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JUNIOR MX COMPARO | 85cc MOTOCROSS | Bike Reviews | Features

It’s a kids’ dream come true, so we had no trouble gathering a talented but diverse bunch of testers to give us their expert opinions on what’s hot in the 85cc class.

WORDS // Mat Boyd PHOTOS // MITCH LEES – THIS FEATURE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ADB ISSUE #480

We’re always out testing bikes and spinning yarns about who loves what but we rarely give the groms a chance. So here you have it, an 85cc test to let all the mini racers have their chance at spinning laps on new bikes in the name of moto journalism.

It’s a kids’ dream come true, so we had no trouble gathering a talented but diverse bunch of testers to give us their expert opinions on what’s hot in the 85cc class. We were gifted a perfectly groomed private track in Mandalong, NSW, on which to let the kids run wild.

It was freshly watered by the gods and contained everything from whoops to tabletops, berms to ruts, uphills and downhills. At the end of the day, we pried them off the bikes and gathered their thoughts.

Yamaha YZ85


The YZ is a great little contender, now more than ever. Yamaha have put a lot of effort into developing the YZ85 in the past couple of years, improving not only its power but also the handling. For a long time, the YZ85 remained unchanged but Yamaha decided to make a push back into the Junior classes with the introduction of a reborn YZ65 and new 85, having realized the importance of getting young riders on blue bikes early.

All our test riders were impressed by the power of the YZ, some even stating that it had the best. We also had riders complain that the throttle was too light while others said they liked it. Some of our testers struggled a little with the gearing.

My observation was that riders who were not used to the YZ tried to change gears less and had to use more clutch to get the bike out of the turns. Riders with a little more experience adapted to the YZ more quickly and were making sure it was in the right gear at all times and weren’t having any issues with power.

The YZ is a little smaller than the Euros, meaning that it suits smaller-to-average riders. Our taller testers mentioned they felt a little cramped on the bike. We also had some testers mention they didn’t like the cable clutch but the older riders said it didn’t really worry them.

The YZ is a great bike and is very competitive. It has great power that only gets better with a pipe and some engine work. While the YZ might suit smaller riders, this isn’t because it is slow, it has plenty of grunt.

RIDER FEEDBACK


Cody Kilpatrick
Age: 13
I found the Yamaha really manoeuverable due to the thickness of the bike.
Lachlan Morris
Age: 11
I found the YZ was quite wide and short for my height. It had good all-round power and the throttle felt really light.
Riley Burgess
Age: 10
I found the throttle on the YZ very touchy and I wasn’t a big fan of the cable clutch.
Thomas Hay
Age: 11
The YZ was good but the clutch felt a little weird, maybe because it has a cable. The suspension felt a little too stiff.

Suzuki RM85



I spent many years chasing the likes of Matt and Jake Moss around motocross tracks all over the country while they piloted RMs plastered with Raceline Suzuki sticker kits. For that reason the word “winning” springs to mind when I think of the RM85. Fast forward almost two decades and the RM85 is no longer a common bike due to the lack of development. Apart from different plastics, a fancy sticker kit and a power pipe this bike has remained mostly the same.

It’s awesome that you get extra fruit because it now looks stylish and what kid would say no to a power pipe? The cheap price tag is certainly attractive but let’s talk about how it goes first.

The RM85 is a reasonably reliable bike. I’ve seen them do big ends or snap the piston skirt when abused or run too long without a rebuild but the rest of the bike is pretty sturdy. It’s probably why Suzuki hasn’t changed them. The single radiator can struggle to keep it cool when riding in mud or sand. The suspension in its day was as good as it gets but by today’s standards it lacks some damping and adjustability. Most of the problems can be fixed internally and the valving and spring rates can be changed to suit just about any rider. The motor is a little down on bottom-end but this can be improved by changing the compression ratio and porting.

Once upon a time they were a real race weapon but now they need some work to get them up to that elite level. Where they best sit is with beginners or intermediate riders. They are way down the price scale compared to the Euros so they are a much cheaper bike to buy. This leaves you with a few dollars to do the bike up or to spend on riding gear instead. These bikes will do fine on a club racing level and will excel just riding around the paddock or trailriding but they will need some dollars thrown at them if you want to take on the Aussie titles.

RIDER FEEDBACK


Cody Kilpatrick
Age: 13
I really liked the feel of the clutch on the Suzuki.

Lachlan Morris
Age: 11
The power was smooth but the bike felt a bit clunky to ride. Being so much cheaper I think it would be a good bike for someone starting out.

Riley Burgess
Age: 10
I didn’t feel too comfortable with the suspension on the RM. It was a little too bouncy in the rear.

Thomas Hay
Age: 11
The RM didn’t have as much power as the others and the suspension was a little harsh. This was the hardest bike for me to ride.

KTM 85SX



It surprises me how many parents just assume that their kid will get better by simply sticking them on a KTM. Don’t get me wrong, the KTM is a top-level race bike but it is just that, a race bike. It is not designed to putt around a paddock or to go hours and hours without servicing. It is designed to be ridden as fast as possible by experienced racers. Every component on this bike is designed to do the best job possible.

All the riders got off the KTM with positive feedback. A few made changes to the suspension by adjusting the sag or the fork air pressure but everyone managed to end up at a setting they were happy with. KTM recommends running rider sag at 120mm. This sounds really drastic but all the riders who did this were impressed with the bike’s handling and the balance.

There are a bunch of products on the market that improve the KTM’s power if you really feel that is necessary. The suspension is completely tunable and capable of being set up for any rider. These bikes require regular servicing as well as regular piston changes to keep them in top condition. If the maintenance is kept up then the KTM will be reliable but if you just ride it without any regular maintenance then you can expect major repairs.

RIDER FEEDBACK


Cody Kilpatrick
Age: 13
The standard suspension on the KTM was really comfortable, which makes the bike easy to handle.

Lachlan Morris
Age: 11
I felt really comfortable on the KTM. I liked how it was narrower and taller than the YZ and I liked the power and how it felt to ride on the track.

Riley Burgess
Age: 10
The KTM feels very much like the Husky but I did really like the suspension on the KTM.

Thomas Hay
Age: 11
I really liked riding the KTM. The power was really good and the suspension made me feel really comfortable.

Husqvarna TC85



The Husky has the same engine and components as the 85SX. The big difference is the plastics and ergonomics. While they appear the same most of our testers said they felt different on the track. One tester said that if he was blindfolded he would still be able to feel a distinct difference.

They all agreed the suspension and motor felt exactly the same but the ergonomics made the bikes feel so different to ride that some actually said they preferred the TC. This surprised me so if you are in the market for a new 85 then it might be worth riding both Austrians to see which one you feel most comfortable on.

The Husky is an elite-level, race-winning machine. Because of its bigger size it was more suited to the larger riders who stated that they felt more comfortable on it. If you’re chasing titles then the Husky is certainly a bike you should consider.

The Husky can and will be reliable if it is well maintained and gets regular piston changes.

If not replaced, the piston skirt can break and punch its way out the side of the cylinder, causing major damage which is then very expensive to fix.

RIDER FEEDBACK


Cody Kilpatrick
Age: 13
I found the Husky had really good power delivery and drive out of the corners.

Lachlan Morris
Age: 11
I really liked the Husky, similar to the KTM, but I did feel like it was balanced differently. The clutch and throttle response all felt the same as the KTM but I believe I would still be able to tell the difference between the two blindfolded.

Riley Burgess
Age: 10
The Husky was my favourite. I liked it the most out of all the bikes. I liked the torque and the overall power.

Thomas Hay
Age: 11
The Husky felt very similar to the KTM to me. They were both really good and I felt very comfortable on both.

Who suits what?



This feature was not your typical shootout with a winner decided by a scorecard. That’s a big ask for a bunch of pre-teens that just wanted to cut laps before jumping in the pool! This feature was designed to help you make your next bike purchase.

If your little one is new to the sport or just doesn’t have the passion to be the next Chad Reed then the Suzuki RM85 is your best bet. It’s one of the most reliable bikes on the 85cc market and comes with a cheap price tag. It still has plenty of poke for a club day or farm bash and the suspension is great if you’re not smashing whoops.
It is unlikely to win a national title without some work.

The Yamaha YZ85 is probably the dark horse in this group. It has the best engine in class and the suspension and chassis setup has huge potential. It is also incredibly reliable with our long term YZ85 going more than 30 hours without a piston change. But it is smaller with a shorter seat height so taller riders may struggle with the ergos.

As for the Husky and KTM 85s, well they are the complete race bike, ready to go. They require a little more TLC but possess the best handling characteristics on the race track. These two are for serious racers with parents that are happy to spend a little more time in the garage.

Missing in action
Unfortunately, Kawasaki was unable to get us the latest KX85 in time for this comparo so the riders missed out on giving it a spin in this test.