Kids Dirt Bikes: Here’s How to Choose The Right One
Have your kids asked for dirt bikes yet? Mine began asking when my eldest was about 5 years old. Like most parents, I put them off a little longer. I told them I would think about it as soon as they could ride their pushbikes really well without training wheels.
Well, low and behold, two hours later I had both a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old who could do just fine without training wheels. I managed to delay them another year by pointing out that money doesn’t grow on trees and by telling them that the bike shop doesn’t have any little ones left. They had heaps by the way.
Eventually, I got them a little Honda CRF50 and you know what? I wish I had bought it earlier!
There’s a lot to consider before buying dirt bikes for the kids though and it’s a big investment for most. Make sure you consider the following so that you choose the right one!
Choosing the right dirt bikes for your kids
Getting the size right
You probably think I’m talking about engine size but I’m actually talking about seat height. Unfortunately, bikes are not like shirts and it’s really unsafe to buy one that’s two sizes too large knowing they will grow into it. It’s also not always practical to go by their age as some kids are tall and some kids are short.
For kids to ride dirt bikes safely, the balls of their feet need to touch the ground with both feet when sitting on the bike. It’s okay if they can only touch with the tips of their toes when you’re trying the bike out because they gain a little height once they pull on their proper riding boots. Some people get training wheels for really young kids (under 5’s) thus avoiding the height problem however as a mum, this makes me super uneasy. I feel that kids aren’t ready for dirt bikes if they can’t ride a pushbike without training wheels and balance properly.
If your child is tall, some kids dirt bikes come in “big wheel” and “small wheel” options. For e.g. both the Yamaha TTR125 and Honda CRF125 have a larger wheel option for big little riders, giving you an extra seat height of around 5cm.
Choosing the engine Size
For kids under the age of seven, a 50cc is a top choice and is the least powerful bike available. It’s the most popular choice for little kids to learn on. Kids dirt bikes range from 50cc to 125cc in engine size and anything bigger than that moves into adult or teenager territory. As a parent, I would go for the least powerful engine size possible for their height unless they are experienced riders.
As a rough guide, consider this is a starting point when looking at bikes:
- 3 – 7 years of age – 50cc
- 7 – 12 years of age- 50cc to 110cc
- 12 – 14 years of age- 125cc
- 14 – 16 years of age – 125cc to 250cc
Generally, you will move up in engine size when your kid grows too tall for their smaller bike, they get serious about it and want to do motocross, or they’ve just gotten really confident and are ready to learn how to use a clutch.
Expecting a beginner to master a clutch first go is a bit much and the smaller bikes for kids nearly always have an automatic clutch. They can still change gears as per normal but they don’t have to worry about coordinating their hand at the same time.
Younger riders will most likely struggle with a manual transmission and many just putt around in the same gear for a while till they get the hang of being upright on the bike.
Two-stroke vs four-stroke
It’s important to ask this question when looking at first bikes as beginner riders are more suited to four-stroke engines as they are easier to control at low speeds, have smoother acceleration and less kick when they are revving it. Two strokes on the other hand, are usually the preferred choice for motocross as they have more acceleration.
Sometimes rather than getting a larger engine, trading your four-stroke for a two-stroke can be just as fun.
With a two-stroke, you will usually have to pre-mix oil and petrol when filling up. It’s not a big deal but it’s kind of another step. However, I do suspect that all of this will be null and void as more and more EV options come on the market.
This is by far my favourite feature when it comes to kids dirt bikes. It allows you to easily control how much the throttle can be pulled, effectively stopping younger kids from going too fast before they are ready. When they have a bit more self-control and experience, you can wind it back out allowing them to pull the throttle on fully.
Budgeting for riding gear
The expense of getting kids dirt bikes doesn’t stop with the bike itself. Getting safety gear is obviously really important and not something you can skimp on. Falling off is not a matter of if, but when. You’re going to need the following at a bare minimum when riding around the yard:
- Full faced motorcycle helmet that is snug fitting
- Riding boots
If you’re planning on doing motocross or anything more than slowly putting around the house, you will need:
- All of the above
- Chest and back protector
- Knee and elbow guards (may come inbuilt in proper riding jerseys and pants)
You can also get neck protectors and kidney protectors!
Kick start vs electric
An electric start is a really nice bonus if the bike has it but it’s not really a selling point and is actually fairly frustrating when it doesn’t work for whatever reason. The reason I don’t see this being an important factor is that you won’t be letting the kids ride unsupervised anyway so it’s not too big a deal to kick start it for them until they are old enough to manage it themselves.
Old vs new
Much like dance and horse riding, dirt bikes are not a particularly cheap activity and since your little cherubs keep eating and growing, you will most likely go through a few bikes over the years. Buying second hand is obviously the way to go if you’re trying to save a few dollars and/or aren’t sure that the kids will stick with it. The downside is that it may have some issues but this won’t be a problem if you usually spend your weekends tinkering anyway.
Buying new has the benefit of it having zero Ks and being in tip-top shape. The downside is that you will pay top dollar for it. I bought my kid’s dirt bike brand new (they share it) as the bikes going second hand were not that much cheaper.
In conclusion …
Buying kids dirt bikes is an exciting time in their lives and is a great opportunity to get the kids outdoors and watch them grow in leaps and bounds. Remember, bike riding is a family affair so don’t forget about mum and dad!
Psst: Now that you’ve got this great new hobby, have you thought about how you’re going to take them adventuring. Check out this toy hauler!