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2017 OFF-ROAD BIKE BUYER’S GUIDE

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HONDA CRF450RX: $9249
Someone at Honda finally noticed that KTM and Yamaha have been frolicking happily in the closed-course off-road category without much competition. Honda is joining them in 2017 with the RX, an electric-start version of the motocross bike. It has softer suspension, an 18-inch rear wheel and other off-road goodies. It’s not green-sticker eligible in California. For more on the 2017 Honda CRF450RX, click here.

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2017 Honda CRF450X

HONDA CRF450X: $8440
The new RX is pure racer, but the 450X is still available for trail riders. The bike has become an icon in Baja and is still green-sticker legal in California. It’s also very quiet and has an old-fashioned carburetor, electric start and a chassis that can be traced back to the legendary 2008 Honda CRF450R.

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BETA RACE EDITIONS: FROM $9699

At the beginning of the 2017 model year, Beta announced that all its four-strokes would be street legal. That was good news, but it left racers feeling a little left out. Now that gap has been filled. Beta just announced Race Editions of all its off-road bikes. The four-strokes will have upgraded suspension, an unlocked ECU and a number of other upgrades. The prices are: 350 RR Race Edition–$9699,  390 RR Race Edition–$9799, 430 RR Race Edition–$9899, 480 RR Race Edition–$9999.

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HUSQVARNA FX450: $10,099
It’s easy to misunderstand this bike. The Husqvarna FX is a pure-blooded racer with close ties to the 450 motocross bike. It’s not a trail bike. The traditional off-road duties have been handed over to the 450 dual-sport bike in the Husky line, while this one has a new air fork and traction control to go with the ultra-powerful electric-start race motor.

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KTM 450XC-F: $10,099
KTM invented this category of motorcycle years ago, and now Yamaha, Honda and Husky have joined in. You can call it a closed-course off-road bike, even if that seems like an oxymoron. It has a full-blooded motocross motor, fork and chassis with slightly softer rear suspension and an 18-inch rear wheel. Even the gearbox is the same as the MX bike’s.

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SHERCO SE-F450 RACING: $9600
Sherco is a French company with an outstanding record in European off-road competition. The SE-F450 is an electric-start, fuel-injected 450 that is the basis for a rally bike that has had surprising success in the Dakar Rally. The enduro version is imported by Sherco Off-Road, which is independent from Sherco USA, the trials bike importer. There is also an ISDE version available with upgrades.

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SSR SR450S: $4699
This is not a Honda CRF450X, although it looks and performs very much like one. SSR is an Asian manufacturer that’s trying to break the negative stereotype by abiding by much higher standards in quality and craftsmanship than we’ve ever seen from mainland China. In some ways, the SR450S is better finished than the Honda that it obviously emulates.

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SUZUKI RMX450Z: $8999
Back in 2010, Suzuki brought in the original RMX450 for a short time. It became the center of a bureaucratic firestorm that eventually resulted in its removal from the market. Now it’s back with governmental blessing, green-sticker eligibility and an electric-start version of a Suzuki RMZ450 motocross motor with a super-quiet exhaust note.

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TM EN 530 Fi ES: $10,795; EN 450 Fi ES: $10,895
Remember the big-bore off-road four-strokes? Oddly enough, this once-flourishing class of 500cc and 600cc dirt thumpers is all but gone, or at least most have migrated into the dual-sport world. But, cottage Italian maker TM still has one. The 530 is an electric-start, EFI dirt bike with an aluminum frame. It has a 450 little brother, and it’s not green-sticker legal.

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YAMAHA WR450F: $9099
Yamaha still believes in offering legitimate trail bikes. The electric-start WR450F is built on the same platform as the YZ450F motocross bike but passes all noise and emission standards. The gearbox has wider ratios than the MX bike. It’s very quiet, using drastic measures like a throttle stop and a micro baffle to overshoot the mark somewhat.

"MC YZ450FX USA CAN 2017"
YAMAHA YZ450FX: $8999

The FX falls into the off-road bike category, but it’s essentially a motocross bike with an electric starter and minimal off-road trappings, such as a kickstand and 18-inch rear wheel. It’s very powerful and slightly loud, and it has the same suspension components as the MX bike, only softer. The gearbox is a five-speed-wide ratio.

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KTM 350XC-F: $9999
Kailub Russell has proven that 350cc is basically the perfect size for off-road racing anywhere east of the Mojave desert. The XC is similar to the motocross 350 model, which is similar to the 250 motocross bike. It has electric start with no kickstarter and is lighter than the typical 250cc two-stroke. Unlike the SX, the XC has a six-speed gearbox.

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HUSQVARNA FX350: $9999
The FX line is new to Husqvarna this year. It’s a competition-oriented off-road bike with very few concessions—no emission equipment, noise reduction or spark arrestor. This is what Colton Haaker has been using to dominate EnduroCross. Like the MX 350, it has a new AER 48 air fork and traction control. Husky doesn’t offer a 250cc version yet.

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BETA 300RR: $8499; 250RR: $8499
These are the electric-start two-strokes that gave Cody Webb his first EnduroCross championship and continue to power riders like Kyle Redmond. They have oil injection, Sachs suspension, adjustable power valves and FMF exhausts. The quality is excellent, and the bikes are easy to maintain, with features like the push-button seat removal.

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BETA 300 XTRAINER: $7299
If you take the Beta 300RR and shrink it by about 10 percent, give it a smoother powerband that’s easier to use and aim it at tight trails, you have a bike that suits the best riders as well as beginners. The Xtrainer also has oil injection and top-quality components. With most riders, the Xtrainer can clear 90 percent of the obstacles that a full trials bike can handle.

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GAS GAS EC300: $8199
You can get the Gas Gas EC300 without electric start if you so desire. The bike will be slightly lighter and less expensive. In fact, it is the least costly of the full-size 300cc two-strokes but still has high-quality components, including Brembo brakes, a Marzocchi fork and top-shelf bars, rims, levers and parts. All the ECs have headlights and taillights.

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GAS GAS EC300E: $8399; GAS GAS EC250E: $8199
Gas Gas left us for a year or so. When the company came back, it was with new backing and a commitment to focus on the things that made the bikes work so well for off-road riders back in the ’90s. The EC300E and 250E will come with electric start as standard equipment. The Marzocchi fork and the Reiger shock are also standard.

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HUSQVARNA TE300: $9199; HUSQVARNA TE250: $8999
The TE series is the Husky version of the KTM XC-W two-strokes. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then think of these bikes as more trail-friendly, eastern-oriented machines that are equally at home play riding and racing. The bike has the new motor platform with the counterbalancer shaft, the Mikuni carb and electric start. The new Xplor 48 fork has coil springs and soft settings.

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HUSQVARNA TX300: $9199
This will probably be the best-selling Husqvarna of 2017. It’s the new two-stroke motor in a 300cc configuration with electric start and a six-speed gearbox. It’s in a more aggressive state of tune than the TE models, and it has the new WP AER 48 air fork. Off-road racing is its primary mission, but we know from past history that this bike can do anything—and do it well.

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KTM 250XC-F: $8999
The 250XC-F is one of the few bikes offered by KTM but not duplicated in the Husqvarna line. It’s essentially a motocross bike, but it has a six-speed gearbox, a kickstand, softer rear suspension and handguards. Like the KTM 250SX, it has the new WP AER 48 air fork and a handlebar switch that lets you change maps or activate the new traction-control feature.

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KTM 300XC: $9099; KTM 250XC: $8899
In KTM nomenclature, the “XC” suffix (without a “W”) means the bike is very motocross-oriented but redesigned for off-road racing with a few specific changes. In this case, the 300XC and 250XC have electric start, softer suspension, an 18-inch rear wheel, a kickstand, handguards, a skid plate, a six-speed gearbox and a 2.6-gallon tank (as opposed to 1.6). It still gets the AER 48 air fork.

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KTM 300XC-W: $9099; KTM 250XC-W: $8899; KTM 250XC-W: $8899
The guys at KTM have divided their two-stroke off-road offerings into two lines: the XC and XC-W. The XC-W line has softer suspension designed for tighter off-road terrain, typical of the eastern and northwestern trails in the U.S. The 300 and 250XC-W have PDS rear suspension and the Xplor 48 fork, which has coil springs with adjustable preload.

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KTM 300 XC-W SIX DAYS: $9999
Just prior to the ISDE in Navarre, Spain, this year, KTM announced the release of the Six Days special editions. The bikes have special graphics and a number of accessory parts as standard equipment. They have orange-machined triple clamps, a Supersprox rear sprocket, a front-axle puller, a map switch, a different silencer and a long list of other upgrades.

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SHERCO SE300 RACING: $8900 SE250 RACING: $8700
Sherco’s off-road bikes are amazingly sophisticated considering the small size of the family-owned factory. The SE250R two-stroke motors have electronic power valves, electric start and hydraulic clutches. This year the bikes get new heads, new pistons, new power valves, different ignition timing, new silencers and a number of other changes.

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SHERCO SE-F300 RACING: $9400; SHERCO SE-F250 RACING: $8900
This year there’s a big shake-up on the international enduro scene, and Sherco is at the heart of it. Australian Matt Phillips just won the E3 class with his Sherco SEF300R. The bike is fuel injected and has electric start and WP suspension. The ’17 has new gears, an updated fuel pump and a key-less wiring system. The 300 and 250 are nearly identical, aside from displacement. In honor of the recently concluded ISDE, there are a few limited edition ISDE versions available.

 

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TM EN 300 Fi ES: $10,995; TM EN 250 Fi ES: $10,795
TM won the E1 World Enduro Championship twice with its 250 four-stroke in the hands of Fin Eero Remes. The bike he rides is virtually stock. With its beautifully crafted aluminum frames and hand-built motors, the tiny Italian company has often beaten the giants of European racing. For 2017, TM adds a 300cc four-stroke to the line.

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TM EN 300: $9195; TM EN 250: $8995
Here in the U.S., TM is mostly known for its two-strokes. The 300 and 250 both have electronic power valves, KYB forks, and shocks that are made in-house at TM’s small factory in Pesaro, Italy. The company is known for getting a lot of horsepower and has a reputation for fast kart motors. These are purist motorcycles without electric start or frills. The MX model is shown here.

2017 Honda CRF250X
HONDA CRF250X: $7410

This bike is an endangered species. The Honda CRF250X is a carbureted off-road four-stroke with full EPA approval and is eligible for a green sticker in California. It still has electric start and a quiet exhaust. The CRF250X is a legitimate trail bike, not a motocrosser with an 18-inch rear wheel.

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YAMAHA WR250F: $8099
This is a true trail bike loosely based on the YZ250F motocross bike. Like the MX version, it has the reverse, rearward-tilted cylinder head and wrap-around exhaust, but, in this case, the exhaust is very quiet and the bike has EPA approval. In stock form, it has a throttle stop, but with a few parts changes, it can be converted into an electric-start YZ.

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YAMAHA YZ250FX: $7999
The YZ250FX shares about 90 percent of its parts with the WR250F, but the FX is sold in full-race trim. It has a motocross muffler without a spark arrestor, and there are no restrictors, baffles or emission parts. The shock and KYB coil-spring fork are stiffer than the WR’s but not as firm as those of the motocross version.

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KTM FREERIDE: $7999
Some bikes are tough to categorize or even describe. The Freeride is like that. It’s an electric-start 250cc two-stroke without a power valve. It’s tuned for low-end torque and has a chassis with short, soft suspension. It’s made for the rider who wants to dabble in trials but also wants to have a real seat and fuel range to cover more ground.

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SHERCO X-RIDE: $7200
There’s a middle ground between trials and enduro that several different companies are trying to find. Sherco based its offering on a trials motor with a completely new chassis, unlike anything else in the company’s line. The finished product is said to weigh 190 pounds. It has an old-fashioned kickstarter, a five-speed gearbox and holds 1.8 gallons of fuel.

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YAMAHA YZ250X: $7499

In 2015, Yamaha stunned us by suddenly deciding that the off-road world and, more specifically, off-road riders, were worth pursuing. The YZ250X is a competition bike designed to go head to head with KTM’s two-strokes. It lacks electric start and a large tank, but Yamaha engineers worked hard on the powerband and gear ratios to make the bike work for the trail.

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AJP PR5 EXTREME 250: $7295
This is a Portuguese company making off-road bikes with a mix of Asian and European parts. The PR5 Extreme is new to the line. It has the same electric-start, liquid-cooled, single-overhead-cam, 250cc engine as the standard PR5 but with upgraded parts. The standard PR5 is $6199, and there are three other versions, including an air-cooled PR3 for $4799.

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SSR SR250S: $3879
We don’t understand how it’s possible, but the SR250S sells for about half the price of a Honda CRF250X. It’s clear that the SR was modeled after the Honda, and the quality, finish and workmanship are surprisingly good. It has a single-overhead-cam motor with electric start and a five-speed gearbox.

For Part 2: Entry level and Under 250cc off-Road bikes, click here.

 

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