Motocross is a great sport for kids! It not only keeps them out of trouble and gives them something to be passionate about, but it's also great for building their confidence and self-esteem. If you're new to motocross, and you have no idea where to start, then this post will tell you everything you need to know to get your kid riding and having fun as safely as possible.
Before you buy your kid a dirt bike, it's a good idea to take them along to your local track or riding spot to watch the other riders. You don't want to spend lots of money on a bike if your kid has never even seen one in the flesh. Kids can be scared by the noise, or when they see how fast the bikes are, and it may put them off altogether. Watching motocross in person is a lot different to watching it on YouTube.
Picking the right dirt bike for your kid
So the first thing you'll need to do is check out my sizing guide by clicking HERE.
Ages 3-6 years
Kids aged 3-6 years will typically start on bikes like the Yamaha PW 50. The PW 50 is a twist and go design, which means your kid won't have to worry about changing gears, which only makes the learning phase more tricky. These bikes also have an adjustable throttle that let's you limit the top speed and acceleration.
The PW 50 has made a good name for itself over the years, and the design is so good that Yamaha haven't changed it in over 30 years! They're still available brand new, or there are loads of second hand machines available.
If you don't like the PW 50, any twist and go bike designed for first time riders will be fine. You can also get some great electric bikes that are perfect to teach kids the basics. But be sure to follow the sizing guide linked above to make sure the bike isn't too tall for your kid.
Ages 6-8 years
Kids of 6-8 years will also do great on a 50 cc bike, but a step up from the PW 50 would be a bike like the KTM 50 SX. These bikes are still a twist and go design to make learning a little easier, but they are more suited to rougher ground and motocross tracks. The seat height is 7 inches higher than the PW, the suspension has more travel, and the engine is a more advanced design.
The KTM 50 SX is a popular choice, and they are available new and used. Other choices include the Suzuki DRZ 50 twist and go, or the Honda CRF 50F which has a 3 speed semi automatic gear box. These two are great choices, but they both have a lower seat height than the KTM, so check the sizing chart.
Ages 8-11 years
As kids progress they'll want to start riding bikes that have gears, a little more power, and a higher seat. The 65 cc class or dirt bikes is perfect for kids aged 8-11, and there are lots of great bikes to choose from. All of the Japanese bikes are great, KTM and Husqvarna also have a 65 cc option, and these bikes work great on the track.
Check out bikes like the Yamaha YZ 65, the Suzuki RM 65, Kawasaki KX 65, KTM 65 SX, and Husqvarna TC 65. All of these bikes will have a seat height of around 29 Inches, but they are competitive bikes, so they'll be fast!
At 11-14 years, riders can jump straight onto an 85 cc dirt bike. This is a big step up in power from the 65 cc class, and these bikes are built to win races, so they aren't for the faint-hearted. Seat height is increased to around 35 inches, and some manufacturers have a choice of big or small wheel versions to suit different rider heights.
Again most of the reputable manufacturers build 85 cc bikes, and they all have something different to offer, so you're sure to find one that suits your kids needs.
Over 15 years
Over 15's can start on 100 cc or 125 cc 2-stroke dirt bikes, or 250 cc 4-stroke bikes, depending on their height and weight. I'd recommend that a beginner get 100 cc 2-stroke before moving up to the full sized dirt bikes.
Taller and heavier beginners over 15 years should be OK with a 250 cc 4-stroke, as these are easier to ride, and have a smoother power delivery. These bikes are quick and they will be very demanding for the rider, so start slowly.
If you find that the seat height of these full sized dirt bikes is to high, you can trim the seat foam down until your teenager is tall enough.
Alternative dirt bike choices
If you don't want your kid to jump straight onto a race bike, there are some alternatives. These bikes will provide less power, but will still be great for learning all of the necessary motocross skills.
To help your kid learn and progress to the stage where a race bike will be more suitable, a 4-stroke learner bike is a great choice. But bare in mind that these aren't built for motocross racing, so an upgrade will be necessary before you can enter them into races.
Bikes like the Honda CRF 125 F are great for over 10's to learn and develop their skills. Under 10's may like the Suzuki JR 80, or very young kids will do great with the previously mentioned Honda CRF 50F.
2-stroke or 4-stroke? What's the difference?
In general a 4-stroke will be much easier for your kid to ride, because 4-stroke engines have a much smoother power delivery. The power is also produced at a lower RPM, so they don't need to be revved so much.
If you choose a 2-stroke you will need to pre-mix the fuel with oil to lubricate the engine. Failure to do this will result in a seized engine, and an expensive rebuild. On the other hand, 4-strokes will accept fuel directly from the pump, so no pre mixing is required.
2-strokes will be lighter and easier for kids to manoeuvre, or pick up if they drop the bike. 4-strokes have more engine parts which means that size for size they are always heavier, this also means they are more expensive to buy, and to rebuild if they blow up.
One last thing to note is that size for size, 4-stroke engines will develop less power. This may be a good thing if you would like to start your kid off on something with a more mellow powerband, but when it comes to racing, the bike will lack power. This is why you will see 250 cc four stroke bikes racing against 125 cc 2-strokes in the same class, because the 250 cc 4-stroke produces half of the power of the 125 cc 2-stroke.
Teaching your kid to ride a dirt bike
When your kid has their dirt bike, you'll need to teach them how to ride it. You won't be jumping straight into motocross racing, so you'll need to find a practice track, or a spot in the woods, hills, or wherever else you can ride locally to you.
You can check out my guide on how to ride by clicking here. This guide will teach you everything from fuelling the bike and starting it, to changing gears and braking.
You can learn to ride a dirt bike just about anywhere, but remember that smaller wheels will find every bump, making very rough ground more difficult to ride over. For this reason, kids that are riding small wheeled dirt bikes, should learn on a smooth grass field, or a rut-free practise track.
What gear do kids need for dirt biking
The most important thing first
Crashes can happen at any speed, so choosing the right gear is essential to keep your kid safe and free from injuries. By far the most important piece of gear for your kid is the helmet, and a safe design is imperative.
I recently did a lot of research into youth helmets for my 4 year old son, and unfortunately found that there are a lot of poor helmet designs for sale. With the knowledge that a conventional helmet doesn't offer enough brain protection, the only choice for me was the 6D ATR-1 (link to amazon).
6D stands for 6 degrees of rotational impact protection, meaning they protect the brain from all angles. These helmets protect our kids from rotational impacts which can cause ripping and tearing inside of their brains.
The developing brain needs the highest amount of protection available, and I believe that the 6D ATR-1 helmet offers the best protection on the market. There's no other design like it, so for your kids sake I highly recommend you consider these helmets.
When you have the helmet you'll need a quality set of youth size goggles to protect your kids eyes from roost. These will fit inside the helmets eye port, and the elastic strap will stretch around the helmet to hold them tightly in place.
You'll also need to get some gloves, boots, motocross pants, knee and elbow pads, and preferably a neck brace. A motocross jersey won't offer much protection for your kids upper body, so I also recommend some body armour, or a armour vest.
Join your local motocross club
Kids learn fast, and practising at your local spot will quickly develop the skills they need to start entering regional races. When you think your kid is ready, do a search on google to find your local motocross club. By joining a club your kid will get to ride alongside other racers to further develop crucial motocross skills.
As your kid progresses, club owners will recommend which races to enter. Some tracks are tougher than others, so starting on the flatter tracks with less jumping will come first.
Let your kid learn and develop at their own pace, as pushing too hard can lead to them disliking the sport. Over the years I've seen parents pushing and screaming at their kids, and disappointed dads getting angry when their kid losses a race. This isn't what the sport is about, and this attitude only leads to kids getting fed up with it.
Is motocross safe for kids?
Racing motocross will always be more risky than riding around the woods, or having some fun riding a dirt bike in the hills. In my post looking at dirt bike safety we found out that the more competitive you get on a dirt bike, the more the level of risk increases.
If motocross seems too risky, and you don't want your kid to race, that's fine. Your kid can still have a massive amount of fun simply riding around your local tracks, or up in the hills. In fact, I have always found riding in the woods to be far more exiting than racing around a track.
Any type of riding will have risks involved, but studies have found that preventing risk taking can really hold kids back. It can lead to low confidence levels, low self-esteem, and later life problems like anxiety and phobias.
Motocross racing may be pushing the limits for some parents, but riding a dirt bike isn't always about racing. There's plenty of dirt biking fun to be had away from the motocross track!
What about maintaining your kids dirt bike?
At some point all dirt bikes will need some kind of maintenance, and fortunately kids bikes are really easy to maintain. If you've never worked on bikes before, most things are really easy to figure out, or you can find tutorials for everything online.
Kids motocross engines are pretty reliable, and problems with modern dirt bikes are rare. 4-stroke engines are generally more reliable than 2-strokes, but if anything does go wrong, they are harder to fix. 2-strokes are very simple, and a blown piston can easily be fixed in a single morning.
Tires wear out faster than anything else, but these are easy enough to change with a good set of tire levers and a set of spanners to remove the wheels. Chains and sprockets will also need changing at least once per year, more if your kid is racing regularly; again an easy fix.
Air filters need cleaning regularly, but they can be removed and cleaned in a few minutes. Brake pads, wheel bearings, and dust seals will also wear out eventually, and cables can break, so get yourself some tools to keep your kid happy.
So there you have it, a way to provide your kid with endless fun, and maybe you could even get a bike to ride alongside him/her 😉 Whether you choose to let your kid race, or simply ride for fun, dirt bikes are sure to put a smile on the families face.
Check out some ways to transport your kids dirt bike by clicking HERE.
Take a look at the 10 must haves in protective gear HERE.
Or, if you do fancy trying out motocross for yourself, take a look at the adults beginner motocross page HERE.
Thanks for checking out motocross for kids!