THE BEST MOTOCROSS BIKES OF THE PAST 34 YEARS – DID YOU OWN ONE OF THESE?

September 1, 2014
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No one on the planet has tested as many motorcycles as the MXA wrecking crew. Motocross Action is a motorcycle magazine?plain and simple. We aren’t a fan magazine or aimed at the teenybopper crowd. We are about machinery and how to make them better. We have ridden every machine made, and some that shouldn’t have been made. Nothing engenders as much interest and controversy as the “MXA Bike of the Year” awards. We have been handing them out for 34 years (MXA has actually been testing bikes for 40 years, but in the ’70s we weren’t smart enough to comprehensively rank them).


- 1986 Honda CR125 – 

The MXA test crew understands that when a consumer plunks down over eight grand for a new bike, he doesn’t want to hear that he bought the wrong machine. We sympathize, but our job is to report the facts as accurately and consistently as possible. It isn’t uncommon for us to get angry emails from owners of a brand that didn’t do well. The complainers have a litany of reasons for why we didn’t choose their brand as the best. Here are the most commons whines.


- 1993 Honda CR250 – 

The “Yamaha Action” complaint: When Yamaha started winning back-to-back shootouts a decade ago, the red, green, yellow and orange fans claimed that we showed favoritism to YZs. We found it amusing, because we got the same letters when Honda won the 250 Shootout for five straights years (1983-1987) — except back then they called us “Honda Action.” Plus, even minimal research would reveal that Yamaha hasn’t won a 250F or 450 four-stroke shootout in eight years. If you carried our critics logic up to today, we should be called “Kawasaki Action.” We don’t have favorite companies?we reward excellence in machinery.


- 1994 Kawasaki KX250 – 

Advertising trumps integrity: One of the old saws pawned off by morons is that the manufacturer that advertises the most wins the shootouts. Hogwash! Need proof? The Suzuki RM250 won the 250 Bike of the Year award in 2004-2006 and the 2011 250F four-stroke award. Suzuki doesn’t run enough advertising with MXA to buy the test riders lunch. Additionally, KTM won the 2004, 2011 and 2014 125cc shootouts, 2011-14 250 two-stroke shootouts and 2010-11 450 shootouts, and KTM is definitely not MXA‘s largest advertiser. Advertising dollars can’t make a bad bike good…at least not at MXA.

- 1998 Yamaha YZ400F – 

Different mags; different winners: It’s not uncommon for other magazines to choose different shootout winners. More power to them (and their flawed methodology). But, history almost always proves that the MXA wrecking crew is right. Need examples? Every magazine raved about the 2002 Honda CRF450 — except MXA. We thought it had a serious handling flaw and a mellow engine. Who was right? Honda’s engineers spent the next three years working on the handling and beefing up the bottom end. When they got it right, they got the top spot. Then, in 2009-2012, the other mags raved about the weirdly configured Honda CRF450. We didn’t. Who was right? Let’s not even mention the 2001 Cannondale MX400 which one magazine named the “Bike of the Year.”


- 2000 Yamaha YZ125 – 

Anti-Euro faction: In the last 32 years, only 11 European bikes have made the MXA Best Bike list (2004 KTM 125SX, 2010-11 KTM 450SXF, 2011-14 KTM 250SX and 2011-14 KTM 150SX). To our critics’ way of thinking, MXA never gave European bikes a fair chance. To our way of thinking, European bikes came up short in their approach to handling for the better part of the last 30 years. Once they got it right, they got credit.


- 2001 Yamaha YZ250F – 

The winning margin: There are 98 bikes listed in MXA’s best bikes list between 125 two-strokes, 250 two-strokes, 250 four-strokes and 450 four-strokes. Yamaha has won 39 of the 95 crowns. Yamaha’s last win was in the 125 and 250 two-stroke classes in 2010. Yamaha’s last four-stroke victories were in 2006. Kawasaki is second on the all-time list with 22 Best Bike wins. Kawasaki racked up almost half of those over the last nine years with the KX250F and KX450F. Honda is third on the all-time list with 16 Best Bike awards. Four of their 16 came with the 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 CRF450. But, the majority of Honda wins came during the hey-day of the CR250 (1983-1987). Suzuki has 11 wins (with five 125 two-stroke wins, five 250 two-stroke wins and one RM-Z250 win in 2011). KTM has dominated two-strokes over the last four years and has swept both the 125 and 250 classes since 2011. They also took one 125 class award back in 2004 and the 450 four-stroke class in 2010 and 2011.

- 2005 Honda CRF450 – 

There have been lots of chances for your favorite brand to make the list. So, love us or hate us, we aren’t telling you what to buy?we are just giving you the tools to make an informed decision.

125/150 TWO-STROKES


- 2013 KTM 125SX & 150SX -

  • 1980   Yamaha YZ125
  • 1981   Suzuki RM125
  • 1982   Suzuki RM125
  • 1983   Honda CR125
  • 1984   Kawasaki KX125
  • 1985   Kawasaki KX125
  • 1986   Honda CR125
  • 1987   Honda CR125
  • 1988   Kawasaki KX125
  • 1989   Honda CR125
  • 1990   Kawasaki KX125
  • 1991   Kawasaki KX125
  • 1992   Suzuki RM125
  • 1993   Kawasaki KX125
  • 1994   Suzuki RM125
  • 1995   Suzuki RM125
  • 1996   Yamaha YZ125
  • 1997   Yamaha YZ125
  • 1998   Yamaha YZ125
  • 1999   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2000   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2001   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2002   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2003   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2004   KTM 125SX
  • 2005   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2006   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2007   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2008   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2009   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2010   Yamaha YZ125
  • 2011    KTM 150SX
  • 2012    KTM 150SX
  • 2013    KTM 150SX
  • 2014    KTM 150SX

250 TWO-STROKES


- 2013 KTM 250SX – 

  • 1980   Yamaha YZ250
  • 1981   Suzuki RM250
  • 1982   Suzuki RM250
  • 1983   Honda CR250
  • 1984   Honda CR250
  • 1985   Honda CR250
  • 1986   Honda CR250
  • 1987   Honda CR250
  • 1988   Yamaha YZ250
  • 1989   Honda CR250
  • 1990   Kawasaki KX250
  • 1991   Yamaha YZ250
  • 1992   Yamaha YZ250
  • 1993   Honda CR250
  • 1994   Kawasaki KX250
  • 1995   Yamaha YZ250
  • 1996   Suzuki RM250
  • 1997   Kawasaki KX250
  • 1998   Kawasaki KX250
  • 1999   Kawasaki KX250
  • 2000   Yamaha YZ250
  • 2001   Yamaha YZ250
  • 2002   Yamaha YZ250
  • 2003   Yamaha YZ250
  • 2004   Suzuki RM250
  • 2005   Suzuki RM250
  • 2006   Suzuki RM250
  • 2007   Yamaha YZ250
  • 2008   Yamaha YZ250
  • 2009   Yamaha YZ250
  • 2010   Yamaha YZ250
  • 2011    KTM 250SX
  • 2012    KTM 250SX
  • 2013    KTM 250SX
  • 2014    KTM 250SX

250 FOUR-STROKES


- 2008 Kawasaki KX250F – 

  • 2001   Yamaha YZ250F
  • 2002   Yamaha YZ250F
  • 2003   Yamaha YZ250F
  • 2004   Yamaha YZ250F
  • 2005   Yamaha YZ250F
  • 2006   Kawasaki KX250F
  • 2007   Kawasaki KX250F
  • 2008   Kawasaki KX250F
  • 2009   Honda CRF250
  • 2010   Kawasaki KX250F
  • 2011   Suzuki RM-Z250
  • 2012   Kawasaki KX250F
  • 2013   Kawasaki KX250F
  • 2014   Kawasaki KX250F


- 2011 Suzuki RM-Z250 – 

450 FOUR-STROKES


- 2010 KTM 450SXF – 

  • 1998   Yamaha YZ400F
  • 1999   Yamaha YZ400F
  • 2000   Yamaha YZ400F
  • 2001   Yamaha YZ426F
  • 2002   Yamaha YZ426F
  • 2003   Yamaha YZ450F
  • 2004   Honda CRF450
  • 2005   Honda CRF450
  • 2006   Yamaha YZ450F
  • 2007   Honda CRF450
  • 2007   Honda CRF450
  • 2008   Honda CRF450
  • 2009   Kawasaki KX450F
  • 2010   KTM 450SXF
  • 2011   KTM 450SXF
  • 2012   Kawasaki KX450F
  • 2013   Kawasaki KX450F
  • 2014   Kawasaki KX450F


- 2013 Kawasaki KX450F -

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