Maybe the snow is melting, or you’re taking a break from the long and everlasting winter. But then you realize that many of your favorite dirt bikes are hiding inside and collecting dust. You immediately start wheeling them out, but soon after, you wonder what dirt bikes 50 years ago looked like. These days, they’re so different that it’s hard to recognize some early models. What makes this difference even more spectacular is how far we have come in technology. But where did all this change begin?
1973 Honda CR250
Honda’s first 2-stroke race bike for Motocross was the CR250, released in 1973. It became known as the Elsinore CR250 and is often referred to as the “Elsinore.” The Elsinore had a distinctive look: its front forks were longer than usual, allowing 6 inches of wheel travel. Its drum brakes were also unorthodox since they were mounted inboard on the wheel instead of at the wheel’s hub. The air-cooled Honda made it the first 2-stroke Honda motorcycle to do so. Its range travel suspension was also unique: it had a spring fork with a rising rate and bottom-out bump stops, while its rear end was equipped with shock absorbers that gave it 4-5 inches of wheel travel.
1974 Husqvarna CR400
The year is 1974, and the CR400 is the latest iteration of Husqvarna’s successful line of off-road competition bikes. The bike was designed with motocross racing in mind. It features a lighter frame than other models on the market and an incredibly lightweight and maneuverable front end while still providing plenty of support. This is one of the bikes that won Husqvarna their many championships in what was then known as the Motocross World Championship. That event, which later became known as the FIM Motocross World Championship, has become one of the most popular worldwide competitions for motocross racers.
2016 Husqvarna TE300
What do you think about when you picture a dirt bike? It’s probably something like the machines that ruled the sport for decades, with their air-cooled engines, exposed wiring, and rigid chassis. They were loud, fast, and dangerous. While today’s machines have certainly evolved from those early days, they’re still recognizable as descendants—the look is different now.
Fast forward 45 years to 2016, when Husqvarna released the TE300, its first model produced after re-entering the U.S. market. A mere 300cc, this new bike has a little more than twice the
wheel travel of its predecessors and uses a single shock instead of two. This is in stark contrast to modern street bikes, which use twin shocks and solid rear wheels to help riders navigate potholes and bumps at speeds upwards of 90 miles per hour. The TE300 lets its rider know how much it’s been engineered to be less aggressive; its engine is half the size of older bikes, and its power valve and electronics have been refined to make it safer. It also uses modern pegs (which allow for better control) and a more powerful yet easier-to-ride engine with twice as much horsepower as before. The TE300 even has a fuel injection system.
The new racing Rieju is an enduro bike for hardcore riders. It’s a modern design built for racing, and it’ll make you feel like you’re flying, even when you’re grounded. The 2023 model has a 2-stroke motor that’s water-cooled, with electronic systems to keep the bike going forward in any terrain. The six-speed transmission gives you quick shifts while sailing over rocks on your favorite track.
Rieju suspension is premium, too—the shock absorbers are KYB units and are soft enough to smooth out ruts in the trail but firm enough to keep your hands on the brakes during tight corners. The bike comes with a single disc brake on each wheel, giving you plenty of stopping power even when wet.
Rieju is a Spanish manufacturer that has been producing some of the best dirt bikes for racers for over 40 years. They have all of the high-end components you’d expect on a premium enduro racing bike:
● They’re lightweight.
● They have a transmission with six speeds.
● They have power valves and ECU’s in all of their motors.
They also have KYB suspension systems and water-cooled engines in two-stroke.
2022 GPX TSE250
With the 2022 GPX TSE250, you get a bike wholly redesigned from the ground up. The frame is made from a lightweight, durable chrome alloy inspired by KTM’s dirt bikes. Disc brakes are for better stopping power when needed most (i.e., for fast cornering or to avoid hitting an unseen bump in the trail). The handlebars have triple-clamp offsets, allowing you to adjust your riding position easily. There are two designs of footpegs: one with an open pattern and another with a closed configuration.
The bikes highlighted here are just a few that have helped define the off-road biking industry over the past 50 years. Whether you’re a beginning bike rider or a seasoned veteran, these miniature works of art are destined to leave a lasting impression on anyone who has ever cast a glance.