This week we got to ride two iconic two-strokes: one from today, another from 1995. The modern one was a 2019 Yamaha YZ125. This is a very special motorcycle. Its history goes all the way back to 1974, when the first YZ was introduced as the Factory Edition of the day. Yamaha already had a line of MX bikes, but the YZs had special lightweight parts, chrome cylinders and seemed like virtual works bikes. Now the YZ125 has been in production in one form or another for 45 years. That makes it the longest run of any motocross bike (along with the YZ250). I would bet that there are more YZ125s in garages across America than any other dirt bike.

The 2019 Yamaha YZ125 is alive and well. It sells for $6499.

The reason the YZ survived all this time is because it serves a critical need. It’s a great transition bike between minis and full-size bikes. That market isn’t big, but it’s important. It couldn’t support bikes from all four Japanese manufacturers. The Yamaha is the only one left because it was the best of that breed.  We’ve called it the best handling motocross bike ever made.  We still stand by that statement. It has excellent suspension and it weighs less than 200 pounds.

Today’s European 125s are a little faster. In our 2018 125 shootout, we found that the KTM 125SX, the Husqvarna TC125 and the TM 125 MX all made about 10 percent more power.  The YZ finished third in that shootout becuase it was about racing, and you simply can’t give up that much power in competition. On the basis of value, reliability and accessibility, it might still be the best in the class. Heck, when it comes to the sheer joy of riding, it might be the best in all of motocross. The YZ125 will have a short feature in the May 2019 print edition of Dirt Bike. For 10 Things You Might Not Know About The YZ125, click here.

1995 HONDA CR500R

The other iconic two-stroke that we got to ride was Austin Perkins’ 1995 Honda CR500R. Honda lost interest in the CR500R two-stroke back in  2001. The first CRF450R came out in 2002, and Honda closed the book on the 500 for good. It had already been neglected for years. In fact, the final CR of ’01 wasn’t that different from the first liquid-cooled version of 1985. Today, it’s become the ultimate cult bike. A 20- year-old CR500R in good shape can sell for more than a nearly new CRF450R on the used market.  This bike is a top-to-bottom rebuild that will be featured in the May issue of Dirt Bike. It was also featured on Two Stroke Tuesday last month.

Austin’s CR500 as it first arrived in his garage.

The project was a long and difficult journey, but it was finally finished this week. Mark Tilley was the first to ride it for a video at Perris Raceway. What you should know about projects this comprehensive is that they are never really  finished. During the initial ride, both damper rods broke in the fork legs and the day ended early. Mark and Austin worked on it overnight. As it turned out, Mark had a 2002 Honda fork in his garage. They pressed the 1995 steering stem into the 2002 clamps and presto! The failure turned into an instant upgrade.

Mark has very little experience with 500cc two-strokes. At first he found it intimidating, especially on jumps. After a while he learned the secret: third gear. Do everything in third and the bike is sweet. First and second are too violent. The vibration was distracting at first, but after a while, Mark said he stopped thinking about it. After the repair, Austin took it racing at a CALVMX event at Perris. You can read more about the project on the Two-Stroke Tuesday link above, or wait for a Dirt Bike video, which will appear soon.


The second round of the Kenda/STR National Hare and Hound series took place  in Post Texas, where Jacob Argubright took the win away from Kendall Norman on the last loop. Argubright had already crashed and broke his helmet visor trying to avoid a deer when the caught up to Kendall. Then it was Kendall’s turn to fall. In the end, Norman dropped back to fourth place.

1 Jacob Argubright
2 Joe Wasson
3 Cole Kirkpatrick
4 Kendall Norman
5 Chance Fullerton
6 Nick Burson
7 Ricky Brabec
8 Clayton Gerstner
9 Ryan Grantom
10 Zane Roberts


KTM North America, Inc. is posting a comprehensive contingency package for competitive KTM riders in 2019, encompassing a variety of disciplines. With up to $8 million available in possible payouts, professional and amateur racers can take advantage of incentives offered in eligible race series and classes within Motocross, Supercross, Offroad, Flat Track and Road Racing. KTM’s off road contingency is particularly good. A pro win in the GNCC XC1 class is worth $3000. Endurocross is $2000, while many other venues are $1500 for a Pro win. In Supercross you can take home $15,000 for a pro win. You can. Not me.

For off-road payout schedules, click the links below:

National Grand Prix Championship
EnduroCross Series
Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series
GNCC Series
National Enduro Championship
National Hare & Hound Series
Sprint Hero Racing Series

Supported Series include:
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship 
Monster Energy Cup
Monster Energy Supercross 
Supercross Futures Series 
Women’s Motocross Championship 

Supported Series include:
– American Flat Track Series
– KTM will also offer a first overall championship bonus in the AFT Singles, AFT Twins and AFT Production Twins classes.

– Support for MotoAmerica Series coming soon!
– Select regional series and events coming soon!

– Select regional series and events coming soon!

For contingency news from other manufacturers, click here.


See you next week

–Ron Lawson

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