There's nothing too exotic about the . It's got a 49-cc four-stroke, a kick-starter, and a three-speed sequential transmission. My kids have a friend who has a 2005 model, and that one looks almost identical to a 2019. "These things are bulletproof," the Honda dealer told me. "I could take it up on the roof of the building and throw it off and it would fire right up."
Well, perhaps that's a bit of dealer hyperbole, but not by much. As a starter bike, the CRF50F is designed to survive the abuses of dirt-bike newbies. Go head, kid, dump it in the ditch. If you're still game to ride, the bike will be, too.
The little Honda doesn't have a manual clutch, but in most other respects it's a full-fledged dirt bike writ small. Ahead of the left peg is a sequential foot shifter. Ahead of the right peg, the rear foot brake. On the right handlebar is the lever for the front brake. There's a twist-grip throttle and a no-electric start—you fire the little four-stroke with a determined wallop on the kick-starter. When it catches, the single-cylinder settles into a bass-heavy idle that belies its shot-glass displacement. It sounds kind of fierce, this wee ride.
While the throttle has an adjustable limiter, I found that the three-speed transmission was also a viable means of limiting speed—if the kids don't shift out of first gear, there's only so fast they can go. So I gave the kids full reign with the throttle but didn't let them upshift until they'd mastered the arts of turning and stopping (and not trying to do those two things at once). There were missteps, such as when my six-year-old rode off with his left foot on the peg and his right perched high on the kick-starter, which he'd failed to fold in after starting the bike. But the kids generally got the hang of it fairly quickly, usually after a few fistfuls of throttle that instilled a healthy respect for the bike's power.
Indeed, after my eight-year-old had a good amount of experience, I let him get into third gear. Watching him approach on a straightaway, it looked like he was going awfully fast. So I made him pull over and I activated a GPS speed-tracking app on my phone, which I put in his pocket. Then I had him ride another loop. When I then checked my phone, I saw he'd topped out at 33 mph. "I could've gone faster," he said. I told him I believed him, but to chill out a little bit.
Then, later, I took the 50 for a ride. Even overburdened with me on the seat looking like a Mario Kart Donkey Kong, it felt punchy. I think I actually pulled a little wheelie on the 1-2 shift.
This is a serious little machine, but it's also forgiving. The clutch engages gradually and the drum brakes aren't too grabby. The seat height is only 21.6 inches and the bike is light enough that when kids have the inevitable drop, they can pick it back up. That latter point is why dirt bikes allow kids to (legally) progress the power and displacement ladder more quickly than ATVs. After all, a 90-cc ATV will wear all sorts of warnings restricting it to kids age ten and up, while a 110-cc dirt bike will carry no such restrictions. That's because if kids dump a dirt bike, they can pick it back up. ATVs are a different story.
This is the smallest bike Honda makes, but that doesn't mean your kid would outgrow it right away. We had kids ranging in age from six to 12 riding it and everyone had a blast. But if, as a kid, you'd ridden a CRF50F enough to feel like you're ready for a , I have good news: You probably are.