1996-2007 Honda CR80R/85R
Price Range: $500-$3000When Honda redesigned the CR80R and CR80R Expert in 1996, it made a winner. Despite having no power valve and thus a pretty abrupt power delivery, the CR remains popular. The engine is highly reliable for an 80/85, and when it does break, parts are reasonable, available and easy to change. The engine could use a quick-change clutch cover, but it never got one. The early frames have a high-in-front feel in turns, but Honda refined the handling in 1999 and improved it again with the release of the CR85R in 2002. The 85 is more powerful, but the power delivery is even more violent than the 80. These Hondas are a handful for riders just off small four-strokes, since the power hits so hard. Every year came with 14/17-inch wheels, and the Expert model has a longer swingarm and 16/19-inch wheels. When buying one of these bikes, pay more attention to the condition than the year.Buyer Beware
These were serious race bikes, and it can be hard to tell bikes that were run hard and well maintained from those that were just run hard. Many are highly modified, and those make even worse playbikes. Look for cracks in the frame. The main frame tubes are small and they can and will fail. A new frame is not that expensive from Honda, and a bike that has been pounded yet is in good shape otherwise will benefit from a new frame.Other chassis parts like wheel bearings and chassis bearings need careful attention, too, but that is true of any brand of 80/85. Also watch for cracks in the rims. A lot of vibration can signal bad crank bearings, since these engines will run a surprisingly long time with sloppy bearings.Commonsense Mods
Make sure the engine is fresh mechanically, and that the bike is jetted properly.If you’re buying the bike for play riding, a one- or two-tooth larger rear sprocket will make it easier to take off from a dead stop. It will also help in technical riding.For the 80, an FMF Gnarly pipe helps the torque as well. There are spark arrestors available from FMF and Pro Circuit.There are some big-bore kits around for these, but most increase vibration. They do make the engine even faster, but don’t really add torque at lower rpm. A VForce reed cage and a small flywheel weight will help make the delivery smoother.The newer suspension internals are vastly superior to older models, but the components are still rudimentary inside. We’ve heard good things about Race Tech Gold Valves making the fork feel more modern.These bikes (any year) can still be fully competitive in modern minicycle racing. If you are planning on racing the bike, stronger rims are a good plan.Target Rider
The CR80/85R will easily suit a serious moto or off-road rider. The 80 is probably a better choice for off-road, and the 85 for motocross. Beginner riders would be better off on the Kawasaki, KTM or RM minis that have power valves, but riders with 65cc experience should adapt to the power easily. The 85 will run with anything on the track. Neither model is a great trailbike, and that’s especially true if you ride with others on XR100/CRF100F-type bikes. None of the available spark arrestors make the bike quiet. All pass 96 decibels, but they are obnoxious to neighbors, and without making a custom muffler, it is hard to really knock the shrill bark down to a quiet growl.