That’s right! We snuck in one more shootout before the end of the year and this time it is by far the most important displacement in all of dirt-bike-dom… 110ccs of four-stroke glory. Ok, maybe that is an overstatement, but in 2020, 110s are sort of the new toilet paper. Plus, let’s be honest, brand new these playbikes, pitbikes, trailbikes or whatever you want to call them aren’t cheap and there are a few differences to consider, making this shootout more than just a silly excuse to ride 110s all day.
To keep the legitimacy of the title "shootout," we did take the Honda CRF110F, Kawasaki KLX110R and Yamaha TT-R110E to Race Tech to get them weighed and dyno’d. Our day of testing was at supercross racer, owner of Canvas MX, and pretty awesome pitbike rider Michael Leib’s backyard track. Aside from Lieb, we had our own David Pingree and new to the Vital test crew Willy Simons rip around for their esteemed opinions.
Across the board, none of these machines have adjustable suspension (no dialing in of clickers or even setting sag). Also to make things a little more roomy for adults we swapped the stock bars and grips for ODI’s 7 / 8” Pit Bike 110 bars and lock on grips. We put the stock tires to 14 psi, filled the tanks with 91 pump gas, and went for a rip.
2021 Honda CRF110F
2021 Kawasaki KLX110R
2021 Yamaha TT-R110E
Sure, it can seem over the top to dyno 110s, but hey numbers are numbers. And actually, at such low numbers, differences between max horsepower and torque numbers are pretty big percentage-wise. Looking at the numbers, the Yamaha is the clear HP winner but it makes that power pretty high in the RPM range and has the second-highest torque measurement. The Kawasaki is second on the HP graph and last in torque numbers. And the surprise is that the only fuel-injected machine, the CRF, has the lowest HP numbers, but boasts the highest max torque.
Max HP: 6.24 at 7,400 RPM
Max Torque: 5.1 ft-lb at 4,800 RPM
Max HP: 5.92 at 7,200 RPM
Max Torque: 4.9 ft-lb at 4,300 RPM
Max HP: 5.85 at 6,000 RPM
Max Torque: 5.2 ft-lb at 4,500 RPM
Yamaha TT-R110E: 160 lb
Kawasaki KLX110R: 163 lb
Honda CRF110F: 170 lb
Rather than making official votes and rankings, we just had the testers come to an informal agreement on which order to put the bikes. This also includes Ping’s two teenage daughters who are very casual riders and are the proper size and age group for these machines.
Back in the 90s and 00s with the 50cc madness that took over the motocross world, the CRF50F was the bike of choice and dominated the market. Now, as the most modern out of the three 110s with EFI and a big-bike-like twin-spar steel frame, the CRF110F has quickly become the choice of many of the freestyler-turned-pitbiker guys out there.
Across the board, including Ping’s novice-skilled daughters, the Honda’s power was praised for being extremely smooth. With EFI, the throttle response is crisp, without being lurch-y or abrupt. This is perfect for beginners learning to ride for the first time, but also helps adult racers time a gnarly jump track just right. With the highest torque numbers, the CRF110F also doesn’t need to be wrung out as far to get to the meat of the power, while the other bikes feel like you need to carry just a touch more speed through corners to keep making good power. This is the heaviest bike, but none of the testers commented on the weight and some said if felt like the biggest of the three.
The Yamaha TT-R110 replaced the TT-R90 in 2008. It was the first 110 to have the magic button, but they all do now. Power-wise, you do have to wring the TT-R out a little further to get the most out of the motor, but Ping actually said that he was happier than the other two testers with the Yamaha. He mentioned that while it didn’t have that immediate pick-up-and-go, he did like the extra HP on the top end given the space to get there. Leib also mentioned that he felt the Yamaha was faster, but not as easy to ride fast as the Honda. Also Simons mentioned that while the torque numbers were lower, it didn’t seem much different to him, but he is also the lightest rider.
Another thing to mention is that the TT-R is the lightest bike of the group at 160 lb, which is 10 pounds lighter than the CRF. So those on-paper torque numbers might not really add up on-track. Ergos-wise, the TT-R visually looks pretty big compared to the other bikes but has more of a banana seat that puts the rider in more of a pocket making the bike feel a little smaller. This is good for kids, not so much for adults. Testers also mentioned that the TT-R110E has a little softer suspension (relatively speaking, of course).
This was the gold standard of 110s for decades since it was one of the first of that displacement. Yet over the years, other than some cosmetic upgrades, the Kawi has pretty much remained the same. When talking about the motor, the KLX isn’t really a whole lot different than the other two bikes, but it isn’t as smooth as the Honda and signs off a little earlier than the Yamaha. Also both adult and teenage testers said they noticed a bit of a bog or hesitation sometimes when getting on the gas hard.
While all three machines have very soft suspension for adults, the KLX’s shock was called out for being a little more so than the Honda and about the same as the Yamaha. But if we are being honest, it is so easy to max out the suspension on these bikes that it is sort of silly trying to dissect the handling and bump absorption.
If you can find one, get one… no matter the color! They all have drum brakes, they all have the same size wheels, they all have electric start with kickstart backups... You aren't going to find many differences on the spec sheets. But, if you happen to have a choice or if you are reading this in the future when there are 110s pouring out of every dealership, there are a few things to consider when looking at these play bikes. Overall, the Honda’s EFI was sort of the linchpin of the comparison making it both smooth and torquey, which made the adults and teens happy. The Yamaha might be the sneaky fast bike if you are an adult who plans to race one with minimal mods. And the Kawi is the all-around good machine that is cheaper than the Honda, still pretty light and has a million aftermarket parts available.