What makes it that great is the fact that it is designed around the small rider’s needs. So it has a low seat height (19.1 inches), automatic transmission and adjustable throttle control. It needs it indeed as the small 50cc two-stroke engine features reed-valve inducted, and offers enough pant to surprise.
Far from being a toy, but not the closest thing to a real dirt bike, the PW50 doesn’t miss its target with not a single inch and the proof is that it keeps on going as a 2009 model year after that many years of production.
First introduced in 1981, the Yamaha PW marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship between young riders and the trails. It was all the result of a wonderful idea that gave children the joy of riding and carried them towards the larger bikes in the class. Have a 49cc two-stroke engine fitted on a small, light and versatile motorcycle that offers all the benefits of trail riding on a smaller scale and you’re qualified to long-live on the market. And that is exactly what happened.
A story of decades, not just a few years, the PW would have first featured Yellow and Black color scheme. This was to be changed in the bike’s relatively recent history and have it pained Blue and White, just how suits a Yamaha best.
Beloved both for its features and easy maintenance, the early PW isn’t that much different of what you can actually buy today, something that tells us that Yamaha thought well ahead of its time when designing it.
Having been the first manufacturer to offer such an impressive and yet small-sized motorcycle, Yamaha enjoyed all the possible benefits, including no direct competition. Other manufacturers simply preferred to go for a little bit larger bikes, the ones which can be ridded long after the throttle limiter was removed. A modern day example of such a bike is the Honda CRF50F, but yet again, Yamaha has another bike prepared for that, the TT-R50. You can call the Yamaha PW50 unique and make no mistakes there.
Even though the bike didn’t feature a radical revision all through its existence, the looks have been changed, but not the shape. They got it all right from the start and a single color chance was enough to revive it in the public’s eyes. It got it from those championship-winning machines so you really couldn’t ask for more. Oh, you actually could as there were also new decals involved, and which have changed concomitant with the evolution of Yamaha racing dirt bikes.
But still, the bike isn’t the nicest thing on two wheels as they still had to keep weight down (not too much plastic) and just look good enough to sell. All the mechanics are black painted so the PW creates a powerful contrast between the white, three-spoked rims, and white “number plates”.
Due to obvious reasons, riding Yamaha’s PW50 by adults is against all nature’s rules so we headed to the motorcycle training course to watch the little fellows enjoy their Yamahas and get a share of their impressions.
From where we were sitting, the Yamaha PW50 looked like the adequate beginner motorcycle for the average sized 4-year-old kid. The 19.1 inches seat allows them to touch the ground with the greatest ease while the handlebars, complete with the front and rear brake levers, are at quick reach.
The two stroke engine doesn’t require the owner to pre-mix the fuel, but only to fill the oil reservoir once the tank is filled up and the mixture will be done by the bike. It is recommended to get the engine up to running temperature before starting to ride, but due to the fact that the PW has an automatic transmission parents have to lift the bike on the stand so that the rear wheel could spin freely as the engine worms up.
Thanks to the throttle limiter which consists in a screw, parents adjust the throttle opening and junior will be allowed to exploit more and more of the engine’s capabilities as he gains experience. Unlike bigger two-stroke engines, this one doesn’t require a widely opened throttle as there is enough torque from the bottom of the rev range. Kids gain speed smoothly and there is no loud exhaust noise to intimidate them. Also, with the engine and exhaust being positioned with safety in mind, children can concentrate on riding rather than preventing from burning themselves.
Kids love the Pee Wee, as they like to call it. The find it great fun, very maneuverable and they are actually aware of the fact that the throttle limiter is one of the most important features of the bike even though most of them considered they were ready for the next level. The general answer to the question “What do you like most about your bike?” was “The wheels”. Riding on a pair of mag 2.50x10-inch wheels, the PW is indeed awesome looking and, backed up by the 2.4 inches of travel front and 2.0 inches of travel rear suspension, they actually deal with small bumps easily.
Parents consider it the best solution for junior trail riding initiation as they are more preoccupied of safety rather than performance. And the fact that they can even mount helping wheels and have no worries about small crashes is the best for their piece of mind. Should I even mention how they agreed with the throttle limiter? I thought so!
For a bike that has got no competition, I must say that the Yamaha PW50 is one cheap piece of machinery. It simply carries you all through a very important evolution period and it does it over and over again for only $1,199. Maintenance is also cheap and reliability is a first at Yamaha so all your kids will be riding it.
The 2009 Yamaha PW50 stands as the easiest thing to buy and ride, but not the easiest to leave as it proves offering a decent bang even after experience is being gained. There’s no wonder it sold successfully for 27 years and it still does. And, most importantly, it didn’t change too much, giving Yamaha engineers of the time a well deserved A.
Engine and Transmission
Type: air-cooled 2-stroke; reed-valve inducted
Bore x Stroke: 40.0mm x 39.2mm
Compression Ratio: 6.0:1
Transmission: Wet centrifugal automatic
Final Drive: Shaft
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension/Front: Telescopic fork; 2.4-in travel
Suspension/Rear: Unit swingarm; 2.0-in travel
Length: 49.0 in
Width: 22.6 in
Height: 28.1 in
Seat Height: 19.1 in
Wheelbase: 33.7 in
Ground Clearance: 4.1 in
Fuel Capacity: .53 gal
Wet Weight: 85 lb