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A pit bike is a small off-road/on-road (4 Stroke) motorcycle originally used for riding around the pits or staging area of a motocross race. Since the early 2000s pit bike racing, a sport similar to motocross, has become popular in the United States, especially in Southern California. The term pit bike can also be applied to the use of bicycles or motorcycles used to navigate any type of event staging area.
The name pit bike originated from the use of a Honda Z50 to ride around the pit areas of dirt bike races and race events across the United States. The fairly cheap price and the mobility of these bikes made them easy to use at racing events. Popular dirt bike movies like the 1997 Crusty Demons of Dirt 3 show how these small motorcycles can be used to do things other than just riding back and forth in the pits. A part of this movie shows people taking huge bicycle jumps on a Z50 in someone’s back yard. This movie and movies like it made people realize what these little bikes were capable of. It did not take long for the pit bike trend to catch on.
By the time the trend caught, Honda had changed the name from Z50 to XR50 in 1999 and made great changes to the bike. A few of these changes include a plastic gas tank, single rear shock, spoke wheels, seat, plastics, total redesign of the frame, and the total appearance of the bike. As teenagers and young adults began to show interest in The Z50, upgraded aftermarket parts for pit bikes became available to make them more powerful and comfortable for bigger riders. Some of these parts include heavy duty suspension, tall handle bars, tall seats, and big bore kits. As more and more people put these upgraded parts on their Z50s, their popularity grew and led to pit bike races across the United States.
In 2002 Kawasaki came out with the KLX110. This bike, as with Honda’s XR50, was designed for smaller riders. The 110 is faster and larger than an XR50, so it needs fewer modifications to make it comfortable for bigger riders. Pit bike riders realized this and started moving to the KLX110.
Due to the popularity of the sport, many pit bike race series have appeared in various parts of the United States. Some examples of such series are the 2-Up Minis and Masters of Minis race series, both located in the North East, the Sho-Me series in Missouri, and the annual Mini Moto Supercross race held the day before the final round of the AMA Pro Supercross series in Las Vegas, NV.
By 2004 companies like Thumpstar emerged manufacturing Pit Bikes soley designed for adults to race.
Types of pit bikes
Some riders choose to purchase a stock kids motorcycle and perform various upgrades. Usually bars and clamps, then suspension, these upgrades usually cost few hundred to few thousand US dollars.
The most common style of pit bike, this style is based off the Honda CRF 50 and feature the perimeter frame chassis. Chinese versions feature a cloned version of the CRF 50 motor and may have displacement between 50-140 CC. Typical wheel size is a 14" front and 12" rear wheel. Examples include the SSR 125 and Apollo 125.
Pit bike racing
Pit bike racing is a competition sport similar to Motocross. It is especially popular with younger riders, as the machines are initially more affordable, less intimidating and easier to maintain than standard motocross bikes. The shorter wheel base, lower center of gravity and linear power delivery simplifies handling aspects for novice competitors, resulting in fewer accidents and injuries.
A typical pit bike event consists of numerous classes designated by bike types racing for a set number of laps on a track during two or more "motos" or outings. The winner is determined by the highest average position at the end of the event. Trophies are often awarded.
Motocross is the most common discipline of pit bikes. Before someone begins racing their pit bike, they need to upgrade their suspension from stock. With jumps putting you 10+ feet in the air, motocross has a very high chance of injury. Knobby tires are a must for any dirt racing.
Mini FMX is basically in between Freestyle BMX and Freestyle Motocross. A lot of the tricks that can be done on the bigger Motocross bikes can also be done on the smaller Pit Bikes. A lot of Freestyle Motocross riders use Pit Bikes to learn the Backflip on because they are smaller, lighter and do not cause as much injury if you do not land correctly. There are also tricks on the BMX, like the flat spin 360, which have been done on Pit Bikes.
Supermoto is slowly being taken over by pocket bikes. that generally have speeds up to 60 miles per hour. Slick tires are an absolute must for any avid supermoto racer. Being the fastest paced discipline with speeds up to 60 miles per hour, Supermoto generally has the most serious injuries.
Pit park is perhaps the newest discipline for pit bikes. Pit park originally started with people taking a pit bike to skateparks and riding around like BMXers. Most skateparks do not allow pit bikes because the torque can tear up the wood. Metal and concrete parks are the best for pit park. Slick tires are preferred but knobby tires can still be used. The dangers are similar to the injuries of BMX.
Street riding involves navigating city streets and sidewalks, with their inherent obstacles like stairs, ledges, curbs, and walls. Bikes with pegs can perform bunny hops and grinding. Street riding can be unsafe, and in some jurisdictions pit bikes may not be street legal, or not allowed to operate on sidewalks.
Stunt riding generally consists of wheelies, stoppies, and other variations on wheelies. Pit bikes can be used for stunting. Serious stunting requires many modifications including pegs and other optional mods such as an additional lever above the clutch for the rear brake this is used encase your right foot is not covering the brake pedal. A 12 bar can be added to the subframe for use in tricks and to stop the bike flipping.
- Crusty Demons of Dirt 3. Perf. Brian Deegan, Carey Hart, Seth Enslow, Ryan Hughes. Redline Ent, 2001. Videocassette.