Growing - Letter Rip! Letter of the Week - Dirt Rider Magazine

Currently overseas, I look forward to packages from my wife that include my monthly dose of vicarious riding, so thanks for your magazine. I'd like your opinion on the next bike for my 11 year old son. He has long since outgrown his XR 50 and is ready to step up. He wants to get something he can race, but we do a considerable amount of trail riding also. Formerly living in Twentynine Palms this was not such a difficult decision, but in NC woods it is more to think of. I am a die hard Honda rider so, a CRF 80 is my choice since he is not big enough for a CR 85 for probably another year or so. I would consider a Kawasaki KX 65 or KTM so he could race, but that is considerably more expensive for the amount of trail and play riding we do. I have two more boys behind him so getting the longevity out of either is not an issue. Any input you have on a balance between something he can get on the track and trails would be greatly appreciated.
Swansboro, NC
(Temporarily Iraq)
You didn't say whether your son just outgrew the size of the bike or the performance as well. If it is only the size, then the Honda CRF80 is a great choice. If he is pushing the 50 suspension to the limits, then the 80F will be tapped out pretty quickly as well. The Yamaha TT-R 125 and Kawasaki KLX140 have better suspension and more motor in similar-sized packages. I wouldn't discount the 65 either. The Kawasaki can be made to work very well on the trail if your son is ready for the clutch and roughly six times more power (no joke). If you shop around there are many good 65s from kids who didn't have younger brothers to pass them down to. For the younger kids who have trouble with the 65's power, we put a large washer in the exhaust port to tame the engine until they are ready for full boost. Just find a washer the same size as the exhaust port. It works great. Unfortunately, the CR85 is a pretty poor choice as a trail bike. Look for a KX, RM or KTM with a power valve. They work a lot better off the track than the Honda or Yamaha.- Karel Kramer