Dirt bike for a 12 yr old? Everyone loves a which bike to buy thread!

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Cuttlefish, Nov 17, 2020.

  1. Cuttlefish

    Cuttlefish Riding to disappear.

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    Looking for a dirt bike to buy for my 12 yr old boy. He's had a TTR 50 as a starter and then put him on a KLX110L (clutch model). Initially lowered it by putting on a shorter aftermarket shock and dropping the forks through the triples. By the time we sold that he was tall enough to ride it in stock form again.
    We would ride around our yard which has lots of rainforest trees/palms to dodge through and a little creek bed that runs across it but is normally dry. Also take him to ride in local forest/plantations on the QT as well as the occasional ride at the Parklands MX track.
    He has so far, shown no interest in riding in competition and isn't an aggressive rider when at the mx track. So looking at a bike he can follow me around on and then as he grows inevitably i will be trying to figure out which way he's gone.
    At the moment he's 5'2", 158cms tall and a skinny as a whippet. He's going to hit his growth spurt pretty soon so trying to future proof while still staying manageable in bike height, weight, power.
    Tricky age to cater for obviously so throwing out there to the experienced as to what to look for.
    Obviously with Covid in play it is just about impossible to find a bike in a dealers for him to throw a leg over to see how he goes with seat heights.
    There are both a new Yamaha yz85 small (14"/16") and also a big wheel (16"/19") at one dealer so I will take him after school today to see how they fit. The big wheel is close to $8K.
    I was thinking of spending $3-4K on a used bike if possible.
    Looking for a bike that is well maintained and ready to ride as my mechanical skills are rudimentary so I'm not up for fixing anything to get it running.
    Bikes on my radar so far: Suzuki rm85, Kawasaki klx 140l (they also have differing wheel sizes), Honda crf125l, Yamaha ttr125.
    Waiting to hear from a mate who's son has outgrown his couple of year old ttr230 but reckon that could be too tall still.
    Maybe changing the wheel sizes could be an option on a larger bike if budget allows. I recall owners of KTM freerides doing this for shorter women riders.
    Noticed a 250r freeride for sale for a decent price which made me have the evil thought that I could ride it as well while he's not looking or end up with it when he/if he's done with it. I may have bought a few surfboards over the years "for the kids" with this great justification to the wife.
    Anyway...thoughts/recommendations?
    #1
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  2. richo360

    richo360 Long timer

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    Any of the last 3 on your radar list.
    #2
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  3. Simosez

    Simosez go ride your bike.

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    And the Freeride will be a lot lighter than a 230.
    #3
  4. Beet

    Beet adventurer

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    He’s going to grow out of, or get bored, or want to upgrade, or not want to ride in the future so buy what seems good today and let tomorrow sort it’s self out.
    Upgrading and changing is life.
    #4
  5. Cuttlefish

    Cuttlefish Riding to disappear.

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    Found a lightly used KLX140R on Facebook marketplace. Cool. Tripper only wants $5.5K for it. That's $802 more than the new price on the Kawasaki website. Oh well...keep looking.
    #5
  6. enookway

    enookway Are we having fun yet?

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    Just been through this over the past few years. No interest in racing so stuck to the trailbike flavour.
    Son outgrew DS80, so bought a TTR125 which served well for 2 years.
    Was then looking at 230's. Honda SL230 seemed like good value. Cheap second hand but seat heights still pretty low so could see that not lasting long.

    So started thinking about 250's. Ie TTR, DR (or even a WR250R) that could be at least registered and attempt to be half legal on public land. Cut down seat if necessary if its too tall.
    Then I thought I already have a full sized bike doing not much, so I cut down a seat for my old KTM400 EXC. Then bugger me within a year he was riding it with the tall seat.

    Photo pre seat cover:
    20190720 KTM Low Seat Evan 2.JPG

    Couple of things to watch are:
    - models with big and small wheels. Check before wasting time looking at bikes advertised as LW but are actually SW.
    - New price on mid level trailbikes (DRz/TTR/KLX 125/140) can be very attractive at certain times of year. Frinstance DRz125s were $3400 ride out the door leading up to christmas last year. Not much more that second hand prices on 10 year old CRF/TTR 125s.
    #6
  7. troy safari carpente

    troy safari carpente Team f5oolery

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    :y0! Hi Cuttlefish, :wave:wave

    I'll chime in on this one... as I have gone through precisely the scenario you describe over the last several years - with my boy (now 16 and half years of age). That growth spurt you mention is likely just around the corner, and like you say - when it comes it comes fast. So I understand you "future proofing" comments (bikes are not cheap, and neither is riding gear - and they grow fast at that age)... BUT I would really like to echo that what @Beet wrote, and advise you to look for a bike that suits your sons requirements TODAY... and let tomorrow sort itself out when it comes. Uprgades are inevitable, so getting something that suits (and fits) correctly will help your boys development as a rider... and not intimidate or create bad habits (a bike that is too tall or heavy is an impediment... not "future proof").

    Sound like your son has acquired more than just the "basics" - having gone through the TTR 50 (pee wee) and KLX110 (beginner) bike stage and fanging about on you fam lot and bike parks.

    Now, you say that he is not an "agressive" rider; and in relation to his size, build and weight - a lot of people would advise you to look at bikes like the KLX 140 or CRF 125L that you mention (or SUZUKI's mid size DRZ equivalent).

    But of the bikes that you wrote on your short list - I would recommend the RM85L (big wheel). :deal

    Immediately a lot of the old school ADVRider panel will scream "noooo... it's a motocross bike:gerg". But let me explain the reasoning;

    The Suzuki RM85L (19"16") is a design that originally comes from the mid-to late 90's... like the venerable DR 650 SE it has scarcely had any changes since then, other than bold new graphics and seat cover changes. :1drink

    That means TWO things... there are plenty (bikes and spares) out there... AND the engine characteristic of the 'ZUKI is not as powerful and hard hitting as the more modern competitors (The KX85 and KTM85 namely). For the same reason - a used YZ85 big wheel (19"16") would be a good alternative... just depend on availability and the examples you can find... good used and maintained (standard*) condition would be preferred over a bike that has had all the hot up mods tossed at it (*which a lot of the 'Zuki and Yamaha 85's were forced to do to keep up with the Orange and Green models on the racetrack over the last fifteen years).

    Positives for the RM85L (19"16") bigwheel are as follows;

    *relatively mild power band (prioritize a used stocker in well maintained condition)
    *easily lowered by slotting front forks down and backing off pre-load on the rear (run about double the normal recommended static sag - and you are home)... the adjustable comp and rebound front and rear will allow you to set it up to his weight/riding style... with the plus that you can ramp up as his size (and speed) increase.
    *parts and availability... choice of used bikes available = far less of a depreciation if you find a good 2005-ish plus bike... but still easy to service/repair.

    When Camron was 12; I was faced with exactly the dilemma you describe... previously he had graduated from a Zuki JR 50... to a KTM mini-50SX (auto)... onto a KTM SX65 (clutch/six speed)... and so the RM 85L bigwheel was the right fit as a step up to the bigger bikes to follow; :deal

    Cam 12 years.jpg

    The above was before the lowering measures - the day he took delivery...

    I have to shoot off now... but if you are interested - I can drop back and give you some set up tips... and maybe some "future proofing" tips. :thumb:wave

    Size difference between the earlier SUZUKI RM 85L and the TM 100 MX (same size as the KTM 85 19"/16" big wheel version).

    323.jpg

    This is when at 13... only a year and half later... he's outgrown the RM
    (even with raised suspension and the high saddle).
    #7
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  8. Cuttlefish

    Cuttlefish Riding to disappear.

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    Thanks enookway and Troy. Leeton hey! Was born there. Left when i was 17 though.
    I took him to the Yamaha dealers and he could sit on the small wheel yz85 with right leg on the peg and bike tilted over a bit. The big wheel he wasn't keen on the seat height and the amount of bike he had to support with it leaned over. Took me back to looking at crf/ttr/klxs in the 125-140cc. However there is one rm85 which looks pretty good and the other tricky bit is actually when I show him bikes whether he likes the look of them as well. He'd always said he wanted to go to a 2 stroke for his next bike from the klx 110. I think partly as he liked my freeride 250r 2 stroke. Will have to check out about the wheel size on the rm85 for sale. Gotta zip off to the skatepark with him now as he skates at an indoor park every Wed night. Thanks all for the expert help and yes Troy bring on the tips.
    #8
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  9. Dr AT

    Dr AT Long timer

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    You mention being half legal and riding the local public trails - does HE really want to face the consequences of getting caught ( fine / conviction +/- potential delay in getting his licence when the time comes )

    My kids weren't passionate about motorbikes so I took the legal options of getting them into the bush - mountain bikes. If you invest motorbike $ into a decent mountain bike , you have a versatile and legal trail weapon. I was out with the 15 yo today, swapping between her / me riding my emtb and her bike . Last weekend was a few hours with 12 yo son - same deal. It's going to be a great excuse to buy myself a second emtb.
    #9
  10. Cuttlefish

    Cuttlefish Riding to disappear.

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    Trouble is he isn't interested in riding mountain bikes (electric or not) in the slightest. I've tried taking him out on trails but he really doesn't want to ride them. When we do ride in the forestry its in areas other people don't really go so we just don't come across anyone else but what you say is duly noted and very valid. If he ends up with a 2 stroke with decent suspension and takes it to the mx track he will probably want to do more of that. The klx 110l he had before was pretty basic suspension wise.
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  11. imnothng

    imnothng Been here awhile Supporter

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    If he's not very aggressive, I would be looking at the Honda CRF150F. I got one for my daughter and she absolutely loves it. Electric start is awesome. I took it out on the track a couple of times and thrashed the hell out of it. I walked away being pleasantly surprised.
    #11
  12. gavineakins

    gavineakins Been here awhile

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    G'Day Cuttlefish,

    No recommendations, just a thumbs up for what you're doing.
    Riding trail bikes with my old man, his mates & their sons was the best thing I did growing up, by far.

    I'm still sad that none of my kids got into it.
    One son did briefly, but discovered that riding girls was more exciting. That still costs him dearly.

    Cheers - Gavin
    #12
  13. Gadget678

    Gadget678 Long timer

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    Have you considered going old school for an 'interim' bike?
    Thinking DT200, XT- any age, (TT may be a bit tall still- and harder to get)... If he's not looking at going flat out (yet) these may be an option. No stress if it gets dropped. Learn basic mechanics/maintenance. Old AG bikes are pretty cheap with lower seat heights.... Just a few thoughts and options.
    #13
  14. Dr AT

    Dr AT Long timer

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    Isn't it a shame the major manufacturers don't build something like an ajp pr 4/5 - rec rego or road rego to be half legal , but decent suspension and light enough to be halfway useful
    #14
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  15. troy safari carpente

    troy safari carpente Team f5oolery

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    Okay... so pretty quickly we fallen into the two (or three) "camps" that commonly crop up when the dicussion turns to bikes suitable for growing kids... it comes down to the "trailbike" flavour camp - as @enookway so aptly coined the phrase... or the motocross/enduro route...

    On the one hand you have the entry level/play bikes like the 125 to 150cc TTR/DRZ/CRF/KLXs... which then logically graduate to the larger 225 to 250cc TTR/DRZ/CRF/KLX's etc. ("trailbike flavour"). In the other corner are the RM/YZ/CR/KX etc. mini-motocross bikes... which logically graduate to the large 125 to 250cc motocross and enduro models, when the young rider reaches the appropriate size and skill level. ("competition flavour").

    Only you Cuttlefish - and of course your boy - can really determine what your sons skill level, physical size and riding ambitions for the future are... So ultimately there is no one else that can make that call for you, but generally speaking - the "trailbikes" will be more docile power delivery fourstroke engines, with lower saddle height - BUT HEAVIER - with lower specification suspension and rather slow geometry/ergonomics - as compared to the mx mini's ; which har considerably more potent two stroke 85cc two stroke power - BUT with LIGHTER, better suspension, handling and ergonomic chassis.

    You and your son need to evaluate which route is best suited to your riding ambitions (together) and follow that lead.

    To put this into perspective - from what I can glean from Cuttlefish's physical description of his son (5'2", 158cms tall and a skinny as a whippet.)... putting a 12 year old kid (estimate @ 55 kg's= on a full size DT200, XT or old AG bike... would be equivalent to advising a 5'8" adult that an Africa Twin or Super Tenere would be a good choice as a first bike (the rider weight to bike ratio is about the same). "No stress if it gets dropped..." you say :scratch Well maybe not from the damage/depreciation aspect... but other than the fact that the poor youngster won't hardly be able to pick it up himself.

    As I said earlier... the "they'll grow into it" argument really went out the window in the 1980s... (the SUZUKI DS 80 that enookway mentioned earlier was an awesome entry level, beginners bike back in the day... light, mild two stroke trail bike friendly power delivery and bulletproof). If not, there would be no reason for why 12", 16" 20" and 24" wheel children's bicycles exist, if everyone could start out on dads old 29 inch Malvern Star bone shaker.

    Having a bike that your son is keen on, enjoys riding, AND learns to respect and maintain his pride and joy . is a very important part of this decision. Old AG bikes in all their glory - with respect to their utilitarian applications on a farm... notwithstanding. :1drink

    Another bike that was brought up that isworth mentioning... The KTM Freeride... Yep, if he likes the size, ergonomics/ride and power delivery (light weight) of the 2 stroke 250 Freeride, then I would recommend go with that... but I reckon finding one in the budget you mentioned... would be a hard ask.

    The other bike - CRF 150F (L?) - that @imnothng mentioned... I agree that would be a good choice, if the trailbike route is the way you choose to go...

    There is also a CRF150R - whick is a fourstroke competion mx bike (in same ilk as an RM, CR, KX or YZ)... and would be a good alternative to the SUZUKI RM85 L (19"/16" big wheel) scenario I outline below... only it is a fourstroke - not a two stroke.

    Okay... so for the point of this excercise, I would suggest the following for an RM 85L... but same thing would be true of a YZ... or even a late model KTM or KX85... just that they a bit taller platform/larger ergos that the earlier design 'Suzuki and Yamaha's.

    I would STILL recommend that you give the 19"/16" big wheel option serious consideration.

    The thing is, when you lower the forks/drop the rear spring... the big wheel saddle height (on the RM at least) ends up almost the same as the smaller wheel version at full ride height. Advantage of the big wheel is that it rides the ruts and tree roots/bumps better (the same old HONDA 23" front wheel philosophy) AND the big wheel does not turn/tuck in (in loose soft track conditions) as much as the little wheelers do.

    The added avantage is - when he grows a few centimeter, you can bump it up to full size - not have to get a whole new bike (again).

    696.jpg

    When Camster was 12, he had the RM 85L (lowered).

    691.jpg

    Some other tips...

    Go one tooth larger on the countershaft* (bear in mind that a used bike MAY have already had gearing changes to both the countershaft and rear sprocket)... but generally this will widen the ratio a bit between the gears AND make it a little less hard hitting off the bottom. Most competition starts are done in 2nd gear anyway - first is very low stock.

    If you are looking at keeping the noise down - both FMF and Pro Circuit do silencers - that together with the stock exhaust chamber* produce a lighter exhaust note @ 85 dba... keep the decibel eagle happier... eh?

    *if looking at second hand bikes... those that have not been "hotted up" with aftermarket pipes etc. are likely to be less intimidating (power wise) and quieter... probably a good thing if the recreational trail park riding aspect is something you want to explore together.

    Other than that... find a bike that the young bloke is keen on and suited to... and have a ball together:smile6. :clap:thumb
    #15
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  16. tomo8r

    tomo8r Long timer

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    Hell, you should be able to get a brand new ADR version for a bit less than that.,
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  17. troy safari carpente

    troy safari carpente Team f5oolery

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    NAILED IT... :nod :clap :deal

    Troy & Cam Dalarna.jpg

    742.jpg

    Troy and Cam XCountry 2018.jpg
    #17
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  18. Cuttlefish

    Cuttlefish Riding to disappear.

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    Now thats what I call comprehensive.
    Ok...its 6am and just woke up so bare that in mind as I work through last night replies.
    I've found a Freeride 250r at a reasonable price but my head is telling me NO as it would still be a stretch for him even lowered and then he's going to have no initial confidence on it which if he has enough drops early on while trying to master it, bail on riding altogether (bonus...my bike now :nod but my wife kills me :bash) or I can't stand seeing the Freeride thrown on the ground so much and take it off him (wife: :bash) or he hurts himself because in reality it was too much for him to handle.
    I had an almost new AG100 I used to follow him around our yard on when he was still on his KLX110L but he's a bit of a young style master and while he might ride an AG bike around at home or in the bush there's no way he'd ride one at an mx track and rightly so. Same goes for an old trail bike (DT, XR etc). Still trying to cover the trifecta of home, bush, mx for him.
    I tried everything I could to get both his older sisters and him into surfing but they all tried it and then got to the riding foamies stage and decided no further. So I know not to push them in a direction I want them to go just because I enjoy an activity.
    My father never once did any kind of one on one sporting activity with me. I had 3 older brothers who would fill that role. So only time I ever spent one on one with my father was working. This is has made me invest time with my kids as they grew so they would have that.
    His main activity now is riding aggressive inline skates in skateparks. Its a real niche thing as all the other kids ride scooters and skateboards but he's right into it so I take him to ride skateparks far and wide to encourage him.
    He's also super shy but suprisingly has picked a sport that is far from mainstream. I do try to encourage him to follow his individuality rather than what others do. At the skatepark I think the consistency he can develop in them by taking the same lines and practising and replicating tricks in the parks is reminiscent of what he could do at the mx track on the KLX. It wasn't about racing anyone there as much as the consistency the track offered. Keep in mind the easier tracks where well groomed as well.
    Often when I'd ask him where he would want to go and ride he'd say the mx track rather than the bush.
    Asked him again this morning and he reckons around the yard and in the bush but not the mx track because he doesn't want to ride there because he won't be any good. Pre-teenagers...sigh!
    I've got a few on the radar so I'll need to get out and have a look at them on Sunday.
    #18
  19. Paul124ac

    Paul124ac Long timer

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    My bike search was similar Cuttle, only my daughter is 6bloodyfeet tall at 14. She had a TTR100 and grew out of that real quick, she loves her emtb and is pretty handy at chucking it around, and as Troy points out in his short (!) summation stuff like TTR230's and KLX140's have shortcomings in suspension and brakes. Not dissing the bikes, great things, but let's have a show of hands who here has had a massive moment and a "so this is where I die" thought only to be saved by a very competent and well engineered set of parts. I'll be the first to stick up the extended pointer. So I changed tack and we ended up getting her this:

    image.jpeg

    I've since put a lighting kit on it and it's rec regoed. It's kick only which I reckon has taught her bloody heaps about mechanical sympathy and clutch work, she hates stalling it. Being an MX bike it has close ratio gears that means flat knacker she's only doing around 90km/h, it's under 90kg fuelled up, and was $3k. Yeah it's bloody tall, and would be hard to lower for your young bloke, she just steps over it. Only bit of strong advice I'd give you with whatever you decide on mate, make damn sure he reckons it's a cool thing. We can wax lyrical about reliability, suspension geometry, performance, all that crap, but if he reckons it looks like a farm bike and isn't a weapon like Billy's down the road then he'll never ride it, my daughter has gone from a social media/gaming hermit into a kid that asks to watch Erzberg or SX and discusses bikes with me.
    #19
  20. Cuttlefish

    Cuttlefish Riding to disappear.

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    Thanks for the input Paul. On the money when you said he's gotta like it. He won't have a bar of another KLX because he's had a Kawasaki already. Wants a 2 stroke because I had the Freeride 2 stroke. Doesnt get that the 85s aren't docile tractors like the freeride. The drum rear brakes and basic suspension on the crf, ttr give me pause. Gotta laugh. There was a tc 250 husky at one of the dealers for $3.5K and I thought how it would be still better in the long run if I could lower it enough compared to a crf,klx,ttr,drz 125...but he's still a shrimp and lightweight to boot. He's recently started taking an interest in games so I have to act fast before he turns into a zombie.
    #20