Hello,I have been racing minimotos for 12 years,selling them for 6 years and have owned my own racing circuit for 4 years.Over the years I have had many experiences,both good and bad.What I have learned I think would be helpful to others whether you are buying new/second hand,or whether you are going racing for the first time,or just racing with your mates down at your local track.
First let me say that minimotos are minature RACE BIKES (the majority of which are Italian,French or Czechoslovakian)and not cheap kids toys.You can buy very cheap replica minimotos which have been manufactured in China for a fraction of the cost of the race bikes ,but be aware these bikes are dangerous,they do not conform to any safety regulations and will start to drop to bits after about 20 minutes use because the quality control is garbage.You can buy these cheap ones from any second hand car dealer,bulk item (pile 'em high,sell'em cheap)warehouse seller,or even your local "do it from home"dabbler who wants to make a few quid off the back of the most recent craze/bandwagon.The majority of these sellers either do not know anything about the bike which they have just sold you or will make as many excuses as possible when you take it back because the exhaust snapped or the clutch dropped to bits the first time that you used it.Sadly the majority of new riders who buy these bikes think that all minimotos are the same and when it does drop to bits they throw it in the garage and leave it there to rot never to be used again.Some have progressed onto real minimotos and have become hooked on the racing scene.
Minimoto has been seen as a bottom step on the ladder to bigger and better things in the road racing world as more and more parents bring their kids down to have a go thinking they could have sired the next Valentino Rossi.There are lots of older riders in the sport who see it for what it is,not a rung on a ladder but a sport in it's own right,like motorcross or speedway.It can look a bit mickey mouse at times because we don't get the kind of TV coverage as other disciplines and as a consequence there isn't the same amount of money involved.
If you do want to get involved in the racing scene and you are serious about buying new or second hand race bikes I can sit chatting on the phone all day talking about minimoto racing,where you can use them,which type is the best on the market at the moment,how much you would expect to pay for a new or second hand one,how not to get ripped off,which "go faster goodies"to put on it,which bikes would suit your needs,what oil mixture to use (50-1 or 20ml/litre).You may want your bike setting up for racing because your not quite sure how to get the most out of your race bike.This can be arranged for a nominal fee,we have a fully kitted out workshop at our circuit that can be used by our customers.Training in both mechanical and riding skills can be given on request.Advice is FREE.
So,you want to see if your child has what it takes to make it in the big bike world but you don't want to spend a lot of your hard earned on a fancy all singing,all dancing bike incase he/she doesn't like it or isn't any good and may possibly fall out with it.What I suggest is that you go to your nearest track which uses hire bikes.You can use a hire bike for a fraction of the cost of buying one and if you are happy with your child's performance,you can then have a look around at a few of the race bikes on show or ask the riders a few questions,most will be more than happy to talk about their pride and joy.Apart from the prize money you can get as much enjoyment out of minimoto racing as you can out of big bike racing.The adrenalin rush is the same,the overtaking manoevres are the same,the pit life,the rivalry,the set up choices and even child parental interaction can be improved as the rider has to give feed back to his machanic(usually dad).
This is something most parents don't realise.Minimoto racing can also be used as a tool to keep your child "in line"at school for instance and give them an interest to concentrate on,which will keep them off the streets.Children learn how to and get more opportunity to speak to and interact with other kids and indeed older riders,which will bring some of the quieter ones out of their shells.Just as an example,my 14 year old daughter has been racing minimotos since she was 6 years old and commands a lot of respect from the other riders,both young and old as she regularly beats them much to their embarrassment.If she hadn't done this,she may not be able to interact with other people as readily as she does especially older men.
Here are a few frequently asked questions;
What oil mixture should I use?
I have always used a 50-1 mix,which is 20ml/litre.I have always ridden tuned,high performance race bikes which run perfectly well on this ratio.However the manual which comes with the chinese bikes is leading new buyers astray.It tells you to use 25-1,which is too oily and coats your spark plug in goo which reduces the quality of the spark,thus making the bike hard to start.I can't tell you how many new bike buyers that I have seen trying in vain to start a chinese copy bike,getting annoyed and sweaty until the starter string breaks.The little white bottle that is supplied with the bike is misleading as well,throw it in the bin and get yourself a 5 ltr keg from a garage,mix your fuel in that and then put it straight into the tank with a funnel.Thats 5ltrs - 100mltrs of fully synthetic two stroke oil.Do not use two stroke injector oil.
What safety equipment do I need?
As far as equipment goes,you need to wear the best that you can afford.A purpose built minimoto suit would be ideal,they have all the padding built into them,back protector,knee pads elbow pads even a hump and are a fraction of the weight.These suits retail at about £200.Road riders may have their own leather suits which will do however they can be up to three times as heavy and the ones which don't have stretchy material at the back of the legs and elbows can be quite restrictive and may cut the blood supply off to your legs in extreme cases.You will need a proper helmet,one which has been designed for road use i.e.not a skateboard helmet.These have numbers on them,either in the lining or on the outside at the back (6205 and 6255).Don't forget you only get one head,you have to look after it.Ideally you should use a well fitting pair of gloves which allow you to feel the controls properly and aren't so big that they are hanging over the ends of your or your child's fingers.You can get purpose built minimoto boots which retail at about £65,they are designed to look like big bike road riding boots without the high leg.Basically what you need is ankle protection as your ankle bone will be the first thing to hit the floor in the unfortunate event of a spill.
How fast do they go?
Most racing minimotos on average will go about 65mph in a straight line over a distance of a quarter of a mile.However there will be instances where bikes have been proffessionally tuned,these bikes may have a higher terminal speed.Don't forget minimotos don't have gearboxes,so the gearing is fixed.You have to come to a compromise which is dependant on the track that you are racing on.You may go to a track with a long straight which has a lot of twisty bits.This is when you can win a race meeting in the pits as it will come down to which rider has set his bike up the best.Unfortunately the internet is full of "pile it high,sell it cheap"minimoto dealers promising massive bhp and speed figures,most have dreamt up their figures to make their product sell.Take this with a pinch of salt,the chinese replica minimotos ARE NOT AS POWERFUL AS THE ITALIAN ONES.Even the 50cc bike,the Banshee(which is a copy of the ten year old GRC GP40)does not have the same power.I can only put this down to the manufacturing processes which don't seem to have the same quality control.You get what you pay for,you WILL be disappointed when you try to race against a genuine Polini engined bike.
What different engines are there?
Racing minimotos in general fall into three main catagories,4.2s,proddys and supers.The 4.2s have a regulated Polini engine(carb and exhaust)which can't be altered or tuned in any way.The proddys have a 3-port 39cc engine,which again can't be tuned in any way.The super class is open.Most engines have 50cc 5-port barrels and can be tuned.
What different types of bike are there?
There are many to choose from on the market at the moment.We'll start with the cheap chinese bikes;
The cheapest is the air cooled copy bike.These can be bought for about £100.They have a copy of the industrial engine which is in the baby Blata,the Blatino.The bikes come with different variations of the same bodywork which has been copied from the GRC GP40.The chinese filled a hole in the market with this bike.It is cheap/cheerful and looks the part with it's fancy looking paint job and sticker kit.The Blata had the same equipment as these bikes but were too small for most riders,the newer chinese copy bikes are a lot taller.The newer the bike the better really as they are being strengthened in certain areas such as the frame,which used to snap on the original ones and are being fitted with better brakes.
The Banshee is a copy of the GRC GP40,which ten years ago was a very heavy bike and could not compete with the likes of the Pasini for instance.The chinese copy has a polished frame which the original didn't have.What lets this bike down again is the weight and the fact that the engine,even though it is a copy of the 50cc Polini motor isn't anywhere near as powerful as it should be.It also has a taper on the crank where the clutch fits,so it won't take a better quality Poilini clutch.To bring it up to spec,it is possible to fit a Polini crank which will then take a two shoe adjustable Polini clutch.A better race pipe would be a good idea as well.The bizeta race pipe should fit and will increase power.
The 911 rep is a copy of the original Polini 911.It can be improved with the fitting of a genuine Polini 50cc barrel kit and a genuine Polini clutch drum,which will then take different Polini sprockets.The front end isn't the same either,this can also be swapped for genuine item.The exhaust on this bike is very poor,it looks like a pea shooter and will be very restrictive.An original Polini item will liberate more horses.The pipe which leads to the water/header tank from the radiator needs to be cut off and plugged at either end as it is not neccessary.
The origami B1 rep is a copy of the Blata Origami.The original used to retail for £2000,however since the advent of the copy,Blata have reduced the RRP.When the B1first came out it was a dissappointment.Many thought,including me that it was an exact copy and would be a cheap alternative to the Blata.It was badly made and the two that I experimented with had seized up in the box.The barrels had not been machined as well as they should have been and if I hadn't taken the engines to bits and rebuilt them carefully they would never have run at all.Again the newer versions of these B1s are better the frames have been redesigned and the problem that the originals had with the leaking water seems to have been adressed.This was due to the water pump belt not being toothed,which it now is.This bike has a very strange riding position,which takes a while to get used to.
The air cooled Blata Elite is,in racing terms, a 3-port air cooled production bike.Not a 4.2,which is how it is being marketed.The 4.2 class used Polini engines only.The engine on the air cooled Elite has the same bottom end as the Origami,which can only be raced in the open class as it is not restricted which is the whole point of the 4.2 class.This bike is quite small and will not suit many riders over 5" 5'.
The Blata Origami is a well built race bike.It is liquid cooled and has a 39cc engine which was originally used in the water cooled Elite.Because it has a 5-port barrel,it has to raced in the super open class which is full of 50cc bikes.So the Origami looses out on horse power.This has been it's downfall as well as the cheap copies flooding into the country.
The Polini 911 is out of production and had 3 different variations over it's production life.One had a pipe which went underneath and two others had a over the top pipe.This bike does not suit everyone as it is tall and thin and requires a certain riding style.The original version is now being copied by the Chinese.
The Polini 910 used to be the cheap budget starter bike.There have been two variations.The newer version has redesigned bodywork off the Polini GP3,which totally transforms the bike.This bike,in racing terms is still a bargain.It can be in air cooled or liquid cooled form.
The polini Steel was a race version of the 910 and like the 910 it was a mini.
The Pasini mini has been redesigned over the years and now has a two pice frame.It used to be available in air and watercooled forms.
The Pasini midi has also been redesigned over the years and now comes with a two piece frame.It is available in air and liquid cooled form.The midi,as opposed to the mini has body work designed on the original Ducati 916,the Ducati MOTO GP bike and the MV Agusta.This bike was the best handling bike before the GP3 came along.It also used to be the quickest in a straight line until the bizeta pipe appeared.
The DM is a lesser known minimoto and can be in air and liquid cooled form.
The Bianchi is a french made minimoto.It can be bought in mini and midi,air and water cooled form.
The GRC minimotos have evolved from the Laser through the GP 40,the RSR and now the RR.The new RR looks the part,but has a very stiff chassis.Minimotos don't have suspension so the frames need a certain amount of flex.The old Pasinis used to have this flex,but they had too much and the frames used to break in the weak areas.Because of this the RR has a vague feeling at the front and does not offer as much grip as you would like mid corner.The RR has been designed and made well and has lots of "shinny bits"which make it sell like hot cakes.
The Polini GP3 is one of the best handling minimotos on the market at the present time.The bike really does have to be ridden before you can see how well it holds the road.Besides being light,it has flex engineered into the frame.Normally most riders will need to let pressure out of their tyres to get grip on certain tracks,but the GP3 lets you run stiffer,more stable tyres.It can be bought in air or water cooled, mini or midi form.The exhaust has been designed for bottom end grunt.A new pipe is about to be released which will give it different power characteristics.