Dirt Bikes for an 8 Year-Old Kid: Picking the right bike

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My son, Ruger, is 8 years old and he’s getting into dirt bikes.  In this post I’ll share the right size of a dirt bike for an average 8-year-old kid, some tips on making the experience fun for the kid, and how much it’ll all cost.

We have learned a lot with dirt bikes already and I’ve made plenty of mistakes, so hopefully I can help you avoid the same errors.

What Size Dirt Bike Should an 8 Year-Old Ride?

Most 8 year-olds will be happy on a 50-125cc dirt bike.  While the displacement of the engine is a factor to consider, more important factors are the seat height and the weight of the bike.  A seat height between 22 and 27 inches will be a good match, and I wouldn’t recommend any dirt bike over 180 pounds.  Also, be sure that whatever bike you choose has an automatic clutch.

My son started on a 50cc dirt bike.  Technically, he was too tall for it.  The “proper” sizing for a dirt bike would be that when the kid sits on the bike, they can’t make their feet hit the ground flat.  Just the ball of the foot should touch.  However, following this rule makes kids feel unsteady on the bike, and it makes it more difficult for the kids to stop and get off the bike without a crash.  For the first several rides, confidence is far more important than anything else, and a larger bike can hurt their confidence.

After my son got very comfortable on a 50cc dirt bike (after 5 or 6 rides), we moved him up to a 110cc.  Since he has a younger brother to take the 50, it wasn’t a big deal to have him learn on a smaller bike and then get the 110 later.  My son likes his big 110 dirt bike the best, but it is slightly intimidating for him still, and he enjoys the 50 as well.

However, I do want to be clear that I do not recommend a 50cc dirt bike for most 8-year-olds.  If they want to get into the sport and improve their skills, the 50cc bikes usually have too low of a seat height (21.5″) which will cause kids’ knees to be bent at a weird angle so they can’t really grip the gas tank with their knees and control the bike as well.  It will also cause them to sit too far back on the bike, which will throw off balance when going up and down hills.

After my experience with my two boys, I would say the best scenario is to RENT a 50cc dirt bike locally and go out and ride for a weekend several times.  Let them gain confidence when they feel they can easily reach down to the ground with their feet and stand up instead of getting knocked over.  Turning will be easier with a lighter bike as well.  Then, after a rental experience, buy a larger dirt bike for an 8-year-old or they’ll outgrow it quickly and learn poor riding habits.  At first, I thought the Honda 110cc was way too big for my son, but after his second or third ride on it, he was very comfortable and liked it much better than the smaller 50cc.  However, if you’re getting a bike that the kids will just ride in the backyard and they aren’t going to be getting into the sport, then a 50 could be an okay choice.

Boy standing next to a 50cc dirt bike.
This is my son, Ruger, standing next to a Yamaha TTR50 dirt bike. The 50cc bike is too small for him, but it REALLY helped him to gain confidence quickly on a smaller bike for the first several rides.

Great Dirt Bikes for an 8-Year-Old

Honda CRF50 or Yamaha TTR50

This is an ideal dirt bike for a shorter, inexperienced dirt bike rider.  If you’re worried that your kid will get on the bike, crash once and not want to get on the thing ever again, then get a 50cc.  However, keep in mind that most 8 year-olds will outgrow a 50cc bike quickly.

I know a family with 3 little girls aged 11, 9, and 8.  All of them want to ride the little 50cc bike and none of them want to switch up to a bigger bike that would probably be more properly sized for them.  Let the kids ride what they will have fun riding.

Given the choice between the Honda CRF50 and the Yamaha TTR50 (click for my full review), I think you’d be better off with the Honda.  The two bikes are nearly identical except the Honda offers an electric start as well as a kick start.  The Yamaha offers only the electric start.  Since kids will commonly make mistakes like forgetting to turn the key after a ride, electric-only start can be annoying.

I called both the Yamaha and Honda dealers in Boise this week and the Yamaha is priced around $1,300 new and the Honda is priced around $1,350 new.  Either bike is really good, so just buy whatever you can find on a good deal.

The blue bike is a Yamaha TTR50. The red bike is a Honda CRF110. In my opinion, the 110 is a much better bike for most 8 year-olds so they don’t outgrow it the second they start using it.

Honda CRF110: The bike I chose for my son

This bike is ideal for many 8-year-old kids.  This is the bike my 8-year-old currently rides after he spent a few weeks getting his feet wet on a Yamaha 50cc.  Overall, the CRF110 was a little intimidating and heavy for him on the first two or three outings, but just enough to make it feel like a challenge.  After 5-6 trips out dirt biking, he feels very confident on his 110 and doesn’t want to go back to the 50cc “little kids bike.”

Buying a 110 for an 8-year-old is a good choice because they can ride the same bike for several years–until they are about 12 or 13 (depending on their height and aggressiveness on the bike).  Even my wife (5’5″ and 120 pounds) likes the size of the 110 and can ride it quite easily.

The CRF110 has a seat height of 26 inches.  This puts my son (who is pretty average height) at a comfortable height.  When he sits on the bike seat, he can touch with the ball of one foot on the ground and barely touch with the other foot.  He can’t sit and make his feet hit flat on the ground.  That’s a proper height.

The bike weighs 163 pounds, which is quite heavy.  He’ll never have to bench press the thing, but a heavier bike means he has to lean and struggle more to make the bike turn.  Also, if he leans slightly too much on a turn, he’s not strong enough to get straight again.  It’s certainly easier for him to ride the 50, but he likes his bigger bike and feels like it fits him better.

You really don’t have to worry about the speed of a 110cc bike.  Speed is not the issue, because you can always just keep them in 2nd gear and know they’ll never get going too fast.  In 2nd gear, I feel confident that he can’t get into too much trouble.

Overall, most kids of average-to-tall height who are not terrified of getting on the dirt bike will do well on a 110.  If you have a shorter kid or one who is more afraid, then a 65, 70, 80 or other bike may be better suited.  Just remember that the cc’s are just the displacement of the engine.  Much more important is the weight and height of the bike.

I bought my son’s Honda CRF 110 for $1,400 and the bike is only 4 years old and lightly used.

Kawasaki KX65, KTM 65SX, Suzuki, and other bikes

Above I’ve outlined a several 50cc to 110cc bikes for kids.  However, there are certainly other good bike choices, but I’m not mentioning them specifically only because I don’t have experience with all of the brands.

65cc dirt bikes are a very good match in terms of power and size for an 8-year-old.  I don’t have much experience with the Kawasaki KX65, but the KTM is a fantastic bike.  The trouble is that the KTM 65 is very expensive for a kids bike that’ll be outgrown in a few years anyway.  But again, it’s an awesome bike.

You’ll also find a host of other bikes in this range.  There are many other good options not discussed here, but hopefully this post will at least point you in the right direction.

SSR 70cc: The budget option

SSR bikes are basically lawn mowers with wheels.  They are very simple designs with the most basic parts and no frills whatsoever.  Some people find them to break constantly and need many repairs and others have great buying experiences without any issues whatever.  These bikes sell for as little as $700 brand new.

Generally, I’d recommend spending the money on a good used Honda CRF110 instead of a brand new SSR.

How to Find a Good Deal on a Kids Dirt Bike

I recommend getting a lightly used dirt bike rather than buying something new whenever possible.  For the first dirt bike I purchased, I went with a new Yamaha TTR50 (the Honda CRF50 was out of stock everywhere in my area when I was trying to buy).  I paid several hundred dollars more than if I could have found a lightly used one available.

Dirt bikes, if maintained properly and not abused, will last many years.  If you buy a 50cc dirt bike that is 3-5 years used, you’ll be able to use it with your kids and any siblings they have down the line.  Buying new isn’t necessary to have a good, problem-free experience on dirt bikes.

However, I do also suggest that you look for a dirt bike with electric start.  Many of the older dirt bikes made before about 2007 do not have electric start.  Around that time, dirt bike manufacturers started putting electric start in most bikes.  This is a nice feature to have, because my boys struggle to be able to kick start a bike.  They can do it, but it’s a challenge.

The best tip I found for buying a used dirt bike is Kelley Blue Book.  I browse Craigslist to find a suitable dirt bike that is lightly used, and then I print off the Kelley Blue Book price for that dirt bike and bring it with me when I go look at the bike.  From what I’ve seen, the Blue Book price is almost always lower than what people are asking for on Craigslist.  With the printout, you can show the seller the exact Blue Book price and ask for a good discount.  With this tip, I got my son’s lightly used Honda CRF110 for $1,400 (they sell for $2,300 new in my area).

Also, check your local laws in regard to sales tax, registration, and title.  In Idaho where I live, you have to title all dirt bikes above 50cc, but you don’t have to title a 50cc.  Be prepared that you’ll have to pay a little more than just the sticker price of the bike, because Uncle Sam always wants his cut.

Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Dirt Biking

  1. Get the kids quality safety gear, but don’t spend too much!  I wrote a full article on the cheapest safety gear we’ve found for kids that is also good quality.
  2. Start on a flat, straight dirt road.  The first few times I took my boys out dirt biking, we went to a dirt bike area out in the desert.  The trouble is that it was a popular spot so dirt bikes had cut deep ruts in the area.  The ruts kept tipping the boys over and crashing.  Our first few outings were really frustrating for them and they didn’t love it.  Then we just went to a flat, straight dirt road and let the kids ride one mile out and one mile back.  They LOVED IT!  After a few times riding on a simple dirt road, they were ready for a traditional trail and did great.
  3. Invest in good quality safety gear.  When buying the gear for the kids, I thought it seemed overkill to have so many pads.  But after several outings, I’m glad I spent the money on good gear.  The boys crashed pretty frequently the first few times, and if they had bruised their elbows and knees and such each time, they wouldn’t have had fun.  Plus, it’s obviously important to be safe.  Get good safety gear–helmet, boots, knees, elbow pads, gloves, goggles, and roost protector.
  4. Let the kid pick what they like.  When purchasing the dirt bike and safety gear, let your kid makes some of the choices.  If the Yamaha and Honda are very similar bikes, let them choose if they like red or blue best.  Where possible, let them choose their jersey/pants and gear so they are proud of what they look and feel like.  At least let them pick their favorite number and buy them a decal of the number on Amazon to put on their bike.
  5. Find a lightly used dirt bike wherever possible.  I bought one dirt bike brand new for my kids.  It’s a great dirt bike, but I wish I would have been a little more patient and bought a dirt bike that is 3-5 years old.  I could have saved several hundred dollars and I would have had just as good of a bike.
  6. Go at a good time of day.  When it’s 2PM on a Saturday afternoon and it’s 95 degrees outside, you’ll have to be patient with kids who may not really enjoy getting in long sleeve shirts and pants and a helmet.  Go easy on the kids–especially their first few trips.  Bring some snacks and cold water, and go when it won’t be too hot.  Make sure they have fun the first few times and they’ll be dedicated dirt bikers for years to come.
  7. Consider training wheels.  Training wheels on a dirt bike will certainly make the first few rides easier for the kid as they won’t have to worry about falling over.   For my boys, I decided to skip the training wheels because I felt it was best to let them struggle the first few times and then they’d have it.  I felt like the training wheels may make them take longer to get up to speed, but that’s just my personal choice.  For many kids, training wheels may be a good choice at first.

Jim Harmer

I'm the co-owner of Dirt Bike Planet. I live in Star, Idaho and enjoy dirt biking with my wife and two boys throughout the Idaho mountains.

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