Many defining moments in Dirt Bike history have changed things forever. I am fortunate to have seen 40 years of technological evolution, from the Yamaha DT1, Japan’s first mass-produced motorcycle, to the exceptional bikes we have today.
If your age is between the 40s and 50s, it’s a trip down memory lane for dirt bike riders if you are in their age of teens or twenties.
You better understand the advances in technology that paved the way for the bikes of the modern era.
So, look back at forty years of magical moments and milestones that mattered in dirt bike history.
Table of Contents
When you look past the history of Honda Dirt Bikes, they stand out as the only big four manufacturers to produce a full line of four-stroke bikes. The XL and XR series was a massive success.
Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki were all low in performance and expanded their four-stroke lineup, first with road bikes, followed by dirt bike models.
The Yamaha XT and TT500 were classic examples.
Honda went the other way by introducing a two-stroke motocross line, starting in 1973 with the invention of the CR125 and 250 Elsinore, which were huge successes.
They followed up with a short list of MT125 and 250 trail and enduro models.
Motocross cars were the only Honda line to continue with two-stroke technology.
Things wrapped up with the introduction of the CRF450R four-stroke in 2002—the CRF250R in 2004.
The last Honda two-strokes were produced in 2008 with the CR125, CR250, and CR85 models.
Introducing long-distance suspension:
Long-travel suspension revolutionized the world of dirt bikes, allowing riders to make much bigger jumps and absorb harder bumps.
Maico made a significant change to its motocross lineup during the 1974 season.
American and European factory motocross teams modified the rear suspension by moving the upper and lower shock mounts forward, increasing rear wheel travel.
The front fork travel than had to be increased to match the rear. So, we could do this by using a front axle with suspension on the fork legs.
The mod was so successful that it raced all the other manufacturers to catch up.
Many variations were tried with moving the rear shocks forward similarly or setting the wonders aside by moving the top bracket ahead only, thus avoiding any modifications to the swingarm.
While all factories stuck with dual shock setups, in 1975, Yamaha developed a “Monoshock” system on their YZ250 that included a centrally mounted shock running in line with the frame’s backbone.
The “Monoshock” system offered 7″ of travel front and rear. They used this system until 2005, then switched to a link system like other brands.
In 1981, Suzuki improved on the Yamaha with the “Full Floater” rear suspension system introduced on the RM125.
The system used floating linkages on the upper and lower mounts with a set of tie rods connecting the approach to the swingarm.
It proved popular in the early 1980s, but its complexity led to its downfall, and Suzuki dropped it five years later.
Many believe that the Full Floater system led to today’s modern suspension systems.
KTM is an exception with their PDS system; a single offset shock mounted directly on the swingarm.
Without the development of long-travel suspension, we wouldn’t have seen today’s supercross tracks with huge jumps or the freestyle stunts that are being performed now.
Japanese enduro bikes:
Suppose you rode enduros in the 70s. You either had to spend money on a European bike, or you had to do some severe modifications on a Japanese trail bike.
Many things had to be removed, such as the vast headlight and tail light, turn signals, rubber footpegs, and metal fenders.
Modifying the engines and replacing the exhaust pipes with power ones was necessary.
As the long-travel suspension found its way onto the dirt bike scene, adjustments, such as placing the rear shocks, had to be made.
The easiest way sometimes was to mount a trail bike engine in a motocross frame.
In 1976, everything changed with the introduction of the Yamaha IT400.
Suzuki soon with the invention of the PE175 and PE250. They were the street legal versions of the now successful RM motocrossers.
At first, they were more expensive than trail bike models but still cheaper than European bikes and usually more reliable.
The gap in performance and price has now narrowed between the Japanese and European models, with little separating them these days.
Great Air forks:
Yamaha brought the concept of air forks to the motocross market with the YZ125X in 1976.
It included a large canister on top of each fork. The fork and chamber contained air with different pressures and a bladder in between them.
The complication was that air changes pressure as it heats and cools. This made it challenging to adapt. Using nitrogen helped, but it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t very successful, and they went back to a conventional spring setup for the Model D the following year.
With today’s improved technology, like the Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF), which has damping on one leg and triple air chambers (TAC) on the other leg, it looks like a good idea from the 70s has finally become functional. Solution.
Several factories, including KTM and Husqvarna, now feature them in their new models.
Water cooling is not a new idea. Many aftermarket conversions were available in the late 1970s. It was simply a liquid-cooled head with a small-size radiator. It was pumped less as it relied on the siphoning effect of rising hot water and was not very successful.
Yamaha was on top of the list as a manufacturer to introduce a water-cooled bike for the market of Motorcross in 1981 with the YZ125H and YZ250H.
The radiator was incorporated into the front license plate, with water flowing through the steering head.
The advantage is that the power remains constant during the race, thanks to the pull-in engine temperature. Honda produced their first water-cooled motocrosser in 1981 with the CR250R.
Carby or fuel injection?
The one who spent time playing with a jet to get the best out of a car would agree that introducing Fuel Injection to dirt bikes is a good thing.
Spanish manufacturer Gas introduced one of the first fuel-injected motorcycles in 2008, then Kawasaki was the first Japanese manufacturer to present to the market the motor cross on their project KX450F.
For a few years, fuel injection was used on road bikes. But it took time to develop a system with a battery that was adequate for motocross bikes.
In this article, you get all the proper history of dirt bikes. If you love bike rides and want to discover all riding equipment. Then note the point dirt bike is one of them. We are glad that you read this article we assure you that it will be grateful to you.