This is the second Pitster Pro machine that we’ve tested and we continue to be impressed by the Utah-based company. Consumers actually get a lot for their money with the X2R.
Although mini racing has evolved into a big-time production with elevated exposure, I’d wager that there still exists an entire population of mini enthusiasts who want nothing more than to kick their buddy’s ass on Saturday night and rub it in his face all the next work week. It’s those riders, the ones who embody the spirit of mini racing, that Pitster Pro targets with its 125X2R.
Last year we took delivery of Pitster’s first entry to the affordable mini bike market, the GPX 125X, which we thoroughly abused. What we found was that the tricked-out mini did have a few of the chintzy qualities that we expected out of a Chinese-made bike. But overall we were impressed with not only the looks, but the craftsmanship of Pitster P’s roughly $2K machine. We break a lot of parts here at MotoUSA, especially on minis, but ultimately we managed to crack the cases which fully support the weight of footpegs and rider. That was all she wrote for our little GPX 125X, and the disappointment of our test riders eked out in the form of plump, salty tears.
A lot has changed at the Lindon, Utah-based company since our introductory experience. Buyers can still get the 125X (MSRP: $1,895), which has received its own updates, but Pitster has gone bigger and better to stay at the front of this rapidly-advancing Chinese tidal wave of completely assembled machines. Expanded models include the Pitster Pro 125X2 (MSRP: $1,995), 125X2R (MSRP: 2,295), and the brand-new 125X3/X3R combo. Obviously pleased with the outcome of our previous test, Pitster Pro sacrificed one of its X2R machines for our opinion on the updated model.
“At first glance it becomes apparent that the folks at Pitster have been doing their homework and have improved the bike considerably from last year,” mused our resident mini speedster, Brian Chamberlain. “Gone is the funky banana swingarm and troublesome chain tensioner with the X2R. The old unit is replaced by a conventional swingarm and linkage-less shock as found on most other bikes. Also of interest is the new engine cradle frame, which provides three engine mounting points and wraps under the engine where the footpegs mount. The cradle provides much needed strength to the footpeg mount and engine itself.”
The 4-speed transmission works well enough through the first three gears but that final cog is way, way out there. The 125cc GPX motor had trouble pulling adult riders through third gear and we can only imagine using fourth in some kind of downhill mini-supermoto.
Our X2R came with the same motor that’s found in all of PP’s machines, a 124cc, SOHC powerplant by GPX. All 2006 bikes come with a 4-up manual transmission that replaces the 1-down, 3-up pattern of last year’s gearbox. A five-plate clutch handled all the abuse we could give it and made starting the bike in gear as simple as a couple right-legged stabs.
The extra “R” nomenclature of our machine delineates a few additional upgrades for the X2 base model, and for us the changes are worthy of the extra 300 bucks. In the motor department, an anodized CNC aluminum oil cooler with steel-braided cables puts up big gains in the fashion wars, and not once did we experience a problem with overheating. The engine, fed by a 25mm Mikuni carb and using a compression ratio of 9.6:1, is good for a claimed 8 horsepower.
“Getting the bike fired was very easy, usually only requiring one or two kicks,” says Brian. “Throttle response was quick and carburetion smooth without any sluggish spots in the curve. The X2R uses a 4-speed transmission with neutral at the bottom. Like last year’s bike, I found first gear too short to even use, and the track we tested at kept me from ever seeing fourth gear.
“Second gear was my cog of choice on most of the track,” he continues, “and the occasional bump to third revealed a slightly tall gear which the engine struggled to pull to my liking. Power delivery was smooth and predictable but I would like to see a few more cc’s. Maybe I’m spoiled after just testing two of BBR’s top bikes, but the short revving 125X2R seemed a little down on power for a 110-based bike.”
Two more pieces of upgraded hardware include the foot controls. A massive, killer-looking CNC aluminum brake pedal adorns the right side, while a folding aluminum shifter keeps your left foot occupied. Unfortunately, neither of these extra bling tricks held up to the abuse any better than the steel units on the X2 would have, worse actually. The first thing to go was the brake lever in a low-side crash. Folding over the footpeg, we were surprised to see how easily it bent and that it wasn’t equipped with a brake snake. We were even more shocked after finding that a replacement will cost you $125. Replacing it with a steel unit from the X2 is only about a sixth of the price, and that’s exactly what we did to that fancy shift lever after stripping the teeth and losing all control over the spline.
Even though it’s based on Kawasaki’s popular KLX110, the chassis is more compact because the footpegs are mounted high enough to accept the existing GPX motor. It makes stretching a rider’s legs difficult for the most part.
A little stomping got the pedal close to its original position, but another fall later in the day completely morphed it into a shiny taco. Our best efforts to straighten it out again fell short, and after that the brake refused to work throughout the remainder of our testing. Up until that point it had worked moderately well, not as strongly as we would have liked, but it did slow things down.
The new frame, though burlier, longer and more effective at handling the rigors of jazzed-up overgrown kids, looks fairly unrefined. Because it’s a backbone design, many of the welds are hidden, but the ones that aren’t are blotchy and inconsistent. We didn’t have any problems with anything breaking on the chassis, but considering the attention to aesthetics on the rest of the bike, it’s a wonder how this was overlooked. Performance-wise, like I said, we had no problems.
The frame is “almost exactly the same” as a Kawasaki KLX110, according to the Pitster pros, but the seat, tank and plastic bodywork are identical to Honda CRF50 equipment, meaning they’re all interchangeable with aftermarket 50 parts. That should give you an idea of how the Pitster lays out under a rider. Footpegs are higher than you will find on the stock Kawasaki because the mounting brackets are adapted to fit the same GPX motor that has been used since last year. The subframe is removable on both the X2 and R version, but the higher-class model employs an aluminum tailsection where the X2 utilizes the same chromoly steel used on the rest of the chassis.
“When I first climbed aboard the X2R I was a little surprised at how compact it felt,” admits our lanky mini maestro. “The ergos felt closer to a 50-based machine than a 110. The reach to the bars is close, although the adjustable triple clamp gives you a little room to play with. The peg placement also added to the compact feel. A high ground clearance means that the pegs are also mounted very high, which made me constantly struggle to get my feet back on the pegs.”
The Staggs Racing fork is pretty good and sure looks the part in those anodized triple clamps. Going off the literature we were expecting more adjustment, but in actuality riders can only tinker with the rebound settings.
The Pitster offers 7 inches of travel in the rear and 6 in the front. Adjusting the piggyback shock is simple, with both compression and rebound designed to click either direction with nothing more than a rider’s fingertips. Unfortunately, changing the settings doesn’t really do a whole lot for the ride. When we first rode the Pitster Pro, its shock was ungodly stiff and very springy. After backing out the compression adjuster all three available clicks, the bike was still as stiff as a board with the factory-set preload, but it broke in after another round of testing and the softer settings were better than the stock setup. There are 14 different rebound-damping settings, but the Pitster was like riding a hyperactive pogo stick even with the rebound slowed all the way down. The result is that the X2R doesn’t like to settle into corners or move through the full stroke through whoops and on sharp impacts. Jump landings were actually really good because the stiffness was enough to handle basically anything we could throw at it, refusing to bottom with even our heaviest tester aboard.
“I don’t like the hard suspension,” says our 130-pound youth tester, Zach Grant. “It’s too stiff over bumps.”
At the front is a more receptive Staggs Racing inverted fork. As was the case with our test of the 125X, the fork is claimed to have both compression and rebound adjustment, but the single screw-type adjuster on top of the forks is for manipulating only rebound, and there is no adjuster for compression damping. Once the fork began to break in, the plusher action made it easier to get a bite with the front tire, which was a nice improvement on the sketchy handling. The feedback from the front end was much easier to get a feel for than the backside.
“Although the fork and shock don’t work as well as the aftermarket high-end stuff, they do a decent job of soaking up bumps,” says BC. “Both front and rear offer some adjustability, although the amount of adjustment is minimal. We quickly elected to soften up the compression and slow the rebound, which I felt really improved the bike’s handling, especially through the whoops.”
Handling is improved from the 125X version thanks in part to the 14/12-inch tire combination. The Innova meats were aggressive but suffered from a lack of grip on the parched, hard-pack terrain.
Another difference between the X2 and our R version is the 14/12-inch Innova combo tires. The larger-diameter front wheel helps give the bike a taller stance and a bit of stability, but doesn’t change the 45-inch wheelbase or 62-inch seat height. Atop the bike is a set of handlebars with a removable crossbar. The X2 uses a fixed crossbar, and we witnessed firsthand the benefits of the R units. After one particularly nasty digger, the crossbar had tweaked considerably, but by doing so had absorbed the impact rather than bending the bars. It only took an extra minute at the truck to loosen the two Alan bolts and straighten things out again. Besides saving us from a day of off-kilter riding, the bars look better than single-piece units. Unfortunately, the bar clamps are a bit weak and we were able to rotate the oversized units just by hitting bumps with a decent amount of aggression.
We did have better luck with the front brake, a single-piston caliper and 200mm wave rotor actuated through a steel-braided brake line, but there were some issues we had to deal with. Brian has a good recount of the blundering binders.
“With any budget Chinese-made bike, you know that eventually something will succumb to the abuse thrown at it,” Brian explains. “In the case of the Pitster, it was the brakes. While the wave rotors and steel braided lines look great on the bike, they performed less than perfect. Right out of the box we noticed a lot of drag from the front brake, which didn’t help engine performance much. I figured it might just need a few laps to brake in and loosen up but that wasn’t the case. As the day wore on the problem only increased as the front brake lever adjuster managed to tighten itself, creating even greater drag on the front wheel. We would stop every so often and loosen the adjuster, but even then, we were not ever able to eliminate all of the drag. On a positive note, the front brake worked very well by providing plenty of stopping power with pretty good feel from the lever.
We came to rely solely on the this 200mm, wave-rotor front brake after completely losing use of the rear binder. After sorting out the bugs on the lever adjuster, we were still a little bummed with the performance.
“The rear brake fared even worse. The rear pedal didn’t apply pressure to the disc until you pushed it down about 4 inches, something that most feet are unable to accomplish. The pedal itself also ran into some trouble during our crash testing. Twice the bike went down on the right side, once a gentle low side in a corner and the other a slightly less gentle fall. Both times the rear pedal turned into an unusable metal pretzel.”
Aside from a set of funky brakes, slightly off-the-mark gear ratios and minimal suspension adjustability, the bike still looks and feels like a high-end mini, with an emphasis on looks. Pitster was very liberal in its use of anodized aluminum and other trick-looking components. Ours was a black and red version, but the X2R is also available in black and blue.
“The Pitster is easily one of the best-looking budget minis on the market,” agrees BC. “A slew of anodized components are scattered throughout the bike, including the triple clamp, gas cap, oil cooler, wheel adjusters, and the exhaust end cap. Black wheels and hubs with wave rotors add even further to the bike’s look. A gripper seat helps keep your butt planted, and the CRF50-spec bodywork is well fitted.”
Anyone looking to get into the pit bike scene simply for the kicks of having a bad-ass looking bike to do wheelies on in the parking lot at Anaheim 1, this is right up your alley.
Everywhere we went with the little X2R people were staring and commenting on how bad-ass this thing looks. Your buddies will be jealous and the chicks will dig it. I actually had an attractive blonde blatantly staring at my pickup from the passenger seat of what I assume was her boyfriend’s lifted, pimped-out Chevy. The moral of this story is that if all men are created equal, having a Pitster Pro in the bed of your truck lends more credibility and sex appeal to your operation than some jackass who’s over-compensating Skin sticker fills his entire rear window.
However, just because it looks good, doesn’t mean everyone will want to own one. At the end of our test session, 13-year-old Grant wasn’t impressed enough to run out and buy his own. Despite rating it a solid 7.5 out of 10 in the looks department, our light-weight tester wasn’t totally satisfied with what it has to offer. “I like that it goes fast,” he says. “But I wouldn’t buy it with my own money.”
Of course, $2,300 is a tough sell to any limited-income middle-schooler, but by having Grant help out with the testing, it proved our theory that big minis aren’t just for money-wasting grownups. This bike could easily pull double duty on a weekend of racing with Pops lining up for the geezer class and Jr. blasting berms in the kiddie division.
The Pitster Pro isn’t going to make a trip to Vegas and win the MiniMoto SX anytime soon. It’s not built for that kind of racing. This bike is made to race against your buddies and stick it to their expensive home-built minis. Compared to what average mini riders are likely to budget for their tiny steeds, the X2R has all that and more in terms of performance and looks. Any BBQ showdown you don’t win, at least it’ll look like you should have.
Brian heads back to the truck to escape the blistering sun. Of MotoUSA’s pit bike stable, BC is fairly certain that the X2R would hold its own against bikes costing twice the $2,295 MSRP.
This bike epitomizes what the mini craze originated from, the desire to have fun, spend quality time with friends and family, and one-up your pals in the bling department. For the majority of mini riders who are racing only to avoid a weekend beer ante, the Pitster Pro has their name all over it. Besides, during those off nights when you bobble or have no rear brake, you’ll have no problem covering an extra case of PBR with all that leftover cash in your pocket.
“While you can’t expect the kind of performance that you would get from some of the big name aftermarket companies, you do get a clean running, well-balanced and trick-looking machine for a lot less money,” says our ante-dodging Chamberlain. “Unfortunately a couple days of testing won’t reveal all of the reliability issues, but most of the parts look compatible with what’s on the market, so if it does break, an upgrade is probably available. Overall I think Pitster has come a long way.”
Here’s a list of the parts we broke and what it would cost to replace them from Pitster P’s online OEM catalog:
Clutch Lever – $8.95
Clutch Perch – $10.00
Gear Shifter – $19.95
Billet Brake Pedal – $125.00
Right Grip – $5.95
Tell us what you think about this budget mini in the forum.