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2017 OFF-ROAD BIKE BUYER’S GUIDE: UNDER 250cc

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November 9, 2016
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2017 Honda CRF230F
HONDA CRF230F: $4199

This is a ’tween bike for riders who have graduated from minis like the Honda and Yamaha 125cc four-strokes but don’t want to ride more hard-core off-road bikes like a CRF250X or WR250F. The Honda 230 has a low, wide seat; electric start; a six-speed gearbox; and a manual clutch. It has a rear drum brake and no back-up kickstarter.

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YAMAHA TT-R230: $4199
Even though the displacement of 223cc makes the Yamaha TT-R230 sound like it’s a big bike, similar to the WR250F, it’s actually much smaller and aimed more at the entry-level market. The motor and chassis are simple: a rear drum brake, a two-valve motor, a steel frame and a carburetor. The TT-R230 has electric start and full-size wheels.

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HUSQVARNA TE150: $7999
This bike opens up a new slice of an old market for Husky. It’s a small-displacement trail bike in the tradition of a Kawasaki KDX200 or KTM 200XC-W. The 150 has electric start and a handlebar-mounted map switch that lets you switch between two ignition curves. It has fairly soft suspension and a preload adjuster for the fork. The headlight is a nice touch.

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KTM 150XC-W: $7999
This bike has big shoes to fill. KTM decided to discontinue the much-loved but aging 200XC-W two-stroke and offer this in its place. The 150XC-W is in a very different state of tune than the 150SX motocross bike and has an electric starter. On all the bikes in the XC-W line, the 2017 KTMs have the WP Xplor 48 fork with a preload adjuster, which is very similar to the Husky TE150.

tmen125
TM EN 144: $8845; EN 125: $8495
TM makes race bikes. The 125 two-stroke is a perfect example. It’s very fast and exotic. The 144cc version has an increase in both bore and stroke, unlike the current KTMs, which have only an increase in bore to bring the 125 up to a 150 (actually, 144cc). The TMs also have electronic power valves, KYB suspension and a TM-made shock.

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SSR SR189: $2199; SR150 $1899
We’ve had an SR189 in our stable for months now and love it. The bike can’t be dismissed as just another Chinese clone, because the quality is too good. It has dual disc brakes, both electric-start and a kick-start lever, a five-speed gearbox and an inverted fork that actually works. The 150 is toned down and has a 14/17 wheel combination.

2017 Honda CRF150F
HONDA CRF150F: $3699
Honda’s CRF150F has become the standard for moms and kids who are either learning or happy just to play around the campsite. It’s an electric-start five-speed with a drum rear brake and a mild temper. The wheels are 17 inches and 19 inches. Riders often confuse this bike with the CRF150R, which is completely different and aimed more at the racing crowd.

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KAWASAKI KLX140G: $3699; KLX140L: $3399; KLX140: $3099
Kawasaki has introduced more variety to the KLX140 line by dividing it into three different models, each with different size wheels and seat heights. The standard model has a 14/17-inch wheel combo. The L has a 16/19 inch, and the new G has full-size 18/21-inch wheels. All have the same 144cc motor, electric start and dual disc brakes.

2017 Honda CRF125F
HONDA CRF125F BIG WHEEL: $3299; CRF125F: $2899
There’s a time between 10 and 12 years old when kids are growing like weeds. It’s only going to get worse from there. The Honda CRF125F comes in two wheel sizes to fit any kid in that range, and it’s indestructible, so it can be passed on to the next sibling. It is a good introduction to the use of a manual clutch. It has an electric starter too.

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SUZUKI DR-Z125L: $3199
Suzuki has had its DR-Z125L available for longer than any other bike in its class but has updated its appearance. The L has a 16/19 wheel combination and fits riders in the 5-foot-2 to 5-foot-6 range nicely. Unfortunately, it has no electric starter. The good news is there’s no battery to go dead.

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YAMAHA TT-R125LE: $3299
The best part about the Yamaha TT-R125LE is that it still has a kickstarter in addition to the electric start. Any dad will tell you that most electric-start mini bikes never seem to have a fully charged battery when you get out in the field. The LE has a 16-inch rear wheel and a 19-inch front. It has a manual clutch, a five-speed gearbox and a rear drum brake.

2017 Honda CRF110F

HONDA CRF110F: $2199
The 110 is a great first or second step into the motorcycle world. With 12-inch and 14-inch wheels, the size is perfect for a rider around 9 years old. It has an automatic clutch with a four-speed gearbox, and a throttle limiter allows Dad to adjust how much power is available. The bike has an electric start with a kick-start lever just in case.

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KAWASAKI KLX110L: $2499; KLX110: $2299
The guys at Kawasaki know that kids aren’t the only ones who are drawn to the KLX110. There are two different versions of the electric-start four-speed. Both have a 12-inch wheel in back and a 14 inch in front, but the L model has more suspension travel and a taller seat height. The standard version has an automatic clutch, and the L is a manual.

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YAMAHA TT-R110: $2249
Yamaha’s TT-R110 is just a touch smaller than the other 110s on the market. It still has a 12-inch wheel in back and a 14-inch wheel in front. The gearbox is a four-speed with an automatic clutch. It has electric start, and there’s a back-up kick-start lever too. The TT-R110 has a key, so you can take it away if homework is piling up.

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SUZUKI DR-Z70: $1799
The DR-Z70 returned to the line in 2015 after a five-year hiatus. Suzuki split the difference between a 50 and a 110 in every way with the 70. It’s smaller and less expensive than a 110 but still has electric start. The gearbox is a three-speed. The clutch is automatic, and the wheels are 10 inches at both ends.

2017 Honda CRF50F
HONDA CRF50F: $1449
There’s clear evidence that Moses learned to ride on a Honda 50. This is the original mini bike, and it can be traced back several decades in one form or another. In its current manifestation, the little Honda has a three-speed gearbox with an automatic transmission, 10-inch wheels and an adjustable throttle stop. It has no electric start.

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YAMAHA TT-R50E: $1549
Yamaha modernized the classic 50 mini bike with the TT-R50E. It has an electric starter with a back-up kick-start lever. The clutch is automatic, the gearbox is a three-speed and the wheels are 10 inches. There’s a throttle limiter to keep things from getting out of hand. The TT-R50E is designed for kids around 7 years old.

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YAMAHA PW50: $1449
There’s still no better bike for teaching a young rider how to handle a motorcycle. The PW50 has been schooling riders for over 30 years. It has a drive shaft, a tether and a throttle stop that can be adjusted as the rider advances. The only hint that the bike is somewhat dated is the lack of electric start. Training wheels are a popular aftermarket add-on.

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