We live in a time where there is a motorbike for everyone. Despite all the choices available to us, it is difficult to find the right motorbike. Take the Honda CRF 250 series for example. We have the CRF 250L, CRF 250X, CRF 250M and the CRF 250R.
With manufacturers seemingly creating a model for every purpose, it is a surprise that they make it so difficult to break down which model is for what purpose. In this article I am going to take each brand and try to explain what I think each model was designed for.
Why it is important to choose the correct model of motorbike
When looking for a motorbike it is crucially important to buy the right model for the discipline that you are doing. A Honda CRF 250L is a 148kg dual-sport designed for bulletproof long distance service intervals and very casual driving. The Honda CRF 250R on the other hand is a 90kg motocross bike that is designed for winning races.
Apart from having the same name of “CRF”, there is nearly nothing in common between a CRF L and a CRF R. They are completely different machines.
The Honda motorbike giant is known for its reliability in the “L” series. They also seem popular in the motocross segment. In general, you get a Honda if you want something that is going to be hassle free and works without drama.
Honda CRF “L” series
The “L” is a bulletproof motorbike with long service intervals. Around 10,000km oil change intervals and an engine that basically never needs servicing. The “L” is low powered, with reliability as its focus. The “L” weighs in at the heaviest end of the CRF series.
The Honda CRF series came out around in the year 2000 to replace the Honda XR series. The CRF added a liquid cooled system, and in today’s world it can be generalized that CRF has fuel injection, where the XR has a carburetor.
Honda CRF “M” series
Exactly the same concept as the Honda CRF L, but with modifications for supermotard.
Honda CRF “X” series
The “X” falls into the realms of an Enduro motorbike. They still have indicators and lights, but are shaving off lots of weight in other areas compared to the “L”. The “X” also has an optimized engine that packs alot of power which increases the service internal rate and general maintenance.
For most offroad dual-sport riders looking to progress their riding skills, you would be better off searching for the “X” over and above the more casual “L”.
Honda CRF “R” series
The Honda CRF “R” is the motocross version which has all weight saving applications applied. No lights, no indicators, and an engine that explodes itself around a track into winning races. High maintenance, hard suspension and difficult to ride. Picking up an “R” for anything other than a motocross track is a mistake.
Honda XR “R” series
Air cooled and usually known to be the predecessor to the modern CRF series. The XR “R” is the Enduro version and is a motorbike that is heavily desired despite its age. It is both lighter and more powerful than the modern CRF series. Why it has been faded out is a mystery, but most likely due to fuel emission standards.
Honda XR “L” series
The casual dual-sport version of the time, but now mostly old machines that are not relevant in today’s market. Generalizing would have the “CRF” as a modern purchase and the “XR” as old. However Honda released the Honda XR 650L fairly recently which adds confusion to the equation.
Currently dominating the offroad scene as an entity, from motocross to dual-sport. KTM have “the best” for everything. Often criticized for low reliability and expensive parts, but if your KTM is working then it is the best in the business. On a personal note, I am a KTM owner and I believe they require preventative maintenance and good regular service intervals.
An offroad motorbike designed for beginner riders. Incredibly lightweight with a small frame. A power delivery that is relaxed and easy to learn on. Said to be a mix between offroad and trials, this is the perfect platform for learning on. Strange that KTM have this model hidden in a cave somewhere, because this is the answer to all those riders wanting a “small” offroad motorbike.
KTM “EXC” series
The “EXC” is KTM’s dual-sport motorbike. Compared to other brand dual sports they are high performance and lightweight. The Dual-Sport version from KTM is comparable to the Enduro “X” from a company like Honda. For most people, the KTM EXC is more than enough for all offroad requirements.
KTM “XCF” Series
KTM’s Enduro Motorbike for winning long distance races. If you want to take your motorbiking to the next level, then this is bike to get. It has indicators and a light and is still relatively comfortable for dual-sport use.
Two stroke: KTM XC
KTM “XCF-W” Series
The same as an XCF, but the W claiming a wide ratio transmission. In other words, it has 6 gears instead of 5. It should be noted that there are youtube videos online with thousands of views claiming the XCF-W is the same as the EXC. This is not the case and the motorbikes don’t share any parts. The XCF is closer to the motocross SXF.
KTM “SXF” Series
The KTM motocross motorbike with the “SX” standing for supercross and the “F” being fourstroke. No lights, no indicators, no side stand and harsh suspension with earth shattering power. For use on the motocross track only, picking one of these up for a casual ride around the farm is a bad idea.
Two stroke: KTM SX. The addition of “F” (fourstroke) is what is changing the two stroke into the four stroke.
KTM Six Days
For most model of motorbikes, KTM also has a “six days” version. This is a limited and upgraded version of the base model which is supposed to be pimped out to the maximum for aggressive offroading. Named after an Enduro competition called “six days”.
All the digging in the world led to no factual information on what the real difference is between a base model and a “six days model”. Some years appear to have nothing more than a few bash guards and graphics added, whereas some years have entirely different suspension setups to the base model.
In layman’s terms, I think the six days model is when the KTM engineers decide to have fun building “the best bike” that they can without a budget in mind. This gets thrown out there as a limited edition and very expensive option, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their random builds are better than their heavily researched base models.
Suzuki in the offroad world are mostly known for their reliability and abundance of parts and modifications. Motorbike models such as the DRZ 400 and DR 650 which have been in production since the birth of Christ with no noticeable changes. They remain to be some of the best reliable work horses on the market.
The Suzuki “DR” stands for “dual ride”, and is Suzuki’s dual-sport and casual offroad motorbike. The Suzuki DRZ 400 and Suzuki DR are motorbikes that have been around for years with very little upgrades. When it comes to a great balance of performance, reliability and price then the Suzuki have it covered.
The Suzuki “RM” stands for “racing model”. Which is Suzuki’s motocross motorbike.
Keeping with the “racing model”, but this time as I understand, the RMX is the Enduro model, or “trail riding”. Designed for long distance racing over rough terrain.
Yamaha competes closely with Honda on waving the flag for reliability and ease of use. Though I believe the Yamahas tend to outshine Hondas on performance and power. The Yamaha WR 450-f is known around the world to be the best budget enduro motorbike on the market, and for many people this is the birthplace of their offroading career.
Yamaha’s dual-sport offroad motorbike. Designed for casual use and seemingly having a very limited range of models.
The “YZ” standing for “Yamaha Zinger”, and the “F” for fourstroke. This is Yamaha’s race motorbike for the tracks. Yamaha also have YZF”R”, which is for road racing (super motard).
Two stroke: Yamaha “YZ”. The addition of “F” (fourstroke) is what is changing the two stroke into the four stroke.
The “WR” stands for wide ratio transmission (6 gears). The “WR” is Yamaha Enduro series, which according to wiki, is using the technology of the racing motocross YZ models. The WR 450-F is one the most popular “low maintenance” enduro motorbikes on the market. Packing huge power to weight ratios without destroying the owners bank account.
At least where I live, Vietnam. Kawasaki seems to play at the two ends of the football field. On the one hand they have popular and reliable dual-sport motorbikes under the KLX 250 and KLR 650 banner. On the other hand there are a few people owning the KX motocross versions. No one has the balls to actually drive them properly!
This is the Kawasaki dual sport motorbike, mostly known for the KLX 250. The Kawsaki KLR 650 could be put in here, and my research led me to the understanding that the “X” got replaced with an “R” to stand for “reliable”. Motorcycle enthusiasts will understand the joke!
This is the Kawasaki trail bike or Enduro motorbike. Apparently built more off the design of the motocross versions of KX and modified and toned down for long distance hard offroading.
The Kawasaki motocross model. Hugely powerful and for the tracks only!
Two stroke: Kawasaki KX. The addition of “F” (fourstroke) is what is changing the two stroke into the four stroke.
Beta is a company that specializes in trials motorbiking, but they also have an aggressive offroad lineup.
The Beta “RR” is an Enduro or race motorbike depending on engine capacity. Interestingly enough Beta doesn’t seem to separate out two stroke and four stroke by model names or letter names. Instead the consumer has to figure it out by engine capacity. Luckily their wiki page is pretty clear.
This is Beta’s dual-sport setup with four stroke engines. If wanting a “safe” choice of Beta motorbike without being in the market, then this is probably the one to get.
Acquired by KTM in 2013 and at this point in time can be considered an “even more expensive KTM”. The difference between KTM and Husqvarna will for the rest of time be confusing and in many ways they are releasing the same motorbikes but with different names. What I do know is that Husqvarna is very niche and specialized toward offroading, whereas KTM could be considered a more broad range company.
Husqvarna TC and Husqvarna FC
The Husqvarna TC is the two stroke motocross motorbike and the FC is the four stroke motocross bike
Husqvarna TE and Husqvarana FE
The TE is the two stroke Enduro motorbike or trail motorbike. The FE is the four stroke enduro motorbike.
Which brand is correct for me
The short answer is KTM if you can afford it. Regardless of what you read on the internet, the KTM is reliable and has the best and quickest part sources. They do require the driver to do preventative maintenance instead of “fixing when broken”. The nice thing about a KTM is whatever you buy it will be high performance. There is no need to worry about buying a motorbike that “isn’t good enough”, or will hold back your driving progression. The KTM EXC is the best all around vehicle that will cater to all riders.
If you can’t afford a KTM or don’t know how to do preventive maintenance, then Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki are all fine and safe choices. Just keep in mind that their casual models are very casual and will hold back your offroading enjoyment.
The long answer is that few people have the luxury of trying all the brands when the motorbikes are new or in good condition. It is also likely that people “love” their motorbike if it works, and “hate” their motorbike if it doesn’t work. Often not related to the brand at all, but instead to the condition of the motorbike and the skillset of the mechanic being used.
As a general rule of thumb, you should be looking for the Enduro Version of all the brands in the weight and power bracket that is suitable for the driving that you are doing. Keeping budget in mind and affording the best enduro motorbike that you can get.
The modern focus on 350cc from brands like KTM and Husqvarna is a good one, and it is probably the correct engine capacity for most riders out there. Get the 450cc and the motorbike is likely to be too heavy, get the 250cc and it isn’t going to be powerful enough. Remember, this is all in the Enduro range of motorbikes, a 250cc motocross motorbike will have more power than a 400cc dual sport motorbike!
The biggest mistake people make is to underestimate weight. Weight is everything when offroading, and the more powerful the motorbike the heavier it is going to be. Most people can’t utilize a 500cc motorbike, so why add all that weight!
- If you are doing slow and technical wood/rock driving then get a light low capacity motorbike.
- If you are doing open deserts or lots of highway then get a bigger motorbike.
What is the difference between two stroke and four stroke
No need to get into massive detail in this article as the answer is all over google. However for people looking to buy a motorbike in the modern ages. The four stroke motorbike is the “low maintenance” choice for people wanting to do weekend riding. The two stroke motorbike can be used for specified jobs like hitting a motocross track, but they shouldn’t be used over long distance journeys or people trying to tackle multiple disciplines on one machine.
- Two stroke vs Four stroke is a decision that may depend on where you live and the skill set of mechanics.
- For people who can’t afford mechanics, the two stroke may be a better choice for self maintenance.
- For people who work with modern mechanic shops then the four stroke might work out cost efficiently with less regular maintenance.
What motorbike is right for me?
Most people start out their offroading careers on ADV motorcycles which is a big mistake explained in this article. However from there, people tend to gravitate to the cheap dual sport motorbikes like the Honda CRF 250L or Suzuki DRZ 400. In my experience this is also a mistake and the dual sports weight will hold back the riders long term enjoyment. To truly experience offroading, I believe riders should be going up to the Enduro versions if they can afford it.
Another mistake people make is to enter the market with motocross motorbikes. These motorbikes are unfriendly from a user standpoint. Extremely high maintenance and uncomfortable for casual riding. They should be avoided at all costs unless being used specifically for a motocross track.