Bike Recommendations for a Beginner

Dec 14, 2010
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Hey all,

I originally wanted to get a snowmobile this summer after selling my sled a few years ago due to school. After some thought, I think a snowbike would ultimately be more more enjoyable but more expensive so I’m still on the fence of snowmobile vs snowbike.... But I’d save $$$$ by not having to buy a snowmobile trailer. I’m thinking of a camso track kit to keep overall price down.

I’ve only ever ridden a dirt bike (Honda 250 2 stoke) one time so the learning curve is going to be steep. I’m tall and skinny (160lbs) and leaning toward a 250cc so I can ride it in the summer too (dunes within a 1.5 hour drive of me).

For a budget minded person, what bike manufacture, model, year would you recommend for someone getting into the snow bike community? What should I expect to pay for a reliable setup?
 
Nov 28, 2007
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Get a lightly used YZ 450 -- 14 and up are best, but really any good 450 will do good on the snow. The 450s like the dunes as well. There should be enough used Timber sled kits available for a relatively good price to keep cost down.
I would even go with a 300 2 stroke before a 250 four stroke. Easy to do top ends. At the end the 450 <C ikes do have the perfect power delivery for the snow.
 

Big10inch

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Hey all,

I originally wanted to get a snowmobile this summer after selling my sled a few years ago due to school. After some thought, I think a snowbike would ultimately be more more enjoyable but more expensive so I’m still on the fence of snowmobile vs snowbike.... But I’d save $$$$ by not having to buy a snowmobile trailer. I’m thinking of a camso track kit to keep overall price down.
What makes you think a snowbike would be more enjoyable than a sled? If a 600 sled feels underpowered to you the bike is going to be much slower yet with less than half the power of the sled but most of the wieght.

If you own a truck, load the sled in the bed, just like you would the bike, I ride with several guys that almost never use a trailer for sleds.
I’ve only ever ridden a dirt bike (Honda 250 2 stoke) one time so the learning curve is going to be steep. I’m tall and skinny (160lbs) and leaning toward a 250cc so I can ride it in the summer too (dunes within a 1.5 hour drive of me).

For a budget minded person, what bike manufacture, model, year would you recommend for someone getting into the snow bike community? What should I expect to pay for a reliable setup?
I think most of the guys that stick with bikes, grew up on bikes. That broadens the appeal of the snowbike because the controls and balance are similar to what they have been doing for years. I think you are right, the learning curve for a non regular bike rider is steeper than just buying a sled.

You should also do some more research on switching back and forth between summer and winter. It is more complex than most let on here. Most guys run a specific snow bike because of this, further increasing the costs of doing both activities.

Go rent one and give it a try. I know more guys that tried a bike and sold it to sled than I know guys who stuck with the bike. If you are a hardcore bike guy, the snowbike is for you. If not the sled is a better performing machine on the snow.
 

summ8rmk

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There is no true bolt -n-go kit out there.
Sure the track kits are great and easy to attach but it doesn't stop there.

No bike is built with snow riding in mind.
U gotta do ur own research and get the bike setup right or it will not run correctly.

Everyone i have talked to has spent majority of the first seasin trying to get the bike to perform by trial and error. Air intake kits, some work, some make it worse and some are loud as hell. Engine covers and thermostats, hard to keep the engine at optimal temperature. Front fork springs need to be changed. May need electrical mods to run heated grips. Drastic Elevation changes require changes in fuel mapping to keep performance. Extra maintenance is a turn off also.

Now, if there was a "snowbike" made by a manufacturer, i will give it a shot myself.

Legends ZX2 SR
 
Nov 28, 2007
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Many riders overcomplicate the hole snowbike deal.

To many here are so into doing mods and complicate the whole snowbike thing to the point where you need a complete different bike for dirt.
This is not needed Thermobob and sealing the airbox are a must a snow deflector/ skid plate or engine cover and go. Anything after that is like to have not needs.
I never even had heated bars just good soft deflectors and good gloves.
Wants and needs are 2 different things.
I still have a sled , but if I had to chose would keep just the bike.
That said I do ride both about the same amount depending on who I go riding with.
 
As stated above - many opinions, many options, many variables.

For me, I already had a lightly used trail bike (2015 WR 450) that I bought for single track trail riding. It has plenty of power (despite what some may say) for the riding I do here in North Idaho. My first two seasons were with a Moto Trax kit that was great in the harder spring snow, but not near as good in the deep powder that makes up the majority of our riding season. This year I switched to a 2019 Camso and it really worked for the conditions that we get around here.

The bike cost me about $6K. The Camso was $4200 as a snow check. I added an FMF exhaust ($300) a thermobob ($100) and a home-made engine cover ($30) for a total investment around $10.5K. YES, that is about the cost of a decent mountain sled, but remember, $6K of that is for year-round use. I don't think that is too bad at all. It already had hand guards and the competition ECU - so those items would have added another $150.

Since I didn't do most of the "extra" mods that some guys do, my change over takes less than two hours by myself with no fancy shop or tools. I'm no mechanic, so if I can do it, so can you.

In my world, money is ALWAYS a major consideration. The best bang-for-the-buck for me is a bike and track kit.
 

dooman92

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Beginner

If just starting out, no experience on either sled or bike in mountains, the learning curve is substantially less with the bike. I rode sleds for 10 years in the mountains and within 20-30 hrs on the bike I was going places, challenging side hills, deep treed drainages that I couldn't go on a sled.

Read mostly good things about the camso kit. The 450 bikes are your best option. It does take more to set the bike up properly and sometimes more maintenance throughout the season compared to a sled but worth the effort in my book. If off trail is your desire you will love the bike, not so much if lots of trail riding. When I started with the bike I had five sleds and had ridden sleds for 45 years. I haven't ridden a sled since I got comfortable with the bike.
 
Dec 14, 2010
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If just starting out, no experience on either sled or bike in mountains, the learning curve is substantially less with the bike. I rode sleds for 10 years in the mountains and within 20-30 hrs on the bike I was going places, challenging side hills, deep treed drainages that I couldn't go on a sled.

Read mostly good things about the camso kit. The 450 bikes are your best option. It does take more to set the bike up properly and sometimes more maintenance throughout the season compared to a sled but worth the effort in my book. If off trail is your desire you will love the bike, not so much if lots of trail riding. When I started with the bike I had five sleds and had ridden sleds for 45 years. I haven't ridden a sled since I got comfortable with the bike.
I have some experiences on sleds (4 years) but zero on bikes. This past weekend I watched a snowbike Cruze up a steep side hill like I’ve never seen a sled do and it seemed effortless to him. That’s what has me thinking of a snowbike because I enjoy riding untouched power in the trees. But I also like to hill climb from time to time.

I agree the 450 would be ideal for snow but not sure I’d want to ride it on dirt/dunes, but the only experience I’m basing that off is the one time I rode a 250 2 stroke Honda and hit the power band and did a wheelie and laid the bike over. Walked it back to my buddy and didn’t ride one again lol
 
Nov 28, 2007
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The Yz 450 can be detuned with the power tuner to be way milder for wheel ops.

A spark arrester or dece damper insert will tone power even more.

Any machine can be detuned if with exhaust restrictors ad some even have different

mapping for different conditions , although that is more common on the newer bikes.

In the sand you will get used to the power pretty quick

No matter what they 450 are very power full on wheels and demand respect.
 
Dec 14, 2010
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The Yz 450 can be detuned with the power tuner to be way milder for wheel ops.

A spark arrester or dece damper insert will tone power even more.

Any machine can be detuned if with exhaust restrictors ad some even have different

mapping for different conditions , although that is more common on the newer bikes.

In the sand you will get used to the power pretty quick

No matter what they 450 are very power full on wheels and demand respect.

Detunning for wheel ops sounds like a good idea. Is there much weight difference between a 450 and 250? Tried to do some research but I’m struggling to find bike weights

EDIT: I checked Kawasaki website and there is only 10 or so lbs different so next to no difference. Is this typical of 250 bs 450 (comparing same manufacture/model 250/450)
 
Last edited:
Jan 14, 2004
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If I were in your shoes giving what I have read so far I would shop for a (can't believe I'm actually saying this) used wide ratio snow bike already setup that also has all the summer parts included. My choices would be ideally a newer KTM 500 or a Husky 501 but if those bikes are not around you could also go Yamaha YZ450FX or even a WR.

The wide ratio bikes are going to be good on the trail in the summer, easy to control the power, decent in the dunes and make a decent snow bike but not the best out there and as an added bonus they will likely be street legal. If you cant afford a fuelie an older KTM 450 EXC or XCW or even a 530 or 525 would get you started. The older carbed WR is pretty much a turd. I rode with a guy the other day who was on a carbed 2006 Honda 450X and it did OK. The point is there are lots of choices to fit every budget just do your homework.

I've ridden my YZ on the dirt, it would be great in the dunes but it sucks balls on single track. It really doesn't get fun until 3rd gear in the bush where the suspension can start to work.

There will be tons of kits for sale in the fall if you want to build your own setup but there's cost savings in buying one already built IMO.

M5
 
Snow Bike Convert

I've been a sledder for over 20 years and always have had to do it on a budget. A few years ago a friend let me ride his snow bike and I made the commitment to get the money together to get one. I ride ATV's in the summer and I wouldn't classify myself as a dirt biker but I enjoy it. Fall of 2018 I bought a new (but previous year) bike and kit (Honda CRF 450RX and a Camso). I got each of them for about $1000 less than retail and am really happy with it. I have had to do a bunch of add on's but I only do the necessary ones. The Camso kit is a GREAT kit at a budget price.

Now for the riding part of it:--at the beginning of the season I really liked the snow bike but had a few doubts. I also had the opportunity to ride a Friend's Alpha and really liked it too. I spent a bunch of time on the bike through the season and felt that I was getting the hang of it. Yesterday I rode the Alpha again and that's a great sled but the snow bike is so easy that I feel like I have lost my sledding skills and need to relearn how to ride a sled. Snowbiking is that easy... and addicting.

Snowbiking is not for someone that likes to park the sled at the end of a ride and expect it to be ready to go for the next one. You will spend some time before and after each ride with maintenance and taking care of your investment.
 

Chadx

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Like others have said, both snowbike kits and sand tame powerful bikes. If those are your primary riding areas, don't make the mistake of shying away from it. 450 and 500 4 strokes are the easiest for a beginner to ride due to the wide powerband. Wide ratio transmissions make for less shifting and handy lower and higher overall speed options than close ratio, but that is user preference. Where are you located and what type of terrain will you be riding?

Find a well sorted used and fully setup bike/ kit combo. Now is the time to buy as many want to sell now before snowchecking a new setup. You can get away with minimal snow accessories, but in the end, most just keep adding to make them work better and better. It's easy to add 2 to 3k dollars of snow specific accessories. A used setup often times has all of that sorted. You should be able to find a used setup for $8k to $10k for a late model fuel injected 4 stroke with good kit and full accessories.

Check the snowbike want ads on here and also your local craigslist. There are scads of full setups for sale currently.
 
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