Honda CRF50F - Photo Courtesy Honda Powersports
Start 'em young!
Who/what/when/where/why but most of all how do I get my kid racing dirt bikes? It's a common question and one the parent must answer but the easiest and most effective way is to start young. The many reasons why include the cost (it's cheaper!), the fear factor rises as you get older, but most of all you'll know sooner rather than later whether Motocross racing turns into a passion for your child. If not, you can get half your investment back and move on to the next sport.
First things first - assuming you indeed have a four- or five-year old you'd like to introduce to Motocross - buy the appropriate kids dirt bike: 50cc to be exact. It's small and just a few of the major manufacturers offer the best 50cc dirt bike for kids so you have a limited menu.
Seems like nearly every pro started out on the Yamaha PW50 so write that down. Also check out the KTM 50SX Mini, the Cobra CX50JR and the Honda CRF50F. We advise buying used but if you can find a deal on a new model, go that route. Just remember, the chances of your kid racing dirt bikes in a year from now rank pretty low.
Yamaha PW50 - Photo Courtesy Yamaha Motorsports
There are two reasons why. Second, the novelty wears off and they move on to something else. But first, and the most likely reason, comes from the inevitable crash that usually results in at least a minor injury which is enough for your kid to hang up their boots.
Know this: Crashing and injury make up a part of the sport. It's not a matter of if but when. Children don't like pain or broken bones any more than you do and getting thrown off a dirt bike the first time, especially at a young age, often proves unsettling. When it happens, encourage them to get back on the bike but don't push. Unless you really want them to quit because we all know what happens when overbearing parents push their kids.
Now don't get too squeamish, instead minimize the impact of a crash and thus an injury by buying all the right protective riding equipment. Don't let your child even practice ride without the usual accompaniment of riding gear. We recommend Motocross pants and a dirt bike jersey (which comes as a combo with gloves) but if you plan on dabbling first to see if your child takes to riding at the least you need the following:
But before you run out and buy a dirt bike and all the riding gear, can your child ride and balance on a regular bicycle? It's advisable to get them used to a pedal bike but if he or she or you can't wait, at least start them with a Strider. It's a balance bike without pedals that teaches your child how to balance on their own without training wheels. In fact, the Strider is a great introduction to a regular bike and when used often results with a child pedaling off down the street their first time on a bicycle.
Strider Balance Bike
But, the Strider is much lighter and manageable than a 50cc dirt bike so if staying upright on a dirt bike continues to be problematic for your child, grab a set of dirt bike training wheels.
Back to the riding gear.
Any of the youth helmets sold on MotoSport.com work very well and come with at least a DOT rating. (For more on helmet ratings read Dirt Bike Helmets for Kids Buying Guide). However, generally the more expensive a helmet the more protection and comfort it provides as well as proper fitment. Don't buy a used helmet. Don't buy a helmet your child doesn't feel comfortable wearing which means possibly spending more on a helmet that offers more features.
A broad selection of "Peewee" riding gear exists and you can more or less outfit your child from head-to-toe in protective riding gear. Use the above list as the minimum but always keep in mind the old adage "Dress for the crash." Unfortunately, more gear, even for adults, usually means a more restrictive ride. And a hotter ride. Fortunately though, the gear doesn't cost nearly as much as the adult versions so the investment won't set you back too much in the event of a flameout.
If you plan to teach your child in your backyard or nearby trails you don't necessarily need a jersey and riding pants though it goes a long way in breathability and overall comfort when outfitted with a body-full of other gear. Sturdy jeans and a hardy long-sleeved shirt do the job but offer little breathability. Additionally, any kids Motocross racing events require the jersey and pants. Racing events also require name and number plate backgrounds which you can expect to get your kid amped for racing and excited about the sport once installed on their dirt bike.
Training wheels for a dirt bike
Once riding becomes fun and, despite the already many crashes, if your child enjoys racing and/or riding checkout the Pro Taper Micro Handlebar kit. It's an innovative design that offers a better grasp by reducing the hand-hold area. Younger riders often complain about the difficulty in holding on to the handlebars. The Pro Taper Micro addresses that discomfort, and confidence often follows.
Finally, at this age Dad usually serves as mechanic and coach. In fact, in nearly every interview of a pro or up-and-coming amateur we've conducted the rider says their Dad first got them into riding. But whether you're Mom or Dad helping to get the racing bug to bite, make sure you show up on race day at the starting gate cheering your child on.
And if they don't do well? Remember the bigger picture: It's about spending time with your child.
For additional information on kids dirt bike racing check out: