2000 Honda CR125
Sean Klinger

One Way To Get Into The Sport For Under 2 Grand

We test the SSR SR150

Motorcycles are expensive, now more than ever. The cost of a brand-new, full-size motocross or off-road bike can be close to 10 grand or even more. Sure, you can sell your current bike to help offset that cost and that’s what most dirt riders do. Yet what if you are new to the sport? Or you’re a mom or dad, or generous relative, who has a kid or teen who has just taken an interest in twisting a grip?

A common dilemma arises in this situation–Do I buy new or used?

The SR150 feels lighter than its 220 pounds.Sean Klinger

Buying a used bike is a pretty well-established plan of action and one that we often recommend. For example, we rode this 2000 Honda CR125 which was dirt cheap on craigslist. But, as in this example, buying used has a ton of variables including, but not limited to, what shape the bike is in, who owned it, if they are honest, what your parts budget is, what your mechanical skills are, how much you want to spend at the shop, how long you plan on building a bike even if you are capable of doing so.

fork, engine
Left: Five gears (one down, four up) are packed into the transmission. Right: The fork is nonadjustable but does have bleeder valves.Sean Klinger

The other route is to buy a new bike that might not be as well-known as the bikes you see in most dealers. Presently, we are talking about the SSR SR150. SSR is pretty well known for its pit bikes, which range from 50 to 170cc. Yet the SR150 is listed in the dirt bike category and has a standard, cylinder-over-transmission engine layout instead of a horizontal cylinder like pit bikes. And the rest of the SR150 has the familiar, full-size dirt bike layout.

There is electric start with a kickstart backup and handlebar-mounted choke. The fork is nonadjustable but it does have bleeder valves to vent before riding. The shock has rebound and preload adjustment but no compression adjustment and no piggyback reservoir. The 150cc air-cooled motor sits in a steel frame and pulls air and gas through a 28mm carburetor that is accessible on the right side, rather than the left. The front wheel is a 17-incher and the rear a 14-incher. It has normal one-down, four-up shifting with five gears total.

On The Trail

ergo, seat
Top: The seat height is 33.2 inches. Bottom: With the bar being this high, the ergos better fit adults rather than children.Sean Klinger

We asked SSR if this was a trackbike or an off-road bike and the company said it is a beginner's bike, purposely avoiding the question. We rode it only off road with two smaller adult female testers and one big male test rider. Both female testers (5-foot-1 and 5-foot-2) said the bike actually fit them really well. And that makes sense with its 33.2-inch seat height, which is 4 to 5 inches lower than a full-size bike but not as low as kids' trailbikes like 110s or 125s (four-stroke). And for the 5-foot-8 dude tester, it wasn't that uncomfortable. It is definitely low and small, and the seat-to-peg distance makes it feel pretty cramped, but the bar has a tall and wide bend that makes us think the ergos were designed more for adults than kids. The bar was too tall for the lady testers.

We didn’t get into fifth gear. It required more confidence than the bike gave us.Sean Klinger

The SR150 is very cold-blooded and takes a while to get idling, but the electric start is surprisingly strong and consistent. We had no issues with it fading on multiple trail rides with lots of starting and stopping. It even has a key, which is nice for overnight camping trips. Even though it isn’t a pit bike, the motor has that torquey pit bike-like growl that sounds meaner than it is. To be honest, it is too loud for us and it doesn’t have a spark arrestor, which is a definite downside for a beginner bike. Throttle response is pretty good, but there is a little bog if you whack it wide open from idle. It revs pretty quickly through the rpm, but the gearing is fairly short so there is a lot of shifting needed. Second and third gears were used primarily; first is very low and fourth is pretty tall. We didn’t come close to getting into fifth gear because the bike is too small and twitchy to go that fast. Plus the brakes are very much on the weak side.

front and rear tires
Left: The 14-inch rear wheel is rather small for this size bike. Right: The front brake could use a whole bunch more bite.Sean Klinger

The suspension is not great. There isn’t much damping, compression- or rebound-wise, but both the fork and shock springs seem to have a very high rate. An overall bounciness to the suspension works okay for mild trail riding and won’t have you bottoming out on trail whoops. But there isn’t much comfort or stability either, and you feel mildly out of control most of the time.

Adding to this sensation are the wheels. In our opinion, they are too small for a bike this size. Looking at Honda’s CRF150F, which is relatively the same size trailbike, it has 19/16 wheels, 2 inches bigger. The bigger the wheel, the easier and smoother it rolls over obstacles. Also, smaller wheels have smaller contact patches on the ground and make turning a bit of a challenge. All of our testers commented that turning the SR150 was unpredictable because both the back and front wanted to constantly slide out. But keep in mind that all three testers are experienced riders who are pushing the bike harder than a first-timer would.

Left: Turning is okay, but the smaller wheels want to dance around making it hard to carve a tight line. Right: The 1.58-gallon tank is more than enough for a long trail ride.Sean Klinger

Overall, putting things in perspective, the SR150 is not a bad machine at $1,999 for the truly beginner rider who isn’t going to push the bike too far. You’d be hard pressed to find a used bike ready to ride for the same price. Sure, there are some issues with the handling and suspension, but the motor is strong, stout, and much more reliable and less fickle than we anticipated. SSR has owner’s manuals online for all of its machines, and it claims to carry OEM parts at all of its authorized dealers. We are in SoCal and have a few options right around us, but if you are looking into an SSR, see where your closest dealer is.

Electric start is convenient and there is a kickstart backup.Sean Klinger

What's Hot

  • Strong motor
  • Good size for teens and small adults
  • Magic button works every time

What's Not

  • Small wheels hurt turning and stability
  • Suspension is basic
  • Needs more stopping power
At 220 pounds with fuel, it isn’t light, but it’s not as heavy as other trailbikes its size.Sean Klinger
MSRP: $1,999
Seat Height: 33.2 in.
Ground Clearance: 10.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 1.58 gal.
Weight, Tank Full: 220 lb.