Iconic motorcycles come in many shapes and sizes, but few will be smaller than Yamaha’s enduring PW50.
With a production run spanning 37 years and counting, the PeeWee has fond memories for many modern day motorcyclists. Launched in 1981, the PW50 is Yamaha’s dedicated bike for children. It has a seat height of 19” (48cm), simple twist and go transmission and virtually maintenance free shaft drive. Aside from near annual graphics updates, today’s PW is almost identical to the ones that rolled off the production line in the early ‘80s. Marc Marquez, Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco all had their first experience of motorcycles on a PW50, indeed almost every racer competing in MotoGP today rode one as a child, making it one of the most important and influential motorcycles ever to be built.
The PW50 (originally known as the YZinger in the US) took its engine from the rudimentary QT50 Yamahopper, a very basic step-thru moped that was little more than a motorised bicycle. The mini chassis means that the bike can be ridden by pre-schoolers, while a screw located in the twistgrip assembly can be used to limit the throttle opening and top speed.
A PW50 is lower and less powerful than mini motocrossers like the KTM 50SX, or even the Honda CRF50, but it still has enough power and ground clearance to ride around rough fields and junior motocross tracks. A PW50 is no toy, but a proper little motorbike that can even be entered in various youth race meetings.
Yamaha will sell you a new PW for £1399 but with kids growing out of these mini bikes after a few years of riding, there’s always a strong second hand market with tatty examples up for a few hundred pounds and good ones to be had for £800-900. There are also a number of almost identical copies on the market. These Chinese built bikes can be bought extremely cheaply, but build quality and reliability is rarely up to the standards of the Yamaha originals.
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