OGB Gift Guide: the Best First Motorcycle Experience for Young Kids

Motorcycles are tricky things to introduce your kids to. Despite the fact that more women are riding motorcycles than ever these days, there’s still a feeling that a kid is going to have to “get past Mom” if they want to experience the rush of a motor-driven two wheeler. That might be changing, however. As modern parents look for ways to get young kids to get outside and enjoy nature as opposed to enjoying YouTube, many are finding that a kid-sized motorcycle is more than capable of holding a kids’ attention. But there are a lot of options out there, and that begs the question: what’s the best motorcycle for kids?

There are lots of different ways to answer a question like that, of course– and most of the answers depend on where you live. If you’re out in rural Ohio and own a couple acres of land, for example, the riding experience your kids can expect to have is going to be very different from the experience someone else’s kids would have in, say, a major city like Chicago. With that in mind, I’m going to focus on the bike that I think would deliver the best motorcycle experience for young riders– and, if it’s done right, it’ll be an experience that will them to years (if not decades) of riding.

To that end, I’d like to introduce some of the major players vying for your attention money.

 

Yamaha PW50

Even if you didn’t have one, the Yamaha PW50– affectionately referred to as the “Pee-wee” 50 in many circles– is the minibike you remember having when you were a kid. This bike is tiny, riding on 10-inch tires and featuring an ultra-low seat height, the PW50 is easily accessible and made more so by virtue of a “twist and go” single-speed transmission.

The PW50 is powered by an oil-injected 49cc two-stroke engine. For those of you unfamiliar with two-strokes, they burn both gas and oil together, which makes them environmentally dirty and somewhat intimidating to maintain, since special 2-stroke oil has to be added to mix with the gasoline. The payoff for that extra layer of parental effort is more top-end power, which should make for a bike that lil’ Junior won’t necessarily outgrow in a single season.

There’s a lot to Yamaha’s petite PW50– both for and against, if I’m being honest– but if your goal is to give your little ones the same introduction to motorcycling that you got, the Pee-wee 50 is definitely it.

 

Honda CRF50F

When it comes to the kids’ mini-motorcycle business, the Honda CRF50F is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. The Honda is a serious motorcycle– just smaller. And that “next level” seriousness is evident the first time you see one parked next to a PW50.

When you do park the two bikes side-by-side, the differences are striking. The Honda is significantly bigger, which is the most obvious difference. Looking a bit closer, though, you’ll see thicker, higher-quality plastics, a beefier suspension, and– most significantly– a shift lever sticking out of the left side of the transmission. That’s the bike’s way of telling you that, wile the clutch is automatic on the little Honda, this is a manual transmission bike, and manual shifts are a must.

That said, the (relatively) clean-burning four-stroke single is utterly bulletproof, and a properly maintained Honda CRF50F will probably out burn the Sun. Despite that, the CRF would probably be the toughest “sell” to a reluctant parent, since it absolutely looks the part of “real motorcycle”. As it should– because it very much is a real motorcycle. Only smaller.

 

Harley-Davidson IRONe

Here it is: the first mass-produced electric Harley-Davidson. Developed by electric bike-maker Stacyc, the IRONe is the smallest bike to carry the storied Motor Company’s name. It’s worth noting, right off the bat, that Harley doesn’t sell the IRONe as a “motorcycle”, either. Rather, it’s being marketed as an “electric balance bike”, which is a distinction that carries some pretty significant financial benefits for would-be kids’ bike buyers (more on that in a bit), and one that can help to lower the “intimidation factor” for more reluctant or motorcycle-averse parents.

To be fair, the all-electric Harley IRONe doesn’t have the power or torque of the other two bikes I’ll mention here– but that’s OK. This is a bike that’s designed to help kids get comfortable on two wheels, and it does its job, as this X Games video proves.

 

H-D IRONe at Minneapolis X Games

So the IRONe isn’t exactly fast, sure– but neither is anything else you’re likely to be looking at for your four-year-old rider, you know? So, it’s probably quick enough, but Harley’s “it’s not a motorcycle” marketing logic gives the little EV a few objective advantages over its gas-powered competition in terms of offering your kids a “motorcycle experience”.

For starters, it’s electric. That means it’s welcome on most of the bicycle trails you’ll find in and around major cities. Gas-powered bikes usually aren’t welcome on those trails– and the same is true for public parks. Here in Chicago, for example, if you don’t own or have access to a large private yard, your kids’ riding is limited to special motocross parks. Special motocross parks that cost money, to be clear.

That lack of available places to ride may not be a deal-breaker on its own, but it’s worth bringing up … which brings me to the last part of this handy-dandy comparison chart highlighting some of the key “pros and cons” that I think you might want to use to help make your choice.

 

Best Motorcycle for Kids | Comparison

H-D IRONe

HONDA CRF50F

YAMAHA PW50

ENGINE TYPE

FULLY ELECTRIC

LOW EMISSION 49cc 4-STROKE

49cc 2-STROKE (GAS/OIL)

REQUIRES GASOLINE

NO

YES

YES

REQUIRES SPECIAL 2T OIL

NO

NO

YES

SHIFTING REQUIRED

NO

YES

NO

HOT EXHAUST PARTS

NO

YES

YES

PNEUMATIC RUBBER TIRES

YES

YES

YES

CAN BE RIDDEN IN SPECIAL MOTOCROSS PARKS

YES

YES

YES

CAN BE RIDDEN ON BIKE TRAILS

YES

NO

NO

CAN BE RIDDEN INDOORS

YES

NO

NO

AVAILABLE IN TWO DIFFERENT HEIGHTS

YES

NO

NO

MATCHING, KID-SIZED GEAR AVAILABLE

YES

YES

YES

SUBJECT TO ILLINOIS DOC AND TITLE FEES

NO

$179.81

$179.81

DESTINATION FEES EXTRA

NO

$190

$150

MSRP

FROM $649*

$1549*

$1499*

* dealer set-up costs not included, $110 for Harley-Davidson IRONe

 

There are two things that immediately jump out at me when I look at that chart. The first is that the littlest Harley-Davidson is very much in a different class than either the PW50 or the CRF50, and they are– both of them!– significantly faster, louder, and more motorcycle-y than the IRONe is, in either the 12-inch or 16-inch tire size. That’s reflected in both their spec sheets and their price tags. The Honda, for example, will set you back $1918.81 in Illinois– and that’s before any sales tax kicks in.

Put another way, the Honda CRF50F represents 3x the monetary investment of the Harley IRONe. You could argue that it’s 3x the bike, but that’s a moot point if your kid rides it for twenty minutes then decides they’re not into it, you know? Or, worse, your kid decides they can’t get enough of it and you go broke buying track time at the local motocross park! Which scenario is worse!? If it’s my money, I’m going with the Harley. Ride with your kids around the block, up the trails, and teach them to love the feeling of riding on two wheels before committing thousands of dollars to a specialized machine.

That’s the first thing. The second thing that jumps out at me when I see that chart is the price difference from the Yamaha to the Honda. If you do decide to go with a gas-powered motorcycle for your kids’ first bike, it would be absolute madness to pass up the Honda over $50. That’s my take, anyway– what about you guys? What do you think makes for a great motorcycling experience, and how would you share that with your kids? Head on down to the comments section at the bottom of the page and let us know!

 

Original content from Original Group B.


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