Are you looking for an affordable beginner or intermediate level dirt bike? If so, the SSR Bison 400 is one of the most popular options on a budget.
In this in-depth SSR Bison 400 review, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this Chinese motorcycle’s specs, features, performance, pros, cons and overall value.
We’ll help you decide if the Bison 400 is the right starter dirt bike for your needs and experience level or if you should consider other alternatives.
Table of Contents
Introduction To The SSR Bison 400
The SSR Bison 400 is a lightweight 391cc four-stroke dirt bike known for its low cost and decent capabilities as an entry-level trail and motocross machine.
SSR Motorsports is the importer that brings these Chinese-made bikes into North America and sells them at very affordable price points. This makes them appealing for beginners or intermediate riders not looking to spend a fortune.
The Bison 400 model first arrived for 2008 and continues today with minimal changes. It’s designed with new riders in mind thanks to the low 35 inch seat height, mellow powerband and electric start convenience.
In this SSR Bison 400 review, we’ll cover all of the key specs, features, performance abilities, reliability concerns, pros and cons, and who this bike best suits.
We’ll also compare the Bison 400 to some of the top alternative starter dirt bikes on the market.
SSR Bison 400 Engine And Transmission
The Bison 400 gets motivation from a 391cc air-cooled single cylinder four stroke engine, one of the largest you’ll find in the entry-level class.
Here are the key engine specs:
- Engine: 391cc air-cooled single cylinder
- Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injected (EFI)
- Starting: Electric start
- Bore and Stroke: 68 mm x 55 mm
- Compression Ratio: 9.2:1
- Transmission: Automatic CVT, V-belt
- Clutch: Wet multi-plate
This simple air-cooled thumper motor puts out a claimed 23 horsepower at 6,500 RPM, which is fairly decent from a 391cc starter dirt bike. The power feels linear and smooth, avoiding any major hit.
It’s paired to an Automatic CVT, V-belt transmission. Gear changes are smooth and clutch modulation is light.
Now let’s take a look at some other important specs including dimensions, weight and capacity numbers:
SSR Bison 400 Specs Chart
|391cc air-cooled single cylinder
|Automatic CVT, V-belt
At just 297 pounds wet when fueled up, the Bison 400 is on the lighter side for a 391cc model. This helps handling feel relatively nimble despite the 55 inch wheelbase.
The 2.2 gallon fuel tank allows you to ride trails for 1.5 – 2 hours before needing to refuel. This is ample capacity for a starter bike focused on shorter rides.
SSR Bison 400 Key Features
The SSR Bison 400 is equipped with features designed to enhance the riding experience:
- Electric Start: A convenient electric starter motor eliminates the need for kick starts. This is particularly beneficial for beginners, as starting the bike can often be a challenge.
- Full Lighting: The bike comes with an electric headlight for night riding, as well as brake lights and signals. These features are not always included on cheaper dirt bikes.
- DOT Tires: The Bison 400 comes with street-legal DOT-approved tires from the factory, allowing you to ride to and from trails without needing to change tires.
- Disc Brakes: The bike features hydraulic disc brakes at the front and rear for more effective stopping power. Many competitors still use drum brakes.
- Kill Switch: A safety kill switch on the handlebar allows you to quickly shut off the ignition in emergency situations.
- Skid Plate: This feature helps protect the engine cases and underside of the bike from trail obstacles and crashes.
- Steel Double Cradle Frame: This provides decent rigidity and strength, enabling the bike to handle jumps and rough terrain.
The inclusion of DOT tires, a headlight, and an electric start make the Bison 400 more street-legal and convenient straight from the dealer. You can take it home on the street without incurring additional delivery fees.
SSR Bison 400 Performance And Handling
The Bison 400 delivers a somewhat livelier performance compared to 250cc entry-level four strokes, thanks to its displacement advantage. While the power won’t blow you away, it offers enough grunt for trail riding and motocross.
The power delivery feels linear without much of a torquey hit, making throttle control easy for beginners learning how to manage power. There’s still enough torque down low for tackling technical trails and hills.
On straight sections and open dirt roads, you can wind the Bison 400 up into its mid-range. Realistically, you’ll cruise in the 40-50 mph range on trails.
The transmission shifts smoothly and the clutch has a light, predictable pull. Finding neutral takes some finesse but improves as you get used to it.
Thanks to its light weight of 297 pounds and shorter 55-inch wheelbase, handling is nimble enough. It’s easy to toss around on winding trails and remains stable at speed.
While the budget suspension components aren’t high-end, they still absorb bumps and ruts fairly well. You can push into corners aggressively and the Bison 400 tracks well on flat terrain and small hills.
When it comes to slowing things down, the front and rear hydraulic disc brakes offer ample stopping power for a beginner. They have good modulation without being too grabby or requiring a lot of finger effort.
Overall, the SSR Bison 400 offers a rideable mix of power, handling, and braking that makes mastering the basics enjoyable rather than intimidating.
Reliability is hit or miss according to SSR Bison 400 owners. Some report problem-free operation while others experience issues like:
- Electrical problems with the starter motor and lighting
- Engine leaks from the head gasket
- Carburetor problems
- Faulty clutch components
Quality control and component tolerances are common complaints with Chinese motorcycles. Assembly and materials can be questionable at times.
The good news is that if properly maintained, many Bison 400s hold up just fine. It comes down to inspecting your particular bike closely and fixing any issues immediately.
Changing the oil regularly, checking bolts/fasteners, and replacing worn parts can go a long way toward reliability. Consider upgrading key components like the carburetor for even greater longevity.
Just don’t expect the same quality standards as the Japanese or European brands. There’s more risk buying Chinese but also more reward if you get a good example.
SSR Bison 400 Review – Pros And Cons
Here’s a closer look at the standout positives and negatives of the SSR Bison 400:
- Affordable Price: The SSR Bison 400 offers exceptional value, although the price is significantly higher than $3,000.
- Approachable Size: Its compact dimensions and 35-inch seat height accommodate shorter riders.
- Lightweight: Tipping the scales around 297 pounds, the bike’s lightweight design ensures nimble handling.
- Smooth Powerband: The linear power delivery is ideal for learning throttle control.
- Electric Start: The push-button starting makes it beginner-friendly, eliminating the need for kick-starting.
- DOT Approved Tires: The street-legal knobbies allow riding from home to trails.
- Disc Brakes: The bike features disc brakes at both ends, offering more power and feel than drum brakes.
- Headlight Included: The inclusion of a headlight allows for early morning and night riding, which is not always a given at this price point.
- Build Quality: There may be potential quality control issues, ranging from loose bolts to faulty electrics.
- Cheap Plastics: The cost-cutting plastic bodywork is prone to damage in falls.
- Stock Tires: The low-end DOT tires may offer marginal traction.
- Basic Suspension: The entry-level components may limit bump absorption and damping.
- Resale Value: The cheap purchase price also means it won’t resell for much.
- Minimal Dealer Support: A lack of dealer network can make repairs and service difficult.
As you can see, there are some clear trade-offs when opting for one of the cheapest 400cc dirt bikes on the market. For some riders, the cons are worth it for the amazing price. However, it’s important to note that the actual price of the SSR Bison 400 is significantly higher than $3,000. Please verify this information from a reliable source or directly from the manufacturer.
What owners are saying About SSR Bison 400?
Great Value for the Price
“For the price, you can’t beat the Bison 400 as a starter bike. I’ve had zero issues after 6 months of ownership and couldn’t be happier.”
Smooth and Easy to Control Power
“The power is smooth and easy to control. I’m a shorter guy and I feel very comfortable on the Bison 400 with the low seat height.”
Reliable and Tough
“Don’t expect the plastics to hold up that well in a crash but the engine keeps on kicking after multiple tumbles down the trail.”
Electric Start Makes Learning Easier
“The electric start has been a lifesaver for learning. No more worn out legs kick starting this beast.”
Quality Control Can Be Lacking
“Reliability is hit or miss it seems. Mine has been solid while my friend’s Bison 400 has had electrical problems.”
Stock Tires Lack Traction
“The stock tires don’t grip that great in muddy conditions. I put some stickier rubber on and it handles even better now.”
Cheap Plastics Damage Easily
“Overall you get a lot of dirt bike for the money. Just check over everything and fix any issues before they get worse.”
Not a Premium Bike
“Not exactly a premium bike but a great way to start riding trails and motocross on a budget. I’d recommend it to any new rider.”
Who Is The SSR Bison 400 Best Suited For?
The SSR Bison 400 is an excellent choice for beginner and intermediate level trail and motocross riders seeking an affordable yet capable machine.
Its rider-friendly dimensions and mellow power make it a smart choice for first-time riders of all ages. The lighter weight aids handling for shorter riders under 5’6″.
The inclusion of electric start and DOT tires add to the convenience factor. You can easily ride this bike to and from home or the trails.
Another key demographic is individuals on a tight budget who still want a durable 400cc dirt bike. It becomes a disposable bike you can have fun on without worrying about resale value.
However, it may not be ideal for taller or aggressive expert riders who demand premium speed and suspension. Novices will outgrow it quickly, but the Bison 400 serves its purpose for getting started off-road.
SSR Bison 400 Comparison Chart
Here’s how the SSR Bison 400 stacks up against some other popular beginner-friendly four-stroke dirt bikes:
|SSR Bison 400
As you can see, the Bison 400 compares very favorably for its engine size and price. The trade-off is reliability and resale value versus the Japanese brands.
SSR Bison 400 Review – The Verdict
At the end of the day, the SSR Bison 400 delivers solid value for riders seeking an ultra-affordable 400cc starter dirt bike.
The mellow powerband, approachable ergos, and included features like DOT tires and electric start make it an attractive option for beginners.
Just be prepared to tackle some of the quality control issues inherent to Chinese motorcycles. Proper maintenance and care go a long way toward longevity.
While it may not stack up to pricier Japanese rivals, the Bison 400 gets the job done for a fraction of the cost. It succeeds in its mission as disposable fun.
For riders on a budget who appreciate a great bargain, the Bison 400 will provide hours of trail riding enjoyment. Just take care of any issues promptly and go easy until breaking in the engine.
So if you want a cheap but capable 400cc dirt bike, this SSR is tough to beat. It can handle motocross tracks, desert trails, green lanes, and pretty much anywhere a novice rider wants to go off-road.
Just focus on preventative maintenance and inspecting everything closely when you first get it. Then get out and enjoy the dirt on a budget with the SSR Bison 400!