise, if the bike is too small for your child or the suspension is limiting them, they’re less likely to keep with it. So while you may find a good deal, make sure it’s a good fit for your kid.
Starting things off is a bike that has probably been a first bike for thousands of first time riders, the Honda XR50/CRF50.
Even before those models, Honda had the Z50/QA50; finding one of those vintage models cheap and in good shape can be tough, so we’ll focus on the XR and CRF. This is a 4-stroke, 3 speed, automatic shift, reliable little package that has been around for decades basically unchanged except for some alterations in plastics.
With a weight of 110 lbs, seat height of just under 22 inches, and a kick starter, this little bike has formed quite a following and with all the aftermarket add-ons, it’s not uncommon for them to become a permanent fixture in the garage even after your kids have moved on.
The Honda CRF50 sports a rear brake foot lever, helping young riders get used to using their right foot for breaking instead of a hand brake o
KTM 50 SX/50 Mini Adventure
Not to be left out, KTM has an offering which ups the ante with higher grade components and suspension while still in a small package with a seat height of just 21.9 inches. The KTM 50 Mini Adventure has been around for some time (2002-2008) and can be found with drum brakes and Marzocchi forks for around $600-$700. The rear brake is found on the handle bar, but with a kit can be moved to the right foot. Different year models offered a few changes, but for the most part come with greater capability for getting your child out on the MX track at an early age.
Kawasaki KX 65
Kawasaki plays in this category by doing what they do often, bending the category and throwing a little extra displacement at it. Sporting 65 CC and a price tag just under the KTM at $3699 new it features the only 6 speed chain drive in the category. Not for the absolute beginner in our minds, but a heck of a nice step up for a rider who is riding well and ready for the next step into shifting their own gears.