The Good Old Days of Dirt Bikes
For those of us that have been riding dirt bikes long enough remember the days of dual shocks, and no travel rear suspension. Hearing the clanging of the aftermarket shocks, Curnut as they came across the desert and thinking what is that racket. Thinking back if you could handle a bike back then today would be a breeze. Today there are vintage races with people out riding these old bikes that date 1974 or older. Nothing is considered vintage after that because things changed. Remember when mono shocks came out and we wondered is that going to work? If you are into collecting these bikes it can be a daunting and expensive hobby. Some bikes were limited production and some definitely deserved being limited like the American Eagle. My Dad had one briefly and it may have had the shortest life span in our garage of any bike owned by a family member. There are some bikes that hold great nostalgia either because I had one or always wanted one. For me owning a Penton Jackpiner 175 would have been heaven and never owned one. I did ride a 1969 Penton 125 and know of only one other. It was ridden by a girl from the same motorcycle club as me and our favorite thing to do was hill climb. Never wanted a Bultaco cause every time you’d break down people would say they knew one was laying out there in the desert because the buzzards (Bultaco Buzzards) were out. The days of old are definitely gone but not forgotten. Maybe one day I can still have that “now” vintage Penton sitting in my garage. Probably would never ride it because the first thing out of my mouth would be the suspension sucks and how did we ever ride these things. In the early 70’s racing was at its purest and by the end of that era things had changed. They did change for the better because motorcycle evolution was improving the bikes we rode but desert racing never really seemed the same. Looking at a Penton or Husqvarna from those days does bring back the memories.
Classic Vintage Dirt Bikes
Memories of Old Motorcycles
Looking over the list I know there are bikes not listed on here. If you read this and think of one I missed please list it. With age we all seem to forget things and when someone brings something up we get that ah ha moment. When looking back at the days of old it reminds me that motorcycles and the gear that was worn has come a long way. Today's young riders have no idea what it was like to ride a motorcycle like the ones listed above. I have owned Yamaha 90, Penton 125, Honda MR 125, Maico 250, Husqvarna 250, KTM 250, and a Honda XR 250 which covers about most of what I have ridden. I won riding a four stroke back then and being told you could not win racing enduros on a four stroke. I remember another racer, Billy Fulmer and I had a laugh over being told that, since we had both ended up being successful on four strokes. This happened ages ago and today no one would consider saying something like that.
Happy riding and keep the rubber side down.
For further reading check out my blog, Motorcycles and Riding.
Read about one of my favorite Actors that also happens to have been an awesome motorcycle racer. Steve McQueen
Dirt Bikes Pre-1975
100 – 175 CC
There have bee many jokes about Bultacos but they were a popular dirt bike in the 60's and 70's. Bultaco Pursang 125/175 and Bultaco Alpina 125/175
Can-Am 125/175 MX/Enduro
CZ 125 and CZ 175
DKW 125 BoonDocker and DKW 125 Enduro
Hodaka dirt bikes were another popular dirt bike. Hodaka Combat Wombat and Hodaka Wombat
Honda MT 125
Kawasaki KS 125
Montesa Cota 123
Ossa 125/175 Phantom
Penton Jackpiner 175 and Penton Six Day 125
Puch 125/175 Enduro
Rickman 125 Six Day
Suzuki TC-125L Prospector
Yamaha DT 100/125/175
176 – 250 CC
Bultaco 250 Matador and Bultaco 250 Sherpa T
CZ 250 Motocross
Greeves 250 MX
Honda Elsinore CR 250, Honda MT 250 and Honda XL 250 K1
Husqvarna 250/360 Road & Trail and Husqvarna 250 SC
Kawasaki KX 250
Montesa Cappra 250 VR
Ossa 250 Phantom and Ossa Pioneer 250
Rickman 250 MX
Yamaha DT 250
251 – 600 CC
American Eagle 405 MX. There were not very many of these around.
BSA N21 600, BSA Gold Star 500, and BSA 441
Bultaco Alpina 350 and Bultaco Pursang 360
CZ 400 Motocross
Greeves Qub Desert, and Greeves 380
Harley Davidson SS 350
Husqvarna 400 WR
Kawasaki 350 K-9
Maico 400/450 MX and Maico 501
Penton Mint 400
Suzuki TM-400l Cyclone
Triumph 500 BSA 500 and Triumph Trophy Trail 500
Yamaha DT 360 and Yamaha MX 360
Many of these dirt bikes listed above had a very short life on the market. Some of these motorcycles have come and gone and come back again.
- 2010 Ducati 1198
- 2010 Ducati 848 Nicky Hayden Edition
- 2011 Harley Davidson XR1200X
- 2010 Harley Davidson FXCWC Softail Rocker C
- 2010 Harley-Davidson FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide
- Review of the 2010 Harley Davidson Sportster 883 Iro...
- 2010 Honda Fury
- 2010 Hyosung GT650R and 2010 Suzuki SV650S
- 2010 Kawasaki KLX110L
- 2010 Kawasaki Ninja 650R.
- 2010 Triumph Sprint ST
More Reading About Motorcycles
- Vintage Dirt Bike: Hodaka
Read the history behind vintage dirt bike Hodaka.
- Vintage Motorcycle, DKW (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen).
Read the history behind vintage dirt bike DKW
- John Penton, Son Jack Penton and the Penton Dirt Bik...
Read the history behind vintage dirt bike Penton and the founder John Penton.
- Maico Motorcycles
Read the history behind vintage dirt bike Maico.
- Steve McQueen, Motorcycles and the ISDE.
Read about a great actor who was an awesome motorcycle racer and represented the USA in the International Six Day Enduro.
- Being Short and Buying a Dirt Bike That is Right For...
Not very tall? Here are motorcycles for those that are not very tall.
- Motorcycles for Women Riders
More women are riding motorcycles and here are some tips on finding that right motorcycle.
- Advice for Women Getting Into Motorcycle Riding.
Advice for women and men getting into motorcycle riding.
- Motorcycle Accessories for Women Riders.
Buying quality gear can make a difference.
Mark D. Stevens from Fort Worth, Texas on May 08, 2014:
Here's one for you: Do you remember the Carabela? They were a Mexican manufacturer of dirtbikes and, I believe, mopeds. Their 125cc motocrosser was called the "Caliente". I don't recall seeing them around much, but they did get reviewed by Dirt Bike and other magazines. Thanks for the great article!
JP993 from England on May 17, 2012:
I had a 70's twinshock kx80 as a kid.
john hayls on February 02, 2012:
This hub has very beautiful pictures of bikes. The price of these bikes is reasonable. Fantastic bikes
" vintage desert racer" on October 09, 2011:
This is not so much about vintage dirtbikes, but about one member of our old "Riverside Ice House" dirtbike riders that passed away back in 1987, so we memorialized his passing by finding a peaceful, quiet, far out place in the middle of the Mojave Desert to bury his trusty old 390 Husky and small name plaque simply known as "JERICKSON" We thought at the time no one will ever be out this far to disturb this very special place, and we made a promise to visit the monument every December. It's now 24 years later, and you wouldn't believe how many monuments are there now, and NOT valdalized. This location and memories are to say the least, very special.
Ken Winkler on June 30, 2011:
I actually get kinda sad when reading about the "good 'ol days" riding in the mojave desert with the likes of Whitey Martino, Rich Thorwalston, Mike Patrick, JN Roberts, Malcolm, etc. With only six (6) inches of travel in the front, and four (4) inches in the rear, we all felt like we truly accomplished sometining after a 100 mile Hare & Hound. I started with a 1968 Yamaha DT1, but soon saw that the Husky's were the one's to beat in the Dez, so I bought a 1967 Husky 360 from one of Malcolm's mechanics at K&N Motorcycles in Riverside, and I was hooked on Desert Racing from then-on. I actually bought a brand new Ossa 175cc Stilleto from Nelson's motorcycle shop in Riverside, because there was a 175 class back then, and
stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on June 21, 2011:
Wonderful Hub. God Bless You.
Spine Surgery on March 16, 2011:
Thanks for posting such important issue!
10k gold ring on December 29, 2010:
I love this hub and will be looking for more of next posts.
Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on October 20, 2010:
Brings back memories. I owned a Honda Dealership before they had cars. I enjoyed hill climbing. When the Honda CR250 came out it made a huge difference. I enjoyed abusing all models of Hondas. I sell better if I truly believe in what I sell. I was many times the number one dealer in California in terms of number of Hondas sold. I have ridden stock CB750's uphill I knew I could not reach the top. I wanted to see how far I could go... I have slid down trails that I could not climb because they were too steep. I can tell you how reliable a Trail 90 is... with a hole in the crankcase that I plugged with a tree limb and poured Wesson oil in the crankcase and drove 20 difficult terrain miles while smelling like I was "frying eggs."
I won the first three races when I was 24 years old against teenagers..
This was when a Harley could not out-run a Honda CB750 both on the bottom-end, and top end. The Harley could be geared to beat at either end of the power curve, but not both... I have ridden CB750 Hondas when I got ice on my helmet driving over 120 MPH. I was laying down on the gas tank. I could not see the speedometer. I know I had the throttle twisted as far as it would go to get the trip over with...
henrykasan from UK on September 27, 2010:
The hub is great and the information shared is useful. The collection of picture is fabulous. It is true that the persons who are riding the dirt bikes for a considerable time are well aware about dual shocks and rear suspension. The statistics of Dirt Bikes Pre-1975 such as 100 – 175 CC, 176 – 250 CC and 251 – 600 CC is very valuable for dirt bike enthusiasts.Thanks for sharing such a wonderful peace of text.
kingkhan78 on August 22, 2010:
I love it bikes great hub
edward, on August 05, 2010:
you coudnt give me a monoshock bike,
they are worthless,
the older bikes IE,, 70's are soo much better,
anything from maico's, to older yamaha mx's,
were cool and a lot more comfy,
Motor leathers on July 22, 2010:
Hah! I remember, when I was 15, I got my first bike, and it was a dirt one - Minskach. That was really funny, as I coulr repair it on my own. But then I abandoned this kind of bikes and started riding rel cruisers like Triumph and Harley. But dirt bikes are good for beginners.
cranny on June 23, 2010:
if anyone has a kick starter for a 1977 huskavarna cr 250 i lost mine and would love to get a new one
Big Sven on June 20, 2010:
I raced mx in the 70's, in mx's heartland, Sweden. Great time, great bikes! Yes, they had their faults, but you can say that of any bike. We learned to spanner and ride our way around such problems. They were early days, and protection was basic, but we began to use hockey protection now this was online. We 'somehow' knew suspension was the key, but nobody knew what to do and we didn't have the shocks anyway. There was this mad guy near Stockholm into modifying shocks, but they were expensive and faded out after only a couple of laps more than standard Girlings/Koni's, so we didn't see the point in wasting the money, better buy fuel and tyres and learn to ride the kangaroo! I think his name was Ohlin. I later used his own brand shocks in '77 and they were worth 5 seconds a lap. Golly-gosh! Love to turn the clock back and do it again ...and to heck with the money, I'd have bought those earlier expensive Koni-Ohlin shocks. I think the 70's were the best years for mx, the bikes were still simple constructions and easy and cheap to maintain and run.
earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on June 08, 2010:
Maico made very strong bottom ends, the crankcases in the 250 were very strong too.
You may have noticed my error, The BSA 500 scrambler was a DBD34 of course!
The Gold Star and scrambler Gold Star had the 34 designation.
Michele (author) from Reno, Nevada on May 19, 2010:
My Maico 250 was the same way. I knew riding my Maico there wasn't an up hill I couldn't climb or a sandwash I couldn't handle; thing was a tank.
earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on May 18, 2010:
I had a DBD 33 BSA 500cc scrambler that went like hell.
I also liked the 501 Maico for sheer guts and grunt.
Anna_B from USA on May 03, 2010:
Gunna share this page with two of my friends who are into dirt bikes
VinaAlleru on April 30, 2010:
What a great hub! I want one of these now.
cocowboy from Colorado on April 25, 2010:
Fantastic hub!! Loved the info and the pics too... just great :)
ab420 from MA, USA on March 31, 2010:
Great hub, that Norton Manx is a beast!
Michele (author) from Reno, Nevada on March 25, 2010:
First thing if you have not done so, is try to find an owners manuel. There are some out there. This may be a motorcycle that will need to be taken apart and gone over. If you do this yourself and have not done this before document what you are doing, take pictures whatever it takes to know how to reasemble. There are those out there that are racing these vintage bikes or just joy riding so someone has info. Even a good motorcycle mechanic will know the basics even if not familiar with Ossa's. Good luck.
ossafan1 on March 25, 2010:
I have a 1971 ossa stiletto scrambler. I cannot find any good websites or information on it. it hasn't ran in about 20 years and I am going to get it going for my grandfather. Can anyone help me out? It looks like a fun bike and can't wait to jump on it and have some fun.
Michele (author) from Reno, Nevada on February 13, 2010:
I haven't seen Tom Webb in years and don't have a clue to what he is doing now. He used to race in California.
As for the kick start being difficult on the 82 420 KTM or the CR 480 can't remember. I never rode one and can't think of anyone that did.
nomoretrucks from scotland on February 13, 2010:
wow! im new to hubbing and its great to see a site with you folk talking about the bikes i read about in the moto mags i would read and be jealous of, not 'cos of your machines more because of the amazing terrain you all seemed to be riding around on whilst i learned my obsession across muddy welsh hills with bottomless thick marsh mud. I got good at pulling bikes out and eventually rarely getting stuck, although by then the bikes had got lighter and more powerful. Wrestling a DT250mx 1980 when you have arms like beanpoles was hard at 17, then worse still a 77 xt500 it landed on things like a dead horse falling off a building. but quick if you rode it like it should be ridden. i actually won my first trophy on one in a north wales enduro. i then discovered power with lightness(relative)with a can am 400,yz 125g,ktm 250(83)ktm125(84) then a ktm 500(85)i loved and won so many mx's on that one i bought my first new 87' ktm 500 and got a loan to buy it with after reading tom(wolfman)webs review of it in U.S. dirt bike mag. Whatever happened to him-all my mates back then looked like him!. Ive had about 70 differrent dirt bikes and road bikes since then but its the early ones that had an effect on you we all remember the most, anyone remember the 82 420 ktm which looked beautiful but felt it had a hinge in the middle or the cr 480, were they all that hard to start even in the U.S.?(all my previous rides were left kickers)
Motor leathers on February 12, 2010:
It is an interesting story and these bikes are perfect. Yes, you are right. Collecting of such beauty is really expensive.
MM2112 on November 29, 2009:
My first was a '73 Yamaha SC500. Maybe 4" of rear travel. What a power-band though; in a straight line, it was a blast! Thanks for the great story.
Michele (author) from Reno, Nevada on November 25, 2009:
R.J. Roberts: Glad you stopped by. Greeves! Now that's a blast from the past. KTM is a good choice. They have always been popular in my family. My Dad still rides and he is 73. :) And I still can't keep up.
R.J.Roberts on November 24, 2009:
I just got back into dirtbiking now that I'm too old for it.(HA) Got a KTM 200 EXC with about twice the power of my old 68' Greeves 360. The best bike I used to have was a little 100 Zundapp ISDT replica.(4 sreed no less) At 190 lb.I could drag it over anything I couldn't ride over!
Michele (author) from Reno, Nevada on November 18, 2009:
David: Big Wheels were before my time but my brother had one. When he was a kid he went to a Saddleback Park (no longer there) which you could ride motorcycles but he took his Big Wheel and rode down hills with it. He ended up breaking it in half.
Classycut on November 17, 2009:
I saw interesting thing over the weekend. A bicycle was motorized. You can cycle it as well as throtle it like motorbike.
David R Bradley from The Active Side of Infinity on November 17, 2009:
That was cool. When I was a kid, my cousin used to race motocross. I remember how much fun it was to watch and I'd pretend my Big Wheel was a dirt bike. The Enduro picture reminded me of that...
Ronnie Sowell from South Carolina on November 12, 2009:
I really enjoyed this hub and the pictures of these great bikes. My first dirt bike was an old 175cc Honda and was an xl. I stripped it of the lights and turn signals and put on two new shocks and had a ball on the trails around here.
Hmmmm maybe I can find one on Craigslist.