Why did mini bikes die?


Well-Known Member
I remember Sears tire and auto centers had cool bikes in the showroom. Monkey Wards had them later. Western Auto had Clinton engines on the shelf next to their minibikes.
I grew up in the 60's and 70's and I never had new equipment. I did sit on a lot of new stuff at the stores, but I only got stuff that my friends, neighbors and their cousins who broke, seized up or just gave up on.
Why doesn't any American company build minibikes anymore? Did the kids stop enjoying them ? NO!
Did the Dads stop spending money and time with their kids? Probably.
Did the companies get scared by the lawsuits? Most likely.
Listen guys....I think there are basically two groups of members posting on this site: Old Guys and Young guys.
We all wish we could have access to solid, modern American made minibikes.
There is certainly a wealth of accumulated knowledge and skills among the membership here.

Why can't we build and sell a minibike?
I am not looking for an argument, just some discussion. I think I know of a facility and I'm retired and curious about how this COULD work.
Maybe we need to incorporate GPS, ABS, EFI and air conditioning? Please don't even mention the EPA.

Your comments and opinions, as always, are helpful.


Well-Known Member
Majority is the price point. China can just kick them out at a lower price point. Taco does still exist and makes American made frames, but you'll faint at the prices. Also go power sports sells American made frames, but again they are not cheap. I contribute the rise of ATVs/4 wheelers and in the 90s the inflood of cheap Chinese dirt bikes to the decline of mini bike popularity. But these are just my opinions.
I think it’s all of the above plus the 3-wheeler craze of the 70’s and 80’s. Then when you factor in the low percentage of Dads that can turn a wrench enough to pass on knowledge. They seem to be good at taking them apart but way too often the project stops there.
Fortunately that’s where many projects on this site come from.


Active Member
I like my old TRI-ROD and RUPP and 2 other minibikes. My first minibike was a MIKE BIKE I was about 10 years old I worked for a farmer next door. I bought it to ride to work I drove tractors and did other chores too. All of my buddies had TRAIL 70s we rode all weekends mine was the last in the pack I could just keep up sometimes not. My sons had a go cart and a RUPP and a TRAIL 70 and a few other minibikes. They were hard on the minibikes bent frames blown motors and burnt the back tires off them. It would be nice for a good minibike made here with a good engine. I am almost 69 now not a small guy either I hand a 10hp on my TRI-ROD I needed a little more power too. So I bought a 18hp electric start with a charging system for lights.
Also name recognition and volume spelled the downfall of mini bikes. American made minis with non-specific motors needed constant monitering. Honda with its Trail 90s could spit out thousands of the minis and they were pretty indestructible. A lot of us enjoyed the tinkering but the majority liked little junior to have a worry free bike. Once they cornered the market, it was all over for the american minis made by small companies that couldn't compete. Even now the chinese have outfoxed Japan and cornered the market on cheap small engines and if you notice, their prices are edging up. Perfect example of supply and demand.
Japan's Honda killed it. I'm guilty myself. Grew up in the 60's and 70's and had a few mini bikes. Then in 1972 I got my first Jap bike. It was a Honda SL70. All the friends I rode with moved up to the Japan bikes as well. Kwasaki 75, Yamaha, Suzuki, etc. Rupp tried to keep up the most with producing some bikes like the Jap bikes but 1975 or 1976 they were done.
Honda was the death of it. no doubt about it. I’ve was 12yo and treated a z50 like a derby bike untill I was 16 and I never did any maintenance to it. When I dumped it in the river my like 13yo self FREAKED out. The guy and my dad walk over lift it up out and kicked it a bunch and it started I just went back to riding. beat that thing like it owed me money and it never failed once.


Well-Known Member
It wasn't just the superior low/no maintenance engines that separated Honda's from American mini bikes.
The brakes actually worked (like all the time) and had front and rear standard issue.
Shocks that had the right spring rates and rebound (for the timeframe).
Fit and finish, Paint quality, list goes on.

Yes, they lost money on each bike early on. But that was the genius of hooking the youth to the Honda brand so when they started marketing cars many people thought, Why Not give them a try?
Make no mistake the real early civic sucked, rust city, super scary small wheels, but they still ran pretty well. Within 5 years they were building a foundation of loyal followers that lives on today.

American bikes ran their course and there is only so much you can do with a lawnmower engine and frames that started life in small garages across the USA.
Still love them because we grew up on them. Same reason people buy old cars, it's the memories that can't be replicated.
Rant off.
It seems the Japan motor/vehicle companies (Honda in particular) wanted to take part in any craze in vehicles. Not just mini bikes but they built their Honda ATC Three Wheelers (probably the most indestructible machines I've ever seen so far), ATV's, pit bikes, street bikes, go karts, buggys, etc. You name it and they've probably made it.

Anything that was made in the USA most of the time they made it better and more affordable. It is unfortunate how their presence was a major cause in stopping the USA mini bikes but you have to admit, their engineering is incredible and almost all machines are super reliable and that is the main good thing that came out of them entering the market.
There was at one time 56 manufacturers of snowmobiles. Of the 4 that remain 3 are North American companies. Ski-doo, Arctic Cat, and Polaris. Yamaha is the only Asian one left. Arctic Cat and Polaris did use various Asian made engines over the years but eventually manufactured their own. For some reason no American company put any research or development into engines below 250cc. It seems strange that USA can go toe to toe with Japanese 4 wheelers etc but not 2 wheelers. Corporate boards, pencil pushers and number crunchers were frightened off by the likes of Honda , Kawasaki, Suzuki etc it seems.