2018 MX BIKE BUYER’S GUIDE


HONDA CRF450R: $9149
In 2017, this was the most highly anticipated motocross bike on the scene. It was all new with a spring Showa fork and a reconfigured motor. For 2018 it gets even more changes. The kickstarter is gone, replaced by a full electric-start system with a high-tech battery. It still has three engine maps available through a handlebar switch, but the standard map has been reconfigured. For a video featuring the 2018 Honda CRF450R, click here.


HUSQVARNA FC450: $9699
Husqvarna continues to be offered as a premium brand under the KTM Group. The FC450 has a slightly higher price than the KTM 450SX-F and has a number of upgraded components, like the Pro Taper handlebar, Dirt Star rims and Magura clutch master cylinder. The muffler and subframe/airbox are also exclusive to Husky. This year there are suspension and battery changes. For a video featuring the 2018 Husqvarna FC450, click here.


KAWASAKI KX450F: $8849
In 2016 the Kawasaki KX450F had an all-new chassis and a mostly new motor, and it hasn’t changed much since then. It’s one of the few kick-start bikes in its class, but it is lighter than any of the other Japanese models. The fork is the Showa SFF air fork with three air chambers. It has adjustable footpegs, Launch Control and can be remapped with plug-in electronic couplers. For a video featuring the 2018 Kawasaki KX450F, click here.


KTM 450SX-F: $9599
For several years the electric-start, single-overhead-cam KTM 450SX-F has been the lightest and most powerful of the 450s. In 2017 the final piece of the puzzle arrived in the form of vastly improved suspension, specifically the WP AER 48 air fork. There are very few changes for 2018, as KTM is able to sit back and see what everyone else has to throw at the 450 class. For a video featuring the 2018 KTM 450SX-F, click here.


SUZUKI RM-Z450: $8899
For 2018 Suzuki finally gave the RM-Z450 some sorely needed updates, including a cosmetic makeover. The bike looks completely new but retains some traditional Suzuki strong points, such as excellent cornering manners and smooth power. This year it has a more sophisticated launch assist mode and a new coil-spring fork but still has no electric start. For a test featuring the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450, click here.


TM MX 530 FI KS & MX 450 FI KS: $10,295/$10,495
TM is a small Italian factory that specializes in making beautiful bikes to very high standards. It’s also one of very few makers to offer a traditional Open-class motocrosser in the 530 FI KX. It’s built on the same platform as the 450 and has KYB suspension in front and a TM-made shock in the rear. The chassis is beautifully made and welded by hand.


YAMAHA YZ450F: $9199
Yamaha redesigned everything under the gas cap this year, then redesigned the gas cap too. The YZ450F has a new motor with electric start, but it still has the trademark reverse head and topside air filter. The KYB suspension is still the best in the business. This year Yamaha has developed a phone app that lets you tune the motor via WiFi. For a video featuring the 2018 Yamaha YZ450F, click here.

For the full test of the 2018 YZ450F, click here.


HUSQVARNA FC350: $9499
Husqvarna and KTM are still enjoying a complete lack of competition in the 350cc motocross category, which remains the company’s best-selling segment. The Husky version is similar to the KTM but has a different airbox/subframe, a Magura clutch master cylinder, D.I.D. Dirt Star rims, a Pro Taper handlebar and completely different bodywork.

KTM 350SX-F: $9399
Back in 2011, KTM realized that most riders could handle a 350cc four-stroke more easily than a 450, and since then the 350SX-F has been a huge hit in the amateur racing world. The 350 motor has been completely redesigned at least twice in that period, but it has very few changes for 2018. It remains an electric-start-only bike based (loosely) on the 250SX-F. For Dirt Bike Magazine’s video featuring the 2018 KTM 350SX-F, click here.


TM MX 300 Fi KS & TM MX 250 Fi KS: $10,495/$10,495
Last year the engineers at TM took a long look at their 250 four-stroke motocrosser and made a few key changes to offer an additional model. The result is the 300 FI KS, which differs from the 250 in displacement and personality. The 300 version is competitive against 450s but is more suitable in Vet and Senior classes where the bike’s craftsmanship can be better appreciated.


TM MX300 & MX250 TWO-STROKE: $8995/$8845
Even though the tiny TM factory in Italy makes a wide variety of dirt bikes, it’s the two-stroke line that the company is most famous for. They have kick-start-only motors with Keihin carbs, just like old times. The 300 and 250 have electronic power valves, KYB forks, shocks made in-house at TM, hydraulic clutches and handcrafted aluminum frames that are said to be lighter for 2018.


HONDA CRF250R: $7999
This year marks the most extensive redesign of the Honda CRF250R since it was introduced 14 years ago. It now has a double-overhead-cam motor with electric start (no kick-start lever at all). The chassis is very similar to that of the 450 introduced last year with its over-the-shock intake and coil-spring Showa fork. The Honda will be available in November.


HUSQVARNA FC250: $8799
Zach Osborne just gave Husqvarna its first national MX championship since 1976, and he did it on the factory version of this bike—the FC250. The bike is a blood brother to the KTM 250SX-F but with a number of changes that give it its own personality. The KTM Group in Austria continues to see Husqvarna as a premium brand in the company’s lineup.


HUSQVARNA TC250 TWO-STROKE: $7999
There’s no electric start or EFI on the motocross version of the Husky 250 two-stroke. Unlike the enduro version, it’s stripped down and has a five-speed gearbox. The suspension is similar to that of the FC250 four-stroke motocross bike with a WP AER 48 air fork. The hydraulic clutch has a Magura master cylinder. The motor still has a counterbalancer, just like the off-road versions.


KAWASAKI KX250F: $7749
The 250 four-stroke MX class is young, but this bike can already be called legendary. The Kawasaki KX250F has won more pro races than any other bike in modern times. It was redesigned in 2017, then got even more refinements for this year. It has a single-spring Showa SFF fork and a secondary fuel injector in the airboot. It’s kick-start only.


KTM 250SX-F: $8699
KTM won the Dirt Bike 2017 250 MX shootout on the strength of its peak power. It was the fastest bike in the class, and it certainly didn’t hurt that it was also the lightest. The 2018 model has mostly cosmetic changes, including the factory-looking orange frame. The fork is still the WP AER 48, and the motor is still electric start and has a Brembo hydraulic clutch.


KTM 250SX TWO-STROKE: $7899
KTM came out with an all-new motor last year for all its full-size two-strokes. The MX version is similar to the off-road models but has no electric start, a five-speed gearbox and linkage rear suspension matched to a WP AER 48 fork. The carburetor is a Mikuni, as TPI fuel injection is still a few years away for the MX world. It still has a counterbalancer shaft to quell vibes.


SUZUKI RM-Z250: $7749
Suzuki won a string of shootouts with this bike a few years ago, but the rest of the class has evolved rapidly while the RM-Z250 has gone fundamentally unchanged, aside from a flurry of invisible detail changes two years ago. It remains one of the best-handling bikes in the class but doesn’t have as much sheer power as some of the other bikes in the 250 ranks. For a Dirt Bike Magazine video featuring the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z250, click here.


YAMAHA YZ250F: $7699
It doesn’t have electric start or the peak power of the KTM 250, but the YZ250F is still the favorite bike of most amateur racers in the 250 class. It has excellent low-end power and the best suspension in the MX world. For 2018 it is completely unchanged aside from cosmetics. It is offered in a second color option at the same price. For a Dirt Bike Magazine video featuring the 2018 Yamaha YZ250F, click here.

YAMAHA YZ250 TWO-STROKE: $7399
No motocross bike has had a longer production run than the Yamaha YZ250. The bike went through a crazy evolution for the first 30 years, but then it was left alone when emphasis shifted to four-strokes. It got a major change in 2015 when it received new suspension and bodywork. It’s still very competitive in amateur racing to this day.


KTM 150SX TWO-STROKE: $7199
Most companies don’t offer a small-bore, two-stroke MX bike. KTM has two. The 150SX is a close relative of the 125 two-stroke motocross bike in KTM’s line. The only thing that makes it different is its bore, which is 58mm as opposed to 54mm. It has full MX suspension, including linkage in the rear and a WP air fork up front. The carb is a 38mm Mikuni TMX. The brakes are Brembo.


TM MX144 & MX125: $8595/$8295
TM doesn’t want to be known for budget bikes, unless the budget is a very, very big one. Even the company’s small bikes are very high-end. The 125 and 144 have electronic power valves, Keihin carburetors, Nissin brakes, KYB forks and TM-made shocks. The porting is new for 2018, and there are a number of other changes.


HUSQVARNA TC125 TWO-STROKE: $7099
Husqvarna’s 125 motocross bike has a chassis and suspension components very similar to those of the full-size four-stroke MX bikes but weighs in right at 200 pounds. The bike has a two-stage mechanical power valve, a six-speed gearbox, a Magura hydraulic clutch and Brembo brakes. Up front it uses a WP AER 48 air fork, which was a huge step forward last year.


KTM 125SX TWO-STROKE: $6999
The 125 is a great transition bike between minis and full-size MX bikes, and KTM obviously cares enough to offer something for every age rider. The 125 SX has the WP AER 48 fork and linkage rear suspension. It has no electric start but is the lightest full-size motocross bike on the market. A 144 kit is available, which gives the bike a much more aggressive powerband.

YAMAHA YZ125 TWO-STROKE: $6499
The YZ125 remains relevant and competitive with newer European 125s despite having a motor that dates back about 15 years. The fork and shock aren’t that different from the ones on the current YZ250F, and the motor is still crisp, responsive and fun to use. It has been called the world’s best-handling bike. Come to think of it, we’re the ones who said that.

HONDA CRF150R: $5099

In the mini racing world, at one time it looked like Honda was leading the charge to four-strokes with the CRF150R. It might have happened, but the recession hit about that time and most other companies decided not to follow. The CRF150R remains and it’s a very good motorcycle, more than competitive with most Japanese 85cc two-strokes. At first, most racing organizations didn’t know where to place the 150, but now it races with the 85s, at least on the local level.


KAWASAKI KX100 TWO-STROKE: $4599
In order to create the KX100, Kawasaki gave the KX85 a 4mm increase in bore, a larger Keihin carburetor and larger wheels. The front is a 19-incher, and the rear is a 16, as opposed to the 14/17 combination on the 85. The seat height is 1.6 inches taller. The chassis, suspension and the rest of the motor are the same on the two bikes, making the 100 a good bike to grow into.


TM MX100 JUNIOR & MX85 JUNIOR $6545/$6445
TMs are the most expensive bikes in the mini class, but it’s easy to see why the price is high. They have hand-welded aluminum frames, electronic power valves, six-speed transmissions and are said to be very, very fast. The 100 has larger wheels, as well as more displacement, the product of increases in both bore and stroke. There’s also an 85 with a full-size chassis for $8295.


HUSQVARNA TC85 TWO-STROKE: (17/14) $5899
This is a completely new bike for 2018. The new chromoly frame is said to be torsionally stiffer but has more flex longitudinally. The front suspension is now an air fork, and both ends have more travel. The motor has a new top end and a new power-valve design. The crank is lighter, and even the engine cases are more compact. A big-wheel version is available for $6099.


KAWASAKI KX85 TWO-STROKE: $4349
The KX85 got a remake four years ago when it got a big upgrade in suspension and power, as well as a cosmetic makeover. Kawasaki has paid more attention to the 85 class than any other Japanese manufacturer in recent years and has an amateur title from this year’s AMA amateur championships at Loretta Lynn’s to show for it.


KTM 85SX TWO-STROKE: $5799
This bike is the subject of KTM’s biggest model update for 2018. The 85SX has a new chassis, new bodywork, new suspension and a new motor. Suspension travel has increased at both ends, and there’s a new WP AER 43 air fork in front. The steel frame is said to be less rigid on a vertical plane while being stiffer in torsion. The motor has a new power valve, more compact cases and keeps its hydraulic clutch.

YAMAHA YZ85 TWO-STROKE: $4299
The last time that Yamaha changed the YZ85 was in 2002 when it was at the top of the class. Since then, the YZ’s lack of changes has pushed it out of the limelight in competition, as KTM and now Husqvarna have captured the more serious racers. The YZ is still a little taller than the Suzuki and the Kawasaki and has similar performance.


SUZUKI RM85 TWO-STROKE: $4149
Suzuki’s RM85 has had the longest run of any two-stroke on the mini market. It continues to be an excellent bike for newcomers to the 85 class because it’s physically smaller than most and has a torquey motor that most beginners find easy to manage. It costs less than the Yamaha or Kawasaki and is much, much less expensive than the minis from KTM and Husqvarna.


COBRA CX65 TWO-STROKE: $5298
Cobra has won over 300 National titles in the last 10 years. The company’s CX65 has recently progressed to the point where it can challenge KTM in that class—in results if not in numbers. The bikes are handmade in low quantities with parts mostly made in the U.S. Last year the 65 got extensive upgrades, and this year it follows up with new wheels, low-friction swingarm bearings and Dunlop MX3S tires.


HUSQVARNA TC65 TWO-STROKE: $5099
Last year the TC65 got a major change, and for 2018 the bike has mostly refinements. In front it still uses the WP AER 35 fork, which has 215mm of travel. The rear suspension uses no linkage and provides 270mm of travel. It has a six-speed gearbox with a hydraulic clutch. The power valve is a pressure-controlled design.


KAWASAKI KX65 TWO-STROKE: $3599
Once upon a time Kawasaki dominated the 65cc class in amateur racing, but with the coming of the KTM, Cobra and Husky 65s, the KX is now more of a play bike than a racer. It can still be modified to be more competitive, and smaller riders love it for its 29.9-inch seat height. Parents love it because the price is more than $1000 less than other 65s and, let’s face it, kids grow fast.


KTM 65SX TWO-STROKE: $4999
This bike utterly dominated the 65 class at Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals again this year. Of the 133 bikes in the various 65cc classes, 104 were KTMs. It features a manual six-speed gearbox with a hydraulic clutch. The fork is a WP AER 35 and has 215mm of travel. The single rear shock is mounted directly to the swingarm and offers 270mm of travel.


HUSQVARNA TC50 TWO-STROKE: $4199
This is only the second year for the Husky 50, but already it is having an impact in amateur racing. The 50 has a three-shaft motor and places the crank in the middle of the bike’s center of gravity. The reverse kick-starter is easy for a kid to use. The brakes are hydraulic, the clutch is automatic and the front suspension is the WP AER 35 air fork.


COBRA CX50SR & FWE: $4198/$5198
Every summer Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, becomes the world Cobra center. The CX50R once again had a massive presence disproportionate to the small size of the company. The 2018 CX50 model gets upgraded brakes, lightweight wheels and Dunlop Geomax MX3S tires. The high-end Factory Works Edition (FWE) gets a Warhead cylinder and an extended wheelbase.


COBRA CX50JR & P3: $3998/$3598
Although Cobra specializes in making the world’s most competitive (and expensive) mini racers, the company also has something for true beginners. The CX50JR and the P3 have 10-inch wheels and much milder power output for younger riders. They also have upgraded brakes, wheels and tires this year, along with billet triple clamps with adjustable bar mounts. The P3 is smaller and qualifies for the Special Limited class.


KTM 50SX TWO-STROKE: $4099
There are few changes to the 2018 KTM 50SX, but last year it got new suspension, including the WP AER 35 air fork. This is the model that you see at the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge where kids race during intermission at most rounds of the Monster Energy Supercross series. It has an automatic clutch and a single-speed and is the most popular bike in the 50 class in amateur racing


KTM 50 MINI TWO-STROKE: $3599
KTM offers the 50 Mini for young riders who are just entering the world of dirt bike riding. It’s a smaller, milder version of the 50SX, with 10-inch wheels as opposed to 12-inchers. The centrifugal clutch engages at fairly low rpm, and the engine has a single speed. There’s a coil-spring fork in front and hydraulic brakes at both ends.

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