By John Basher

Christmas is right around the corner, which means that an early morning wake-up call is in your future, as is fruit cake and all those other odd holiday traditions. For some, it’s an excuse to buy a new motorcycle. I’m guessing that Santa must own stock in Yamaha. He doles out PW50s on X-Mas like he’s trying to clear out his garage to make room for his sleigh. It’s a good time to take advantage of sales incentives. Tis the season to make a deal on a new sled, so to speak.

I’m a 125 two-stroke/450 four-stroke fan. I know it’s strange, given the wide displacement gap, torque characteristics, curb weight, and price between the two. Given the chance, my garage would be stocked with a Yamaha YZ125 (check) and a fancy new 2017 Honda CRF450 (not in the budget right now). A 125 makes sense. It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to maintain and lessens my drive to ride like an idiot. The only prerequisites for riding a 125 are to shift often, fan the clutch, keep the rpm up and not care about how slow you’re going. The beauty of a 125 is feeling like you hitched a ride on the Millennium Falcon. I bought a 2005 Yamaha YZ125 for $1350 off Craigslist. Sure, I poured $15,000 worth of parts into it, but that’s because I’m a spoiled brat who used my contacts in the industry. The point I’m trying to make is that I chose the YZ125 as my daily driver. I’ll never sell that bike. My wife won’t let me. She doesn’t want to deal with a grumpy husband again. I tend to get irritable when I can’t ride.

For competition I prefer a 450 four-stroke. At 35 years old, with Novice/Intermediate speed (depending on the day), a 450 is imperative in the Vet class. I’ve tried racing a 250 four-stroke in the Vet class, but got pulled off the start and spent the whole moto trying to catch the leader. That’s fun in a masochistic kind of way, but I’d rather my chest not look like a Rorschach test.

Through 14 years of experience testing motorcycles for Motocross Action I’ve learned a few things. (1) No matter how good a certain bike is, I can’t convince a rider to buy that bike. More often than not, he’s asking me about a specific model while already having made the decision to purchase something else. (2) In this day and age, it’s hard to find a dud. Ten years ago four-strokes were blowing up on the regular, but advancements in technology have led to improved durability. Every 2017 model has its charms. (3) Often it’s not the fastest or best suspended bike that people want, but instead the motorcycle that has the best financing options and dealer support. That makes sense. (4) A bike that performs wonderfully on one track won’t necessarily be amazing on another. For example, a few years ago I rode a Yamaha YZ250F and Kawasaki KX250F at Milestone in SoCal. The KX250F was better. A day later I did the same back-to-back test at Glen Helen. The YZ250F blew the Kawasaki away. (6) Always make sure your rear sprocket bolts are tight. (7) Check the fuel level every time you ride.

While I don’t know your age, skill level or financial situation, be happy in the knowledge that there’s a motorcycle for you out there. Although you might deem the following advice as out of touch with reality, read ahead anyway. It’s not my intent to tell you what brand or model to look into; rather, I’ll generalize by offering the correct displacement for different ages.

YOU’LL NEED A PILE OF MONEY TO AFFORD $40 BOXES OF DIAPERS, WHICH YOUR KID WILL BURN THROUGH LIKE TEAROFFS IN THE SECOND MOTO AT MILLVILLE IN 2005. HANG ON TO ANY MOTORCYCLE–GOOD, BAD OR UGLY–FOR DEAR LIFE. IT’LL TRIP FOND MEMORIES OF YOUR RIDING DAYS AS YOU WALK PAST IT ON YOUR WAY TO THROW OUT TOXIC POOPY DIAPERS.

16 YEAR OLD:
Get a 125cc or 150cc two-stroke. If Junior can keep a 125 two-stroke on the pipe then he’ll soar on a 250 four-stroke in a year or two. Use a 125 as a learning tool. It’s fun, fast, fairly inexpensive and won’t put you in the poor house if it gives up the ghost. A lot of kids want to jump up to a 250 four-stroke after getting off a 85. It’s the popular thing to do. I’ve seen several kids improve dramatically by riding a 125 two-stroke for a year or two before getting on a 250F. The bike helps with roll speed, braking late, riding aggressively and–bonus–they learn the intricacies of two-stroke tech because Dad will actually crack open the engine.

COLLEGE STUDENT:
Buy whatever you can afford. Appreciate the fact that you own a motorcycle. Now go hit the books and study for that next Economics test, because I hear it’s a doozy. Then, once you’ve graduated and landed a job making nearly $20,000 more a year, on average, than a high school grad, you can reward yourself. Good job!

SINGLE 26 YEAR OLD:
Hopefully the money is starting to flow like boxed wine at a bachelorette party and you can afford whatever bike you want. After all, your top priority is living for the weekend to ride with your buddies. You don’t have a spouse or kids. Why not drop $10,000 in a new bike? You can keep it a year before selling to buy something newer, or hold on to it because…

MARRIED 32 YEAR OLD:
…you’re married with kids. At this stage in your life be content with owning a motorcycle. That’s because you have a mortgage, a full-time job, fatherly duties and obligations as a husband. Oh, and you’ll need a pile of money to afford $40 boxes of diapers, which your kid will burn through like tearoffs in the second moto at Millville in 2006. Hang on to any motorcycle–good, bad or ugly–for dear life. It’ll trip fond memories of your riding days as you walk past it on your way to throw out toxic poopy diapers.

40 YEAR OLD:
Welcome to prime mid-life crisis time. I could tell you to be reasonable and wait a year to buy a bike, but heck, you’re 40 years old! You’ve got one foot in the grave, right? That’s what some of my older buddies think anyway. I wonder how many KTM 450SXFs were wheeled out the front door of dealerships around the world because of the sudden realization that mortality eventually comes to an end. I could tell you what decision to make, but you’re not going to listen. Let’s move on to the golden years.

55 YEAR OLD:
Hopefully you’re nearing retirement and living on easy street. Go buy whatever bike you’ve always dreamed about. Or, maybe you have four daughters who all attended Ivy League schools and are getting married this year. In that case, refer to my advice for the 32-year-old married gentleman.

70 YEAR OLD:
I don’t need to give you any advice. You’ve been there and ridden that. Congratulations on following your passion into your seventh decade. You, sir, are a true motocross racer.

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