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Shocking Four Stroke Costs

by Super Hunky on 02/03/2010

This editorial was originally published on and was written by Matt Cuddy and Rick Sieman. It is re-printed here with permission.



As a public service, brings you a shocking expose’ on how much it costs to rebuild a new four stroke Japanese MX bike. We disguised our voices with hi-tech voice-altering devices (helium balloons) and called a few well known motorcycle shops around the country. We got some scary numbers for what it costs to rebuild just the top end on one of the newer Japanese high-zoot four stroke motocross bikes, 450’s to be exact.

Hold on to your wallets, because the costs are staggering.

honda 450.jpg

I first called a Honda shop in Los Angeles, California. And after inhaling some helium,  I spoke with the service manager. I had a standard set of questions that Rick and I agreed to that seemed to be appropriate.

“Hi, I own a 2008 Honda CRF450R that I bought used, the last ride it started sounding funny, and backfired out of the carb a few times when I was really pushing it. How much will it cost to fix? What’s a new top end cost? How about the head? Can’t I just adjust the valves, bore it and get a new piston, and it’ll run OK again?”

From the other end of the receiver came an exasperated sigh, and the service manager seemed to then read a pre-written set of answers, from a piece of paper perhaps stapled to the wall in his office:

“Oh, that’s a hard one to diagnose without first seeing the bike. You can’t bore out the cylinder, it’s paper thin nikasil coated on a composite cylinder, either you buy a new one, or have the old one re-plated, costs around five hundred bucks. The piston, wrist pin and rings will run you another four hundred dollars.

The titanium valves are the weak point on a CFR450, they don’t bend or break, but shatter and ruin the whole top end, head and all. That costs about two thousand dollars. Then you have the installation, gaskets, labor, anti-freeze, tax, etc. runs about twenty five hundred all-in, ready to go.”

Garsh, that’s a wad of dough there, mister. Think I’ll just dump this thing and buy an old CR500, thanx anyway.” And I hung up.

Outrageous! I could buy a nice used Dodge Dart, and have enough money left over for a years supply of Lucky Lager! What are the Yamakawasuzionda folks thinking? Do they want to give dirt riders heart attacks!? Good Lord Almighty.

It was Rick’s turn, so he called another dealer on the other side of the country, in the Pittsburg area, and asked the same set of questions.


I told the service department the following:

450 honda 2.jpg

“I just bought a 2008 CRF450R and I went down to my buddy’s place in West Virginia where it wasn’t snowing and rode for about two hours. Then I got back firing out of the carb and we heard a bad knock in the top end. We checked and the knocking was in the bottom end, too. I guess I probably need a complete rebuild.  Well, I know it’s hard to get a ballpark total on a rebuild, but what would a guess-timate price be?”

The response:

“Assuming that all the major things need replaced, about $3000 plus should do it.  That would be a piston, rings, rod, gaskets and such … plus the labor.  And that don’t include the trans and clutch.”

I protested:

“I just paid $3200 for this bike!  It ran OK up and down the street, but I only rode it for less than two easy hours.  My buddy has CR 500 and he says he does a top end every few years.  He told me that the new four stroke racers have a short fuse.”


“Hey, it’s a race bike. You might save a few bucks if you get some non-Honda parts.  But I won’t guarantee those parts.  It’s still gonna cost you about three grand for a rebuild.”

More from me:

“How many hours will you guarantee the rebuilt motor?  What if I do the work myself;   get it bored and put in a new piston and rings? I can do basic mechanical work.”


“Nobody will guarantee a race bike. You can’t bore the cylinder.  It’s coated with a real thin liner.  If that’s screwed, you’re looking at a new barrel.  Look, these new bikes are really high tech and they ain’t designed to live real long … just go real fast for a while.  If you’re just gonna play ride, then you ought to get a CR500 like your buddy.”

Last from me:

“Well, about how many hours could I figure on out of a fresh motor on my 450?  Roughly.  Just a ballpark … not racing, just out having fun, you know.”


“I don’t want to give you a hard number, but you can probably figure on 15 or 20 hours. That’s about it.”

Last from me:

“Well, about how many hours could I figure on out of a fresh motor on my 450?  Roughly.  Just a ballpark … not racing, just out having fun, you know.”


“I don’t want to give you a hard number, but you can probably figure on 15 or 20 hours. That’s about it.”

BLASPHEMY! Fifteen to 20 hours from a dirt bike that costs over eight grand new! What is going on here? Some plot to ruin the sport of dirt biking? That had to be wrong, so I called a Kawasaki dealer right down the street, and asked them the same pre-agreed to set of question:


“Hi, service please.”

“Service, how can I help you?”

“I have an ’08 KX450F MX bike that I bought used a couple months ago, and it’s started making funny noises like a low knocking noise, and it’s backfiring out of the exhaust pipe every time I downshift. What could be wrong?”

Service: “Oh, you’ll have to bring it in so we can do a leak-down test on the top end, sounds like it might be worn out.”

“And how much will that cost?”

Service: “Free”

“What if the top ends is shot, how much to fix it?”

Service: “Oh, we’ll take it apart for you, see what’s wrong …might be something simple.”

“ How much for that?”

Service: “Oh, that’s free too…”


Service: “Yes, free.”

“Well I suppose putting the damn thing back together again if free too, since it will cost about three thousand #$&^%$# dollars to fix, right gummo?”

Service: “Err, well…err…um…”

“That’s what I thought!” and slammed the receiver down as hard as someone who was light headed from helium inhalation could muster.

FREE MY ASS! This is a conspiracy! Will it go full circle once again, where we have to buy street bikes and strip ‘em down like the old days, instead of buying one of these exploding cigars?

Oh I was on a roll now! Who to call next? The Suzuki shop! Yes!


This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I was perusing Dirt Bike magazine and saw that new 450 MXers are going for right around eight grand sitting on the showroom floor. So that means with dealer prep and set up, taxes, off-road registration and other graft included, a new 450 dirt bike will cost around nine thousand hard earned Yankee dollars strapped down in the back of your truck.

To think that you can only get fifteen to twenty hours of moderate riding out of one of these technical marvels before a rebuild is in order, is outrageous. And it’s worse on the smaller bikes, like the 250 four strikers that live at 13,000 rpm all day, and explode even worse than the big ones.

This is the first installment on a subject that no one else wants to talk about, the throw-away MX bike. We’re going to dig deeper into this controversial issue, and hopefully be able to make some sense why it happened, and what you, the hard core dirt biker can do about it. Stay tuned.

To read more from the iconic Super Hunky, lease visit his site at

Also highly recommended is his book Monkey Butt, an amazing history of the dirt bike industry beginning in the late 1960?s. Some wonderful and eye-opening stories guaranteed to open your eyes to the business of the dirt bike industry.

Check out this podcast from Steve Mattes, an interview with Rick “Super Hunky” Sieman.