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Next Bike for the Little Guy


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Hello All...figured I'd take a break from my own bike to ask a question related to my son.

He'll be turning seven this summer, and has pretty much outgrown the '94 JR50 I built for him.  Both feet are flat on the ground with knees bent, with the shocks and rear seat posts in their highest positions.  Now, the JR is a notoriously short bike (18" seat height in lowest setting), and I'm thinking something in the height of a CRF50 or KTM SX50 Junior would be correct for him...and I can put a "tall seat" and risers on that to keep him on the bike if he spurts before the end of a second season.

The challenge I'm facing is finding the right bike for him with the kind of riding he wants to do in our area.

He wants nothing to do with the track, which is fine by me.  His request is to get into single-track/GNCC/TORCS-type aggressive riding with me here in central Texas (rocky, technical, cactus needles, hand-bashing, 10+ mile loops, 100-degree afternoons all summer long).

If I look at a CRF or TTR, I get a heavy bike (hard for an almost-seven-year-old to muscle over rocks and tree roots) with spring-only suspension, drum brakes and a 10" front wheel that stinks outside of a groomed track or back-yard trail. 

If I look at KTM or JKS (Polini clones) in the "junior" heights, I'm looking at a bike that fits, is light, has better suspension and brakes...but that would likely overheat quite a bit in slow technical sections and has a reputation of eating clutches even on a track.  I can't imagine how they'd hold up to partial-throttle off-roading over two seasons.  We won't be able to just walk back to the truck in the pits for spare parts like in the MX world...things get serious multiple miles from camp.

If I go with a Chinese equivalent (SSR 70C), I get slightly better suspension that can be tuned, hydraulic brakes and the ability to run a 12" front wheel for better behavior in loose rocks and roots...but I also get worries regarding durability when we get serious off-road (legends of Chinese metallurgy and QC).

So...to the parents that "do the desert" or get serious off-road with youngsters (at least at the "family enduro" level) in hot-weather environments...  What is the best option for a bike that will last two years, has about a 24" seat height and will work with an aggressive boy who wishes to attack "hill country" the way most boys want to attack a motocross track?

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I don’t have kids myself, but he is only seven. He is going to outgrow bikes as fast as he outgrows his pants.

I would go with the CRF or TTR myself, even with its short comings. They’re bullet proof, and he is likely not going to drop it enough for the weight to matter.

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My son had went from a pw50 to the ttr50. We didnt bike was super reliable and never gave any trouble. Was good in the woods and has electric start. He was 6 at the time. I then traded it for a cobra 50 thinking suspension and power would be better but like you said clutches and getting hot were the problem. Wish i had kept the ttr.

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Thanks for the inputs, gents.  Yes, he's going to likely need to be on a different bike every two to three years.  I guess my questions were centered more around trying to stretch those swaps by getting the better bike earlier, and I guess it doesn't exist at this stage.  Time to go CRF or TTR, then...and it will likely be CRF since I'll will teach him to always have the manual kick as a backup to the easy-button.  At least there is a significant hop-up market out there to "grow the bike under him" a bit.

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I just bought my 6 and a half y/o grandson a brand spankin' new CRF 110.  I bought him a '02 XR 50 for his 4th birthday, but he outgrew it skill wise.  The kid LOVES to ride, so I ponied up the $$$ to get him something he could ride for a few years.  I have a track set up in my back pasture so the new bike was a way for me to see him more, which worked.  He races also, but that's his dad's thing, so he handles all that side of riding.  He's racing on a Cobra 50 Sr, which has the same seat height as the 110.  Once I buy him another bike, he can always use the 110 as a pit bike.  Right now, he's using the XR 50 in the pits. The 110's should last a lifetime so his little brother will probably ride it when he's of age as well. 

new 110.jpg

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In our off road series out east, there are 3 choices for the fast kids in the 7-10 classes.  The ktm (kaboom) 50's, KTM 65's , and KX 65's.  Yamaha just came out with a 65 as well, but I have no info on that machine.  The CRFs and TTRS give up too much in power and suspension, but can place well on a slick day.  But they are fun for a non-competetive kid, and can be a far better choice for a beginner.

I kept two KTM 50's to keep 1 running.  The radiators on the newer bikes are undersized, and the washer-stack clutch is a bear to set up for hills and mud.  We took the washer stack out and used springs for a softer hit.  Expect stator issues, keep a spare with you.  If your rider is slow, it will overheat.  Use engine ice or some other premium coolant.  You may go through some clutch parts, but should be ok otherwise.  Again, keep spares.  I can't recall anything but KTM's finishing at the top of the 50cc class.

My son moved to a KX 65 at 7 and almost won the series on the same bike at 10 with stock suspension.  First place then was a KX.  Most years Kawis have won, but it was the rider that made the difference.  The kid that won this year was on a KX as well, and he is rather small.  Again with stock suspension.  They are very reliable and can be lowered.  Flywheel weights help with stalling and aftermarket pipes are worth the money to broaden the power.

The KTM 65s have a powervalve and a slight edge in power and suspension, but not that much better for a lot more money.  They are far more reliable than the 50's.

I wouldn't think they would route the minis too far from camp.  Our series also has chase riders doing laps with the kids for safety, and for towing them back in if there is an issue.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update on this. 

 

I took my little dude out to CTOR (Central Texas Off Road...local private club) and had him try out "flatland", which is a warm-up course before going out on the real heavy stuff.  He was on his current JR50, with the seat and bars raised to fit him. 

He is not ready, and any bike with a 10" front will never work there.  Most of the trails and corners were littered with loose, softball-sized rocks (boulders to him), plus tree roots and soft sand.

He was on the ground five times in the first half-lap...once with the end of the handlebar going straight into his sternum.  No pouting, no crying and a good attitude (tough dude), but I can't do that to him again.

Tough thing is that he is just one-footing or tip-toe on both feet with a TTR50.  He does not have the size or physical strength to pick up/stop-balance a CRF110 or similar.  He may be about to turn seven, but he's small for a six-year-old.

He did say that the JR was too small for him...his hand were at his belt when he stood up, and his legs were bent 90 degrees when sitting (tough transition to standing).

The trip told me two things.  First, I need to get out of "hill country" if I want to provide him terrain where he can play and progress with confidence.  Second, I need to just eat it and plan on swapping bikes every 18 months or so, going in increments that fit him physically.

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Sounds like he had a tough day. 

The CRF 100 is just a tad too big for my grandson, but he makes it work.  I took him to the Canadian River to ride last Wednesday and he LOVED it.

 

So, the TTR 50 is too big for him?  My grandson is 6 also, but his XR 50 is too small for him.  He's an averaged sized 6 yo, so I'm a bit confused.  I can see the TTR 110 or CRF 100 being too big, but not any 50.

 

Anyways, I hope you can get him into something that fits and he can ride well.  You might have to look at a KTM 50 Jr or SR.  I hear they are a real PITA to maintain, but that's not first hand knowledge.  Good luck.

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To give an idea, here are two pictures of him with a DRZ70 from last week, when we were checking out bike sizes...not a big dude...

With this DRZ, the seated-to-standing transition was better (leg-wise) than his brutally-small JR50, though the bars are still too low for good form when standing.

the closest he could possibly handle would be an older XR70 or similar.  PW80 and the 110's were all to big...but the JR I've had him on is just ridiculously tiny for him.

 

Alexander Sizing 1.jpg

Alexander Sizing 2.jpg

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That looks like it fits him fairly well.  Was that someone else's bike that you were trying or was it for sale?  The specs say the seat height on the DRZ in 22 inches, which is about the same for most 50's.  I'd be seriously looking for one of those DRZ's.

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1 hour ago, Snotrub said:

That looks like it fits him fairly well.  Was that someone else's bike that you were trying or was it for sale?  The specs say the seat height on the DRZ in 22 inches, which is about the same for most 50's.  I'd be seriously looking for one of those DRZ's.

Yup...that fits him well.  That was someone else's bike.  They were nice enough to let him sit on it for size.  The only thing I 'd change are a bit taller bars for better standing control.

I just won't be able to  take him to "my riding places" until he grows out of that bike.  The 10" wheel on it wouldn't handle the terrain at all. And...he fits that bike "now."  In 18-24 months, he'll fit the next one.  I just need to make sure not to buy too far ahead of his capabilities or confidence.

for comparison, here is a shot of him on his tiny JR50...note his knees are above his hips.

 

_SC_0112.JPG

Edited by dingerjunkie
added a photo.
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Yeah, at his size, you're not going to find anything that fits him with a wheel larger than 10".  Sometimes we have to forgo our own personal wishes and wants and scale it back so the little one can develop.

I used to race mountain bikes at the cat 1/pro level and wanted my grandson to ride with me more than anything.  I took him to one of my favorite trails to ride mtb's and he hated it.  Then, I took the whole family to Crested Butte for my 50th birthday.  We took our motorcycles and mtb's and I took him up on the mountain via chairlift.  He hated it.  So, I'm sticking to motorcycles, he loves them.  We rode at Hartmans, he LOVED it.  Rode at at Taylor Park....LOVED IT!!

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18 minutes ago, Snotrub said:

Yeah, at his size, you're not going to find anything that fits him with a wheel larger than 10".  Sometimes we have to forgo our own personal wishes and wants and scale it back so the little one can develop.

I used to race mountain bikes at the cat 1/pro level and wanted my grandson to ride with me more than anything.  I took him to one of my favorite trails to ride mtb's and he hated it.  Then, I took the whole family to Crested Butte for my 50th birthday.  We took our motorcycles and mtb's and I took him up on the mountain via chairlift.  He hated it.  So, I'm sticking to motorcycles, he loves them.  We rode at Hartmans, he LOVED it.  Rode at at Taylor Park....LOVED IT!!

I'm not familiar with Hartmans or Taylor Park.  I'm in Liberty Hill...due West of Georgetown, North of Austin.  Any other recommended spots for my little dude that we should check out?

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Taylor Park and Hartmans Rocks are in Gunnison/Crested Butte, Colorado.  I went to school in Gunnison, so I like to go back every other year or so.

I'm way up north in Amarillo, so I don't know of many motorcycle specific areas in Central Texas.  I have ridden and raced a lot of mountain bike trails in that area, but that doesn't help you out any.  I would take him to some motocross parks to ride on wide open terrain.  He doesn't have to jump or anything, just ride.  I'm fortunate that I have 10 acres and I build a track in my back pasture.  It's about .65 miles long and flat.  We started with basic turns and straight away's, then I added some burms in the corners.  Once he mastered that, I put in a couple of small jumps.  Once he was bored with that, I build more jumps for a rhythm section, then whoops.  As he progressed I would make each obsticle a little bigger.  I'm running out of dirt, so I have to think of something else to do.

 

 

jumpin'.jpg

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