The year 2021 comes in with the motorcycle world enjoying an unlikely rally. It turned out that people looked to dirt bikes to escape the ugliness of 2020. Amid pandemic and political uncertainty, motorcycles sold surprisingly well, leaving showrooms empty and riders wanting more. Thankfully, the 2021 models have arrived. Here ‘s a look at the off-road models that will be available in the U.S. , complete with prices and information.
TM EN530Fi/EN450Fi: $11,195/$11,195
TM is a small company on the Adriatic coast of Italy that specializes in the production of racing motorcycles. TMs are low-volume, high-quality machines, and that’s reflected in the price. The 530 and 450 four-strokes differ in bore and stroke but are otherwise identical. Both are configured with the airbox in front of the seat and the fuel cell under it. A KYB fork and a TM-made shock are standard equipment.
Sherco surprised everyone by putting the FactoyONE Sherco team GNCC XC1 Pro riders on the big 450 four-stroke this year and getting spectacular results. The SE-F455 Factory has already earned respect in the Dakar Rally, and now it has a resume of accomplishments in the woods of America as well. The 455 and 500 have KYB suspension and top-shelf components.
If any motorcycle is a product of the whole world, the AJP is it. The PR7 is assembled in Portugal with a 600cc motor that is produced by SWM out of Italy and has Sachs suspension made in Germany. It is designed to be a turnkey rally bike with a frame-mounted navigation tower, integrated weatherproof tablet, stacked halogen lighting and 12-volt power supply. The PR7 is sold as a closed-course competition motorcycle but is easily licensed in some states.
The Husky 501 is designed for the off-road purist. It shares its SOHC motor, its linkage rear suspension and its WP coil-spring fork with the FE501S dual-sport bike but is stripped of its DOT equipment and is in a more aggressive state of tune. The FE is still quiet and clean and is officially imported as an off-road bike with EPA approval.
Many off-road riders share a cult-like devotion to KTM’s PDS no-linkage rear suspension. The bikes in the XCF-W line all have PDS rear suspension and WP coil-spring Xplor forks. The 500XCF-W is a full-blooded off-road bike, not a repackaged motocrosser and not a dual-sport. It has minimal lighting equipment and is still clean and quiet enough to earn EPA approval.
Beta has taken the bikes in its highly successful dual-sport line and given them the Race Edition treatment. They still have lights, but all of the other DOT restrictions are gone. They also have upgraded suspension and competition exhausts. The 500 dual-sport bike has been trimmed to 480cc for the Race Edition, but the other three displacements are the same as their dual-sport counterparts. The 350 is $10,599. The 390 is $10,699, and the 430 is $10,799.
Steve Christini is a very smart man who figured out a way to produce the only practical two-wheel-drive motorcycle and put it into production. The AWD450E has an Asian motor that bears a strong resemblance to a Honda CRF450X with fuel injection. The chassis is integrated with the Christini AWD system. The company also offers a 300cc two-stroke by special order.
Pierer Mobility, the parent company of KTM, acquired controlling interest in the struggling GasGas marque in 2020. As a result, there will be a number of bikes offered under the GasGas name that will share KTM parts. The EX450F is a closed-course off-road race bike that features the same motor and frame as the KTM 450XC-F. It has a number of different components, such as tires, wheels and bars that permit a lower price.
Usually, off-road bikes get new technology a year after it has been seen in the motocross world. That’s not the case here. The 2021 Honda CRF450RX cross-country racer gets all the new stuff that Honda created for the 2021 CRF450R motocross bike. That includes a hydraulic clutch, a new chassis and a new airbox. As in the past, the RX models have greater fuel capacity, off-road suspension, a kickstand and an 18-inch rear wheel.
Honda classifies the CRF450X as a true off-road bike with EPA certification for noise and emissions. It’s still a capable trail bike and is the basis for the SLR Honda team’s success in the Baja 1000 and other iconic races. It is based on the previous-generation CRF450R and is very similar to the CRF450RL dual-sport bike, but with a little more under the hood and without DOT equipment.
The FX450 is a cross-country racer, so it has much in common with the Husky FC450 motocross bike. In order to give it its off-road credentials, Husqvarna gave it more fuel capacity (2.1 gallons versus 1.6), softer suspension valving, handguards, an 18-inch rear wheel, Dunlop AT81 tires, an O-ring chain and a kickstand. The gearbox and power output are the same as the MX model’s.
Kawasaki has been winning off-road races with the likes of Josh Strang and Zach Bell, so it’s only appropriate that the company offer a 450cc off-road bike to sell. Enter the 2021 KX450X. This is similar to the KX450 motocross bike but has off-road-appropriate suspension and tires, as well as a skid plate, a kickstand and an 18-inch rear wheel. The fuel capacity, gear ratios and exhaust are identical to the MX version.
KTM 450XC-F: $10,799
This was the bike that was the prototype for a whole category of cross-country racers. The 450XC-F is just like a KTM motocross bike, but carries a little more fuel and has off-road-oriented suspension and wheels. It still uses linkage rear suspension and the WP Xact air fork. Also, like the 450SX-F, it has a competition exhaust system without a spark arrestor or any additional baffling.
SSR is in the business of making off-road riding more accessible and affordable. The SR450S bears a strong resemblance to the previous-generation Honda CRF450X. It is not fuel-injected and has a number of generic components, but its price is about $4300 less than that of a current Honda. It actually produces more power than the Honda, but isn’t EPA-approved for noise and emissions.
Yamaha’s YZ450FX cross-country racer is on the same page as the current YZ450F motocross bike. That means it has the most current chassis and is tunable with the Yamaha Power Tuner smartphone app. For off-road appeal, features include increased fuel capacity, a wide-ratio five-speed gearbox, off-road suspension, an 18-inch rear wheel, a kickstand and mellower ECU mapping.
True trail riders who aren’t especially interested in competition have a clean, quiet version of the Yamaha YZ450F. The WR450F has the same basic chassis as the competition-oriented YZs, but is very quiet and meets EPA requirements for off-road certification. In stock form, the WR comes with a throttle stop and has fixed EFI settings, but Yamaha offers a competition kit that can bring more performance to the table.
The parent company of KTM now is offering GasGas-branded motorcycles as more affordable alternatives to its orange and white models. The EX350 is a closed-course cross-country racer with motocross-level engine performance. Its off-road-oriented features include a six-speed gearbox, softer suspension settings and more fuel capacity. It’s $700 less than the comparable KTM 350XC-F.
This is a kinder, gentler version of the FX350 race bike. The FE350 has the same basic engine and frame, but has a headlight, a taillight, an odometer, a quieter exhaust and milder ECU mapping. It also gets a radiator fan and its own settings in the linkage-equipped rear suspension and in the Xplor coil-spring fork. The FE350 is green-sticker-legal in California.
Many of Husqvarna’s elite off-road racers consider the FX350 the best that Husky has to offer for off-road racing. It’s similar to the FC350 motocross bike, but has a six-speed gearbox and off-road features, such as an 18-inch rear wheel, a 2.2-gallon fuel tank, a kickstand, handguards and an O-ring chain. It uses the Xact air fork and linkage rear suspension. It isn’t especially quiet and has no spark arrester.
Kailub Russell just won his eighth consecutive GNCC XC-1 championship on a KTM 350XC-F, cementing his name in the record books as the winningest GNCC racer in history. The 350 is designed specifically for off-road racing, with a motocross-based motor and suspension components. The XC differs from KTM’s MX line with its six-speed gearbox and various off-road components.
Last year KTM decided that it needed to offer off-road riders their own version of the 350EXC dual-sport bike. The KTM 350XCF-W has a clean and quiet disposition, similar to that of the EXC but with a little more performance and less weight. It has PDS no-linkage rear suspension and a WP Xplor coil-spring fork like the dual-sport model, but both ends are slightly stiffer. Likewise, the sound output is slightly louder than that of the EXC.
For competition-oriented riders, Beta offers Race Editions of its RR off-road bikes with a long list of additional features. In the case of the 300 and 250 two-stroke models, they are stripped of oil injection and have a KYB fork and a ZF shock. Other features include billet footpegs, a quick-release front wheel pin and Vertigo handguards. The Race Editions also feature distinctive cosmetic upgrades.
These bikes are the bread and butter of the Beta line. The 300RR and 250RR off-road bikes are identical, aside from displacement. They both feature an electric-start two-stroke motor that has a counterbalancer integrated within the crankcase. The RR models also feature oil injection and Sachs suspension.
Someone very smart at Beta understands that not every rider plans to win the GNCC XC1 Pro class. That’s why the Xtrainer exists. It’s a milder version of the 300 two-stroke with a lower seat height and a much more attractive price. It still has oil injection, but Beta was able to reduce the cost with the suspension and brakes. It turns out that even pros love the Xtrainer for play riding.
This is a more affordable version of the KTM 300XC-W and the Husqvarna TE300. It has the same basic TPI fuel-injected engine as those bikes, but its chassis borrows linkage suspension from the Husky and a non-integrated airbox from the KTM. GasGas uses Brake Tech brakes and a number of other components to bring the price down.
GasGas has two 300 two-strokes offered for sale in the U.S. The EX300 is the more competition oriented of the two. It has no headlight or taillight and is in a more aggressive state of tune. The fork is the WP Xact air fork, and the brakes are made by Brembo. The EX still has a number of generic components that allow its price to be considerably lower than KTM’s or Husky’s.
If you’ve been around long enough, the Kawasaki KLX300R will look very familiar. It was an off-road staple of the ’90s, long before four-strokes were fashionable. Last year Kawasaki brought it back with fuel injection and a number of other modernized parts to combat the high prices that infect more modern four-stroke off-road bikes. The KLX is super quiet and beginner-friendly.
While Husqvarna doesn’t technically offer a fuel-injected 300cc two-stroke for motocross, most riders understand that the TX300 can fulfill that role, as well as its official duty as a cross-country racer. The TX has the same chassis as the TC250 MX bike, but with a six-speed gearbox, electric-start, TPI injection and off-road amenities, such as an 18-inch rear wheel and a kickstand.
The TE300i and TE250i are two-stroke off-road bikes that can do double duty. They are equally adept as trail bikes and as racers. They have TPI fuel injection, oil injection and WP Xplor forks. Suspension and engine tuning are designed to be trail-friendly when you are riding at a casual pace. The TE models also have headlights and instruments.
The XC line is a good example of how KTM subdivides its market into very thin slices. The 300 and 250XC are aimed at two-stroke fans who are off-road racers. The XCs have TPI fuel injection, MX-derived suspension (but with softer settings), six-speed gearboxes, kickstands and 18-inch rear wheels.
The 300XC-W and 250XC-W are identical aside from displacement. They are both softer, friendlier versions of the XC two-stroke cross-country racers. The XC-Ws have cushier suspension (with coil-spring Xplor air forks), mellower power and slightly different gear ratios. They also have headlights and instruments but no spark arresters.
When KTM took controlling interest in GasGas, the tooling for the existing 300 two-stroke off-road bike was sold to a Spanish company called Rieju. This is a company that previously focused on small-bore street bikes. The electric-start, two-stroke 300 and 250 off-road models will be reborn in 2021 under a new name and with a new importer to the U.S.
In Europe, Sherco has become a very big player in World Enduro competition. Four years ago, the 300SE-F four-stroke won the World Championship in its rookie year. Since then, the bike has evolved continually. Standard equipment includes KYB suspension, an Akrapovic exhaust and two EFI maps. The 250 and 300 are identical aside from displacement.
Even though the Sherco two-strokes don’t look that different, hidden within the cases there’s a new counterbalance shaft to quell vibrations. The SE300 and 250 are still the mainstay two-stroke off-road bikes for the French company. Both have electronic power valves, Keihin carburetors and KYB suspension. For 2021, you can special order a version with WP suspension.
SSR is offering some surprisingly sophisticated off-road bikes for very little. The SR300S is a four-valve, liquid-cooled, electric-start four-stroke with a beautiful aluminum chassis and very modern styling that sells for about half of what a KTM or Husky would go for. The SR250S has similar features, but the frame and styling are from the previous generation.
Thumpstar has been developing motorcycles for the last five years, primarily in the pit bike market. For 2021, new 250cc and 300cc two-strokes will be produced in Spain. Thumpstar has been working with Josep Pibernat, who was the founder of GasGas, to develop an all-new motor.
TM’s current small four-stroke stroke has one of the most technologically advanced engines in the motorcycle world, with twin exhaust ports and double-overhead cams that are driven by a combination of gears and a short chain. That engine is distinguished by its twin pipes and is available as a 250 or a 300. The older, single-pipe versions are still available at $11,395 for the 300 and $10,995 for the 250.
TM has proven that you don’t have to be a giant corporation to lead the way in technology. This small Italian company is offering the most high-tech off-road two-strokes on the market. The 300 and 250 both have TPI fuel injection, counterbalancers and electronic power valves. It has electric starters and aluminum frames. You can also order carbureted versions of the same bikes.
Many of the newly announced GasGas models have similar counterparts in the Husqvarna line, but not the EX250F. This allows GasGas to stake a claim in off-road racing classes like GNCC XC-2, which are currently dominated by KTM and Yamaha. The EX250 is similar to the GasGas MC250F motocross bike but has a six-speed gearbox, more fuel capacity and off-road-appropriate suspension, wheels, and tires.
Honda’s off-road-oriented CRF250RX is similar to the CRF250R motocrosser but with larger fuel capacity, off-road suspension, an 18-inch rear wheel, an O-ring chain, a kickstand and milder EFI mapping. It is unchanged for 2021, but that’s okay with us, as it was our top pick in the 250cc four-stroke off-road class in 2020.
Kawasaki came out with a completely new electric-start KX250 motocross bike for 2021 and decided to introduce an off-road version at the same time. Like the new MX bike, the X’s chassis is similar to what Kawasaki developed for the KX450 in 2019. The KX250X also gets the brand-new hydraulically actuated clutch. The only differences between the X and the motocross bike are suspension settings, the skid plate, rear wheel, tires and a kickstand.
All of KTM’s XC-F models are based on motocross bikes, but with a long list of changes to make them into off-road racers. For the 250XC-F, those changes include a six-speed gearbox, off-road suspension valving, a kickstand, an 18-inch rear wheel, Dunlop AT81 tires, handguards, an O-ring chain and larger fuel capacity. The 250XC-F is the dominant bike in the GNCC XC-2 class.
Yamaha was the first of Japan’s motorcycle makers to dive into that gray area between motocrossers and off-road bikes with the FX line. The YZ250FX is a closed-course competition bike designed for cross-country racing. It has a number of items that make it more off-road-worthy than the motocross version, such as increased fuel capacity and a six-speed gearbox.
The bigwigs at Yamaha understand that the two-stroke is still popular among play riders and off-road enthusiasts, so the company introduced the YZ250X in 2016. It’s tailored specifically for those riders with an 18-inch rear wheel, a kickstand, softer suspension, a mellower power delivery and a wide-ratio, five-speed gearbox. The pipe is tucked away to stay out of harm’s way.
Last year Yamaha completely redesigned the WR250F with technology to match the current YZ250F motocross bike, so the 2021 model returns without mechanical changes. It has a number of off-road-oriented features you can’t get on a YZ, such as a headlight, taillight and radiator fan. It is still a quiet and clean EPA-approved trail bike, although it currently is not eligible for a California green sticker.
GPX is a sister company to Pitster Pro, which offers a wide variety of well-priced off-road bikes. The TSE250R is an Asian-made, 250cc two-stroke that closely resembles the Yamaha WR200 from the early ’90s. It has electric start and an electronic power valve. The carburetor, exhaust, headlight, instruments and 2.5-gallon fuel tank are all new for 2021.
Honda’s confusing nomenclature means that one letter can make a very big difference. The CRF250F is a perfect example. The “F” means it’s a family-oriented trail bike with a basic air-cooled motor, not a racer like the CRF250R. The F has fuel injection, electric start and a five-speed gearbox. Its reasonable seat height and mild nature make it a good choice for kids, beginners and spouses.
Despite COVID-19 and other setbacks, AJP’s U.S. distributor is up and running with European-built trail bikes that are priced extremely well. The PR-4 Enduro has an air-cooled, 233cc, electric-start motor and Sachs suspension. For $6299, you can score the PR-4 Extreme with a number of upgrades, including a Doma exhaust system. There is also a PR-3 with smaller wheels for $4899.
Kawasaki understands that high retail prices are the biggest obstacles in the trail-bike market, so the KLX230R arrived last year with a price that’s lower than anything in its class. The 230R has an air-cooled, fuel-injected motor and a no-frills chassis. It has a dual-sport sibling called the KLX230 that sells for only $200 more.
Some bikes are survivors. Yamaha has been offering the TT-R230 since 2005 with very few changes along the way, which accounts for the reasonable price. It is one of the last carbureted full-size trail bikes available. It has an air-cooled two-valve motor and a drum rear brake. One of its few creature comforts is electric start.
If you’re one of the riders who misses 200-class two-strokes, you have plenty of company. Beta has finally picked up that ball and run with it. The 200RR is based on the 125RR off-road bike, but has more displacement and electric start. Like the other bikes in the RR line of Beta two-strokes, it features oil injection, Sachs suspension, Nissin brakes and a six-speed gearbox. The Race Edition ($9199) has competition upgrades and no oil injection.
Husky’s small-bore, off-road two-stroke is based on the TC125 motocross motor but has a larger bore (displacing 144cc), electric start, transfer port injection, oil injection and a wide-ratio gearbox. The front suspension is the WP Xplor fork, which uses coil springs and has adjustable rebound, compression and preload. The brakes and clutch hydraulics are by Magura.
The off-road version of the KTM 150 is completely different from the MX version. It has electric start, fuel injection, oil injection, a PDS rear shock (without linkage) and a WP Xplor fork. Beyond all that, the bike has a very different power delivery and is exceptionally easy to ride by small-bore two-stroke standards.
Beta’s 125cc off-road bike is similar to the 200RR, but distilled to its purest elements. There’s no electric start, oil injection or battery. The motor is competitive with 125 motocross bikes, but the RR is still very off-road-oriented with its softish Sachs suspension, a generator-powered headlight, an 18-inch rear wheel and a kickstand. The 125RR is available as a Race Edition with a KYB fork and other upgrades for $8399.
TM’s 125 and 144 off-road bikes are very similar to its motocross versions but feature transfer-port fuel injection and oil injection. They have a kick-start motor with an electronic power valve and a six-speed gearbox. The frame is aluminum. The fork is KYB, and the shock is made in-house by TM. The 125 and 144 differ only in bore and stroke. Carbureted versions can be ordered.
This is a new bike for model-year 2021. The 125XC is a cross-country version of the 125SX, with some features from the motocross line and others from the enduro side of the fence. Like the 125SX, it has a Mikuni carb and a WP Xact air fork. Like the 150XC-W, it has electric start, an 18-inch rear wheel and a kickstand.
Sherco’s commitment to two-strokes is clear from the company’s investment in a very sophisticated 125cc off-road motor. It has electric start and an electronic power valve. It also has KYB suspension, an FMF exhaust, a headlight, a taillight and instruments. The SE is set up for technical, eastern-style off-road riding. A version with WP suspension is available by special order.
Last year Yamaha expanded the “X” cross-country line to include the YZ125X. It looks like a traditional YZ125 with the inclusion of a kickstand and an 18-inch wheel. Within the motor, there are significant changes in the power valve to make it more suitable for trail use. The KYB suspension has the same spring rates as the MX version, but it’s re-valved for off-road use as well.
This is one of the best deals on the planet. The SSR SR189 is a large mini four-stroke with electric start and 16-/19-inch wheels. It’s loaded with features and will outperform any of the Japanese 125cc four-strokes, yet it has a price that’s hundreds less. The SR150 is similar, but has 14-/17-inch wheels and sells for $2359.
Kawasaki took the mini four-stroke concept and supersized it with the KLX140RF and KLX140RL. The air-cooled, electric-start motor is already a little larger than the typical Japanese 125, and Kawasaki offers it in plus sizes. The RL has an 16-inch rear wheel and a 19-incher in front, while the RF has a full-size 18/21 combination.
Kawasaki’s KLX140 is the performance king of the Japanese mini four-stroke world with a 144cc carbureted motor. It has disc brakes at each end and electric start. The standard version has a 14-inch rear wheel and a 17-inch front wheel. It has a five-speed gearbox with a manual clutch and a seat height of 30.7 inches.
Honda gave this bike a major redesign for the 2019 model year. That was when it got fuel injection and a considerable boost in horsepower. It features electric start, as well as an old-fashioned kick-starter as a backup. The standard version has a 14/17-inch wheel combo, and Honda also has a big-wheel version with a 16/19 combo that sells for $3599.
The Yamaha TT-R125LE is ubiquitous. It set the standard for mini four-strokes over 20 years ago and was the first with an electric starter back in 2003. Now it’s beginning to look somewhat dated with its 20mm carburetor and old-school styling, but it’s a staple on the used-bike market that holds its value very well.