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novaboy 03-30-2012 12:31 PM

Best bike for a newb interested in enduros and hare scrambles
Hey Everyone,

I wasn't sure whether to put this here or over in the Thumpers section since it applies to both.

I'm almost 43 years old, and deep in my mid-life crisis, however my wife says my whole life has been a mid-life crisis. Anyway, after riding streetbikes, BMX and mountain bikes I finally want to realize a dream of riding off road, and doing some hare scrambles and enduros for fun. I'm not sure why I waited this long since I was drooling over dirt bikes since I was a kid, and my parents wouldn't let me get anything bigger than the Honda Z50 I had when I was 8. But before you know it, your almost 43 and turning grey with 2 kids and dog going "what the hell happened".

I'm in pretty good shape, run 5 days a week training for an ultramarathon in June, and I windsurf, and paddlesurf whenever I can, so I need to get a bike, learn to ride in the dirt and get in bike shape. I figure if I get a bike now, and ride all summer, I might, just might be able to attempt a hare scramble this fall in some "senior, over the hill, where did he learn to ride" category.

I live in northeast Canada, so the trails are rock, roots, mud and heavily wooded. What kind of bike should I get? I'm thinking 250cc, not sure if I should go 4 or 2-stroke (no nothing about 2-stroke, other than you have to mix gas). I know full on motocross bikes are out of the question. I did see a very nicely maintained 2003 XR250R for sale, which I'm thinking would be good, but I'm looking for other options as well. Oh, I'm 6'1 and 178lbs.

Suggestions, comments, sarcastic remarks.:ricky

David_Moen 03-30-2012 02:11 PM

The answer depends on how much money you want to spend. If you have a crew of folks that you want to go riding with (and that's adviseable) put out some feelers and you should be able to come up with a bike that has a local history and will be reliable.

Modern 2 strokes are lighter than 4 strokes and easier to maintain. 4 strokes can be a little easier for newbies to get thier heads around in terms of power characteristics.

Kawasaki KDX 200/220s are great starter bikes, I wish I held onto the one I had. The power delivery on the 220 very mellow, and can be beefed up from stock quite easily with a few well documented mods. If you find a good used one, it is very likley it will have these changes made already.

One of the best woods bikes ever is the KTM 300 2 stroke. It makes power like a 4 stroke, is happy chugging around all day long at low speeds, but it will still drag you up the biggest hills you will find with ease. I must admit strong bias here, but if I had to buy another bike right now, it would be another 300. The KTM 250 has a more agressive power delivery than the 300 and is a little less friendly to newbs and casual riders. Still a very nice bike though. KTM also makes a 200, and it's very nice to, but it really likes to be flogged to go anywhere fast.

Again, in the field of 2 strokes, the Yamaha YZ250 can be turned into an excellent woods/enduro bike. Generally they are quite a bit less expensive than a KTM 2 stroke, but will need some mods to work in the off-road world. Tons of accessories etc available to make this happen too.

Once you have been riding a bit, take some time to get your suspension set up correctly. This does not have to mean sending it all off to a suspension guru and spending a ton of dough - there is a ton of info on the net about suspension set up, have a read, ask some questions and experiment a bit with the clickers. Good suspension set up is key to getting through the terrain safley and quickly.

Your terrain sounds a lot like what we ride here in the Interior of B.C. One of my favorite farkles is my Rekluse auto clutch. Makes steep stuff so much easier it's almost like cheating. Most of the guys that I ride with thought I was a wussie for getting one 3 years ago, now everyone has one!

Good luck!

arkansawyer 03-30-2012 04:49 PM


cynicwanderer 03-31-2012 08:03 AM

Lol...I'm in my second midlife crisis. My wife also says, I pretty much have a midlife life crisis all the time and apparently I have an addiction for motorcycles. I used to ride hare scramble and all things motorcycle when I was in high school/college, and then life happened and the next thing I knew I was 45 before I got to ride again.

at that point, I got a cheap dual sport (xl600) and have been riding standard dual sport stuff (fire roads, etc...) and have been into riding hard single tracks. I have been itching to get back into hare scambles and endruros. money is an issue for me, since this is a hobby and my philosophy is "ride what you have". in any case, I came into a '84 xr350r, which I plan to race. having an old bike is a challenge sometimes for getting parts, but at the price, I think it's the most fun I could have for the $, since I don't have a small fortune tied up in a KTM or Huskie. besides, it's probably worth putting more money into safety gear, see below.

my training tactic is do do a lot of rugged terrain hiking/ride, some workouts, etc... but most of all, I found that if I ride the same difficult single track with my xl600, then riding the xr350 on the same terrain feels like a breeze. our terrain varies from hilly technical rocky stuff in the woods, to desert/prairie. I have found that staying in shape is really hard. if I don't ride for a couple of weekends, I really feel it. also, compared to when I was 16, everything heals much slower. nowadays, if I have a get off and twist/wrench my shoulder, it will hurt for the next 4 months, compared to a week or two when I was a kid. lol.

things to practice and get good at:

1. technical riding. practice slow riding with control and balance. imagine doing some low level trial bike type things with your dirt bike, riding up rocks, following creek beds, steps/ledges, riding over logs, etc... able to stop and balance your bike. I'm old school and ride with my feet on pegs, i.e.not motocross style, but you'll develop you own style. whatever works an minimizes your energy spent.

2. practice picking up your bike. you will drop your bike and nothing saps your energy on a 1-2hrs hare scramble then picking up your bike. lay it on the side and pick it up, then switch sides, do this until you can't anymore. that's the feeling you'll have when you drop your bike on the trail a couple of times.

3. starting your bike on all conditions, cold/hot. less of an issue with electric start, but still it's a pain when you flood you bike and don't have the technique down for getting it started again.

4. practice riding to minimize your and your bikes energy, learn to use momentum and ride smooth, you should get to the point of looking ahead and planning your line, rather than worrying about the rock right in front of you, because if you have a good line, the rest sort of takes care of itself.

5. pace yourself. typically, the guys that gets the hole short, is not likely to win or even finish anyway. most likely most of the experienced Super Sr. (50+) will pass you after the first couple of laps anyway... lol. after a couple of races you should be in the the "that wasn't so bad, maybe next time I can ride a little more aggressive" place at the end of the race. the first challenge will be to finish a hare scramble and want to come back the next time. so work up to riding a couple of hours without stopping.

I would look for a used bike in the 200-400cc range, a lighter bike (less than 300cc) is probably better if you're new at this (easier to pick up). smaller bikes are generally better for tight woods/rocky stuff, larger bikes for desert/speed/hill climbs. some of the bikes people have suggested are good choice. if you get hooked, this is not going to be your last bike, and you're going to find out what you want next after you ride for a little while. most of all, just have fun with this.

when I was a kid, I was racing an old xt250 (dual sport) and my brother had a xr200r.

Pantah 03-31-2012 11:51 AM

Get the most bike for the job you can afford
This is a good thread. You are not alone, you know. Lots would like to do the things they missed out on when in their prime. Enduros and hare scrambles are great sports at all ages. Just look at the class structure. They have it by the age as well as by displacement! That should tell you something about who'll you be riding with...

I started riding when I came back from Vietnam. I was 21. Within a year I was riding enduros on a Yamaha 360. I can say I wasn't very good at woods riding, so that morphed into weekend motocross where I could learn the track and polish my skills through repitition. I still did an occasional hare scramble, but MX was something I could do regularly on a circuit. I did that until I was 32. I had my best success with a YZ125. For me, smaller was better and more fun.

My oldest son started riding at age 16. He quickly moved into road racing. He turned pro and did that for several years. He was hurt a lot so eventually he quit for good after a brief come back in 2008. Actually, real life got in the way.

Not six weeks ago he bought a 2012 KTM EXC-F 350. What a beautiful piece of architecture! It cost him $9200. That's a lot for a dirt bike... He bought that thing because he wanted to do some fun racing in a discipline that was new to him. Something he had to learn. What a great idea!

He entered his first enduro a couple weeks later as a 'Veteran C' rider (age 30). It was great! He loved it and had the best time. When I asked how the ride went, he said; "it would have been a lot easier on a 200". :lol3:lol3

He was referring to a KTM 200 2 stroke enduro bike. 200 lbs, great suspension and a sweet little motor.

Enduro's in the northeast require a street legal bike. The best tool is the KTM 200 or 300 two strokes, but they may not be practical for your wants. Hare scrambles are no problem for pure race bikes. My son bought the 350 4 stroke because he thought it would be close to the two strokes in performance, yet easy to register as a dual sport.

If you can do two strokes and want to go cheap, a 2000 or later Kaw KDX 200 is a good option for learning enduro's. If I were you, I'd go whole hog from the start, though.

PS: I always enjoyed my various mid-life crises. They produced great adventures, fun toys and lasting memories. :thumb In fact, I'm trying to work up a late life crises right now! 2012 KTM 690R enroute...

novaboy 04-01-2012 05:02 AM

Thanks for the replies, I appreciate the help, and it's good to see others here with a life long mid-life crisis too. LOL

I'm still debating on whether to go out and pick up something new or get a good used bike. KDX's are as rare as hen's teeth around here, there are a couple of 2007 CRF250X's for sale that I've had my eye on. I'm aware of the valve issues with them, however I heard it didn't effect later '05 and up models. I'm also thinking of waiting until the fall and picking up a Husky TXC250 or 310.

My budget right now would be $4500. I also need boots, pants and some protective gear, plus a hitch carrier to haul the bike around.

I'll let you know how I make out and what I'm gonna do. Plus I still have to run this by the Minister of the Opposition, she wants a new front door, which is the price of a new bike. This after I forked out a pile of dough for a new dishwasher and new king sized bed, plus all the bedding for it. I've got 3 women in the house, so I'm solo with no backup. LOL

David_Moen 04-01-2012 09:05 AM

You can import off-road bikes to Canada. That's how I got my KTM. Bought it from an inmate here as a matter of fact, I paid thousands less than I would have locally. One of my riding buddies just picked up a 2011 KTM 300 with 40 hours on it for $7000 and said that was the best deal he could find! Yikes! Check classifieds as well.

cynicwanderer 04-01-2012 09:58 AM


Originally Posted by novaboy (Post 18352286)

Plus I still have to run this by the Minister of the Opposition, she wants a new front door, which is the price of a new bike. This after I forked out a pile of dough for a new dishwasher and new king sized bed, plus all the bedding for it. I've got 3 women in the house, so I'm solo with no backup. LOL

you can always claim that your hobby/distraction is cheaper than a mistress. lol

BADDAD 04-01-2012 10:42 AM


barnyard 04-01-2012 11:17 AM

With a $4500 budget, I would look for a used 06-07 KTM 250 xcw. With the leftover money, add a trials tire to the rear and buy up your protective equipment.

For rocky, super tight woods, over-heating could be a problem for an off-road noob with a 4t.

For those recommending a KDX......... while it is a fine machine for a beginner, someone that is as physically fit as the OP and has been riding mtn bikes, the OP would outgrow a KDX quickly. I would imagine the offroad learning curve is not going to be very steep and with your fitness, you could easily be a good C-class competitor in your 1st year.

wrk2surf 04-01-2012 11:49 AM

plated xr 200

Rogue_Ryder 04-01-2012 12:48 PM

I think you need to look at the class structure for the series you're going to be racing in.

If it's CC dependent then a 2T 250cc will be a better choice than a 250f. If it's just a lites/regular class than a 250F will be the better bike for the lites class. Beginner class might just be all beginners or divided into 2 classes, either by the engine cc or bike class.

At most hare scrambles ORANGE is the dominant bike; and for good reason they kick ass in the woods. My limited experience with harescrambles were the guys on anything else were MX racers first and woods racers 2nd so they just use their MX bike.

A KTM (EXC/XC/MXC) will be woods ready, whereas something like a YZ-250 will need some set-up work especially for a n00b racer. If there's a 200cc and under class, I'd get the KTM 200xc, otherwise I'd get the 250xc-f; another bike to consider might be a Husky TE-310 (again depending on class structure); there was a guy in the masters class on a plated one who lapped me on the 3rd lap when that bike first came out, and out of 80 riders he finished in the top 10! (the guy was a factory rep for BMW/Husky and racing for 30some odd years

While I haven't had a KTM 200 I have had a 525mxc and that bike was hands down one of the easiest riding off-road bikes I've ever ridden. My KX-250 (which took a lot of set-up to get woods rideable) was lighter and more flickable in single track; BUT you're probably not going to be racing on gnarly single track (the series I raced in the beginner class was set up like GNCC, 3rd 4th gear trails with a couple obstacles and a MX track thrown in occasionally) and a 2stroke takes a little more work to ride fast. I'm a true 2 stroke fan but the reality is 4strokes are easier to ride especially for a beginner.

DO NOT get a KDX, XR anything, DRZ if you plan on EVER being remotely competitive, they don't have the suspension to hold up to MX pace for 90 minutes to 3hrs of abuse. Plus you'll be crashing those pigs a lot with their weak suspension trying to keep up with the rest of the field.

barnyard 04-01-2012 01:00 PM


Originally Posted by Dukeryder (Post 18355002)
BUT you're probably not going to be racing on gnarly single track

The OP is in eastern Canada. Pretty much the definition of where gnarly single track is located.

David_Moen 04-01-2012 01:09 PM

The KDX reccomendation holds for a novice rider. If you decide that off-road isn't for you, you will be able to sell it and get every penny back. If you want to move up to something else, you can sell it, get every penny back and get something else. In terms of just having a good time, the KDX is hard to beat too. You can ride the pee out of it, and probably not scare yourself. Suspension is a bit rudimentary, but workable. Once I beefed up my fork springs and did a little revalving, my KDX stopped trying to smack me in the back of the head on downhills. The short wheelbase can make them a bit of a handful on steep climbs too.

Barnyard's reccomendation is good. If you think you are going to be riding/racing off-road for the forseeable future, step up to something that is going to work better for for you over the long haul.

novaboy 04-02-2012 04:50 AM

Once again fellas thanks for all the replies and info. The trails and courses here are tight gnarly single track, lots of rocks, roots and mud, it's slow going on any bike. I've seen some video of the local hare scrambles, and it isn't fast by any means. This year I'm only looking at doing one race in the fall, just because I'll need the whole summer to get comfortable riding a dirt bike. I have a 50km running race in mid-June that is going to take up a lot of time between now and then, and I also have to juggle work, and the family, so realistically I'll only be able to ride a few hours a week.

So, what I may do is pick up a used XR or KLX, get used to riding, try a race, and then if I'm hooked, sell it again in the spring along with my Ninja 400R and get a new bike, 200XCW or TXC250/310, etc. If I don't like racing, then I have a cheap trail bike to horse around on.

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