Each time we post a story or video around a small-displacement motorcycle, inevitably we’ll see a comment along the lines of, “That bike sucks! It’s way too slow. 1,000cc or nothing, bro!” If you’re one of those people, you’re absolutely going to hate this list. Longtime readers already know this, but if you’re new to Motorcycle.com, you should know that, while we clearly enjoy riding big bikes, we absolutely love riding little bikes – minibikes, even! There are a variety of reasons why, and here we’ve gathered six of them for your consideration. If after reading all six you’re still not convinced, come out with us to give it a try. Really.
I’m about to let you in on a dirty little secret about motojournalism: We don’t get paid much. Which is why when a manufacturer calls us to ask if we want to ride their new model in some exotic location – on their dime – we snap at the chance. But when we want to get our own jollies off and burn a little steam at the track, we cringe at the thought of paying triple digits for entry fees and tires each time. Heaven forbid we crash the thing.
With minis, the most expensive item is the motorcycle itself. Even then, you can get by on a Craigslist special Honda XR100 for a couple hundred bucks and never look back. Opt for a decked-out CRF150R and you’re talking $5k (which is why I don’t have one!). No matter what you buy in this range, minibike tires will set you back a couple hundred or so – but they will last you an entire season. We’ve done three 24-hour minibike races and each time the fresh rubber we started with showed no signs of fading by the end. Here in SoCal, kart tracks will charge $40 – forty dollars – and you can ride as much or as little as you want. Parts are cheap, gas is cheaper, and the fun-per-dollar ratio simply can’t be beat.
Options. You’ve got plenty of them when it comes to minibikes. As mentioned before, Craigslist specials are the way to go if you like doing your own wrenching. Little dirtbikes are essentially meant for kids, so when little Timmy or Tina are done riding, mommy or daddy typically put the bike up for sale cheap to get it out of the garage. This is where you strike. Whether you’re a two-stroke or four-stroke fan, there are options for you. Parts to get them suitable for pavement vary, but a couple-hundred bucks is the minimum. Better still, the opportunities to ride are far greater than you think. If you’re as lucky as the MO staff are in SoCal, we’ve got no less than five tracks within a two-hour drive. Don’t want to go that far? An empty industrial parking lot and a set of cones will also work just as well.
When you ride a big bike, many mistakes or deficiencies in your riding can be masked or recovered just by twisting the throttle. When you only have between 7-20hp at your disposal, like many of these minis do, mistakes are costly. Overcoming those mistakes means actually learning proper technique. From applying the right controls to choosing the proper lines, even experimenting with body positioning, the techniques that allow you to ride faster and safer on a little bike all transfer over to big bikes.
Of course, you can still mess up on a little bike. The laws of physics don’t care what you’re riding. However, when you do, the consequences aren’t nearly as severe. By their very name, “mini” bikes are already slower than, say, an R6. And they’re lower to the ground, too. Put these two factors together, and when you’ve gone against the laws of physics, you’re not going to fall very far, or for very long. Even better, your motorcycle will probably not have any catastrophic damage either. Just a few scratches.
When you meet fellow like-minded cheapskates who also have a knack for riding motorcycles as little as yours, fun times and friendships are bound to happen. There’s something silly about “battling” with another rider at 30 mph through a corner, yelling expletives at them because you’re both going so slow despite throttles turned to the stop. Better still, if you do end up having an issue with your machine, the minibike community are great at making sure their brethren are taken care of. Cheapskates, unite!
That’s what this is all about, right? Riding and racing minis is a riot we can’t get enough of. Better still, it forces us to focus on the fundamentals, which helps us when we ride the big bikes as part of our day job. Even if you don’t ride motorcycles for a living, if you want to experience an enormous amount of fun for a relatively small cash investment, this is hard to beat. As for us, there’s a reason why we MOrons keep doing 24-hour minibike races each year (including this one – look out for that story soon): we’re fans of the rising crop of little bikes that are popping up year-after-year, and we’re excited to tinker with them to make them perform in ways they were never designed for. More important than that – they’re just plain fun.