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Four-Stroke Motocross Goes Big; Honda Still Hiding [Corrected @ 8:10 a.m.]

There is every indication that the four-stroke motocross world will trend toward larger displacements. As everyone knows, Yamaha started the four-stroke motocross craze with its YZ400 nearly three years ago, and upped the displacement to 426cc this year.

With the “bigger is better” mentality, it will be hard for manufacturers to resist the temptation to make larger and larger displacement four-stroke motocross bikes. Cannondale got its bikes to market at 432cc, and new rumors indicate Honda’s four-stroke motocrosser will be even larger in displacement.

KTM’s 520cc motocross machine was campaigned briefly in the AMA Supercross series, and will return for the AMA Outdoor National series. Whether in supercross or outdoor motocross, holeshots are a key. Bigger four-strokes get more holeshots.

The Husaberg 501 for 2000 has taken lightweight, four-stroke motocrossers to a new level. The Husaberg weighs in at 236 pounds wet, with an empty gas tank. In other words, the Husaberg weighs 236 pounds with all fluids except gas. This is approaching the weight of two-stroke 250cc motocross bikes, which currently weigh between 224 pounds and 230 pounds with no fuel.

If Honda’s four-stroke motocross bike is going to make a big splash, it’s going to have to be lighter than the Husaberg. It would also help if it featured electric start (like the Cannondale). Will it have even more displacement than the Husaberg? We don’t know, but we’ve heard that the machine is an absolute powerhouse (indicating larger displacement — certainly larger than the YZ426).

If it seems that we’re obsessed with four-stroke motocross bikes, in part, it is because of the potential to take motors from these machines and put them in street singles. It turns out that the YZ400 motocross bike may have been a tremendous thing to happen, not only for motocrossers, but for street enthusiasts.

If you haven’t ridden a four-stroke, off-road bike of 400cc displacement or larger recently, you don’t know what you’re missing. It is simply the most fun on two wheels. Street bikes built around these large, high-tech, powerful, single-cylinder motors will be just as fun.

By the way, Honda’s new four-stroke motocross machine, contradicting several rumors, did not show up last week at the Australian 500 motocross GP. Is Honda busy increasing its displacement? We’ll keep you posted.