The first Pit Bikes were simply bicycles. Schwinn StingRays (first

Pit Bikes in various forms have been around for years. Racers of all types have used small bikes to navigate
the “Pits” (the off-track staging area at a race track––the word ‘pit’ came from a hole dug in the ground that a
race car could park over, so the mechanics could work on the undercarriage). At Supercross races, the classic
‘Pit Bike’ evolved to 50cc dirt bikes that replicated, on a smaller scale, the general look of the racer’s full-on
factory bike.
Because racers like to race (just about anything with a motor), things then evolved to where the “big boy”
Supercrossers started impromptu races with each other on these pint-sized Pit Bikes. Of course, some guys got
busy hopping them up with bigger motors and stuff like all-aluminum frames––but still retaining the tossaround fun of the smallish proportions.
Pit Bikes now have a full race series with numerous classes, five AMA National #1 plates up for grabs, and as
many as 500 bikes showing up to the events. It’s the latest craze 'cause Pit Bikes are such a blast to ride.
The first Pit Bikes were simply bicycles. Schwinn
StingRays (first produced in 1963) were quite
popular because they were small wheeled, but
stretched to fit even a full-sized adult (sound
familiar?). StingRays are credited with starting the
BMX craze. (Note: this slick StingRay has the classic
‘banana’ seat, ‘ape-hanger’ handle bars, ‘Racer’
chainguard, and rare aluminum ‘MotoMag®’
Of course, lightweight “10-speeds” (as they were
called because of their gearing) were used by a few
racers who wanted something that looked more like
a race bicycle. The extra gears gave them more
speed and greater range--thus more usability. (The
photo shows a 1976 made-in-Chicago Schwinn
The classic “mini-bike” was also a great way to
navigate the pits. They typically had a 3HP Briggs &
Stratton engine, pull starter, no suspension, and a
brake that rubs on the rear tire to stop it. (Note:
this particular one has the larger 5HP B&S--it’s
scary fast...especially, with such whimpy brakes.)
The Honda Cub 50 came to the USA in the mid1960s. This simple 50cc motorcycle started the
entire Japanese motorcycle invasion. Millions upon
millions were produced. The 4-stroke, horizontal
engine layout is the basis for most Pit Bike engines
of today. (The bike in the photo was used as a Pit
Bike by a racer of vintage Lotus Elans.)
Honda Z50 Mini Trail started it all. It was the first
Honda produced to go off-road. Introduced to North
America in 1968, it saw numerous updates over the
30 years it was produced. For instance, in 1970 rear
shocks were added. In the rest of the world they are
called “Monkey Bikes.” Early Z50s, like the one in
this photo (w/o rear shocks), are highly-collectible
and when restored can sell for thousands of dollars.
During the 1980s, the Honda Spree was the
standard in Pit Bikes for car racers. The Spree’s 2stroke 50cc engine had an electric starter, and
made for a lightweight and zippy scooter. Sprees fell
out of favor just like most 2-strokes...due to
emissions, smell, and noise. (Sprees, and the
similar Elite, still have quite a following on eBay and
the web--the one in the photo has an extra large
rack for hauling stuff around in the pits.)
The Honda XR-50F/CRF-50F mini-moto was the
bike that most every motorcrosser started out
riding. These 4-stroke 50cc engined dirt bikes
(along with their many counterparts from Suzuki,
Yamaha, Kawasaki, etc.) are the inspirational
starting point for the Pit Bike craze.
The Pit Bikes of today retain the small wheel size
and basic 4-stroke motor configuration of a
minimoto; but in order to fit a full-sized adult, Pit
Bikes are engineered to have a longer wheelbase,
taller/wider handlebars, way more suspension, and
many, many other tweaks. There is something
about a Pit Bike’s toss-able size that make them
hard to take too seriously...and a big reason why
they are such a frickin’ blast to ride.
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