Start ’em Young: 5 Fun and Friendly First Motorcycles for Kids

First Motorcycles for Kids
The bicycle is the first
freedom machine most of us experienced, but you never look at life the same after your first motorcycle. Whether it was an XR50, a YZ80 or the classic Trail 70, we put these machines through the ringer, likening ourselves to Jeremy McGrath, Bob ‘Hurricane’ Hannah and Evel Knievel. The turf in the backyard was never the same, and our cherished first kids motorcycles endured all the broken levers, tank dents and wrinkled fenders that came with testing your limits on two wheels.

Most of those old relics are gone now, and for many of us, it’s time to pass that enthusiasm down to the next generation—hopefully with a little less daredevil activity. Thankfully, there are loads of options out there for getting kids off the couch and in the saddle, with a whole lot more safety and parental control. Consider your child’s size and riding aptitude, and your budget as well, but any one of these five machines is sure to ignite a passion for two wheels.

Yamaha PW50
Yamaha PW50 The everpresent Yamaha PW50 has served as the first mount for countless riders over its four decades in production. While it’s hardly changed since its inception in 1980, there are still plenty of reasons to consider the PW for the youngest of riders, even if you’re not loyal to Team Blue.

Yamaha PW50 Engine
Yamaha’s PW50 is based on old-school architecture, consisting of a steel backbone frame, drum brakes, twin rear shocks and a telescopic fork—each returning around 2” of travel. The powerplant is still two-stroke, a 49 cc reed-induction single that will return around 3 hp for years to come. Equipped with maintenance-free mag wheels and a driveshaft, there’s no need to tighten spokes or service a chain, and the auto-lube system means no premixing, as long as you remember to fill the oil reservoir.

Yamaha PW50
The PW50 scores big points in packaging as well, as it’s one of the most accessible bikes for beginners aged roughly 3 to 7. It’s lightweight at just 90 pounds, and the seat sits just 18.7” off the ground. The PW is also fit with a centrifugal automatic transmission, so there’s no clutch or gearshift to worry about—just twist the throttle and go. Like many other bikes in the segment, an adjustable throttle stop helps keep parents in control of speed progression.

For absolute beginners, the Yamaha PW50 is one of the easiest bikes to learn on and it’s relatively maintenance free. If you want to split hairs, the PW is pretty expensive for what it is, considering it’s only $100 cheaper than the CRF50 at $1,699. [Yamaha]

Honda CRF50F
Honda CRF50F Building on decades of mini-moto excellence, the Honda CRF50F has earned its place as the standard for youth motorcycles. Priced right and built to last, the CRF50F is a capable machine that kids can grow into, as long as they can keep the grown-ups out of the saddle; remember this bike almost singlehandedly built the 50 cc pit bike scene.

Honda’s 50 cc formula hasn’t changed in years, even since the XR days, but I’m convinced there’s nothing that needs fixing. The SOHC 50 cc air-cooled four-stroke makes just over 3 hp, and it’s hooked up to a three-speed transmission with an automatic clutch. That’s a small step up in complexity over the PW50, and will require a lesson on gear shifting, but the auto-clutch means you’ll never have to worry about stalling.

First Motorcycles for Kids
Most other features on the CRF are pretty standard, including 10-inch spoked wheels, drum brakes, chain drive and an adjustable throttle stop. Suspension travel is a step up at around 3” of travel, courtesy of an inverted fork and rear monoshock.

Honda CRF50F Pink
The CRF50F weighs in at 111 pounds, and the seat sits at 21.6,” making it an ideal fit for riders 4 to 9 years old. Any rider who can get a rough idea of how the shifter works can ride the CRF, thanks to the numerous training wheel kits on the market. The concept of shifting gears is a hurdle, but it’s an aspect that gives bikes like the CRF staying power. It’s hard to mess it up while you’re learning, and improving your shifting game will keep the bike fun until you’re ready for a 110.

Riding the Honda CRF50F
There’s nothing especially unique about Honda’s CRF in the 50 cc youth segment, but the MSRP is certainly a huge bonus. Priced at $1,799, the CRF50F is $780 cheaper than the Suzuki DR-Z50, but the Suzuki does have electric start. I guess you have to pick your battles. [Honda]

KTM 50 SX MINI Better equipped for the track than cruising trails on the back 40, the KTM 50 SX MINI is somewhat of a fringe fit for this list. But for every 10 parents that buy a bike for their kids to tool around on, there’s certainly one that has visions of podiums, and that’s what the KTM 50 SX was built for.

The 50 SX MINI takes all the race-caliber features of KTM’s 50 SX and crams ’em into an even smaller package. The frame is chromoly steel, you’ve got a reed-induction, liquid-cooled 49 cc two-stroke with an expansion chamber and real-deal WP XACT suspension—returning nearly 6” of travel in the rear and 4” in the front. Like its big brothers, the 10-inch wheels have black anodized aluminum rims, disc brakes and MAXXIS MX-ST tires.

In most every way, the 50 SX MINI is more of a miniature KTM motocrosser than a child’s plaything, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a blast to ride. The bike uses a muti-disc, automatic clutch, so it’s a simple twist the throttle and go sort of affair, and the clutch can be easily adjusted to the track and rider using a tool-free clicker system. A power reduction kit is also available over the counter for improving safety when they’re learning the ropes.

First Motorcycles for Kids
While it’s certainly the stuff of childhood dreams, the KTM 50 SX MINI is really a purpose-built track machine. It’s more high-strung, kick-start only and that big hot expansion chamber should encourage parents to supervise riding closely. It’s also quite expensive at $4,199, which is a bitter pill, even if they receive top honors on Santa’s Nice list. [KTM, Fotografie Mitterbauer, Markus Berger]

STACYC 12eDrive
STACYC Electric Stability Cycles From fueling up to changing oil and cleaning carburetors, there’s no denying that the operation and maintenance of a conventional motorcycle isn’t for everyone. Even most diehard ICE loyalists can imagine a scenario where they’d rather snap a fresh battery in and let the kids play, and bikes like the STACYC 12eDrive help establish the basics at a younger age.

First Motorcycles for Kids
STACYC Electric Stability Cycles are some of the most popular electric strider bikes, and their low-slung frames and lightweight construction make graduating from Flintstoning it to twisting the throttle a breeze. The 12eDrive is STACYC’s most accessible option for ages 3 to 5, with a seat height of 13,” and weighing just 17 pounds ready to ride. The 20 Volt, 2 Ah Lithium-ion battery allows for 30 to 60 minutes of riding on a charge, and the bike has three different power modes permitting top speeds of 5, 7 and 9 mph.

STACYC 20eDrive
STACYC has several different models to choose from, and the top-dog 20eDrive model is fit with a MANITOU front fork, hydraulic discs and is capable of 20 mph. If you’re close to a BMX track, there are youth classes where bikes like the 12eDrive and 16eDrive can race, and STACYC will cover your USA BMX membership for the first year.

The explosion of the E-bike scene in recent years has caused all of us to rethink the definition of a motorcycle. Really, if they were supposed to be internal combustion only, wouldn’t it be an enginecycle? That’s a really terrible pun.

Even if you stay away from exotic offerings like the KTM 50 SX, there’s no denying that a motorcycle is one of the priciest things a kid could ask for. Thankfully, there are alternatives to the big names, and the SSR SX50-A is one of the most affordable options out there. Having put an SSR 125 pit bike through a significant amount of abuse, I can tell you that these machines are actually pretty good considering the price point.

Priced at just $569, you know the SX50-A is a pretty basic motorcycle, but there are a few pleasant surprises on the spec sheet. It’s powered by a carbureted 50.53 cc air-cooled two-stroke, and engine output is competitive at 2.4 hp. The transmission is fully automatic, there’s an adjustable throttle stop and the bike is a featherweight at just 48.5 pounds. We also appreciate that the SSR is fit with a tether switch to shut the engine off in the event of a crash.

Considering the hard use a youth motorcycle sees, affordable bikes like the SSR SX50 are worth a look. While they’ve come a long way in recent years, I’d make sure there’s someone mechanically inclined in the family to take care of the occasional loose fasteners. [SSR Motorsports]