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The History and Evolution of Dirt Bikes

This article discusses three of the largest dirt bike manufacturers in the world – Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha. Starting with Honda, “a company that became the dominant force in American motorcycling”, all started when Soichio Honda opened a small bike shop in Los Angeles, California in 1959.

He had an inventory of small bikes that were not selling and the company was losing money. At that time, there was no such thing as trail riding because there was no such thing as trail bikes (referred to as dirt bikes); everyone was riding street bikes. Near the end of 1959, Honda was left with a stock of small bikes that no one wanted to buy, but all that was about to change. A large advertising campaign was set in motion and by 1963 Honda’s U.S. sales were up and trail riding in United States was born.

In 1961, the CA-100T trail 50 (trail cub) made its debut. It had a 50cc four stroke engine, a three-speed and automatic clutch, mounted on a step through frame which allowed ladies with skirts to ride it. In 1968, Honda’s first real dirt bike the Z50 mini trail came along. It was a three-speed unit that had fold-up handle bars so that it could fit into a car trunk. The Z50 still holds the record as Honda’s all time best selling bike in America with a total sale of, 450,000 units, and is responsible for introducing off road ridding to more youngsters than any other bike. Today, Honda is one of the leading dirt bike manufacturers in the world. Their line-up for 2010 includes such updated models as: the CFR450R, and the CFR250R. To see the complete line of Honda off-road trail bikes visit the Honda website.

Yamaha’s off road bike saga began after WW-II, when Gen-Ichi Kawakimi – then president of the “Nippon Gakki Company” – decided to make use of a production line & tooling that had previously been used to produce aircraft propellers, to produce the forerunner of Yamaha dirt bikes. Yamaha, named after it’s founder – Toracusu Yamaha separated from the Nippon Gakki Company, and produced the DT1- a 250cc two stoke, their first truly off road bike. Then in 1975 the YZ250 the first motocross bike to feature a single shock rear end was introduced. Yamaha has come a long way since the early days. With an impressive line up for 2010 Yamaha show cases such models as: the YZ450F, YZ250F, YZ125, and the YZ85 for motocross, and the WR450F, WR250F, TTR230, TTR125LE for off-road ridding. Visit the Yamaha website to see the complete line of Yamaha’s newly updated 2010 models and view previous models of Yamaha dirt bikes.

Kawasaki, the last noted manufacturer of dike bikes in this article began in 1949. A previous producer of parts for the aeronautical industry, Kawasaki was producing motorcycles for the Asian market by the 1950s. In 1963 Kawasaki introduced the B8M motocrosser bike and Kawasaki’s dirt bike legend was born. The B8M was a purpose built machine that won most of the motocross tournaments in Japan at that time. Their impressive line up of off-road bikes include: the KLX450R, the KLX140 series, and the KLX110 series. Their motocross bikes include: The KX450F, KX250F, and the KX100 to name a few. To see the complete line of Kawasaki dirt bikes, motocross bikes and of-road bikes go to the Kawasaki website to view previous model bikes and all updates.

See more by Edward W Moore

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