It’s finally happened. I bought a bike. For the first time in over a decade I own a motorcycle again. For all these years I never found the need to actually buy another bike, especially since I’ve got new ones to ride all the time, but the bug finally bit me. So what did I buy? A Suzuki RM85 converted to full supermoto trim.
That’s right, I bought a children’s dirt bike, and a two-stroke at that – one of the few bikes we don’t generally get our hands on at Motorcycle.com. But this wasn’t a decision taken lightly. Despite the terrible time I had racing a modified Honda Grom, things started to turn when I later piloted the giggle-fest that was a Honda CRF150R. At that point I was fairly certain minimoto (as in, mini-supermoto, not to be confused with pocketbikes) was for me, but I had to narrow down what I would get. After many conversations with my mini-riding friends, along with test rides on a couple bikes, including, most recently, the lesson in patience that is the Kymco K-Pipe 125, the stars aligned and I became the owner of a 13 year-old Suzuki. Now it’s fair to say I’ve caught the minimoto bug. Here are 10 reasons why you should, too.
Let’s see: if you want to ride and/or race a small motorcycle, you’ve got options like the Honda Grom, Kawasaki Z125, Kymco K-Pipe 125, and even the SSR Razkull 125 (a quartet we’re in the middle of testing as you read this!). Or, if you’ve got the hankering to get your hands dirty and spin some wrenches, a whole plethora of small dirtbikes could be converted to tarmac use with a few basic modifications. Bikes in this category range from the CRF150R mentioned earlier, down to Honda XR100s or Yamaha TTR125s. Most of the bikes mentioned are seen in the photo above. The options are huuuuge, as one Mr. Trump would say.
Price shouldn’t be a barrier to good times as they can often be when dealing with the big bikes. Yamaha’s asking more than $12,000 for a new R6. Yikes. Conversely, Honda wants $3200 for a brand-new Grom. That’s well within reason for most working adults. If you’re new to the workforce and not quite at the salary level you aspire to, the Razkull 125 is a measly $1800. Still too much? Are you struggling to pay rent for your studio in San Francisco but still itching to ride? Some amazing deals can be found on Craigslist if you’re patient and willing to bargain. I personally know someone who paid $600 for a Kawasaki KX65, already laced with wheels and street tires. Talk about a steal!
I’ll tell you one of the reasons I bought the little Suzuki: MotoGP. No, this has nothing to do with brand loyalty, or trickle down tech from the GSX-RR to my dinky little dirtbike; it’s about the tools the best riders in the world use when they aren’t piloting their prototype racers. A lot of them turn to minimoto to keep the skill sharp. Minimoto machines are one of the last spectrums of motorcycling void of electronic rider aids, so if I want to learn to manage (or induce, in some cases) a slide, doing so on a minimoto is entirely up to me. The best part? Most minimotos are fairly tough. I’ll feel better after I end up on my ass several times knowing I won’t hurt the bike any.
Of course, apart from being a great tool to learn the finer points of riding, minimotos can teach you a lot about working on your own motorcycle. Most bikes have minimal bodywork, meaning nuts and bolts are easily accessible. Coming from a four-stroke background, two-strokes have always been intriguing to me, but I heard horror stories about how much of a chore they are to maintain. But no matter how much I read, I’m the type that needs to experience things firsthand. Fortunately, if I mess something up, the repair process (by someone who knows what they’re doing) will be easy fodder for Evans’ next how-to article.
Attending a big-bike trackday often means shelling out upwards of $150 – and that’s just to register. Not included in that figure is the possible lodging, gas, and food costs you’ll incur. To add insult to injury, often you have to drive several hours to get to the track. From where I live, there are no less than four go-kart tracks I could ride at. The closest one being 45 minutes away, the furthest two hours. With those kind of drive times, I can (and do) sleep in my own bed the night before. Better still, gate fees at the go-kart tracks near me are less than $50. Become a member and/or come on a weekday and, in the case of Adams Motorsport Park in Riverside, California, the gate fee could be significantly less.
Another big expense with big-bike trackdays is tires. You pay a fortune for sticky tires only to have them wither away in one weekend. And you have to have the best tires you can afford because riding past the limits of cheap tires will cost you even more money. It’s not a cycle that can last very long unless you have money to burn. With minimotos, for less than $200 you can get set of sticky tires from companies like Dunlop, Bridgestone, and Mitas that will last you an entire season. After 24 hours of racing on both the Grom last year, and the Kymco this year, the tires still had plenty of life left. Try doing that on a 600cc sportbike.
The beauty of riding and training on small motorcycles is that the skills directly apply to big ones. Management and mastery of all the bike’s inputs, getting comfortable at the edge of traction, even basic wrenching – all are useful components to riding and bike ownership no matter what size bike you’re on.
Part and parcel with riding children’s dirtbikes on pavement is the expectation of being passed on said racetrack by actual kids – like the 9 year-old girl above. With their superior power-to-weight ratio, budding skill sets, natural talent, lack of fear, and little understanding of pain and the effects crashing does to the body, training on a minimoto is an excellent way to get a glimpse at a possible future star. One of the few women to win an AMA-sanctioned road race, Elena Myers got her start on minimotos (an RM85, no less!), as did many others in the MotoAmerica paddock. You know who else got his start on small bikes? Marc Marquez.
If trackdays on big bikes are costly, then racing is downright expensive. There’s no two ways around it. From entry fees, to tires, and everything in between, competing ain’t cheap.
Or is it? Here in SoCal anyway, there are numerous racing organizations one can compete with and not break the bank. Entry fees are typically around $80 for the first race entered, with subsequent races only costing around $20 each. That’s not bad. Keep in mind the bit mentioned earlier about tires lasting a whole season, and the proposition of racing a minimoto is very attractive.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, when it comes to bang-for-the-buck, minimotos are hard to beat. They are cheap to buy, cheap to own, teach you a lot about riding and wrenching, and some of them will basically last forever (assuming you buy something with an air-cooled, four-stroke, 125cc Single). I went the more labor intensive route with a two-stroke, but no matter how many strokes you go for, you can’t go wrong riding a little motorcycle. In case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to ride a slow bike fast, give minimotos a whirl.