We have a lot of red in our garage. Honda red to be specific. Be it cars, bikes, generators, aircraft, or even garden equipment the Honda Brand has stood the test of time and worked its way into our confidence with all things motorized. Simply, if you need to rely on it, rely on a Honda.
The very first bike we obtained for the kids was a 20-year-old XR 50. It had been sitting in someone’s attic for years due to a “mystery issue”- but I had a secret weapon in the form of a mechanically inclined husband. $100 bucks later and she was all ours and came home under the cover of darkness- a tarp- to not tip off the kiddos. A CRF 70 and CRF 80 followed in the same stealthy, kid evading, manner. My snack sneaking skills developed over my parenting career were paying off in developing something more useful than my waistband.
The nuts and bolts (just kidding, motors are complex) needed to get our fleet ready for riding were extremely accessible and very reasonably priced- because they were Honda’s. By far, the XR 50 was the most reliable and despite its age would always start by the second kick (even following winter storage).
If you’re going to have multiples of something like motorcycles, maintaining a single brand has its advantages. Diagnostics being one of them. Honda has used many of the same parts across its CRF line and didn’t make considerable design changes as the years went by. If we were trying to rule out an air and fuel issue, we were able to swap carburetors between bikes. When trying to figure out a starting issue, we were able to cannibalize a CDI box from another CRF 80 thus pinning a faulty aftermarket part. This tactic saved quite a bit of money by not “throwing parts” at something until it was fixed.
I agree: it’s cruel gifting dirt bikes for Christmas when you live in the Northeast. By April we contemplated if learning to ride in “a little bit of snow” would really be that bad for them. Yes, it would have been, and we waited a little longer. Was it everything we hoped it would be? It was. Honda’s are extremely user-friendly for new riders, and even our littlest had no trouble getting acquainted with the hardware. That being said, there still is no “factory feature” that reduces a parent’s inclination to panic while watching them learn to ride.
A true testament to the XR 50’s vigor was its ability to perform even with my weight riding on the back. The bike never complained, and over the years I pulled off the same gravity-defying-yoga-maneuver to support other tiny racers beginning their motocross adventures.
As kids grew in their abilities and helmet sizes, upgrading to newer bigger bikes meant selling off some of those original bikes. There was something bittersweet about letting them go. One of us even suggested hanging the XR 50 in a shadow box in the garage, a nod to their home decorating skills. After a quick Kelley Blue Book search to price the bikes, I was able to sell each one for more cash due to the demand and their ability to retain resale value. No price haggling, they were gone in under a day; and it was time for us to select a newer models.
If you’re considering starting your child riding a dirt bike, you can’t go wrong with a Honda. Parts are cheap and easy to find, nearly bullet-proof even after endless laps around the track or backyard, and kiddo will have a ball on it. Their street credit will immediately improve, and as a bonus, you’ll likely make some friends along the way. Remind your spouse that window shopping doesn’t cost a thing. And finally, if the mood hits you to take a spin on your kid’s bike, don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.