The two stroke engine is a dying breed. Attention and technology is being moved over to the four stroke meaning they just don’t make two stroke dirt bikes of the same caliber now as we did in the past. Now I think it’s time to wind back a few years and reflect on some of the biggest, baddest bikes the two stroke dirt bike era gave us.
1. The Kawasaki KX500
Manufactured from 1983 till 2004 this beast reigned supreme among most two strokes. She was developed as an air-cooled 500cc motocross bike for competition in the 500cc and open class of motocross.
At the time of its release, several top manufactured sported entries in this class, including Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and the class-leading Maico.
It was considered as Kawasaki’s most powerful and fastest dirt bike for years. Yearly revised versions made it competitive and strong which obviously payed off as it gave Kawasaki multiple wins to their name.
2. The Honda CR500
1984 was the first year the CR500 was produced. It was nicknamed the “Ping King”. The CR500 had a 491cc liquid cooled two stroke engine that made 52.8HP, the most powerful motocross bike that Honda had ever produced.
It was a two-stroke design but since the CR500 had a big single bore it was hard to kick start it. The manufacturers started to jet the bike really rich in order to make it easier for people to start. The CR500 was an absolute monster.
The only problem with it was it was terribly hard to ride because of the uncontrollable power it produced. The CR500 raced in long desert rallies like the Baja 500 and the Baja 1000. The CR500 was discontinued in 2001, it’s generally believed that the CR500 was discontinued because of the CRF450.
3. The Maico 490
Considered one of the best racing Motocross bikes of all time, the German built Maico 490 was a monster of a machine.
Nicknamed the “widow maker” it had a reputation of breaking people’s legs when they tried to kick it over. The brutal engine combined with the twin shock suspension made this a bike not to be messed with.
Built from 1981 it ruled the leaderboard for years competing with company’s such as Yamaha and Kawasaki.
The company eventually went out of business but they left behind a bike that shook the world. Maico was later bought by the Dutch and continues to have a massive following.
4. The Yamaha YZM500
Easily the rarest bike on this list, only eight fully functioning units were ever produced. Six were made in 1987 and two more were later made for the 1988 season.
The Yamaha YZM500 was the best known for aluminium frame making it really light. It also had the distinction of being the only water cooled, open class, two-stroke dirt bike.
The YZM500 was only raced for two years (1987 and 1988) by riders Leif Perrson and Kurt Lundquist. There were also a coupled used for beach races. It was fast and could keep up but with so little units produced, you’d be lucky to ever ride one.
With 60hp it still puts most two strokes to shame today.
5. The Suzuki RM500
The RM series is a model range of two-stroke motorcycles manufactured by Suzuki. The letters “RM” stand for “Racing Model” and the motorcycles produced with this prefix in their model names are suited to use in motocross racing. In other words, they’re absolute monsters.
The RM 500 doesn’t have as much to its name as some of the other bikes but we’re not forgetting it.
Suzuki introduced its succesfull RM series of motocross models in 1975. The largest of them all, RM500, was introduced in 1983 and had a black frame, black fork boots, black seat and slightly different fuel tank and tank decals from the 1984 model.
At the time it was the largest dirt bike from Suzuki (when RM400 was introduced in 1980 it was the largest). The Full-Floater rear suspension was first used by the works road racing and motocross teams. It went into the RM series in 1981.
6. The KTM 500 MX
Fresh from Austria we had The 500 MX. The engine produced an incredible power of 62HP @ 5900rpm and around 80 Nm above 2000 rpm. It definitely was a bike that everyone should’ve been worried about.
It was white, it was large and it was ready to take on the 500 class. First test showed problems but they were soon corrected. The massive amount of power gave it a huge advantage in the straights and out of the corners but slowing it down and cornering proved slightly problematic due to its weight.
The MX model had a 4 speed gearbox while its bigger brother the MXC, had a 5 speed. The bike was appreciated in reviews for it’s magnificent fork, great handling and speed. The problem was an underdamped rear shock. It gave an almost uncontrollable ride during racing greatly crippling the bike.
7. The Husqvarna 500 CR
Some would say that the Husky CR 500 lived in the shadow of the Maico 490 of the time period. However, owners these Huskies knew that they could hold their own.
Outstanding power and plush suspension thanks to the Ohlins shocks, these two wheeled rockets were definitely not for novices. The power delivery hit in the low rpms and continued to rev through the entire power band.
Like most bikes of the time, the drum brakes were decent at best, and brakes are a great thing to have when you’re doing 90+ mph on one of these Huskys on an open stretch. She could definitely hold her own on the track
Although the 500 class is now non existent, we will always have a place in our hearts to remember the magnificent masters of engineering that came out of it. Now these bike are being gathered up by collectors and enthusiasts, being restored or repaired to working order and are being privately raced just like they should be.
I hope you enjoyed this 🙂