2016 Beta 300RR & 250RR: $8299
Beta’s big two-strokes have earned the respect of everyone in the off-road world. They have smoother low-end power than anything in the class, and have proven to be reliable. The electric starter is integrated in the engine cases and there’s still a kickstarter. For 2016 there are a number of changes including the addition of a oil-injection system, similar to the one on the Xtrainer. There’s also a Race Edition available that has no oil injection system.
The is a weird bike that you have to ride to appreciate. Think of it as a trials bike for a regular man. The chassis is pretty much a normal off-road bike, but downsized about 10 percent. The suspension travel is just over 10 inches. But the electric start two-stroke 300cc motor is tuned like a trials bike, so it’s incredibly good in tight quarters. And it has oil injection.
For a full test of the 2015 Beta Xtrainer, click here.
2016 Cobra CX65: $5298
Cobra has not only taken on the giants of Japan and Europe, but in many cases beaten them. This is a small American manufacturer that has shaped amateur racing in motocross. The CX65 came late to the 65 class, but year after year it becomes more successful. For 2016 it gets a new rear brake caliper, a new clutch master cylinder, a new fully adjustable rear shock and a number of motor changes aimed at increased power and reliability.
If not for this motorcycle, the mini class in amateur racing would have gone in a completely different direction. When the King Cobra came on the scene, all others had to copy in order to survive. For 2016, the CX50SR has a new, fully adjustable shock, new fork seals and wipers, new steering head seals, new clutch seals and black wheels which are said to be tougher. The CX50JR is designed for younger riders, has 10″ wheels and sells for $3998.
2016 Husqvarna TE300 & TE250: $8899/$8699
Husqvarna’s two-stroke, electric start off-road bike is made mostly from KTM parts, but the end result has its own identity. It uses linkage rear suspension and a unified airbox/subframe. Husqvarna also has its own body work. For 2016, there are a number of changes including a smaller front axle. The 250 and 300 are identical aside from displacement.
When it comes to the TE125, the very concept is difficult for most Americans to grasp. It’s hard to understand just how effective a 125cc two-stroke is off-road, and the Husky is nearly alone in that class. It didn’t get the new motor found in the motocross version, but it has suspension upgrades, a smaller front axle and 22mm fork offset for 2016.
This is the first all-new two-stroke dirt bike of any kind in years. The motor is still a case-reed six-speed with a conventional carburetor, but it’s completely new and it’s mounted in a completely new chassis. The bike is claimed to be 5 pounds lighter and 5% more powerful than the one it replaces. Overall, it’s similar to the new KTM 125, but with its own suspension specs.
Of all the bikes in the Husqvarna line, the TC85 has the most in common with its KTM counterpart, the 85SX. That’s good, because the KTM dominates in the 85 class. For 2016, the six-speed TC85 returns with very few changes, most of which are cosmetic. It has a six-speed transmission, a Formula hydraulic clutch and adjustable WP suspension.
2016 Kawasaki KX85: $4349
In 2014, Kawasaki gave the KX85 a massive increase in power, updated suspension and a new look. That revitalized the model, which had been dormant for years. The reborn KX still has a lower seat height than most 85s, which is appealing to younger riders, but now it’s more competitive, which has made the stock class more exciting in amateur racing.
Just like the KX85, the Kawasaki KX100 was reconfigured two years ago with upgraded suspension, power and bodywork. The 100 is similar to the 85 mechanically, but has a larger bore and bigger wheels, giving it a target rider who is over 5 feet tall and around 13 years old. The wheels are a 16/19” combination as opposed to the 85’s 14/17.
2016 Kawasaki KX65: $3699
2016 KTM 300XC/250XC: $8899/$8699
KTM considers the XC line to be its race-oriented off-road bikes. So the 250XC is basically an electric-start 250SX motocross bike, although the engine tuning and suspension settings are more off-road oriented. The XCs also get 18-inch wheels, kickstands and a wide-ratio, five-speed gearbox, but no headlight. There is no 300cc motocross bike in the line, so the 300XC is KTM’s most powerful two-stroke.
For a comprehensive history of the KTM 300, click here.
When KTM puts a “W” suffix on any of its models, it means the bike is trail-oriented and not quite as hard-edged as the racing models. So the 300XC-W and 250XC-W have softer suspension and more linear power delivery than the XC versions. They use no-link PDS rear suspension. Unlike the four-strokes that end in “W,” the 250 and 300XC-W are not green-sticker legal in California.
This is the only full-size motocross bike in KTM’s line that didn’t get a complete make-over for 2016. It remains the most powerful 250 motocross bike on the market, with the possible exception of its near twin, the Husqvarna TC250. The KTM got updates in suspension, a new top triple clamp with rubber-mounted bars, lighter wheels and Galfer brake rotors for 2016.
This bike was a bold move from KTM last year and has already earned a cult following. The 250cc two-stroke is a cross between a trail bike and a trials bike. It takes its suspension and smooth, torquey power delivery from the trials world, and its electric starter, seat height and fuel range from the trail world. The frame is bolted together and the gas cap is under a flip-up seat.
For a full test of the 2015 KTM Freeride, click here.
The 200 is a legend on wheels. Back in 1998 it pointed the way for the current generation of KTM motorcycles with the company’s first versions of PDS no-link suspension and hydraulic clutches. The motor still has a universally loved power delivery, but since the early days it received an electric starter. This year it gets rubber-mounted bars along with other detail changes.
In a very surprising move, KTM completely redesigned its 125 two-stroke for 2016, reaffirming its belief in the two-stroke concept. The bike is lighter and it has, without doubt, the most compact 125cc motocross motor on the market. Some things are the same; it still uses a Keihin carburetor, a six-speed gearbox, a hydraulic clutch, WP suspension and Brembo brakes. The 150 (actually 144cc) has a larger bore and a longer stroke. It sells for $6899.
The KTM 85SX has some features that are still rare on big bikes, like a hydraulic clutch. The suspension is fully adjustable and the bars are made of oversize aluminum. If you look at the results from any amateur youth race, it’s pretty much wall-to-wall KTMs in the 85 class. They are fast, light and well suspended. They also cost about 25% more than Japanese 85s,
In the 65cc 10-11 year-old class at the 2015 Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals, the top three riders were on KTM 65SXs. So were the 39 riders behind them. KTM has the 65 class covered and that isn’t likely to change. The 65SX has WP PDS rear suspension with 270mm of wheel travel and a WP fork with 215mm of stroke. This year there are small updates like a new chain guide.
Kids today don’t have to walk to school in the snow and ride motorcycles made of rusty barbed wire like their dads did. They have the KTM 50SX with disc brakes, aluminum bars and automatic clutches. The 2016 model gets all-new bodywork. The 50SX Mini is for younger kids and has 10-inch wheels. There will probably be a premium SXS version added to the line, as well.
In Europe, the tiny Sherco race team continues to threaten the giants in the World Enduro Championship, squeaking out victories here and there. The French motorcycle has an electric start, two-stroke, six-speed motor in a steel frame. In the U.S., the 300 will be imported with WP suspension, front and rear. The brakes are Brembo and the clutch is hydraulic.
2016 Sherco SE 250 Racing: $8500
Sherco off-road bikes are manufactured in France while its trials bike come from Spain. The company launched its two-stroke line in 2014, and the motor features a servo-controlled electronic power valve and an electric starter that is integrated within the engine cases. The 250 and 300 are identical aside from the bore, which is 5.6mm smaller on the 250.
Before the Beta Xtrainer and before the KTM Freeride, Sherco was showing the X-Ride at European motorcycle shows. The X-Ride is now coming to America with a motor that is very closely related to the one in Sherco’s 290 trials bike. It starts with an old-fashion kick and has a 5-speed gearbox. The fuel tank holds 7 liters and there is a full seat. The 125cc version sells for $6200.
2016 Suzuki RM85: $4099
This is the lone two-stroke in the Suzuki line, but we’re happy to have it. The RM85 motor has always been a favorite among engine tuners trying to dig up extreme power for the Supermini class or just fun. The Suzuki has a lower seat height than most 85s and comparatively good low-end power, making it a great beginner bike.
TM Racing EN300: $9100
This is probably the most exotic production motorcycle in the world. TM is a small Italian company that makes motorcycles one by one. The EN300 has a beautiful hand-welded aluminum frame that houses a 300cc five-speed two-stroke engine. The fork is a KYB, and the shock is made in-house at TM. There’s a motocross version available that has more aggressive power and suspension for $8800.
For a full test of the 2016 TM EN300, click here.
Like the TM 300, the 250 is rare and exotic. This is the only Euro off-road bike that comes with an aluminum frame. The motor uses an electronic powervalve similar to the configuration used on the Honda CR250R two-stroke. The MX version sells for $8650, but comes without lights or kickstand, and with a 19” rear wheel. The MX engine is in a different state of tune and the suspension is valved differently. The 2016 TM EN300 tested by Dirt Bike is shown here.
The TM 125 and 144 are built on similar engine platforms, but the 144 is larger in both bore and stroke. Just like the bigger bikes, they have aluminum frames, CNCed tripleclamps and billet parts everywhere. The fork is KYB, the shock is TM and the brakes are Nissin. The MX125 sells for $8150, the EN144 is $8700 and the EN125 sells for $8450. The 2015 model is pictured and will be similar to the 2016 version, but there are differences in frame geometry and suspension.
This is more than one model; TM makes a family of exotic small competition bikes. All have aluminum frames and electronic power valves, making them the most sophisticated bikes in the mini class. The standard model has a 14-17” wheel combo, and there’s also a big-wheel version for the same price of $6450. You can get either one with a 100cc motor for $6500. Finally, there’s an adult-sized 85 in the 125 chassis for $8150. The 2015 small-wheel 85 is shown.
2016 Yamaha YZ250X: $7390
The fact that Yamaha is offering an off-road two-stroke for the first time in over a decade is big news. Technically, there aren’t many differences between it and the MX model; just the wide-ratio five-speed gearbox, 18-inch rear wheel, suspension settings and kickstand. But, it represents a big change in the way Yamaha thinks about the off-road market. For more on this bike, click here.
For full test of the 2016 YZ250X, click here.
Last year the old, faithful Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke motocross bike stopped looking so old. It got more modern body work as well as updated suspension. The fork is every bit as modern as that of the YZ450F, which is still the best in the world. The motor hasn’t changed in years, but is still powerful, reliable and cheap to own. The YZ250 is still a viable, competitive racebike to this day.
This machine has been called the best-handling dirt bike of all time. We agree. In fact, we’re the ones who called it that. When you mix suspension this good with a featherweight two-stroke 125 motor, magic things happen. The look and suspension got an update in 2015, but otherwise, you can trace this basic platform back to 2005.
Yamaha still makes its mark in the 85cc amateur racing world with the YZ85 every year, holding out against a sea of European bikes. In stock form it’s physically the largest of the three remaining Japanese 85s, and generally held to be the most competitive in stock form. It will struggle against a KTM in a power contest, but it sells for about $1500 less, too.