Trail Hopping - A Quick Look At Suzuki's Mini Machine
What can I say? It’s a mini bike. It was released in a time where mini bikes were the logical first step for a young future motorcyclist. Honda changed the game with the Z50, and it’s larger sibling, the CT70 Mini Trail. Their tiny 4-stroke engines ensured that youngsters could reliably zip through neighborhoods and blaze trails in backyard woods without excess smoke or noise.
Suzuki took another approach. Obviously an answer to the Honda mini bikes, Suzuki released their own line of small displacement fun runners, the MT50 Trailhopper, and the RV90 Rover. Both sported 2-stroke engines with oil injection, and neither seems to have had quite the same impact of the similar Honda models. The Trail Hopper is physically a bit larger than the Honda monkey bike. It is about halfway between the size of the Z50 and the CT70. Like the Honda, it has a 3 speed semi-auto transmission. Rather than using a manual clutch controlled by your left hand, a centrifugal clutch does the work for you. The left lever engages the rear brake (The foot brake lever is also still present).
Like the Z50, the TrailHopper uses 8” wheels. These are suspended by simple telescopic forks at the front, and two non adjustable dampers in the rear. I say damper, but in reality, the front and rear suspension consists of little more than some springs. It is, however, adequate for soaking up bumps and ruts around the yard (if you're not careful though, a large root might buck you off the seat). The frame is a simple backbone that is made of tube steel and some box sections, and provides clear access to the 50cc engine, which is slung underneath it.One unique feature of the Trail Hopper is that the saddle and handlebars are height adjustable. There are three positions you can choose from for each, and the Handlebars can rotate in towards the center of the bike to form a compact package when transporting or storing the vehicle. By contrast, the Honda’s handlebars rotate down, and cannot be adjusted to different heights. It’s seat is also non adjustable. With the handlebars and seat in the full height positions, the MT50 is actually rather comfortable, even for an average height adult. At it's lowest position, the saddle height would allow a small child to have both feet flat on the ground. In all, there are three height settings for both the handlebars and seat.
Like most vintage motorcycles, this bike’s weakness is brittle plastic. The main center cover and the oil tank cover are hard to find in decent shape (especially the oil tank cover), and fiberglass reproductions do not appear to be available at this time. The fenders and exhaust shield are made of metal, and tend to stand up quite well to abuse. The thin exhaust shield is somewhat more susceptible to rust than the fenders, but it’s light weight also means that it is much easier to press out dents if it hasn’t been rotted away.
The 2 stroke engine accounts for most of the vehicle’s weight, but it’s low mounted position means the overall center of mass is very low. Even for children, this bike is easy to pick up if dropped on its side. It uses a tiny carburetor mounted inside the right engine cover, and an automatic oil injection pump means that you don’t need to worry about premix gas. Reed valves account for induction, rather than the rotary disc valve found in larger versions like the RV125. The up swept, scrambler style exhaust looks good and is routed away from the rider’s legs. It’s integrated expansion chamber and baffle create a crisp, sporty sound without being too loud, but it is somewhat louder than the Honda’s 4 stroke engine.
Overall, these are fun little bikes. I never had a mini bike growing up, so I don’t have the nostalgia that a lot of people have for the old Honda minis. If you’re too big for a Honda monkey bike, you might find that you’re much more comfortable on a Trail Hopper. While it is simple to work on, parts are somewhat harder to find as it doesn’t have nearly as large a following as the Honda singles. Note that the piston and rings from an LT50, JR50, TS50, or KFX50 can be used in the MT50’s cylinder without modification, and at the time of writing can be had for about $30.