Honda took a chapter from KTM’s book and released a special edition of its flagship motocross bike. In this case, the Works Edition isn’t as much a preview of things to come as a model that offers performance upgrades over the standard model. The CRF450RWE has a hand-ported head, special coatings for the suspension components and a set of Yoshimura slip-on mufflers. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 Honda CRF450RWE, click here.
Honda changed the 2019 CRF450R in a number of ways you might not notice at a glance. The frame and swingarm are new, both designed to be more compliant. The motor lost the provision for a kickstarter, so for 2019, it’s electric start only. There are also a number of electronic changes, including the addition of a launch mode. The center cases are new as well and hold slightly more oil.For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 Honda CRF450R, click here.
After winning the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross title with the FC450 Rockstar Edition, Husqvarna has incorporated most of that bike’s new features on the standard edition. It has a more rigid frame, a new more compact head and all-new bodywork. It remains a single-overhead-cam, electric-start bike that shares many of its major components with the KTM 450SX-F, aside from a few isolated parts. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 Husqvarna FC450, click here.
This is the biggest year of change for the Kawasaki 450 since it was introduced over 10 years ago. It now has electric start incorporated in a new motor with a very sophisticated valve train and a double-overhead-cam layout. The clutch is hydraulically actuated, which is a first for a Japanese MX bike. Kawasaki has also abandoned the triple-air Showa fork for a unit with steel coil springs and a titanium-nitride coating. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 Kawasaki KX450, click here. For a full test of the 2019 Kawasaki KX450, click here. For a shootout video featuring the 2019 Kawasaki KX450, click here.
KTM was already the class champion as far as weight and horsepower, but the 2019 model still got substantial changes. The most noticeable is the head, which is much more compact. The frame is more rigid and the bodywork is new, but the bike still has all of its trademark features, such as the Brembo hydraulic clutch, the WP shock, the WP AER 48 air fork, Brembo brakes and electronic traction control. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 KTM 450SX-F, click here.
The Suzuki RM-Z450 holds the record for the most pro wins in 450 national competitions over the last 10 years. Last year Suzuki gave the bike a makeover that included a new frame, a coil-spring fork and a number of motor changes. The engineers did not use the opportunity to give the bike electric start, so now it’s the only kick-start bike in the 450 class. For 2019, it has mild suspension updates. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z450, click here.
If any bike is the embodiment of the age of tech, this is it. The YZ450F was completely redesigned with a new chassis and e-start motor in 2018, and along the way it became the first bike that could be tuned without opening a toolbox. The YZ emits its own Wi-Fi signal that allows anyone with a smartphone and a code to reprogram the EFI mapping. With so many new changes in 2018, the changes for 2019 are minimal. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F, click here. For a full test of the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F, click here.
TM is a small Italian business devoted to the limited-quantity production of dedicated race bikes. The TM 450FI features a hand-welded aluminum frame and a sand-cast motor with electronic power valves. The fork is by KYB, and the shock is made in-house by TM. The brakes are by Nissin. Full details for the 2019 model aren’t yet available but will be released after the Milan EICMA Motorcycle Show in November.
Husqvarna and KTM still have a monopoly on the 350 class for motocross. The FC350 gets a stiffer frame and a new DDS clutch this year. It shares its frame, engine and suspension components with its cousin in orange but has a few perks that set it apart. The Husky’s new bodywork is exclusive, as are the integrated airbox and subframe, the Renthal handlebar and the Magura clutch master cylinder. For a feature comparing the KTM 350SX-F with the Husqvarna FC350, click here.
Many riders at the intermediate and novice levels freely admit that they can ride the KTM 350SX-F more effectively than any 450. The 350 uses the chassis and most of the motor components from the 250SX-F but has substantially more horsepower. This year the chassis is stiffer, the clutch finally has the DDS design with a diaphragm spring and the bodywork is all new. For a Dirt Bike feature on the 2019 KTM 350SX-F, click here.
Honda introduced this new DOHC, electric-start 250 last year but reportedly left some horsepower on the table. The bike went back into the shop and now emerges with considerable changes in the valve train. The throttle body is 2mm smaller, and there have been changes to the fuel injection. Honda fans will be thrilled with the new Renthal Fatbar and black rims.
The Husqvarna FC250 finished the 2018 Dirt Bike 250 MX shootout in a virtual tie with the KTM 250SX for class champion. That isn’t to say the bikes are identical, but they do come out of the same factory. They both make incredible power and are tied for the honor of being the lightest in class. The 2019 Husky gets a more rigid frame, a DDS clutch with a diaphragm spring and new bodywork that’s narrower across the front. The WP shock and AER 48 air fork also have internal changes.
This is an old-school MX two-stroke stripped of non-essentials. It has no electric start or fuel injection. The gearbox is a five-speed, and the suspension is essentially the same as the FC250’s. The TC250 has a new frame for 2019, which is more rigid in every plane. It also has new bodywork that is similar to that of the four-stroke MX bikes for 2019. Unlike the off-road Huskys, it has Brembo brakes.
With Kawasaki’s entire engineering staff being devoted to the new KX450, the KX250 didn’t get much attention for 2019. It remains a torquey, easy-to-ride 250F, with dual-injector locations and a Showa SFF fork that uses a single coil spring in one side and damping functions in the other. Some claim that next year’s KX250 will be completely changed, but this one is certainly competitive in its own right. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 Kawasaki KX250, click here.
This is what all great motocross bikes used to be—a 250cc case-reed two-stroke with a 38mm Mikuni carb. The SX has no fuel injection, no oil injection, no electric start and it’s a five-speed. For 2019, it gets a new frame and bodywork, just like Marvin Musquin’s 450cc four-stroke. The 250SX has just about as much power as a modern 450 four-stroke and less weight than a 250F. You just have to hold on and shift.
As winner of the 2018 Dirt Bike 250 MX shootout, the KTM 250SX-F could have come back without changes. But, KTM engineers want it to be a moving target, so the new bike has all the same chassis changes that the 450SX-F Factory Edition received at the beginning of the Supercross season. That includes a stiffer frame and new bodywork. The engine got a new clutch, among other changes. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 KTM 250SX-F, click here. For a full test of the 2019 KTM 250SX-F, click here.
This bike will be a late arrival for 2019. Suzuki is giving it a new frame, new bodywork and new suspension. Horsepower is said to be substantially improved. The 250 will see all the same changes that the RM-Z450 received for 2018, including the coil-spring fork and the new look. Like the 450, the RM-Z250 will remain a kickstart-only model. For a Dirt Bike feature on the 2019 Suzuki RM-Z250, click here.
TM designed an all-new motor for the 250FI and developed it on the 2017 GP circuit. Early in the season, it scored a moto win, which is an amazing accomplishment for a small factory with a modest race team. The production bike showed up late in 2018 with a very unusual hybrid valve train that uses both gears and a chain. The bike has TM’s aluminum chassis with the fuel tank located under the seat. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the TM 250Fi, click here.
TM 250MX (TWO-STROKE): TBA
In the U.S., TM is best known for its exotic two-strokes. The 250cc MX bike has an electronic power valve and a case-reed motor. There is a fuel-injected model in the works, but it will appear on the off-road models first. The frame is aluminum, the fork is KYB and the shock is made in-house at TM. This bike is also available as a 300, which is the only Open-class two-stroke MX bike sold in America. The 2019 models are said to have electric start, but have yet to be shown.
In 2005 Yamaha made big changes to the YZ250 two-stroke MX bike, including a single backbone aluminum frame. Since then, it has received sporadic attention with regular suspension upgrades. In 2015 it got new bodywork and a fresh outlook. Since then, the suspension has been upgraded again, but the YZ250 remains essentially the same bike it has been for 14 years.
This bike is the biggest news in the 250 class. It was redesigned from top to bottom with a new electric-start motor for 2019. One striking new feature is the free Yamaha Power Tuner app, which allows the user to tune the bike’s EFI system with a smartphone. The chassis is new, too, with a much more rigid frame. It still uses KYB suspension, although it has been updated for 2019. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2019 Yamaha YZ250F, click here.
KTM’s commitment to two-strokes is clear. Whereas most manufacturers stopped making small-displacement two-strokes, KTM has a whole range of them. The 150SX is just like the 125SX but has an increased bore, bringing the displacement to 144cc. That difference gives the 150 a separate personality. It’s more of an expert-level bike than the 125, with a hard hit and a lot more power.
Husqvarna does not offer a 150cc two-stroke MX bike, but the TC125 can be easily modified with the replacement of a cylinder and piston. The 125 has a new frame and bodywork, just like the four-stroke MX bikes in the Husqvarna line. It still has the AER 48 fork, Brembo brakes, a Pro Taper handlebar and D.I.D rims. The subframe/airbox combo is now two pieces (instead of three).
Just like KTM’s other motocross bikes, the 125SX has a new frame and reshaped bodywork for 2019. The frame is said to be stiffer and narrower. The fork is the WP AER 48 air fork; the brakes are Brembo and so is the hydraulic clutch. The motor is still very powerful by 125 standards, and the weight is less than 200 pounds. The 125 is good for racers and play riders. Sorry, no electric start for the two-stroke MX bikes.
The TM 125 two-stroke motor is considered the fastest in its class, even though most of the power is concentrated very high in the rev range. The motor has an electronic power valve, and the chassis has twin aluminum beams, much like modern Japanese four-strokes. The fork is a KYB and the brakes are Nissin. This bike is also available as a 144.
There’s no motocross bike that makes you feel like a hero the way the YZ125 does. That’s because it has excellent suspension, great overall handling and light weight combined with a fairly mild power delivery. That’s pure ego food. The YZ has had only a few significant changes since 2005, including a cosmetic remake in 2015, but it’s still competitive among 125s because of its excellent manners.
Once upon a time the Honda CRF150R was bred to be the first in a new wave of four-stroke mini racers. The rest of the industry didn’t follow suit, leaving the Honda as the only one of its kind. It once was considered to have an unfair advantage against 85cc two-strokes, but Honda has let that advantage fade as new 85s have advanced while the Honda has stood still. The big-wheel CRF150R Expert (left) sells for $5299.
Kawasaki is the only major company making a 100. It is technically a Supermini by the definitions of most amateur racing organizations, but in truth, the KX100 is a stepping stone to full-size bikes for kids who aren’t necessarily involved in racing. The 100 has a 19-inch front wheel and a 16-inch rear wheel, and it has a larger bore than the standard KX85 but is otherwise a very similar machine.
The TC85 is available in standard and a big-wheel configuration—14-inch rear and 17-inch front versus 16/19 inches. The TC85 has few changes for 2019, but it still has a hydraulic clutch with a master cylinder made by a company called Formula, WP suspension with linkage in the rear and an air fork up front, and an oversized handlebar. The brakes are also made by Formula. The big-wheel version sells for $6199.
Kawasaki revitalized the KX85 in 2014 when it got a new top end, new suspension and new bodywork. That boosted it into a position as king of the Japanese 85s for a while, although for 2019 it has competition from Yamaha for that title. The Kawasaki is still a bike well-suited to smaller riders and play racers, whereas the more expensive KTM and Husqvarna 85s are considered better for competition.
KTM 85SX (TWO-STROKE): $5899
KTM utterly dominates mini racing in the U.S. with the 85SX. It’s almost a mandatory stepping stone for all pro riders to have spent some time in orange. The 85SX got a new frame and motor in 2018, and the remake continues with a handful of changes for 2019. The new bike is mostly unchanged but still has a hydraulic clutch, Formula disc brakes, a WP AER 43 air fork and oversized bars.
SUZUKI RM85 (TWO-STROKE): $4199
Suzuki’s RM85 is the bargain of the mini class. It has a bulletproof case-reed motor with a ball-ramp-driven power valve. The Suzuki hasn’t changed much since it became an 85 in 2002, which is why it’s the most inexpensive mini racer in its class. The Suzuki still ranks as the best choice for smaller and less-experienced riders because of its low seat height and good low-end power.
This is one of the most sought-after bikes in the upper echelon of mini racing. The TM is the only 85 available with an aluminum frame. It is available in a number of configurations, including as a Super Mini with a 100cc motor and a 16/19-inch wheel combo. It can also be had in a full-size chassis.
YAMAHA YZ85 (TWO-STROKE): $4599
Don’t let the unchanged bodywork fool you. The 2019 Yamaha YZ85 has received its biggest changes since 2002. The little YZ has a new motor that incorporates a ball-ramp-driven power valve. The suspension is fully adjustable, the brakes are upgraded, and the whole package has been brought up to date with only a modest increase in price. The YZ is still $1300 less than the KTM 85SX.
Cobra is a small American company out of Michigan that was founded in 1993 and has devoted itself to making highly competitive race bikes for the most serious young competitors. Since then, Cobra has earned a phenomenal number of amateur championships. The company’s CX65 is the most recent addition to the line and is following in the tracks of the highly successful 50.
HUSQVARNA TC65 (TWO-STROKE): $5099
There aren’t major changes in store for the Husqvarna TC65 in 2019. It still has a long list of features that many full-size motocross bikes don’t have, including a hydraulic clutch and an aluminum handlebar. The TC65 has a WP AER 35 air fork, a six-speed gearbox, Formula disc brakes and a pressure-controlled power valve. The shock connects directly to the swingarm without linkage.
Kawasaki hasn’t updated the KX65 in a very long time, which is a good thing if you’re looking for a reliable play bike at a very good price. The Kawasaki is about $1000 less expensive than the KTM, the Husky and even the Yamaha 65. It has a manual clutch and a six-speed gearbox to provide a young rider with his first experience with shifting. The bike isn’t quite as tall as the other 65s.
Like the KTM 85SX, the 65SX is the king of its class in amateur mini racing. This bike has a power valve that is operated by pressure, eliminating the ball-ramp device in the lower end. The clutch is manual and is activated by a Formula hydraulic system. The gearbox has six speeds, and the front end has an AER 43 air fork. The only official changes for 2019 are the grips and the fork guards.
YAMAHA YZ65 (TWO-STROKE): $4599
Yamaha introduced this all-new motorcycle in 2018 to thunderous applause from the dirt bike community. It had been 35 years since the company offered a mini racer in this class. The new YZ65 has a mechanical power valve and coil-spring forks. The rear shock is mounted directly to the swingarm. The little YZ is considered competitive with the much more expensive 65s from KTM, Husqvarna and Cobra. For a full test of the Yamaha YZ65, click here. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the Yamaha YZ65, click here.
Originally called the King Cobra, the CX50 Senior is the bike that put Cobra on the map. It’s earned a long list of championships by taking the 50cc class seriously with top-grade components. The FWE is an upgraded model that requires no further investment to compete at the very highest level.
The Husqvarna TC50 shares its engine, frame and suspension with the KTM 50SX but has its own bodywork and a different layout. The 50 has a three-shaft motor with the crank located near the bike’s center of gravity. The brakes are hydraulic, the clutch is automatic and the front suspension is the WP AER 35 air fork. The kickstarter kicks forward, which most kids find easier.
Cobra is very well-known for its high-end 50cc race bikes, which add to their winning record each year at the AMA Amateur Championships. The company also has bikes for true beginners. The CX50JR and the P3 have 10-inch wheels and tame performance for younger riders. The P3 is the smallest of the two and qualifies for the Special Limited class.
Thanks to the KTM Mini Challenge, which is held during select rounds of the Monster Energy Supercross series, virtually everyone knows that KTM makes a mini racer. It has a shiftless transmission and an automatic clutch, but it’s a very serious racer. It has hydraulic disc brakes, a WP AER 35 air fork, and you can adjust the clutch to deliver a harder hit as the rider develops his or her skills.
For very young riders, typically around 6 years old, the KTM 50SX Mini is designed to be a very stylish first bike. It’s much lighter than the 50cc four-strokes that are typically used for this, but has a similar seat height with 10-inch wheels. The clutch is automatic, and there’s no shifting. Starting is manual through an old-school kickstarter that kicks forward.