In 2011 Motorcycle USA bestowed its Motorcycle of the Year honors on the Kawazuki CRF65 SX, taking poetic license to highlight the fact that every powersports enthusiast starts somewhere, and that for many of us, the start dates back to the days of our youth. Some of my fondest personal memories are when I’d be let loose on my Grandpa’s cattle ranch riding an 80cc ATV to every corner of his property until I’d either emptied the tank or gotten stuck. These days ATVs continue to be a popular way to get kids in control of a combustion engine for the first time. Inspired by that fact, we gathered three small-displacement youth ATVs and put them in the hands of the MotoUSA staff's own youngsters. What resulted is one of the most spirited, exciting and inspiring comparison tests we’ve done to date, the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout.
Unlike most MotoUSA comparison tests, there will be no dyno results and performance testing data by which to gauge a winner. We’ll give specs and toss in our opinions, but the intent is to show the experiences of the riders and to relate all the pros and cons we saw during the icy, muddy test ride day at Rogue Valley MX Park in Medford, Oregon and our experience in daily use with each of them. We lined up three machines, similar in displacement and price; the Honda TRX90X, Yamaha Raptor 90 and Kawasaki KFX90.
Here in our corner of Southern Oregon we generally don’t see single digits on the thermometer or get buried under multiple feet of snow in mid-January, but it does get pretty cold. When we arrived at our local Rogue Valley MX Track, the place looked more like an undulating expanse of tundra, packed hard and icy with frost that had set-in overnight. As the day progressed and the ice melted, the previously hard-packed ground gave way and turned into a mud-pit, much to the joy of our test crew. By the end of the day everyone was covered in the stuff. You could hardly see the color of the plastic on any of the machines and the kids looked like they were carrying 20 extra pounds apiece thanks to the globs dripping from their riding gear. What we are trying to say is despite the cold, it was a perfect day all around.
All three of these ATVs are designed to provide an enjoyable and safe riding experience for kids. The Yamaha
feature fully automatic transmissions, with no need to worry about pulling the clutch for a gear change. The Honda
is equipped with a semi-automatic transmission so it requires the kids grasp the concept of shifting. All three have throttle-stop screws which allow the parent to limit top speeds and dole out the power as their youngster gains experience.
In terms of appearance, these pint-sized four-wheelers look as tough as they are. The Yamaha Raptor 90 is an almost complete, miniaturized version of the 700R
when viewed head-on. The KFX90 retains elements of the KFX450R, such as the peaked bill over the front end, but the full bodywork coverage on the sides of the engine gave the KFX more of a utilitarian look. The Honda, however, split the difference, covering up the internals much more than on the larger TRX450R models but still retaining the aggressive styling of its full-size TRX sibling.
Our test riders were not necessarily beginners. All the kids can credit some level of experience riding dirt bikes, ATVs, go-karts, jet-skis, Traxxas trucks, BMX bikes, razor scooters, battery-powered Barbie Jeeps, RC helicopters... the list goes on. Just like every other kid out there, they like to be moving, they like playing with machines and all were stoked to rip around the track as test riders on that cold winter day. When the green flag dropped the kids were off like gangbusters and much to our surprise they weren’t shy about riding these ATVs around the MX track, through challenging ruts, frozen puddles, deep mud and everywhere in between. In the end the ATVs sorted themselves out as unique characteristics and fun levels offered by each helped us decide the winner. And though the kids gave their stamp of approval to every machine, one was unanimously preferred over all the rest.
So, without further ado, we’re proud to present the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout.
DISCLAIMER: While the both the test riders and their parents had an absolute blast during our Kids ATV Comparison – these machines are not toys. All three bikes in this test have a manufacturer recommended rider age of 12 and should be only operated under direct adult supervision. Age restrictions for ATV use vary by state, with many jurisdictions requiring specialized training or certification. Motorcycle USA recommends all ATV operators take a training course and read their owner’s manual thoroughly before riding.