A screaming good time

A decade ago my mate Kristin convinced me during a Friday night session to buy this little enduro bike on eBay. It was a full sized 50cc HM CRE 50 2001.

HM Italy imports Honda CRs directly from Japan and converts them to enduro use. Stefan Merriman won two World Enduro Championships for HM Italy and the late Mika Alhoa won four. This 50cc model is for the Italian kids doing the Junior Championships.

It was only $1200 delivered so what could go wrong? The bike was one of two imported with a load of go-kart engines. The importer's wife did 230 km on mine before I got it. I've since put 1530 km on it and love the thing dearly – it's literally a scream to ride! Holding it pinned as you slip between the trees at a max 60 kph makes you feel like a hero; and that's what it's about as far as I'm concerned.

The little Pep Vila PUCH Replica I built from a 1984 big wheel RM 80, was a real stretch in time, money and effort when I was needing a project. The little bugger sucked up funds and time like you wouldn't believe. While the HM is a full-sized bike, the PUCH is like a 4/5 sized model. Ok, ok, it is supposedly a kids' bike; but what are they doing offering this little rocketship to kids?

The 2022 GasGas EC50 Rookie (cue laughter) was offered to me for $1000 by a mate who was aware of my obsession. How could I resist? It had sat unused for a long time so needed all the hydraulics and carby flushed out, a new airfilter and forks and shock were rebuilt. Yam YZ front fork guards were adapted to fit the spindly USD 35mm fronts. Web searching found new sprockets and chain. Has a 70cc BIG BORE kit fitted. The biggest miracle of all, was that the electric start worked! It also has a hydraulic clutch and oil injection. Modern!

Beta RR50 2022. This motorcycle is sex on wheels. Just look at it! If you don't get movement looking at this honey; you don't have a pulse. I enquired about this model a couple of years ago and since they were all pre-ordered by Italian kids for the Junior Enduro Champs none were available. My local dealer then let me know one was available if I plonked down my money. That was $8600 straight up. What's money?! The wait was excruciating. Once here, after ripping off all the Euro 5 crap and fitting a $400 pipe, the beast 50 came alive. It is a full-sized modern bike in all respects. Even suspension and engine guru Jaydee was impressed.

Now to the invited (sub 80kg) testers.

Ian (Rev head) Glasson

Ian can be heard well before coming into view screaming the bits off his long-suffering PE 175. He only knows one speed and is guaranteed to get the most out of these little jiggers. Fast!

Kristin (K-Dog) Cahill

Been out of riding for a while but soon got his mojo back. Loves taunting me and is a bit faster but I managed to hold him off, mostly. Able to take most bikes beyond their parameters.

John (Tex) O'Brien

VERi media guru, a bit young for most of us but he's trying to look older with that beard. A steady rider but able to do things on a DR650 that leave me scratching my head.

Peter (Drakie) Drakeford

Owner of the 4 beasties and talent declining in sympathy with his choice in engine sizes.So, what do they all think? Here goes...

John (Tex) O'Brien's take on this silliness:

HM CRE50 2001

  • I assumed I'd be the most comfortable on this one.
  • Feels like a "proper", full sized bike.
  • Good ergonomics and suspension
  • Reasonably good power
  • I immediately found the rear end was skating sideways on the slippery corners. I couldn't work out if this was down to the tyre or the rear brake grabbing. It resulted in overshooting of some corners and loss of confidence.
  • Good seat.
GasGas Rookie EC50 2002
  • Only one of the four I hadn't ridden before.
  • Felt smaller than the Beta & HM
  • Strange ergonomics with a feeling of being positioned over the front wheel but works ok when riding.
  • Felt more powerful than the Beta and HM (it has been bored out to 70cc). I could use the clutch to get things moving.
  • I found less issues with rear wheel slide than the HM.
  • Suspension bit more rudimentary than HM & Beta but works ok. I did get rear wheel airborne after bottoming over tree root, but it recovered ok.
  • Hard seat.
Puch GS80 (Replica) 1984
  • The oldest of the bunch and most powerful.
  • I wasn't looking forward to riding this one, but immediately felt at home on the older bike that just felt more "loose" than the others.
  • The power was a revelation after the HM & GasGas, slipping the clutch could really get the Puch moving.
  • No rear wheel problems for me on this one, perhaps due to the drum brake.
  • Ergonomics were a bit odd. I found it cramped and could only use kickstart by getting off bike and kicking with left foot.
  • It didn't lend itself to standing on pegs, but with the most comfortable seat, I was happy to sit.
  • Suspension a bit mushy, but no problem for me.
  • Very comfy seat!

Beta RR50 Racing 2022
  • Most modern bike has the proper ergonomics you'd expect with the rider sitting on top.
  • Excellent suspension, the best of the bunch which was no surprise.
  • I found it less powerful than I remembered but using the clutch and gearbox with vigour produced the desired result.
  • I immediately found I was having problems with the rear end sliding out in corners. So I adjusted my riding style to use the rear brake much less. This produced an instant improvement, and I wish I'd tried this approach with the HM!
  • Hard seat.


1st - Puch
2nd - GasGas
3rd - Beta
4th - HM

I didn't expect to like the oldest bike the most. It was the only one I felt like I would enjoy riding in a longer event. Might be a case of casting pearls before swine with the other three! These high revving lightweights are a lot of fun, but I would need a lot more practice to get the most out of any of them.

Ian (Rev head) Glasson reports:

HM CRE50 2001

  • For 2001,From a riding point of view, this bike is surprisingly similar in its chassis and ergonomics to later models.
  • I did find it lacking in top end, not so free spinning.
  • Still a fast bike with great handling.
Puch GS80 (Replica) 1984
  • The 80cc mill is "off the chain", with well spaced gears it always wants to be "fast. very fast", and of the four bikes was most forgiving if it got off the pipe.
  • The drum brakes, suspension, gearbox worked extremely well together.
GasGas Rookie EC50 2002
  • This bike oozes confidence and promotes a fast and safe ride.
  • The 70cc mill is very lively and has good amount of torque, it pulls well through gears, suspension and brakes working together.
  • Very easy to ride quickly, with good ergonomics.
Beta RR50 Racing 2022
  • The ergonomics, suspension, brakes, geometry are state of the art.
  • And it means all you have to do is keep the 50cc mill on the boil.
  • A faultless package.

You couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

It's easy to forget, or not take into account a spread of 37 years, and up to 40% engine displacement differences.

When you're riding a bike that is no more than your own body weight. You are in total control, they stop on a dime and change direction on the spot.

They are all such fun, and wild at the same time - and suit my riding style.

1st: Puch - one crazy ride.
2nd: Gas Gas - fast predictable.
3rd: Beta - state of the art 50.
4th: HM - great chassis, engine lacks gusto.

Thanks Pete for the opportunity, and a great day. You did say, "ride 'em like you race 'em."

And from Kristin (K-Dog) Cahill.

HM CRE50 2001

  • Excellent package and suspension, confidence inspiring.
  • Motor flat on top but dependable and delivered in spades for its age.
Puch GS80 (Replica) 1984
  • Like riding a Sputnik in anger.
  • Back end fantastic, took on anything. Forks too soft though, too much pogo-ing. Needs thicker oil and more spring preload.
  • Brakes are good.
GasGas Rookie EC50 2002
  • Wonderful Hebo brakes, one finger action.
  • Gearbox slick as. Perfect hydraulic clutch.
  • Seamless power delivery once into it. Getting it up on the pipe was rewarding.
  • Not a bike for clumsy riders, it requires finesse.
Beta RR50 Racing 2022
  • Can't fault it in any way, amazing power from the 50.
  • Safe and confident to just hold it on anywhere.
  • I owned a Beta RR50 in 2011 and regret selling it.
  • Best downhill bike ever.


The thing about these bikes pace is you are able to better pick lines and concentrate on the track to find the smoothest path. Easy to slow your reaction speeds and assess where to put the bike.

1st: GasGas
2nd: HM
3rd: Beta
4th: Puch

Me, the Drake, proud owner and committed Euro lover.

HM CRE50 2001
  • My first love, I've spent more time on this baby than the others so it fits like a glove. Good ergonomics and suspension.
  • Power flattens out too soon compared to the Beta.
  • A bit faster road speed than the Beta.

Puch GS80 (Replica) 1984
  • I didn't realise I've just been riding this in the midrange mostly. On the longer straights I held it on and found another powerband!! Holy crap, fast!!
  • Great seat and rear suspension is comparable to a modern.
  • Sit down riding is necessary as it's a bit short, but oh boy, does it turn!

GasGas Rookie EC50 2002
  • It looks like a regular modern that's been run into a wall. The front end is way too short and needs to be stretched out 50mm. It feels like you're over the front end.
  • Sharp power controlled by the excellent hydraulic clutch, a factor of the 70cc kit I suspect.
  • Surprisingly ok to ride and push hard on. Suspension way too soft though.
  • Love the features, electric start spins people out. Oil injection, hydraulic clutch, double discs, perimeter frame, full lights and horn, USD forks...
Beta RR50 Racing 2022
  • Ooooohhhh, enough said... such a refined package. Totally modern in all dimensions bar engine size.
  • Can be pushed hard in total safety.
  • Hmmm, do they make a big bore kit? No, stop it, it defeats the concept.

Love them all, each have their own peculiarities. We're trying to compare apples to oranges really, so it's not a fair test. I can use all that the HM has got but the Beta promises more.

I'm amazed at the PUCH's RM power and its comfort. I have a spare RM80 motor, airbox, tank, radiator and pipe. Now if I could find an RM 125 roller...

Obviously the boys had a lot of fun, exactly what I anticipated. Screaming the things everywhere at peak revs is such a buzz. Flicking them in and out of the trees is effortless, and makes you feel like a hero – tho only doing a max 60kph!

Thanks to the Pit Crew: Sharon G, Mick H & Bruce M.

Peter (notactinghisage) Drakeford, VERi Secretary, 2023