8 Dirt Bikes that Changed the World
May 20, 2015
The dirt bike you ride now is the result of over 40 years of trial and error. When motocrossÂ started as a sport, bikes were really nothing special.Â Riders had to modify their regular streetÂ bikes to what they wanted.Â Like with most sports, as it develops, so does the technology. Motocross isÂ no exception. Bikes became more lightweight, yet durable for extreme off-Âroad racing. Here areÂ the bikes that we believe changed the world of motocross. 1. 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross You may remember it from the 1971 classic â€śOn Any Sundayâ€ť as the bike that Steve McQueenÂ rode and made mainstream. Husqvarna was known only in racing circles in the 60s and 70s, and it wasn't until Edison Dye began importing the 250cc and 125cc bikes to the US that theÂ brand really took off. In 1969, Husqvarna released the all powerful 395cc twoÂ-stroke. The 400Â Cross was more powerful, and Smith and Gunnar Nilsson rode the bike to victory in the 1971Â Baja 1000. It is a timeless piece of motocross history and even sits in the Motorcycle Hall ofÂ Fame in Pickerington, Ohio. 2. 1973 Honda CR250 Elsinore Back in the 1970s, European bikes like Husqvarna and Maico dominated the scene. Honda wasÂ known for its scooters at the time, but when they released the Elsinore, it was light and fast andÂ perfect for off-Âroad racing. It could reach speeds of up to 100 km/h (considered quite fast for its time) and didn't require any modifications to be race-Âready - a true motocrosser. It was Honda'sÂ first two-stroke and was named after the Elsinore Grand Prix. The Elsinore used all the latest technology, including better ergonomics and electronics. In 1973, the Elsinore cost $1145, butÂ today they are valued between $10,000Â$17,500 â€“ if you can find one. 3. 1973 KTM GS 125 KTM started production in 1953 with only 20 employees producing three bikes a day. They wonÂ their first championship in 1954 and it was only uphill from there. The GS 125 marks anÂ important turning point for the company as it was the first KTM to make it to the US and someÂ say, transformed motocross in the country. The bikes were so popular that they startedÂ manufacturing them in the US in 1978. Interesting fact: KTM has always been known forÂ innovation. These days, they are one of the few manufacturers still making and promoting two-strokes. But what's more is that they are trying to make them more environmentally friendly. 4. 1975 Yamaha YZ250 It wasn't long before the Japanese started to make more and more race-Âready dirt bikes. TheÂ first YZ250 was actually developed in the US by Don Jones for his son. The YZ250s introducedÂ a lot of firsts to the world of motocross: reed valves, power valves, and mono-Âshock suspension. The 1975 YZ250 was 8.5kg heavier than the 1974 to be able to support the carbon monoÂ-shockÂ suspension. It could have been even heavier, were it not for the small holes that were drilled into the aluminium tank to help decrease weight without compromising its strength. But theÂ improved dirt bikes came at a cost. In 1975, a YZ250 would set you back $1890.00, but you got the best bike money could buy. 5. 1982 Yamaha YZ250 Technology continued to improve, and the 1982 YZ250 was the bike that would shapeÂ motocross for the next twenty years. Why, you ask? While it was quite heavy and not asÂ powerful, it introduced safety seats, the all-Ânew Yamaha Power Valve System and liquid cooling, as well as the modern twoÂ-stroke engine we know today. Fun fact: liquid cooling wasÂ actually considered a waste on a 250. It was thought that the weight of the system outweighedÂ the benefit. The Yamaha factory team switched back to airÂ-cooled systems for their race bikes. 6. 1988 Honda CR250R This was one of the most controversial dirt bikes ever made â€” and it was unlike anything thatÂ had ever been made before. It features the â€ślow boyâ€ť bodywork, with lowered tanks. This lowÂ and narrow design offered the rider maximum control and movement. On top of all of that, it wasÂ one sexy bike. Unfortunately, most riders didn't actually like the bike. Its engine had slow powerÂ delivery and the new settings of the suspension were worse than the â€87. Despite this, the bikeÂ showed a shift in manufacturing focus and Honda still sold thousands. It was a bike designedÂ specifically for supercross. 7. 1998 Yamaha YZ400F The YZ400F was a true motocross bike. In the 90s, if you wanted a fourÂ-stroke you either had to buy something European like the Husaberg or build your own from an enduro bike. The YZ400FÂ changed all that. And what's even more interesting is that the prototype was engineered,Â designed, and built by a Yamaha engineer â€“ Yoshiham Nakayama worked on the YZ400F in his spare time. The motor had a Genesis road race motor stuffed into a YZ chassis. The bike had aÂ great motor, reaching up to 11,000 rpm, when 9,000 rpm was the limit at the time. The prototypeÂ was raced by Doug Henry and Andrea Bartolini, and then everyone just had to have one. AndÂ so, Yamaha released the bike in 1998. Despite the ultra powerful engine it was quite a heavyÂ bike, but it paved the way for Yamaha's modern, lighter bikes. Some say this is the bike thatÂ changed motocross. 8. 2002 Honda CRF450R Lighter, smaller, and easier to handle, it wasn't until 2002 when Honda released the CRF450RÂ that the brilliance of the YZ400F was finally surpassed. It fixed all the issues the YZ400F had - like braking, fueling hesitation, and starting. And riders used to a two-Âstroke had a much easierÂ time converting to the CRF450R than to the YZ400F. As you can see, motocross has come a long way, and it's all thanks to the trial and error of those who raced before us. Did you ever own any of these bikes? What was the dirt bike thatÂ changed the sport for you? Tell us about your game-Âchanging dirt bikes in the comments.
May 20, 2015by Tonu Kallast