I must be insane. Back to the dirt

I,m 41 years old 5'9",180 lbs.and looking to return to dirt biking after 25 years. I plan to ride mainly in the mountains of CA.,but now and then at off road vehicle parks or motocross tracks.I am looking for the best new bike for me and would prefer a larger bore 4-stroke for the torque and low end grunt. I rode my brothers 10 yr. old DR250 and it seemed a little tame and heavy.I am looking at four candidates right now:

Honda XR400,Yamaha WR426,KTM EXE400,and the Suzuki DRZ400E.I,m probably really rusty right now but I definitely don't want to be regularly smoked on forest roads by my cousin on his new

YZ250F. Any suggestions?

A lot of guys have gone through the same thing you are... what is best for me?...

Maybe to clarify your position, we should rank the bikes on a number of criteria:

From mild to Wild

1. Honda

2. Suzuki

3. KTM

4. Yamaha

From Potential to get more power for free:

1. Yamaha

2. Suzuki

3. KTM

4. Honda

For Handling Potential (including weight)

1. KTM

2. Yamaha

3. Suzuki

4. Honda

Running costs / Purchase Price (YMMV depending on location, maintenance etc)

1. KTM

2. Yamaha

3. Suzuki

4. Honda

For what you describe, you will certainly be at home on a WR400/426 - once you get the hang of the bike, and get the suspension setup for your needs... You would be smoking XR400's with a WR250F, so the 400/426 would be plenty...

You will outgrow a bike faster than you think, but with either the KTM or the Wr, you will have more room to grow... The KTM is more expensive, fewer dealers, but is a bit better in components supplied - but if you can live without an e-start, and you plan to change the stock bars to suit you, there is not much in it anyway... Hydraulic Clutch, a couple of other little things... Try and get a ride on both the KTM and the Yamaha, then get a ride on the other two... the Honda is bulletproof, but least exciting, the Suzuki has a bit more, but is not the same as the Wr or KTM... Hang out in the other forums for a while, see what issues and replacement parts people are needing to do to their bikes... what they are not happy with...

Good luck,

Welcome back to riding, no matter what colour you choose...


Linden, this question you asked is very difficult to answer and I'm sure many people will give you a very biased opinion about the Yamaha on this forum. If cost is a big factor I would go with the DRZ because they are so cheap. They are a great all around bike that is fairly mellow, yet can hall if you feel the need. The KTM will cost more initially, but you will not need to add lots of aftermarket parts to it after purchase. The KTM performs great with the stock pipe and is very quiet. The Honda is a bulletproof trail machine that would be lost on a motorcross track and has the least power of the group. The Yamaha is a great bike for an aggressive rider and has the most power of the bikes you named. In my opinion this bike is probably the least forgiving when it comes to suspension geometry. It is a motocross bike with a wide ratio tranny and lights where the other three were designed as all around bikes. I'm not saying the WR doesn't work in all conditions but it likes to be ridden hard and in my opinion doesn't work well if it is ridden mellow/cruising so for an older/hasn't ridden in 25 yrs person it may not be the best choice. I would suggest you start one before you think about buying one because this is the hardest bike of the group to start. Anyway, this is getting long and I'm sure others will add their thoughts to help your decision. Goodluck, Eric


Not to worry, I didn't ride for 20 years and then bought a XT 350 (old) which I rode for about 6 months then went looking for a WR 400 brochure & ended up rolling out a new (at the time) 99 WR 400. I am still riding it and still think it was the best thing I have done in a long time(other than get back into dirtbiking). Oh by the way I am 55 years young and having a happy childhood.

I haven't ridden any of the other bikes so I can't compare them,just thought that age makes no difference when it comes to having fun.....


I know the year is wicked early, but if you can wait, RUMOR HAS IT the 2003 YZF/WR's will be substantially updated. Right now, class wise, the WR is substantially heavier than it's competition (CRF & KTM).

I did just read a write up in Dirt Bike (personally I do think DB sucks...) of a street legal CRF Honda. They loved it.

Maybe if the price is BRUTALLY right, go with something used to get into the swing of things and go from there. Brutally right means you can dump it and not lose any $$$.

For 2003, you should see:

revamped WR/YZF lineup

debugged and improved CRF Honda

KTM ALWAYS has great bikes to consider

Suzuki's new 4 stroker???

Maybe Kawasaki as well...???

Never(???) rule out Cannondale, although I already have.

If you go w/ used, steer for the 2K and > WR's. The carb and steering/handling were improved.

"I'm not saying the WR doesn't work in all conditions but it likes to be ridden hard and in my opinion doesn't work well if it is ridden mellow/cruising so for an older/hasn't ridden in 25 yrs person it may not be the best choice."

Yo Boner! Who you callin Old? I'm 43 and can kick A$$ with the best of em. Hell the fastest guy's I know are 38-50....So what are you sayin here ....everybody in their 40's is old and should be religated to the right lane, on some old chugger of a bike? No Way baby....Bring on the power....The faster the better.

Hell..I'm scheduled for a Heart Cath procedure next Thrusday....I'll be back on the race track a week after that.

Linden, Of all the choices you listed, In my (OLD)opinion ,The WR is the way to go. Not because it's a Yamaha, but because it is dependable does not require constant maintance like some of those you asked about. You can cruise or run flat out. Starting is NOT a problem it's an ART. Do it right and the fire lights off every time. Try to start it like a two stroke and you'll smoke a plug every time. The DRZ is an ok bike....but it is a heavy piece of underpowered pig iron, even against my 99 WR400. The bottom line is that the WR is a fun bike with the power and potential for much more. You want to climb that big hill with the youngsters....No Problem....You want to be able to catch em on the straights....No Problem...Get tired of woods riding and want to play around with a little MX...No Problem....Want to go to the dunes and Roost a little....No Problem. The suspension is set up for a 180 lb rider....so already you're ahead of the game. Want to protect you're investment....spend about $250 for Devol Radiator Guards, White Bros Skid Plate and a good set of hand guards and you're investment protected... Change the oil regularly, lube the bearings with Good Water Resistant Grease once every 3 months....Nothing left to do except have fun.....

What else could someone ask for?

BB....Just havin a little fun with ya....

Talk about OLD this pic was taken 22 years ago when I still had hair and no belly......I'm (Was) the one on the Right.. Man I look in the mirror and wonder what the heck happened!


Bonzai :)

[ December 29, 2001: Message edited by: YAMAKAZE ]

If you have the money, I would definately go with the WR. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which bike was best about four months ago. I visited different forums, did a lot of research, rode a few of the bikes and finally went with the WR426. At first, the bikes power scared me to death, but after a week of riding I started to feel like home on the bike and now the bike feels like a second skin. Best decision I ever made.

By the way. A friend of mine did purchase a street legal DRZ400. So far he has totally hammered the bike. He has replaced the blinkers, mirror, one wheel, and the start switch/horn apparatus. He regrets his decision. His original idea was to ride the bike to the trail, but it takes me just a few seconds to toss the bike in the truck and hit the trail. Plus when I get there, I have all of my tools, food, water and gas with me. Just a thought.

Good luck with you decision.


I also just got back into riding after taking about 7 years off.

All my buddy's have WR's but I had to be different and get a KTM MXC520, this thing has incredible power. It's super fast. I have to say that this is the best purchase I have ever made but of course I would say that about a WR if I owned one.

The BIG plus that really get's my fellow riders upset is the electric start :) One hit of the button and I'm off and it's only 10 lbs more than a 426.

Both are great bikes but if you can over come the sticker price and high maintenance of a KTM520 that would be my choice.


I own an 00' WR400 and an 02' KTM 520 EXC. These bikes are as similar as a dog and a cat. I don't recommend the 520 simply for this reason, you'll never see 42. In time you may be ready for it but not if your just coming back to riding. It's way too much bike. The WR400 on the other hand is a bike you can grow into, I know I did after not riding for 20 years. It's got really good power, suspension, and stability. If that's the bike you want, mine is for sale. I'm 5'-9" like you (Well, almost.. :) ) and starting on the side of a hill can be a real pain sometimes. Of course as you get to be a better rider you will stall less often. That's why I would have to recommend these e-start machines. The KTM's are a superior bike in almost every way, compared to the J.A. Pan Co. bikes . They are also more money. The DRZ is a good trail bike and the dealers almost seem to be giving these things away. There's also the Cannondales'. The dealers/factory seems real motivated to get some bike out there for exposure. They have trick equipment like the KTM and are American made! They are still an unknown, although the guys on our exotic forum seem to be having good luck so far. They have an entry level model, the X440S, that guys are paying between $5,500-$5,995. This might be the best value of all at that price.

You will have fun on any bike you buy, good luck.


I purchased my 00 wr400 in may of 2001 as a new leftover. My last bike of any kind, other than those you pedal, was a 1976 CR125 Elsinore--wish I still had it!! it was only 3 years old when I got it! I rode for about 1 1/2 months before I found this awesome website. They taught me all the tricks and now I'm a tinkering fool! Any bike you get will be more fun than you remember. I'm doing stuff now that I never did before. Don't let the age thing be a factor. Just check out Yamakaze's thread. I'm a young 36. I'm rambling.

I agree with the others. If you want a play bike to go out and have fun with, without having to do anything other than fill er' up, get the Honda. If you haven't ridden in years, it will have plenty of power for you. But if you want something with some b*lls, get the yam or the ktm, or if you can afford it, the cannondale. (I live about 25 minutes from the plant in Bedford, PA and my nearest shop wants about 8K+ for the few they have) I have ridden with one of the factory test riders(WHAT A JOB !!!!!!!!!) and they definitely RIP!!

Have fun with whatever you buy and be safe.

I'm rambling again

look at my previous posts and you'll know why!!


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