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Why 350cc?: MD Reader Responses

We recently wrote about the possible reduction in engine capacity of motocross bikes in the premier AMA and FIM classes from 450cc to 350cc. We asked our readers if they had some thoughts about this proposal, and we received many interesting responses. Here are those responses in their unedited form.

  • Too much change too fast is hard on the factories and the buying public. After several years, I’m getting comfortable with the idea of 450 dirt bikes and hoping for some trickle down in the street legal dual sport arena. Only a handful of riders have ever been able to handle the power of a race bike anyway-that’s why we call them experts.

  • Doesn’t make much sense does it? Can’t take much time for factory 350cc machines to be as fast as the 450’s are now with maybe a harder to ride narrower powerband.

  • I can think of one simple, primary reason…a single displacement class, with no “support” class. The tooling for the 350 would be offset by the ability to eliminate an entire class.

    Also, since there is no effective quality or component-price difference between the 250 and 450 models now, manufacturers could get away from the false step in prices (read: lower profit margins) between the small and large classes. Believe me, the 350 would be marked at the “big bike” price, not the “small bike” price.

    This also opens up a series of supporting benefits to the manufacturers.

    If there was a support class, it would need to be the minis (150cc four-strokes). Given the popularity of adults goofing with pit bikes, BBR 150/230s and boosted TTRs, this would make sense from a tooling perspective also. The lightweight classes would be truly lower performance, requiring riders to really work on skills rather than letting the bike win races for them. After all, isn’t “slower, cheaper, simpler, more fun” the rallying cry behind the new 450 production road racing class?

    In regards to the 450-now-350 road racing class, it would give the big-four a larger performance step between the the racing thumpers and their current 600 supersports…enough so that street riders would probably stop making the move from 600 I-4s to street singles and supermotos. This move would protect the already established “young street squid” market. If the 350s ever did become street mounts the smaller displacement would mean less difficulty meeting emissions targets, lower insurance/regulation restrictions for riders, and a selling point to young males for moving up to the CBR crowd.

  • How many non-racing riders can adequately handle the new 450’s? Perhaps a 350cc machine would be a better seller on the showroom floor. Though I’ve found a modern 250 to be plenty for this middle age body to handle on a trail and/or enduro route. The popularity of KTM’s 300 ECW could be a point to consider.

    In the quest for lightness and power it seems inevitable that the power to weight ratio would get out of balance. Mondo power needs a certain amount of weight to help keep it in control.

    Of course, all this is merely a mere mortal speaking who’s envious of those who can manhandle a 450 around a track in complete control.

  • Back in the day before the modern 4 stroke I had numerous Honda XR’s. The best, the 350. Of the them Honda’s 1985 version that was as up to date as could be at the time. Sure the 600 was fun, but it was heavy and tiring in a race and just had too much juice at times. The 350? It weighed in just 5 or 10 pounds less but man, what a difference. I can only assume that this would be the same case with down sizing the current 450. KTM is happy about it because they are likely already in development. Look at the variety of 2 strokes, or 4 strokes for that matter of fact. Maybe the little Austrian company will lead Japan in the next evolution. They have a number of neat stuff already on their bikes.

  • You probably have answered your own question…The current 450s are definately in a class of their own..allowing the premier riders to fully utilize the remarkable power and handling qualities..unfortunately, this does not produce racing which is good for the spectators or the rest of the field who are left out there totally intimidated by…#1 The HUGE cost of attending their hobby / sport. #2 The knowing that even though, they are doing their very best with what they have…there is absoloutely no way they can dice it up with the front runners.

    Its always been amazing to me that there are riders / competitors in all sports that are using a good deal of their own funds and begging the services of others…trying to compete…knowing full well they will never make the podium! Racing started with humble beginnings and the rider back then could drill holes and tweak the bike..knowing there was always the chance that he / she may be lucky “This Time”…..As you know….a large 2 stroke has definately proved to be a problem in the much so that manufactures went an entirely different direction..Noise..Emissions and rideability were too much of a hurdle to conquer…evidently….But…and its a big but….Smaller engines…2 or 4 strokes can be tuned effectively and the end result would be a much closer mix of propulsion..and ultimately the cost of doing business again would get back to the knowing that one is able to win this race without breaking the bank..Without the support of the “average”rider..there will be no events to compete in!…Imagine, going to the races….There are only four or five motorcycles on the grid….’aint nobody going to pay to see that…Thanks for the opportunity to reply…

  • Did I miss something? Isn’t it the primary objective of a motorcycle manufacturer to sell motorcycles? YES So when is the last time you went into a dealership and found a glut of 450’s on the floor that no one wanted to buy because they were to powerful? NEVER

    As for the statement that the average/armature rider can’t use all the power of a 450, that’s probably correct. However, given the choice most average/armature riders would prefer more power than less. In-fact, most people in that category who I know find it is easier to ride a 450F than either a 250F or 250 2 stroke. As for reducing costs by going to a 350F, well that’s a wash. If you want to reduce costs to manufacture or to maintain the factories need to keep building and refining 250 2 stroke machines!

    And if the AMA or FIM think it will some how make for closer or safer racing by reducing the engine size, well that’s just bad thinking. Who in their right mind could conceive James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto, or anyone else of that caliber actually slowing down on a motorcycle that is lighter, more nimble, and that produces power at a higher RPM than a 450F (read 250 2 stroke)…

    This is just another bone head idea by the Melon Heads who run the AMA.

  • The AMA has its own set of issues! They can’t get their act together to promote Dirt Track, Supermoto or Road Racing! Now they want to $%^&* up the only part of motorcycle racing that has been successful. Let things alone! If riders can’t handle a 450, FIND NEW RIDERS!

  • Hi, I read your page every day – thanks !! If it is 35-40hp and less than 90kgs/200lbs then yes please. Lighter is better !

  • I think it would be a good move. 350cc was a FIM class from about the begining of motorcycle racing. The FIM bumped the displacement twice….. first in the 1990’s, 350 to 400 and then 2002, 400 to 450cc, with the AMA following suit. No one, even a few years ago thought 4 strokes could attain the level of performance that they have today. The displacement advantage needs to be readjusted. This would also level the playing field for small companies to field, new cleaner 2 strokes. Also, it could make Premier class Supercross safer, as last year’s Champions already injured on Suprecross practice tracks shows it’s time to calm it down

  • I would be in full support to replace 450’s with 350 cc four strokes. My reason would be that 75% of the people that ride a stock 4 stroke will never see the full potential of the bike so imo it is just a waste of un useable power. IMO I would think that people would be suprised on how much quicker they may go by stepping down 100 cc’s. I am just an average weekend track rider and I am quicker on a 250 f than I am on a 450,I think a 350 would be the answer to alot of peoples prayers……

  • I think they have the mind set of all racing sanctioning bodies that change is good. At all levels of racing they usually make this change and say it will save money or make the racing more competitive (closer). The result is always the same, the fastest riders usually still win. The teams with the largest budget still spends more than anybody else. Nascar car of tomorow Hendrick motorsports still dominated. F1 changes may things and the results still remain that usually two teams are winning and the rest struggle. I am no longer a competitve motorcrosser (novice level) but i have ridden for 30 years and I love my 450 fourstroke sure maybe it has more power than I need but that is what I like about it I do not have to work as hard to go as fast as I once did on my 250 two stroke I do not have the stamina for that anymore. If the AMA changes to 350 the same riders will still be winning the mojority of the races.

  • I see it only as a way to make the class more competitive. More riders of various abilities may find themselves farther up in the standings. I can’t think that 350’s will be significantly quieter than a 450. I would guess many will sleeve down and reduce the stroke in order to meet that displacement. Although it’s not hard to imagine the Japanese starting with a clean slate incorporating their latest designs.

  • I am not sure why folks keep trying to downsize “big” bikes. First, if they make a 350 rule then in a matter of 2-3 years, they will have them as fast as the 450’s were and only half as reliable. Like Moto GP… the reduction in size only led to an increase in cost and electronics.

    I say keep the 450, but aside from a pipe, nothing else can be changed from stock on the motor. If you are an amateur and can’t ride them, then don’t; this is for the big boys. Watching the 250’s now is a lot of fun anyways and they are really able to ride them to the max.

    These all out changes just don’t work if you ask me… simply limit the development if you want to save $$ and slow the bikes.

  • IMO, I can’t see the Japanese OEM’s bringing back the 250 2-strokes, after all this R & D to get the thumpers to the point that they are now. ( and also, some might say, give up on all the OEM parts sales for the thumpers) KTM is in a good position to TAKE the 2-stroke market, with rumored DI that is being tested for release in the next couple of years.

    I also can;t see the OEM’s actually doing a redesign of the 450 powerplant, just to make it a 350…Either beef-up the 250 or sleeve down the 450…Either way, I’ll keep riding my 450 🙂

  • Though it’s an antiquated displacement I would be more likely to purchase a 350 dirt bike than the current crop of 450’s. I have never been capable of extracting all of the performance out of my KLX300 and would be even more likely to purchase a 250 if it meant it was lighter and easier to manage, especially less expensive. I don’t know what this has to do with racing but I’m sure a number of people buy the 450’s because it’s hard to find something with even more power. People are mainly driven by a sense of machismo when buying a bike. Not many “manly” people will opt for a 250 when their buddies just bought 450’s; they tend to Super Size.

  • If the true reason as stated that this change is only because the 450’s are “too powerful”, then why are all the factory teams hoping up the motors for more power from stock bikes. Are you telling me that a professional motocross-er can’t control a stock 450? Ride them with stock engines and stock exhausts and I’m sure that argument would go away. If Jeff Ward can control a KX 500 two stroke and win championships which he did, then I would think these guys can control a stock 450 four stroke. Maybe a little finesse is called for rather than wide open throttle all the time. There must be some other unstated reason for this proposed change. Why can’t they just be honest with the public.

  • That would be great if it allows the two-strokes to be a viable powerplant in competition again (cheaper, lighter, etc). This change only makes sense if the “Lites” rules are also re-evaluated to restrict four-stroke displacement. Perhaps 175cc or 200cc for the tiddler class to even things out. It used to be that the support class riders could not clear all the obstacles that the premier class riders could, but that is not the case anymore (as best illustrated by RV sweeping Des Nations this year).

  • “…might make 2 strokes competitive again…” HAH! Sir, if riders didn’t have factories and sponsors to please, I can assure you 2 strokes would be the bike of choice. But they cost less and therefore make less profit for the manufacturers. They’ll have to outlaw 2 strokes if they downsize the 4 strokes to 350cc. Or give them another unfair displacement disadvantage. Let’s face it, only legislation can beat a 2 stroke.

  • I have owned seven 450cc bikes and six 250cc 4 strokes (all Honda and Yamaha). I am an expert level rider, I train 5 days a week for my riding. My former race bikes were all 250cc 2 strokes. The 450cc 4 stroke is much more powerful than a 250 2 stroke, it is just too big and too powerful. The 250cc 4 stroke does not have enough torque, you need to run it at such high RPM to make good power, it is too small and and does not have enough power to replace the 250cc 2 stroke. So most of the world has long agreed that the 250cc 2 stroke is the bench mark, the current choices are bigger and smaller, so a 350cc 4 stroke should be “just right” and offer a true replacement for the much loved 2 stroke. (but the 350 must be based on a 250 chassis so the weight stays under 220 lbs)

    The 450’s are fun for a short time, you can be lazy and still clear large jumps, the bike has so much power it will compensate for the rider making poor line selections etc. but it does not take long before the bike becomes too much, so you tend to slow down and take more conservative lines (you cannot attack for long cause you cannot hang on). I do like the service interval of the 450 though. Overall the bike is fun to playride, but not the best choice as a race bike. Even the Pro’s tend to haul for a few laps then fall into line and “freight train” around the track, the racing is getting very boring to watch. No one is strong enough (except 2 or 3 guys) to attack and bang bars for the entire race.

    The 250’s are fun to ride, easy to attack for the entire race on, they force you to make good line choices, use momentum etc etc in order to safely clear all jumps. The racing is more exciting. BUT…. they are maintenance heavy,they have to run more open exhaust systems and at very high RPM in order to give good boost, this causes too much noise and is closing down tracks everywhere. Plus many people are afraid of a melt down and shy away from owning them. They need a little more torque to be a true replacement for the 250cc 2 stroke.

    The 350cc bike should be a true replacement for the 250cc 2 stroke, it should offer more torque then a 250 but be more manageable than a 450.

    We need this bike!!!!! Look at the aftermarket big bore 250cc bikes they rock.

  • Cost to manufacturers is small. Just sleeve-down a 450cc cylinder or de-stroke the engine to 350cc. Easy. No major changes on the bottom end.
    Valve-tech, frame-tech, suspension-tech is already there.

    What’s really needed is a entry-level 350cc naked street bike. Not a high-seated dual-sport. Not a scooter or some fully-faired faux-Ninja. Just a basic 350cc around-town motorcycle. Like the 2-cyl Honda CBR350 of the past. The next generation of riders is waiting.

  • Why 350cc?

    Is this a displacement that might make 250cc two-strokes competitive, again?


    Will this make the bikes more rideable?


    Will it make the bikes cheaper?

    No. Are you serious?

    Easier to maintain?

    Not enough to matter.


    Yes, idiot.

    Will this require a massive investment by manufacturers who currently produce 450cc bikes?

    Initially, maybe. Long term, no.

  • It seems like a good idea. With the current 450’s being so powerful and still a bit heavy, plus the constantly improving performance of 250f’s, a 350 seems pretty ideal. As far as the two stroke 250’s being more competitive again that could be so. However, look how well 250 four strokes did in the 07 motocross of nations race against the 450’s and open class. Ryan Villopoto won the overall on the 250 four banger! Besides showing the Ryan is an incredible rider, it also shows how far the smaller four strokes have come. A 350 dirt bike with the weight of a 250 and with more power sounds like a blast. Whatever they decide to do, it will be fun for the rest of us!

  • I think for racing let it stay at 450. We want to see the experts ride.
    Next thing you know it will be as boring as nascar. Everybody with the same low power.
    Nascar should let them run what you brung and lets see who the real drivers are.

  • If I were thinking about buying a woods-only, off-road only bike I wouldn’t stop at 350cc, I’d get a 250cc. But I’m not.

    I’d like a bike that I can tag and take on-road for limited distances and actually cover some ground. Sure the 450s are too much power for a novice, but most novices know that you don’t just peg the throttle and hope for the best. Four-fifties will let you ride at an easier pace, with less effort, and have enough top end to connect trails or ride quickly without being strung out as soon as the terrain opens up.

    People buy 450s because they make sense for the kind of riding that they do, it’s as simple as that. What’s more the last time I checked a 350 would be too much for a novice as well.

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