2013 Kids ATV Shootout 0

2013_kids-atv_shootoutIn 2011 Motorcycle USA bestowed its Motorcycle of the Year honors on the Kawazuki CRF65 SX, taking poetic license to highlight the fact that every powersports enthusiast starts somewhere, and that for many of us, the start dates back to the days of our youth. Some of my fondest personal memories are when I’d be let loose on my Grandpa’s cattle ranch riding an 80cc ATV to every corner of his property until I’d either emptied the tank or gotten stuck. These days ATVs continue to be a popular way to get kids in control of a combustion engine for the first time. Inspired by that fact, we gathered three small-displacement youth ATVs and put them in the hands of the MotoUSA staff’s own youngsters. What resulted is one of the most spirited, exciting and inspiring comparison tests we’ve done to date, the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout.

Unlike most MotoUSA comparison tests, there will be no dyno results and performance testing data by which to gauge a winner. We’ll give specs and toss in our opinions, but the intent is to show the experiences of the riders and to relate all the pros and cons we saw during the icy, muddy test ride day at Rogue Valley MX Park in Medford, Oregon and our experience in daily use with each of them. We lined up three machines, similar in displacement and price; the Honda TRX90X, Yamaha Raptor 90 and Kawasaki KFX90.

Here in our corner of Southern Oregon we generally don’t see single digits on the thermometer or get buried under multiple feet of snow in mid-January, but it does get pretty cold. When we arrived at our local Rogue Valley MX Track, the place looked more like an undulating expanse of tundra, packed hard and icy with frost that had set-in overnight. As the day progressed and the ice melted, the previously hard-packed ground gave way and turned into a mud-pit, much to the joy of our test crew. By the end of the day everyone was covered in the stuff. You could hardly see the color of the plastic on any of the machines and the kids looked like they were carrying 20 extra pounds apiece thanks to the globs dripping from their riding gear. What we are trying to say is despite the cold, it was a perfect day all around.

All three of these ATVs are designed to provide an enjoyable and safe riding experience for kids. The Yamaha and Kawasaki feature fully automatic transmissions, with no need to worry about pulling the clutch for a gear change. The Honda is equipped with a semi-automatic transmission so it requires the kids grasp the concept of shifting. All three have throttle-stop screws which allow the parent to limit top speeds and dole out the power as their youngster gains experience.

In terms of appearance, these pint-sized four-wheelers look as tough as they are. The Yamaha Raptor 90 is an almost complete, miniaturized version of the 700R when viewed head-on. The KFX90 retains elements of the KFX450R, such as the peaked bill over the front end, but the full bodywork coverage on the sides of the engine gave the KFX more of a utilitarian look. The Honda, however, split the difference, covering up the internals much more than on the larger TRX450R models but still retaining the aggressive styling of its full-size TRX sibling.

Our test riders were not necessarily beginners. All the kids can credit some level of experience riding dirt bikes, ATVs, go-karts, jet-skis, Traxxas trucks, BMX bikes, razor scooters, battery-powered Barbie Jeeps, RC helicopters… the list goes on. Just like every other kid out there, they like to be moving, they like playing with machines and all were stoked to rip around the track as test riders on that cold winter day. When the green flag dropped the kids were off like gangbusters and much to our surprise they weren’t shy about riding these ATVs around the MX track, through challenging ruts, frozen puddles, deep mud and everywhere in between. In the end the ATVs sorted themselves out as unique characteristics and fun levels offered by each helped us decide the winner. And though the kids gave their stamp of approval to every machine, one was unanimously preferred over all the rest.

So, without further ado, we’re proud to present the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout.

DISCLAIMER: While the both the test riders and their parents had an absolute blast during our Kids ATV Comparison – these machines are not toys. All three bikes in this test have a manufacturer recommended rider age of 12 and should be only operated under direct adult supervision. Age restrictions for ATV use vary by state, with many jurisdictions requiring specialized training or certification. Motorcycle USA recommends all ATV operators take a training course and read their owner’s manual thoroughly before riding.

2013 Kawasaki KFX90 Comparison Review

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Ease of starting is a huge attribute and this is the one area where the KFX90 had the other ATVs covered. When it came time to start and roll, the Kawasaki was king.

Ease of starting is a huge attribute and this is the one area where the KFX90 had the other ATVs covered. When it came time to start and roll, the Kawasaki was king.

The Kawasaki KFX90 might have finished third in this comparison test but is still a winner in our book. It has a couple unique features that make it a viable offering in the youth ATV market. It comes with both an electric and kick-start, for those pesky dead batteries. Plus its CVT transmission features a removable collar that allows parents to derestrict the performance once their tike learns the ropes in stock trim.

The KFX was the least affected by the early morning cold, firing to life and ready to ride from the get-go. The air-cooled 89cc four-stroke Single has an electronically-operated enriching circuit that automatically opens an extra fuel passage when starting, which helped get the kids on track faster than the other two mounts. The choke is located on the handlebar, which further adds to the convenience of firing-up the green machine.

In terms of safety and parental control, like the other three ATVs here, the KFX90 can easily be adjusted to suit the skill level of the rider. A limiting screw gives those in charge the power to restrict the amount of throttle available. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) makes the KFX90 a throttle-and-go machine. The aforementioned CVT speed-limiting collar can be removed to give the mount more punch as riders gain experience. For those not familiar with the throttle-limiting screw, it is important to note that while it slows the rate of acceleration, it doesn’t limit top speed. So if junior keeps the throttle pinned it will continue to accelerate. It’s the same way for all three ATVs and is a particularly important fact the adult supervision should be aware of.

The KFX90 offers decent suspension courtesy of single A-arms and 2.8-inches of travel up front, while out back the swingarm is connected to a monoshock. There is no adjustability on either end but nearly four inches of ground clearance make it a trail capable kids ATV. It has a 38-inch wheelbase, which is nearly an inch shorter than the Honda but similar to the Yamaha. All three ATVs tip the scales in the 260-pound range so they are still a handful for a kid if they get stuck.

Braking is handled by dual drums out front and a single rear disc, all three controlled by handlebar-mounted brake levers to help make stopping the KFX easy. That’s the theory for the Kawasaki and Yamaha, which both utilize bar-mounted brake levers and no pedal-style rear brake. The trend is to keep the brakes on the bar to simplify the learning curve but we like the foot brake on the TRX too. It’s cool that the Kawasaki has a rear disc and it works great on the open trail and never had any issues in the water, snow or light mud. However, once our test track turned into a dirty bog the disc got completely packed with mud and rendered the rear brake almost totally ineffective. The same thing happened to the Raptor as well.

Full coverage bodywork may not have won over our discerning test crew, but it sure helps keep the muck off the hard parts after the muddy day, much more so than the other two bikes. On the flip side, the bodywork looks cool in the eyes of the parents, with the exception of the faux headlights. And after washing it off a few times, the Kawasaki required the least amount of effort to get clean – a point not lost on tired parents! The fenders keep water off the rider in all but the most humongous of splashes. The floorboards also gave the kids plenty of protection from the elements and provide a great platform for little feet.

Though there's a throttle limiter on the Kawasaki KFX90, it doesn't limit the top speed so if the rider keeps the throttle pinned it will continue to accelerate.

Though there’s a throttle limiter on the Kawasaki KFX90, it doesn’t limit the top speed so if the rider keeps the throttle pinned it will continue to accelerate.

Silver-painted steel wheels didn’t win anyone over, but theMaxxis tires should hold up well over the long haul. We have a number of kid ATVs in use now and they have proven to be a nice combination of durability and traction. The seat is soft and cushy and its 23.6-inch seat height was the lowest of the bunch. The handlebar is the only one with a crossbar and pad. Access to the battery is a simple release lever located behind the rear grab rail and the plastic comes off pretty easy when it comes time to maintain it. Access to the oil fill, check and drain plugs are all decent. After that the full bodywork is going to take some time to remove for the do-it-yourself dads. Its 1.5-gallon fuel tank is second biggest of these three. The way these Singles sip gas, it should be good for a long day of riding as we always seemed to be more than half-full.

When it comes time to choose your 90cc youth ATV the Kawasaki KFX90 has a few things going for it that the other kid quads don’t. It has a kick-starter and full coverage bodywork, plus it fires right up and is ready to ride after a quick warm up. This is great for families in colder climes and simplifies the riding experience. On the flip-side it has pretty basic suspension and it doesn’t look quite as cool as the other two ATVs, according to our test sample.

At $2749 it falls right between the Yamaha ($2699) and the Honda ($2999), so it should come down to what you and your kid are looking for: Do they like lime green and Monster Energy stickers? If so, they’re a great match for the Kawasaki bodywork. Do you like having the kick-starter as a back-up? As parents, we do to. However, it all came down to what the kid test riders felt and in their opinion the KFX90 was third best.

The 2013 Kawasaki KFX90 didn't win the hearts of our young testers as much as the other mounts in our 2013 Kids ATV Shootout, but it has plenty of features to make it an excellent beginner's ride.

The 2013 Kawasaki KFX90 didn’t win the hearts of our young testers as much as the other mounts in our 2013 Kids ATV Shootout, but it has plenty of features to make it an excellent beginner’s ride.

2013 Kawasaki KFX90 Technical Specs:
Engine Type: Four-stroke, single cylinder
Engine Displacement: 89cc
Bore & Stroke: 47.0 mm x 51.8 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Cooling: Air-Cooled
Fuel System: Mikuni PTE 16
Ignition: Solid state CDI
Starting System: Electric and Kick Start
Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic
Final Drive: Chain
Rake and Trail: NA
Wheel Base: 38.0 in.
Seat Height: NA
Front Suspension: Single A-arm with twin shock absorbers / 2.8 in.
Rear Suspension: Swingarm with single shock absorber / 2.9 in.
Front Brake: Dual mechanical drums
Rear Brake: Hydraulic disc
Front Tire: AT18x7-8 tubeless
Rear Tire: AT18x9-8 tubeless
Fuel Capacity: 1.5 gal.
Dry Weight: 262 lbs. (Wet)
MSRP: $2,749

2013 Honda TRX90X Comparison Review

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The Honda TRX90X cockpit is open and well suited for larger kids and even parents who are looking to relive their youth.

The Honda TRX90X cockpit is open and well suited for larger kids and even parents who are looking to relive their youth.

The 2013 Honda TRX90X might be the most versatile machine in this shootout. It helps prepare younger riders for what they can expect later on down the line because the 86cc four-stroke Single is connected to a four-speed semi-automatic transmission. While there’s no clutch to pull in to shift gears, the kids have to get their foot on the lever if they wanted to move out of first gear. The Honda also has a rear brake pedal, as well as the hand controls, which further expands the riding experience.

Like the KFX90 and Raptor 90, the TRX90X comes with a throttle limiter screw that gives parents additional means to ensure their young rider’s safety and enjoyment. The screw, located on the thumb throttle housing, adjusts how far a rider can depress the throttle. This controls the rate of acceleration. Like the other two ATVs, this slows down the rate at which speed increases, but only the Honda has the ability to cap out the top speed if you select a gear and send your rider on their way.

We learned that unless informed of the need to shift, the kids will go about the business of riding, oblivious to the upside of their TRX. By sticking it in any gear, adult supervision can essentially cap how fast a rider can go before they hit the rev-limiter. Most of our kids are happy to run around in second gear. It offers enough power to climb hills and trails but limits top speed to about 20-plus mph. Third gear still has enough bottom end to roll around slow over obstacles but still get along down the trail at a pretty good pace. Once they are capable of riding around in third, it is time to teach them the nuances of shifting. That’s why the adults prefer the Honda TRX90. It offers more control over both rate of acceleration and top speed. Meanwhile, the three brake lever touch points, enhanced by the foot pedal, give young riders a more realistic learning experience.

However, all is not perfect with the TRX. Like the other two kid ATVs, it has full floorboards that provide great protection from water and mud found in normal riding conditions. Honda has slightly raised footpegs so the rider can get a foot under the shifter which made it difficult for the kids to plant flat-footed on the floorboards. Mud protection was good until it got really soggy, and it wasn’t long until the whole machine was covered. It seems to cake up quick on the TRX floorboards and became a real mess by the end of the day.

The TRX90′s cold-blooded nature is its biggest downside. The electric start fires up at the press of a button, but the Honda takes the longest out of all three mounts to warm up to riding temperature. A few of our kids ride the TRX regularly, and all of these machines are cold-blooded – really, cold-blooded. It takes a good 10-15 minutes of riding before you can turn off the choke without fear of stalling. The kids tried to take the Honda out a number of times early on, but it continually stalled out until we decided to just let it sit and idle with the choke on. The choke is located off the handlebar, down near the carburetor, which is an inconvenient position compared to the Kawi and Yamaha.

The Honda TXR90 features single A-arm front suspension with non-adjustable shocks that offer 2.6-inches of travel. A rear monoshock matches the rigidity up front, and makes the Honda the stiffest-sprung mount in our test. Front dual drum brakes along with a rear drum brake facilitate stopping and helped maintain consistent braking performance despite the voluminous amounts of mud covering the ride at the end of the day. That is the merit of the drum brake design on full display. The other two ATVs’ rear brakes were rendered useless by the sticky mud after four to five laps, so we were constantly digging at them to get them to work. Meanwhile the Honda rear never failed, despite the gob of mud covering its swingarm and rear drum. The TRX90X also has easy-access wing-nuts connected to the front and rear brakes, allowing for quick and simple brake adjustments. Like the Kawi, the TRX90X uses silver-painted wheels and Maxxis tires with ground clearance identical to the other two models at 3.9 inches.

Mud protection was good until conditions got really soggy, then it wasn't long before the entire machine was covered.

Mud protection was good until conditions got really soggy, then it wasn’t long before the entire machine was covered.

At a claimed curb weight of 262 pounds, the Honda is the lightest mount of the three the kids tested – though the weight differences are miniscule, no more than a pound or two of difference between the three rides. The seat height is listed at 26 inches, making it the tallest ride in our comparison. The TRX cockpit is open and well suited for larger kids or the parent who wants to relive their youth, even if it is only comfortable for a short time. The Honda has a wheelbase of 38.7 inches, which isn’t the longest in the test but it all adds up to what the kids believe to be the biggest ATV in this group. TheTRX90X also comes with the largest fuel tank with 1.7 gallons on tap and 0.3 gallons in reserve, just in case Junior (or dad) forgets to pay attention to his fuel supply before heading out to romp in the backwoods.

The TRX90 is high on our list for offering a more engaged riding experience thanks to a transmission and traditional brake control layout, but the cold-starting frustrations and notable size difference combined to earn it second-place in the kids’ opinion. More aggressively styled than the Kawi, it fell short slightly in the looks department compared to the Raptor. For parents, the Honda may be more appealing for the learning opportunities afforded by the more engaged riding experience it offers. Retailing for $2999, it’s the most expensive ride of the three machines tested. Is it worth the extra money? You bet. We have a fleet of them in our garage right now.

The 2013 Honda TRX90X was an admirable competitor in the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout, but took runner-up to the Yamaha Raptor 90.

The 2013 Honda TRX90X was an admirable competitor in the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout, but took runner-up to the Yamaha Raptor 90.

2013 Honda TRX90X Technical Specs:
Engine Type: SOHC single-cylinder four-stroke
Engine Displacement: 86cc
Bore & Stroke: 47.0 mm x 49.5 mm
Compression Ratio: NA
Cooling: Air-Cooled
Fuel System: 15 mm piston-valve carburetor
Ignition: CDI
Starting System: Electric
Transmission: Four-speed Automatic
Final Drive: O-ring-sealed chain
Rake and Trail: NA
Wheel Base: 38.7 in.
Seat Height: 26.0 in.
Front Suspension: Independent suspension; 2.6-inch travel
Rear Suspension: Swingarm with single shock; 2.6-inch travel
Front Brake: Dual sealed drum
Rear Brake: Sealed drum
Front Tire: 20 x 7-8
Rear Tire: 19 x 8-8
Fuel Capacity: 1.7 gallons, including 0.3-gallon reserve
Dry Weight: 262 lbs. (Wet)
MSRP: $2,999

2013 Yamaha Raptor 90 Comparison Review

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The Raptor 90 had the best handling of all three ATVs tested, making for a more comfortable and more enjoyable ride.

The Raptor 90 had the best handling of all three ATVs tested, making for a more comfortable and more enjoyable ride.

After a full day of riding at the Rogue Valley Motocross track the kids were unanimous in their decision to crown the 2013 Yamaha Raptor 90 winner of the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout. Initial excitement garnered by the Raptor’s sporty looks translated to the track thanks to the relatively short time it took for the machine to warm up. The Yamaha was praised for offering the best handling, which proved to be tighter and more responsive than the Honda and Kawasaki. But the ultimate seal of approval came via the fun factor and the intangible appeal of being the most entertaining ride.

Rather than the single A-arm front suspension found on the TRX90X and KFX90, the Raptor 90 has an independent double wishbone set-up with five-way preload adjustment and 4.4-inches of travel, almost double that of the other two machines. Out back it features a monoshock with five-way preload adjustment. Thanks to the front end suspension design our kids reported a less bumpy ride and were able to keep better control of the 264-pound Raptor.

Even as the track turned to a soggy quagmire, the smiles kept piling on quicker than the mud. Braking is handled by dual sealed drums on the front end and a hydraulic disc at the rear and, like the Kawi, both front and rear brakes are engaged via handlebar levers. The first knock on the Yamaha is the rear disc. While it looks trick and offers benefits on the trail, in super-muddy conditions like our track test it was quickly rendered useless by mud build-up. The handlebar-mounted flip-on parking brake on the Raptor 90, however, is the easiest to use, which makes for added piece-of-mind.

The little Raptor is powered by an electric start 88cc four-stroke Single, driven by an automatic, continuously variable transmission, which combines to provide an exciting ride. The Yamaha is fast and has a unique little growl. It also has an emergency kick start stored in a storage compartment under the seat which you can plug into the shaft exposed on the left side of the engine, so it matches the KFX for best contingency plan. Like the other two machines in the shootout, power output can be restricted via throttle. As was the case with the Kawi, a pinned throttle combined with the CVT will still allow the kiddos to reach the Raptor’s top speed on long, open trails even with the throttle limiter engaged, so a watchful eye is still necessary to make sure little ones don’t get in too far over their heads.

In terms of outright performance the Raptor was second fastest of the trio. On the trails it has plenty of power and the CVT system seems to perform on the same level as the KFX but lags behind in outright speed to the TRX if the Honda rider knows how to shift. Otherwise, the blue bike doesn’t have anything extra under the hood, but it handles better than the other two. As any rider will tell you, suspension is the key to a pleasant ride and that’s what sets the Raptor 90 apart from the competition. The double A-arms and slightly better shocks make for a much better ride. And when the kids are comfortable and happy, everyone is bound to have a better time.

The Raptor 90 is a spitting image of its grow-up siblings, especially from the front where the faux headlights and front bumper are nearly identical in design as the Raptor 700R. Unlike the Honda and Kawasaki, the front bumper of the Raptor is plastic. In the long run, this may make it less durable but the big Raptors come with the same unit too. The stylish bodywork looks trick for sure, with sharp angles and crevices, but they are prime locations for the gunk that got kicked up during the test day. The Yamaha is the most time consuming to clean thoroughly after a ride, but when you do get it clean it looks so nice.

The Yamaha Raptor 90, winner of the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout.

The Yamaha Raptor 90, winner of the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout.

The Yamaha is the only youth ATV in the group to sport black-painted steel wheels adding to the sleek appeal of the machine. It is equipped with Maxxis AT18 tires. Seat height measures 25.7 inches, almost matching that of the Honda yet more than two inches taller than the low-slung Kawi. The Raptor 90 is 58.7 inches long (The TRX is 58.6 and the KFX is 56.1) and is also the narrowest, measuring 34.8 inches wide. It feels most similar to the TRX, but at the same time it seems smaller when you’re on it. All the kids agreed, as did the adult follow-up rides. Its 1.3 gallon fuel tank is the smallest of the bunch, but that never became an issue during track time or on the smaller trails. Where it will hurt the Raptor 90 is on a longer trail ride, so be advised that it gives up 0.2-gallon to the KFX and almost a half-gallon capacity to the runner-up TRX.

The Raptor 90’s full floorboards offer the most serrated grip of the three pint-sized ATVs, which helped the kids keep a firm footing in the mud and gave them more of a feeling of control when conditions got sloppy. There is a slightly raised portion mimicking a footpeg on the Yamaha – unlike the Kawi, which was essentially flat, and the Honda, which features full-steel pegs – making it a best-of-both-worlds choice in terms of sure-footedness. Plus, the water protection was great on the Raptor as well.

Retailing for $2699, the Yamaha is also the most economical of the three machines tested. While pricing didn’t matter a whit to the kids, is a point of interest to those with the purchasing power. It rings in a paltry $50 cheaper than the KFX but $300 less than the Honda. So, the question you have to ask yourself before buying an entry-level ATV is what do you want for your kid? In some cases the decision is as simple as what dealership you have at your disposal or brand loyalty. If that’s the case, any of these three entry-level ATVs is a great way to get your kids on the trail. However, if you want a good-looking, youth-friendly ATV with excellent suspension and kick-start option that also has the MotoUSA.com 2013 Kid ATV Shootout winning stamp of approval the Yamaha Raptor 90 is the bike for you.

After a full day of riding at the Rogue Valley Motocross track, the kids were unanimous in their decision to crown the 2013 Yamaha Raptor 90 winner of the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout.

After a full day of riding at the Rogue Valley Motocross track, the kids were unanimous in their decision to crown the 2013 Yamaha Raptor 90 winner of the 2013 Kids ATV Shootout.

2013 Yamaha Raptor 90 Technical Specs:
Engine Type: 4-stroke, single cylinder; SOHC, 2-valve
Engine Displacement: 88cc
Bore & Stroke: 47.0 mm x 51.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.2:1
Cooling: Air-Cooled
Fuel System: SVR22
Ignition: DC-CDI
Starting System: Electric, kick start backup
Transmission: Automatic CVT
Final Drive: Chain
Rake and Trail: NA
Wheel Base: NA
Seat Height: 25.7 in.
Front Suspension:Independent double wishbone; 5-way preload adjustment, 4.4-in travel
Rear Suspension: Swingarm; 5-way preload adjustment, 3.3-in travel
Front Brake: Dual sealed drum
Rear Brake: Hydraulic disc
Front Tire: Maxxis AT18 x 7-8; steel wheels
Rear Tire: Maxxis AT18 x 9-8; steel wheels
Fuel Capacity: 1.3 gal.
Dry Weight: 264 lbs. (Wet)
MSRP: $2,699

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