Best Beginner Euro Bike

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#1
What would be the best Euro bike for a first timer? I am going to buy one next year and I am just overwhelmed by all the choices out there. I am 6-0 and 180 pounds. It would be used out in the Michigan woods. I would prefer a lightweight bike 220-240lbs that would be modified as to be street legal (I want to be able to ride it to the trail).

My local dealer sells Husky, GasGas, and TM. I know that the new four-strokes a coming (Husky and TM) and they will be coming in both 250 and 400 models. I was wondering which would be a better choice? Both of the four-stroke TM 400's that have been given to them have been sold in advance. To be fair to KTM's, my friend who owns a 520SX has suggested a 200EXC. I would like to stay with a four-stroke.

Thanks for any help you can give me.
 
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#2
Beginner Bike

Hi,

to be fair to your friend...he is right, the KTM200 EXC is an EXCELLENT bike, perhaps you should at least try one.
However, if you must have a 4 stroke then I would still go with KTM, either 250 or 400, I suggest testing them back to back.
Although you want a Euro bike, it is also worth trying a DRZ250.
That just about sums up the best options. Some would argue that you MUST try the YZF250 but frankly at that kind of money you are at a similar price to the KTM 250, thus...no contest "KTM" !!
 
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#3
Personally, I don't consider any Euro bikes to be "beginner" bikes. If you want a "beginner" bike, go for an XR or KLX for four-strokes and a KDX for two-stroke.

I think your friend's recommendation is spot on. A Gas Gas or KTM 200 would be great starter bikes. I'd suggest the Gas Gas since I have one myself, fantastic bike. I suggest a 200 for a couple of years and then buy a euro four stroke when choices and availability will be at their peak.

My personal opinion is that learning on a two-stroke will make you a much better rider. Four strokes let you be lazy with shifting, clutch control, and rear brake and they still weigh a lot more.
 
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#4
Pardon me for my ignorance, why are they not beginner's bikes? Is it the powerband, maintenance issues, or a combination of both? I don't think Europeans buy Japanese bikes to learn on. :)

My friend who has the 520 has always had Hondas (he runs Best of the West enduros) but he loves the combination of quality parts and reliability. (not to mention the speed). It seems that Euro bike makers have more "passion" for what they are doing. Although the WR250 would be included in the "passion" category.

I favor the four-strokes because it will allow me to get out of town without the police in tow.
 
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#5
Euro's buy lots of Jap bikes. I would guess this would be because any single Japanese manufacturer probably churns out far more bikes than KTM, Gas Gas, TM, and Husqvarna combined.

My definition of a beginner bike would be low seat height, low power motor, low tech suspension and brakes etc. KTM's, GG's, TM's (no experience with Huskys) all come out of the crate with top of the line equipment, high horsepower motors, race ready suspension, etc.

Certainly a beginner could learn on a euro bike, they just better not be too short or too out of shape.

If your decision on 2 versus 4 stroke is strictly for DOT approval, where will you be spending most of your time, road or trail? DOT tires and street friendly gearing don't lend well to tight woods riding. Another thing to consider, as a beginner you will undoubtedly crash and there is a considerable probability a crash could mean you can't get back home. (ie punctured radiator, broken chain, flat tire, busted clutch master cylinder, broken headlight, broken shift lever, etc). A minor collision could result in any of these problems. Just some possible realities to consider.
 
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#6
Again I must agree with some of the previous comments that others have made:
The KTM200 EXC really has broken the mould for 2 strokes - It is VERY quiet, very light and nimble, extremely smooth in power delivery and there are a great number of mature beginners (i.e. not teenagers) who love them and a large number of people have these EXC models on the road. If you really are unsure, just go to the Yahoo KTM200 site and post the same question with all of your concerns. It really is a better choice than a 4 stroke if the only reason is evading the boys in blue.
Someone also made a very good and valid point:
4 strokes do give you bad habits !! You will become a much better rider on a 2 stroke and progress much faster too.
 
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#7
malamute,
You need to consider state DMV laws, and how much $ it will cost you to make any dirt or enduro bike rode worthy. If you are truly just starting out then maybe you should consider a good dualsport machine. They would be much easier to register with the DMV. If your just looking at beginner bikes then you'll probably move up to a bigger machine after you feel comfortable.

Unless $ is no object I would tell you to stay clear of the EURO bikes for now. I think they are better machines but if your going to move up in a season or two your looking at spending plenty of $$$$$$$$$$$$$.

You have to determine exactly what you want to do. If you want to register it for the rode or put it in the back of your truck or trailer and haul it to the trails. Big factors in what bike you will start out on. Good luck!

:) :) :)
 
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#8
If I were to recommend a beginner bike today for woods riding, regardless of country of origin, it would have to be a Kawasaki KDX. Because they haven't changed in years you can get a used one cheap. They respond well to modifications and can be formidable woods weapons. However, you could still outgrow it pretty quickly (suspension) and it can take some time and money to make it comparable (barely) to a KTM or Gas Gas 200. And those modifications won't give you a great return on your investment unless you plan to keep it as a buddy bike.

It really depends on where you want to take this. Are you looking to dual sport, trail ride, race? If you don't plan to race or trail ride aggressively, a euro bike could very well be overkill.

In response to RMrider125's recommendation, you are one of the rare lucky individuals who has a local Gas Gas dealer. There's no reason to buy a KTM 200 with out at least test riding the Gas Gas!
 
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#9
Where do I want to take this?
I love getting out into the woods as much as I can. Currently I mountain bike, participate in TSD auto rallies, and go four-wheeling in the woods. There are places you can go only on a motorcycle; I would like to find those places. I am one of those people that can't get enough of a good thing. It would end up starting as mild trail riding and ending in enduro completions. I can also get my son and daughter into motorcycling at a younger age than I could with cars. (give a kid something to tinker with and it will keep them out of trouble)

I live in Michigan which has pretty lenient requirements when it comes to registration of dirt bikes. Technically it is considered a "kit car". Basically you are making a vehicle that passes a set of requirements (brake light, bulb horn, hi/lo beam, etc). The same principle is used when people bring in a Mistubishi EVO from Jamaica. My local dealer is pretty hip with the process involved. He even knows a cop that would sign the papers. He has a used TM 250 enduro for sale which is street legal. He also had a used GG 200 that maybe I should have picked up :)

All I need the bike to do is get 1.5 miles out of town. Since I would go riding after dark, I need to be relatively quiet. After that, I can take dirt roads all the way to state game land. I am about a hour away from a good trail riding area.

I have thought about the KDX option. I don't think that I would buy a new one. I would buy a beat one and beat it some more. I am just afraid of buying a bike that I would outgrow to quickly. That and my local Kawasaki dealer also sells John Deere tractors. I know...there both green :)

Thanks for all the help on this.
 
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#10
Originally posted by malamute
Pardon me for my ignorance, why are they not beginner's bikes? Is it the powerband, maintenance issues, or a combination of both? I don't think Europeans buy Japanese bikes to learn on. :)


At least here in Finland there is reasonably little trail-riding going on. Either you have a dual-sport, or a competition enduro/MX bike. There are lots of jap bikes in here.

At least the KTM's I have ridden do require you to ride them like you mean it. They have felt unstable if you are hesitant with the throtte or your posture. I'm still ready to recommend the KTM 200 for a beginner that's looking to seriously develop his or her riding skills.
 

KDXfile

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#11
I have to vote for the KDX 220 as the best beginner dirt bike. They are quiet and work well in the woods for casual trail rides and can be raced if needed. I had a 200 exc and would have to say it's a full offroad racing machine.They like to be ridden fast and hard and work best that way. A lot of AA riders around here race and win on stock ones. If you want a thumper, the XR400 or WR426 would be good choices.
JMO
 
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#12
Since you are now considering Japenese bikes and are realising that some 2 strokes are actually OK, then I would have to add that a KDX 220 would be a very good choice (or 200 if $$ are an issue, but the 220 is better).
Of all bikes out there, the 200 2 strokes are the best trasil bikes for your needs and are all quiet and passable on the road. The KTM EXC is not just a race machine, there are a huge number of begginers and girls riding these bikes. The difference is all in the jetting - if they are set up correctly they will pull like a tractor from the bottom and are not hard hitting (unless desired).
Lots of people have given lots of advice, my own personal summing up is as follows:
Test ride as many of the 200s (and the 220) as possible, then compare with 250 and 400 4 strokes and see what you think. The 4 strokes are heavy for beginners and give you bad habbits, but try one any way.
 
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#13
Bike Options -

Of the Euro 200's, the KTM has been around by the longest and has a HUGE number of riders. Also there is a dedicated KTM200 site which has more advice, knowledge, experience and support than any other specific site I've ever seen. The bike is already a success (like the KDX). I would start with a KDX220 (more available and cheaper than KTM) and compare with the KTM.
I would say that these 2 bikes would be the starting point, then compare with other Euro bikes. Find your favourite 1 or 2 models, then compare with some 4 strokes. I suggest KTM250, 400, XR250, 400, WR250 (WR400 is too racy) and DRZ 250, 400. The KLX 300 has starting and reliability issues.
I really hope that you have fun with all this and don't let it worrie you. All of these bikes are good.... just find out which you like best.
Other readers, please forgive me if you don't agree. It is just my opinion based on my experience of introducing new riders and riding these bikes myself.
P.S. Go and get the opinion of girls who are begginers, as they are sensetive to ease of riding these things.
 

HiG4s

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#14
I get the impression you are not looking for a street legal or dual sport bike. So from there if you plan to do serious off roading, Gas Gas Enduro 250,200 or 125 , KTM EXC 250,200 or 125 , Husky WR250 or 125 or the new TE250 4-stroke are all good serious race or near (90%) race quality bikes that don't have the uncontrollable (for a newbie) hit of the motocross bikes yet still have great suspension. The KDX 200/220 (I perfer the 200) is much cheaper and is still about 70% race quality. The Yamaha WR250 is also decent but everyone I've been on has had too stiff of suspension for anything less than all out racing, which most beginners don't need. Heck, I don't need it.
 

TexKDX

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#15
The KTM 200 is a fad. Great bike, yes, but a fad over the last two years. For awhile ('98 and '99) the 300 was what everyone had to have. The 200 had its run, now people have to try the RFS's. In reality the 200 is a buzzy bike that takes concentration to ride at speed compared to a 250 or 300.

All good bikes. As far as the KTM 200 being a good starter bike, I'd have to disagree. To really go anywhere you gotta wind the whee out of it. A bike like the KDX220 grunts around much better and will pull OK on top.

Malamute, if I take your post literally (beginner, 4s, street legal) I'd have to direct you at an XR250 or DR250 if you want the button. The XR has more mods and accessories available, so you can grow the bike with your ability easier than the DRZ. Once you get this woods thang figured out, then you might want to step up to something else. The good news is by then you'll have developed your riding skills, get to ride other people's bikes, and can make a well-informed decision.

My recommendation is get your butt in the woods on a nice used XR250 and have a blast during this fall weather. Hook up with some new B and A rider buds, learn how to stand up, and ride, ride, ride. Getting the exact right bike is of little importance to you at this time. I paid $2500 for my '99 in excellent mechanical shape (still on original pads, tires, and sprockets) but some cosmetic scratches.

I'm making my baby XR street legal as we speak and putting heavier fork springs in it. You can add a third wire to the rear light and easily wire in a brake light switch. I hear the headlight shell will accept the bulb holder and wires from a 400EX 4 wheeler to give you a hi/low beam in the stock headlight shell. I'm putting on an Acerbis HP 'cuz I may actually NEED a good light on a Mexico trip planned for November 1 (not as many hours of daylight). Not sure if you need turn signals up there in MI. If so, take a look at www.bajadesigns.com for a full DS kit.

Best of luck,