2018 Honda CRF50F Review | Off-road Motorcycle Test
The motorcycle industry endlessly debates about how to get more people into the sport. Nothing beats starting young, and the 2018 Honda CRF50F kids dirt bike is one of the best ways to get a new rider started right.The Honda CRF50F has a direct lineage back to the 1968 Honda Mini Trail 50. While the entire motorcycle has been updated in the intervening 50 years, the same basic design is there. You still get a small-framed dirt bike powered by an air-cooled two-valve 49cc motor with a three-speed auto-clutch transmission.
The original Z50A K0 was a hardtail with a pushrod motor, while the 2018 Honda CRF50F has full suspension and a SOHC motor. The cylinder remains nearly horizontal to keep the seat height and center of gravity low. Ten-inch wheels replace the original eight-inch hoops. Through it all, kids have been entertained for 50 years by this design—it is that durable.Speaking of durability, the CRF50F has an impeccable reputation. With even minimal maintenance, you can expect the 2018 Honda CRF50F to last through several young riders. Clean the air filter periodically (a few screws have to be removed), change the motor oil every now and then (there’s no oil filter), and keep an eye on the drive chain. If you do those three things, the CRF50F should be bulletproof.The adults at Ultimate Motorcycling can’t test ride the CRF50F, so we drafted Tindra—Associate Editor Jess McKinley’s six-year-old daughter—to pound on the little Honda. She’s an experienced trail rider, though not yet a racer. She is familiar with the controls and how to ride—plus she loves to twist the throttle hard.We test by observing, and the 2018 Honda CRF50F did quite well with young Tindra aboard. She was able to ride the 50F wherever she liked, and crashes were few and far between. The CRF50F steers well and the chassis is stable with the throttle wicked up in top (3rd) gear.The suspension keeps the bike steady. The single shock and inverted fork give the CRF50F a modern look in concert with its race-inspired plastic and graphics. The drum brakes are fine, though at six years old, Tindra tends to rely on engine compression braking, which is ample.Engagement of the auto-clutch is intuitive for a young rider, and wheelspin is kept to a minimum. The Cheng Shin tires aren’t a marquee brand, but they’re more than up to the job at hand. They are longwearing tires that are resistant to puncture—just what a kid needs to ride a motorcycle all weekend in the dirt uninterrupted.The one thing neither Tindra nor the adults liked was the lack of electric starting. Honda still relies on kickstarting for the CRF50F. C’mon—if e-start is good enough for Ken Roczen, it’s good enough for our kids.The engine is notoriously coldblooded, and the 2018 Honda CRF50F is no exception. You have to nurse the throttle and clutch a bit for a few minutes until it reaches operating temperature. Once there, Tindra could reliably kickstart the CRF50F, and the powerplant ran flawlessly.Honda has the carburetion down pat, but we would still prefer EFI and electric starting. Yes, we know that would up the cost from the paltry $1499 MSRP, but it would enhance the fun factor and ease of use. Maybe Honda could make two versions and see which one moves off the showroom floor faster.Note that Tindra fits the 2018 Honda CRF50F perfectly. For comparison to your child, she weighs 52 pounds and is 44 inches tall. We strongly recommend that you do not buy a dirt bike for the young rider to “grow into.” That’s a strategy that we feel is frustrating for the child, as well as presenting safety issues. If anything, get a bike that is a bit too small, especially for rank novices.Also, we have all the necessary protective apparel for our test rider. The Fly Racing helmet (goggles are also mandatory) and Fly Racing Kinetic Women’s Raceware set keep her safe and stylish, plus there are knee protectors underneath those pants. The Alpinestars Tech 3 boots are a bit stiff for her, though the flipside of that is that they are also extremely protective. Feet hit the ground all the time, so you want to err on the side of protection.Getting a new rider going is all about a motorcycle that fits the rider and is easy to ride, along with protecting the rider from injury. Crashes are inevitable, so be prepared to keep them as pain free as possible.Motorcycle riding is a lifetime avocation for most of us, and getting started right on a bike like the 2018 Honda CRF50F is a crucial step in the process. We’d like to see every kid on one.Photography by Don WilliamsRiding Style
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.