MINI TEST: 2009 APEX 90; Race-ready kids’ ATV

There are two popular companies building race-ready youth ATV’s; Cobra and Apex. Cobra is the American made brand that has three models; ECX50, ECX70, and ECX80. We tested the ECX50 back in the July 2007 issue and more recently the six-speed ECX70 in the November 2008 issue.

This month, we are taking a look at a racer from the Taiwanese-built, Chandler, Arizona based Apex. All Apex quads are actually designed and tested here in the States, and only manufactured overseas.
For the 2009 lineup, Apex has 50cc, 70cc, 90cc and100cc minis. All of their minis have two-stroke engines. For bigger kids out there, Apex is offering a Honda CRF250 powered four-stroke racer using a full sized Yamaha YFZ450 style chassis. We will be checking that machine out as soon as possible. In this test we’ll take a look at the 90cc model.

What makes an Apex ATV race ready is that it doesn’t come with working lights, keyed ignitions, on/off switches or any of that stuff. The Apex is just that: race ready. It’s hard not find an Apex mini at the top of the youth racing results page for any racing organization. In 2008, Apex riders won championships in National MX competition, GNCC cross country, WORCS and many local MX series. The same statistics can be found for Cobra brand ATV’s as well.
The biggest difference between $7000-$8400 Cobra ATVs and Apex minis is the price. For 2009, the Apex 90 has a retail price of just $3399.

Not many machines are two-stroke powered these days. Kick starting is also a unique feature of this mini. Not having an electric starter saves weight, contributing to this machine’s light 248-pound reading.
Unlike the manual-shift Cobra engine, this Apex powerplant is mated to a fully automatic CVT transmission. Again to save weight, there is no neutral or reverse gear on this model. For a pure race machine, a forward gear is all you need.
Simplicity is carried over as the intake has no air box and uses only a small pod air filter. The stainless steel exhaust wraps around the engine and exits out the back through a small faux carbon fiber silencer.
 This two-stroke starts easy with a swift kick and isn’t overly loud. Like a full size race quad, all you have to do is pull the kill cord to stop the motor. Apex suggests using at least 100-octane race fuel and a 40:1 oil/fuel ratio to power this mini. For this test we used VP Racing’s 100-Octane Unleaded.

A dual A-arm suspension system leads the movement up front for eight inches of travel. The shocks are preload adjustable. Out back, a standard swingarm and single shock moves an incredible 7.5 inches. For 2008, Apex revised the chain adjustment system on their swingarm for simplicity.
What is a little more complicated is that the countershaft sprocket has a load distribution system that reduces shock to the transmission if the rider lands off of a jump with too much throttle. Arctic Cat uses a similar device to add durability to their monstrous 950cc V-Twin powered Thunder Cat utility ATV.
Up front, the Apex comes standard with a anti vibe steering stem and aluminum handlebars. For braking, the Apex has strong hydraulic discs at both ends. The two up front are controlled by a single lever on the bars and a right side foot lever controls the rear brakes.
The chassis itself has a very wide 44-inch stance with a low 37-inch height. On all four corners, the Apex is outfitted with ITP Holeshot tires mounted on aluminum Douglas wheels.

Apex recommends using at least 100 octane racing fuel to power their minis. For this test, we used VP’s 100 Octane unleaded. A 40:1 ratio of Maxima 927 oil provided the lubrication.

With one swift kick, the Apex fires instantly. Warmup time is minimal and with the use of VP brand 100-octane unleaded racing fuel, the motor runs crisp and doesn’t load up even at idle.
The Apex has a sweet sound reminecent of a high-end racing go-kart. There is a little vibration felt through the bars at idle, but it goes away when you rev the engine. Our rider never noted that the vibration was a problem.
You have to rev the mini about 500 rpm to get the CVT clutch to engage and get the quad moving. The higher a CVT equipped engine revs before the tranny kicks in, the better starts you would get when racing. The Apex has clutch calibration perfect for racing.
On the track, this 90 is fast down the straights, turns on a dime in the corners and flies level over the jumps. In fact, our test rider Jeremy Malott could clear a 40-foot double in the middle of the track. Even though the shocks are not adjustable, they handle both smooth and hard landings well. After four weeks of testing the stock shocks are still operating perfectly.
Most Apex owners end up replacing the stock shocks with adjustable aftermarket shocks from companies like Elka when the stockers finally wear out. We will probably do the same. Apex does sell replacement shocks for $250 for a pair of fronts and $150 for the rear.
We did find the limits of the Apex engine, when Jeremy tried to clear a 30-foot double out of turn one at AVMotoplex. The little 90cc motor didn’t quite have enough ponies to clear it. This jump is hard to do on a Raptor 250 and even takes some guts to clear on a 450. When we tested the Cobra at the same track our results were similar.
The dual A-arm Apex Chassis turns great under acceleration or under deceleration without any pushing of the front end. The skinny ITP meats in the rear provide just enough traction to drive the quad forward while still allowing it to slide around the corners.

The Apex flies well and corners sharp. It handles as well as the $8000 Cobra minis that we have tested in the past. Quality of construction appears to be good too.

After weeks of testing, the $3400 Apex 90 is holding up strong. It has endured countless practice sessions at the track and a few long trail rides in the desert. Our first impression of this machine is it is solidly built and will hold up in the long run. As far as a race machine, the Apex minis are competitive with the current crop of youth quads available, including the Cobra. As a non racer, the Apex handles better than most of the minis from the big Japanese and American companies.
In the next few months we will race test our Apex 90 at an upcoming WORCS event. Then we will do a comparison test against the Cobra and other minis. Stay tuned. If you can’t wait that long, give Apex a call at (480) 507-5050 or visit them on-line at

2009 APEX 90
Engine: Liquid-cooled, two-stroke
Displacement: 89cc
Bore and Stroke: 42mmx52mm
Carburetion: 24mm Keihin
Starting: Kick
Transmission: CVT Auto Drive Chain
Fuel capacity: 1.5 gal
Suspension/wheel travel:
Front: Dual A-arms w/8″
Rear: Swingarm w/7.5″
Front: Dual Hydraulic discs
Rear: Hydraulic disc
Front: 19×6-10
Rear: 18×6.5-8
Overall length/width/height: 64″/44″/37″
Dry weight: 248 lb.
Ground clearance: 5.3″
Wheelbase: 41.5″
Color: Black
Price: $3399
Contact: (480) 507-5050

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