Motorcycle riding is a wonderful family pastime. It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors and one another, as well as build confidence and self-reliance in riders of all ages.Kids who have an opportunity to ride at an early age build a solid foundation in motor skills, balance, and agility that crossover and fortify all areas of physical activity. But as a kid, my path to motorcycle riding contained a few obstacles to overcome.
You see, when I was about eight years old, I made a promise to myself that regardless of how old I was, I would never forget what being a kid was like. At the time, I thought it was imperative that kids did this in order to stop the cycle of grown-ups becoming mentally old, boring, and out of touch with the potential wonderment that abounds in the world of Kid-dom.Perhaps this condition only pertained to the grown-ups in my relatively limited orbit. It felt like every kid in the neighborhood was able to have dirt bike experience, except me, and I wanted one as badly as my next breath of air.To complicate matters, my parents were not fond of dirt bikes. Their prejudice was completely unfounded, of course, as they knew zilch about these raspy two-wheeled tickets to freedom and adventure.In their eyes, dirt bikes of that era were filthy and loud. It didn’t help that my neighborly cohorts would scream up and down the street on clapped-out two strokes, barefooted and bare-chested, sans any type of protective gear.Of course, my parents were concerned that I would get hurt, and this type of hooliganism didn’t help my cause when it came to convincing them that my well-being as a child depended on procuring and learning to ride one of these wonderful machines.Regardless, I spent the majority of my tweenage years singing the virtues of all things two-wheeled to a less-than-amenable audience. Then, something happened about halfway through high school, and I began to see progress. I can’t really say that I turned my parents into dirt bike fanatics, but they eventually acquiesced and tolerated my obsession.Before they could change their minds, I hauled off and purchased a used 125cc two-stroke with a lifetime’s worth of lawnmowing money. I eventually learned to ride it in the barranca behind our house and even started racing in the novice class at my local AMA district enduro events. Racing success wasn’t immediate, but it didn’t matter—I was hooked!Flash forward to today—I’m a proud husband, as well as a father to an eight-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy. I constantly remind myself of the promise I made to myself all those years ago, so now that I’m the grown-up in the household, there will be dirt bike experiences for everyone!As a family, we are relentless when it comes to having fun on dirt bikes. Since our oldest daughter was barely a year old, my wife and I have committed to at least one riding weekend per month, rain or shine, year ’round. That’s on top of the racing and bike testing that goes along with being a motojournalist.These weekends are pure family time, and just like achieving mastery in any other discipline, it’s about diligently and consistently putting in the hours. The question I always get is something along the lines of “How is this possible in our nonstop, always-on economy, and with kids consumed with schoolwork and extracurricular sports?” My answer is simple. We just have to commit and make it as easy as possible. This starts with choosing the right motorcycles and the right gear. Let me explain.Trail bikes are the name of the game when it comes to maximizing family fun. They are easy to ride, low maintenance, and accessible to a wide range of skill levels. My race bikes stay in the garage on these weekends, and frankly, a purpose-built race bike is the last thing I would want to ride while adventuring with my family.For this, Honda’s new CRF-F lineup fits the bill to a T, and is a gigantic leap forward in the performance and progression of trail bikes. These new Hondas are Green Sticker ready and environmentally friendly with gas caps and evaporative fuel systems to keep things nice and clean. EFI on all three models means the days of fiddling with air-screws, chokes, and blipping the throttle on cold-blooded engines are nothing more than a distant memory. EFI means easier starting, perfect idling, and more direct throttle response, which makes a big difference in smaller engines.Carbureted motorcycles that spend any amount of time stored away in the garage inevitably develop fueling problems. The gas in the carburetor gelatinizes, completely blocking all of the carb’s small orifices. EFI solves this problem while also providing improved fuel economy, lower emissions, and eliminating fuel overflow from a stuck float in the carburetor.For me, the Honda CRF250F is the perfect motorcycle for family trail rides. Low to the ground, easy to maneuver, and with a crisp throttle response that allows me to look like a miniature hero whenever necessary.UM Editor Don Williams tested the Honda CRF250F through a myriad of conditions and returned with a broad smile on his face (yes, that’s me in the photos). The CRF250F is a simple motorcycle done extremely well, and a natural choice for family trail riding.My wife Malin prefers the CRF125F Big Wheel. With a 19-inch front tire and 16-inch rear, it has a seat height below 31 inches that works with her 5’ 5” frame, and is only slightly smaller than the now-discontinued CRF150F that she usually rides. However, the new fuel-injected 125cc engine provides a little more pep and little less rotating mass than the carbureted CRF150F that it replaced.Eight-year-old Tindra has stepped up from her CRF50F to the all-new CRF110F, complete with a twin-spar frame and the aforementioned EFI and electric start. It’s a pretty big step in size and weight from the CRF50F, but within minutes of pushing the electric start button, Tindra was comfortable and having a blast. With an automatic clutch and a four-speed gearbox, the CRF110F is easy to ride and fully capable of keeping up with the group.To maximize the time on the trail, I need to minimize the time performing maintenance. The new Honda CRF-F bikes are about as close to maintenance-free as gasoline-powered motorcycles can be.Oil drain plugs and air-filters are easily accessible, and the service intervals are long. In fact, in the past, I’ve purchased used Honda trail bikes from people who never maintained them during years of ownership! Of course, I don’t suggest this type of neglect, but it is a testament to Honda’s durability.Just like my parents, safety is a big concern for me, so job number one is having quality safety gear. Fly Racing has cool and functional off-road apparel to outfit the entire family. Not only do we look like a family when we’re out riding—mom and daughter have exactly matching gear—but it helps that Tindra’s off-road hero Colton Haaker, an amazing rider, is a career-long Fly guy.Early morning is best for wildlife viewing, so we wave goodbye to our little pre-moto guy, two-year-old Tor, who stays in the camp under a watchful eye, and we hit the trail. Tindra likes to spot jackrabbits scampering about, and she’s always stopping under large, rooty outcroppings of creosote bushes to poke around and look for coyote dens. The Honda CRF-Fs are quiet and stealthy, which is ideal for wildlife viewing.Once we’re all warmed up, we head up from the valley floor and link into some hillside single-track routes. This particular trail is designated for Intermediate level riders, so Malin and Tindra are a little challenged riding across some of the braking bumps with not too much room for error. Fortunately, the smooth, torquey CRF-F engines pull them through and up to the summit, while the chassis do their part to reward effort.At the top of the trail is a small turnout that leads to a bench and a beautiful vista. Tindra reads aloud the interpretive sign depicting the Native Americans that lived in the region, and how they lived and foraged for food in the valley below.In today’s busy, fast-paced world, unplugging for a weekend of playing outdoors, riding motorcycles, and enjoying the company of family and friends is not only mentally and physically therapeutic—it’s also soul-refreshing. With all of the competing ways to spend our time, this is what we choose to do.I’ve had the immense fortune of being able to ride motorcycles to the far reaches of the globe and compete across a myriad of motorcycle racing disciplines. These experiences have defined my life and shaped my world view. But when I take stock of it all, the fondest memories I have are the ones I have made riding with my family.Photography by Don Williams RIDING STYLE Jess:
Helmet: Fly Racing F2 Carbon MIPS Solid
Goggles: Fly Racing Zone Pro
Jersey + pants: Fly Racing Lite Hydrogen
Gloves: Fly Racing Lite
Boots: Fly Racing FR5
Malin and Tindra:
Helmet: Fly Racing Toxin MIPS
Goggles: Fly Racing Zone
Jersey + pants: Fly Racing Women’s Lite
Gloves: Fly Racing Women’s Pro Lite
Boots: Fly Racing Maverik
2019 Honda CRF250F, CRF125F, and CRF110F Test – Photo Gallery
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!