The history and evolution of dirt bikes

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

It had an inventory of small bikes that were not selling, and the company was losing money. At that time, there were no trail routes because there were no road bikes (known as dirt bikes); everyone was riding a street bike. Near the end of 1959, Honda was left with a stock of small motorcycles that no one wanted to buy, but all that was about to change. A huge advertising campaign was launched, and in 1963, Honda’s sales in the United States increased and trail driving was born in the United States.

In 1961, the CA-100T trail 50 (trail cub) made its debut. It had a 50cc four-stroke engine, an automatic and three-speed clutch, mounted on a step frame that allowed skirted women to ride it. In 1968, Honda’s first real dirt bike appeared, the mini trail Z50. It was a three-speed unit that had folding handlebars so it could fit in the trunk of a car. The Z50 still holds the record for being Honda’s best-selling motorcycle of all time in America with a total sale of 450,000 units, and it is responsible for introducing off-road riding to younger people than any other motorcycle. Today, Honda is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of dirt bikes. Their lineup for 2010 includes updated models such as: the CFR450R and the CFR250R. To see Honda’s full line of off-road bikes, visit the Honda website.

The Yamaha off-road bike saga began after World War II, when Gen-Ichi Kawakimi, then president of the “Nippon Gakki Company”, decided to make use of a production line and tools that had previously been used to produce propellers of aircraft, to produce the forerunner of Yamaha dirt bikes. Named after its founder, Toracusu Yamaha, Yamaha spun off the Nippon Gakki Company and produced the DT1, a 250cc two-stroke, its first truly off-road bike. Then in 1975 the YZ250 was introduced, the first motocross bike to feature a single shock rear end. Yamaha has come a long way from the early days. With an impressive lineup for 2010, Yamaha showcases the YZ450F, YZ250F, YZ125 and YZ85 for motocross, and the WR450F, WR250F, TTR230, TTR125LE for off-road riding. Visit the Yamaha website to view Yamaha’s full line of recently updated 2010 models and to view past Yamaha dirt bikes.

Kawasaki, the last prominent dock bike manufacturer in this article started in 1949. Kawasaki, a previous producer of parts for the aircraft industry, was producing motorcycles for the Asian market in the 1950s. In 1963, Kawasaki introduced the motocrosser motorcycle B8M and the Kawasaki dirt bike legend was born. The B8M was a specially designed machine that won most of the motocross tournaments in Japan at the time. Their impressive line of off-road bikes includes: the KLX450R series, the KLX140 series and the KLX110 series. Their motocross bikes include: the KX450F, KX250F, and the KX100, to name a few. To view the complete line of Kawasaki dirt bikes, motocross bikes, and road bikes, go to the Kawasaki website for previous motorcycle models and all updates.

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