Before you can run, you first need to learn to walk. And before you can walk, you need to learn to crawl. The same is true with getting the younger generation interested in two-wheeled off-road fun! There are definitely dirt bikes and trail bikes perfect for your kid to learn on, as well as have a blast riding around without too much risk of hurting themselves (all activities off-road have some inherent risk!).
This list is broken down into general segments based on age. This really is a loose guideline, every child is unique from how focused, competitive, and coordinated they are at various stages of their growth. When it comes to choosing the right bike to start your child on, understand how tire size, engine size/type, throttle restrictions, and transmission can all work towards teaching a child to be confident and have fun learning to ride. Consider how you as a parent ride, out in the woods? On the track? I will do my best to highlight certain features of each of these bikes to help you make an informed purchase for your child.
And so, without further comment, here are the best bikes for your kids, 2022 version!
Dirt Bikes For Kids 7 & Under
So your kid wants to get into dirt biking. We approve! These models are inexpensive, low power with a maximum engine size of 50cc, will require minimal maintenance, and be great bikes to learn on.
#4: Suzuki DR-Z50
The Suzuki DR-Z50 is a bike that is a great little bike for the young one that is a bit more of an adventure rider and can go trail riding with mom and/or dad. A 49cc 4 stroke engine produces a hair over 3 HP and is mated to a 3-speed clutchless semi-automatic. This allows the young rider to learn to shift, and they won’t go speeding off into the distance as there is a speed limiter that won’t let the bike go over 25 MPH.
A very parent-friendly feature is that the bike uses a key, just like a full motorcycle, so mom and dad decide when the bike is ridden. Another feature that sets the bike apart is that it has both an electric start and a kick start. It is a bit of a taller bike, with a seat height of 22 inches, and a wet weight of 120 lbs. Suzuki did this intentionally, as the intended rider should be able to lift the bike without issue.
#3: Honda CRF50F
Much like the Suzuki DR-Z50 above, the Honda CRF50F is designed and intended for the slightly older beginner rider. A similar 49cc 4 stroke produces a similar 3.2 HP, however the 3-speed clutchless semi-automatic transmission on the CRF50F is a bit more sport-oriented, so this bike can accelerate a bit harder.
The CRF50F also features a motocross-like upside-down front fork and adjustable suspension. A 21.6-inch seat height and 110 lb wet weight are friendly and comfortable. The CRF50F is kick-start only and is aimed both at both the trail rider and the potential motocross beginner. It is not a motocross bike, but the transmission shift points are spaced so that a kid can learn how to accelerate properly without damaging themselves. If team Red is your choice check out the Honda Junior Red Rider program for a fun, well-run way to help your child learn solid skills.
#2: Yamaha TT-R50E
Powered by a 49cc air-cooled 4 stroke and matched to a clutchless 3-speed gearbox, this is the perfect bike if you’re riding out in the woods. Fitted with an approved spark arresting exhaust system, and riding on 10′ tires this Yamaha offers more flexibility to grow and learn out on the trail.
Compared to some other 50cc bikes, the little Yamaha is a bit heavier at 128lbs wet, but the balance is low and should not pose much of a challenge for most kids to pick up when dropped. An electric start makes getting going again simple, and the 0.8-gallon fuel tank takes the fun a bit further.
A couple of great safety items include a throttle stop screw, which lets the adult supervisor restrict speed while beginners are learning, and a key-type ignition switch that deters unauthorized riding. Overall it is hard to go wrong with this offering from team blue, it is also a machine that will hold its value, taking the sting out of the step-up.
#1: KTM 50 SX
Is it already clear that you may have a budding racer on your hands? If so then this KTM is well worth looking at. The KTM 50 SX follows the family moto and is a true READY TO RACE motocross machine. It is a genuine dirt bike that, like its bigger siblings, is produced with top-quality components, real race-bred input, and thoughtful development.
One look at the setup and the race-prepped differences stand out. A 12′ front tire and 10′ rear on lightweight wheels. The same style upside down WP fork as the big bikes, easily adjusted for rider and conditions with an air pump. The rear shock is also adjustable and has a huge 185 mm of travel. The brakes are a big step up from others at 50cc, and so is the frame.
The 2 stroke engine is certainly more power at 5.5 hp, and thanks also to the smaller fuel tank the 50 SX is the lightest bike in the segment at 92lbs dry. This little bike can rip and only makes sense if your child wants to be on the track. At first glance, the price might seem high, but when you factor in the cost to set up any of the others to a real race-ready package, the little KTM suddenly becomes quite reasonable.
Dirt Bikes For Kids Between 7 and 10
These bikes are for kids graduating up from the 50cc bikes above or starting a bit older. Being larger, they are a bit more pricey, however, still retain the beginner friendliness and lower power (max engine size 125cc) that will help your young one learn to “love the mud.”
#3: Kawasaki KLX110R /110RL
The Kawasaki KLX110R is a lightweight, nimble dirt bike with some serious attitude coming from a few motocross-inspired features. A 112cc air-cooled 4 stroke produces a peak 7.3 HP and a grunty 6 lbs-ft, powering a chassis that weighs only 168 lbs wet. A four-speed transmission with an automatic clutch helps learn gearing, and if you want to have a true clutched manual, the KLX110RL is available for $200 more.
The KLX110 has proper levels of trail and dirt riding ground clearance at 10.5 inches, and the seat height is a very moderate 27 inches. The suspension is also much deeper than in the “Under 7” bikes, with proper rebound and stiffness to give your kid a feel for what proper trail riding is like, without being so stiff as to toss them off on a hard corner.
#2: Honda CRF110F
The direct competitor to the KLX110R, the Honda CRF110F has a 109cc air-cooled 4 stroke that produces 7.2 HP and 6.5 lb-ft of torque, through a four-speed transmission with an automatic clutch. Where the CRF110F differs from the Kawasaki is that the power comes on very quickly at low revs, allowing for excellent drive out of corners and over obstacles.
The CRF110F is also more of a trail machine, with 7 inches of ground clearance and a seat height of 26 inches. The sacrifice comes in the form of slightly less suspension travel, but the gain is that it will introduce a young rider to a more aggressive feeling bike without it actually being super aggressive. This is a great bike for the kid that has said “hey, motocross looks fun!” but you don’t want to buy a full-on racing machine just yet.
#1: Yamaha TT-R110E
There is a reason that Yamaha dirt bikes are known as the “King of the Trails.” Powered by a 110cc air-cooled 4 stroke, 7.2 HP and 7 lbs-ft of torque are on hand, with a four-speed semi-automatic transmission. However, unlike the heavier Honda and Kawasaki, the TT-R110E weighs only 160 lbs, a full 10 lbs less.
The engine borrows technology from the YZ125 motocross bike, with a lightweight crank, the Yamaha power valve system, and digital ignition to get the most power all the time from the engine. When that power unit is attached to the full aluminum frame the bike is hilariously agile, able to weave between trees on a twisty section of trail as if they were not even there. The only downside is that the ground clearance is 7.2 inches.
Dirt Bikes For Kids Over 10
These bikes are for the kid that has come through from the 80cc bikes above or is starting riding at 10.
Each pick here is the best of its type, so instead of breaking it down into a numbered list, we simply labeled them as to what they are.
Best Beginner Dirt Bike: Honda CRF125F Big Wheel
The Honda CRF125F Big Wheel is a bike that is meant for those that start riding later in their preteens. It has the same four-speed transmission with automatic clutch that the CRF110F has, however it has a larger, 125cc air-cooled 4 stroke with fuel injection producing a respectable 8.9 HP and 7.5 lb-ft of torque.
The big point of the Big Wheel is, well, the bigger wheels. This is a full-on trail, dirt, and beginner adventure bike, with 10.5 inches of ground clearance, a 30-inch seat height, and full range suspension with 6 inches of travel at the front and an impressive 6.6 inches at the rear. It also features a motocross-derived steel diamond frame for rigidity and durability and has a full-front disc brake for incredible stopping power.
Best Experienced Rider Dirt Bike: Yamaha TT-R125LE
This is the big boys and girls bike. The Yamaha TT-R125LE is the bike for the kid that has come up through the years riding and knows that they will always have a bike in their lives. Powered by a 124cc air cooled 4 stroke, the engine produces 9.4 HP and 7 lbs-ft of torque. However, this is the big kids bike because it is a fully manual, left hand clutched five speed.
One of the key points about the LE designation in the name speaks to the fact that this is not just another trail bike. The TT-R125LE is a full on enduro cross-country bike, and can be the base for building up a proper day-race bike for crossing several miles. Ground clearance is 10.5 inches, the seat is at a nearly adult 31 inches, and the suspension has 7.2 inches in the front and 6.6 inches in the rear with adjustable preload.
Best Starter Competition Bike: KTM 85 SX
The KTM 85 SX is a very, very focused dirt bike. The SX designation means SuperCross, as this is a bike intended to introduce the young teenager to the world of motocross and proper enduro racing. The bike is powered by an 85cc air-cooled 2 stroke, producing 23 HP and well over 10 lbs-ft of torque, through a hydraulic clutch 6-speed manual, and a choice of a 17″ front/14″ rear or 19″ front/16″rear tire setup.
The bike is built over a lightweight tubular steel double-cradle frame, with an aluminum subframe across the rear for extra rigidity. The engine is kick-start only. Two full racing disc brakes front and rear provide stopping power, and the suspension features a WP upside-down fork with 10.7 inches of travel at the front and a WP PDS shock at the rear with 12 inches of travel. Ground clearance is 14 inches with a seat at 33.5 inches. The bike weighs 150 lbs wet.
Obviously, this is a bike designed for competition. While it may be more expensive than Japanese counterparts, motocross and enduro bikes are what KTM specializes in. This is a world-level competition bike, yet still friendly enough to be a beginner motocross or enduro bike.