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XR400R Lightweight Adventure Project Shakedown Tour
by Ray Peabody

Finally, with modifications mostly complete (see sidebar with a list of mods), the time had come to test the Honda XR400R as an dual-sport / adventure bike. It had already proven itself as a solid dual sport with a comfortable ride, precise handling the street, good traction, and plush suspension in the dirt.
The goal from the beginning was to covert the XR from dirt-specific ride into a touring motorcycle capable of long-distance single-track, dirt-road, and two-lane pavement explorations. Three key factors were essential to fulfilling that goal. First, the XR had to carry sufficient personal items (i.e., clothing, toiletries, cameras, books, etc.) for an extended trip plus camping gear and tools adequate to make roadside repairs. Second, the XR had to be comfortable even after extended saddle time. Third, the motorcycle had to be mechanically sound and operate effectively
in a variety of riding situations including those mentioned previously. At the end of the shakedown tour, these three factors would determine whether the goal was accomplished. Was the effort successful? The Shakedown Tour would decide.
Selecting a destination for the Shakedown Tour was simple. The Manistee National Forest was chosen because it offers a wide variety of terrain, including two-lane paved roads, dirt roads, seasonal (un-managed) roads, and single track, on which to test the XR. The area also offers a variety of campgrounds, fuel stops, food stores, and restaurants. Plus, the National Forest isn’t so far away that if something catastrophic happened to the bike, help wasn’t that far away. Ideal.
With the XR loaded with gear, the adventure began. (See sidebar for a list of the gear.) I rode straight north for the first hour plus before turning west in Holton. No precise route was planned nor was a destination specified. This trip was all about exploration; seeking interesting roads and awesome scenery while also having fun. What’s the point, if not fun?
Using the old technology of a county map atlas, I identified dirt or seasonal roads that looked interesting. The Map showed some unimproved / seasonal roads just north of Big Blue Lake. I should have known what I was in for by the name of the road – Sand Road.
The XR weighs in at about 250 pounds unloaded and with the gear, maybe 275-280. Sand Road seemed like a good test of the bike’s capabilities. The first section of Sand Road was an improved county road with loose dirt and sand covering a firm surface. Eventually, the road changed to unimproved with deep sand. The XR, which felt top heavy with the mounted gear, was stable with me standing on the pegs and a loose hold on the handlebars. As the sand deepened, the bike wandered with an increasing instability. I didn’t fall but came close. I blame my lack of sand riding experience more than the XR. Despite the near falls, the ride was fun and we made it through to better roads.
This pattern – find an interesting looking road on the map and ride it - continued as the route took us over to Ludington State Park to camp for the night. While our trip didn’t include any more roads with as much sand, dirt was on the agenda.
The National Forest is hilly with lots of streams, rivers, and lakes. The roads were frequently curvy with varying conditions ranging from hard pack to loose dirt and gravel. My speed ranged from puttering along at little more
than a turtle’s pace to up to 60 miles per hour. Most often, it was in the 35-40 miles per hour range. The XR was never intended for high speed touring and it was perfect for the area we were riding.
For two days and just under 300 miles, the XR carried me on one of my most enjoyable rides of 2017. Overall, the goal of creating a lightweight adventure tourer had mixed results. It wasn’t perfect. Modifications need to be made before launching on a longer adventure. For example, a dirt bike seat is simply not designed for day long rides. My butt burned after a few hours and remained painful until I dismounted for the day. I need a better saddle or, at least, a pad.
I didn’t pack everything I would need for a long-duration trip but the bags I did carry were full. There were items I packed but didn’t need so I can eliminate those. Clearly, paying closer attention to what and how I pack is essential to a successful trip. I also need to pack my gear so it doesn’t sit so high. In stronger winds or at speeds higher that about 40 mph, the gear acted like a sail; the XR gets pushed around. More work is required to get this factor right.
Finally, the XR provided problem-free operation. It ran smooth and cool, unstressed by the load. When I cruised along at 55-60 mph, it hummed along nicely.
The Shinko 700 Series Adventure Trail tires provided good traction on pavement, hard pack dirt, and loose sand or gravel. If it ultimately doesn’t make it as an adventure tourer, it’s still an awesome dualsport motorcycle.

Copyright 2011-2017 cc media.  All rights reserved. Use of any content posted on this website is strictly prohibited without the expressed written permission of the publisher.
Copyright 2011-2017 cc media.  All rights reserved. Use of any content posted on this website is strictly prohibited without the expressed written permission of the publisher.
The Preacher Speaks About...

A Trip & A Competition
by Franz “The Preacher” Hoffer

It’s been a pretty decent year for me on the motorcycle. Being semi-retired, I generally start my day (weather depending) with a nice 20- to 30-mile ride. I choose different routes almost every day and have developed a “favorites” list that includes places to stop for a quick cup of coffee or just a quiet place to sit and contemplate life.  But nothing compares to a good ole long-distance ride.  I thoroughly enjoyed the 1,600 mile round trip with my son Eric to Omaha, Nebraska for the Motorcycle Skills competition at Dillion Brothers Harley-Davidson.  I just had another one of those rides with my friend Jimbo, his wife Carolyn and my wife Arlene.  We motored from our home-base in Southeast Michigan to Alton, Illinois; a roundtrip of right about 1,300 miles.
Alton is located in southwest Illinois at the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers.  It was the first high-mileage ride for Jimbo aboard his new trike, a 2017 Tri-Glide.  (I was very impressed with it.) I was on my trusty 2011 Road Glide Ultra and the wives followed us in a chase vehicle, making the ride that much more comfortable as they carried the luggage.
We left on a beautiful Wednesday morning and headed across Michigan on I-94, taking I-69 South at Marshall to I-80 West in Indiana.  We didn’t want to kill ourselves but wanted to make it a nice leisurely ride so we capped the day at right around 300 miles, arriving at our overnight destination in Merrillville, Indiana just off of I-65. 
We went south on 65 to avoid the carnage and ridiculous traffic on I-80 in Gary, Indiana.  We had a great steak dinner at a local Italian restaurant and then gorged ourselves with huge ice cream concoctions at a local Dairy Queen. God, I love Dairy Queen; my waistline shows it! 
The next day, Thursday, we headed out a little after 8:00 a.m. for the final 300+ miles.  We ran into an incredible traffic jam on I-55 in Illinois. Jimbo and I finally had enough and rode on the shoulder to the nearest exit, letting our wives know to exit once they got there.  We refreshed ourselves with ice cold water and, while looking for way around the traffic jam, a truck driver saw me looking at my trusty Rand McNally Road Atlas and asked what I was looking for. I told him, “A way around the traffic.” He told us the jam ended about a half mile up the road so returning to the freeway was the best option. We did as he suggested and it turned out to be excellent advice. Traffic started moving faster a little ways up the road. 
The day was nice with no other traffic issues. We arrived in Alton about 6:00 p.m. We found the condo we had rented, did some shopping, had dinner, and sat on the patio overlooking the Mississippi River.  It was relaxing watching the barges being pushed down the river by the tug boats. 
Alton sits on the river shore but its claim to fame is that it was the home of Robert Pershing Wadlow (February 22, 1918 – July 15, 1940), also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois. He became famous as the tallest person ever in recorded human history. On Feb. 22, 1918, a perfectly normal 8.7-pound boy was born to Harold and Addie Wadlow of Alton, Illinois. By his first birthday, Robert Wadlow weighed 45 pounds and stood three feet, 3.5 inches. He kept growing, towering over his father at age eight. At 13 years old, he was 7 feet, 4 inches.  A hyperactive pituitary gland fueled his extraordinary growth.  Wadlow broke the record for world’s tallest man when he reached 8 feet, 4 inches in 1937, wearing size 37AA shoes. Robert passed away at the age of 22. Eighteen days earlier, doctors had measured his height at 8 feet, 11.1 inches.  He was buried in a 1,000-pound casket which was carried by a dozen pallbearers and eight assistants. A life-sized bronze statue honoring him still stands in Alton.
Aside from that, there are many beautiful places to ride up and down the Mississippi River, a nice Lewis and Clarke Exhibition Museum to visit, and a huge dam and lock complex to tour. That was the first trip I’ve taken on my motorcycle where it did not rain one drop.  A great trip, I would recommend it to one and all.
As mentioned in last month’s column, I attended the Midwest Motorcycle Skills Competition at Wolverine Harley-Davidson on August 26th and 27th.  Not as many competitors participated as in the Omaha, Nebraska competition but then this is only the second year for this competition at Wolverine.  More competitors participated than last year and I suspect next year will be even bigger.  These Motorcycle Skills competitions are gaining traction all over the country; especially since the competitions were opened to civilians as well as the motor officers. (They do not compete head-to-head but in separate motor officer and civilian categories.) It’s a trend I contend will continue.  We may be at the cutting edge of a competition/sport/event that will grow as NASCAR did and very well may eclipse all other motorcycle competition events in the near future.  The weather was great and there were about 75 to 100 on-lookers at any one time watching and cheering on the 40+ competitors. In excess of $8,000 was raised for MICOPS, an all-volunteer organization that supports families of fallen and injured Law Enforcement Officers.

The first three finishers in the various categories were as follows:

MOTOR OFFICERS  CIVILIAN EXPERT CIVILIAN NOVICECIVILIAN SENIOR
SKILLS     SKILLS  SKILLS  SKILLS
1-Ben Wolfe 1-Eric Peabody1-Louis Ferris1- Toby Phillips
2 –Mark Lyon       2-Eric Kausch  2-Jeff Bourdage     2-Wade Smith
3-Denie Marks      3-Ted Jenkins   3-Jeffrey Garant    3-Dave Thomson

CHALLEGE RIDE      CHALLENGE RIDECHALLENGE RIDECHALLENGE RIDE
1-Ben Wolfe        1-Eric Peabody        1-Larry Suban1-Toby Phillips
2-Bill O’Connell           2-Rusty Crabtree      2-Jeff Bourdage      2-Mike Smith
3-Charo Turner            3-Cliff Crabtree         3-Dave Baker  3-Stan Howarth

SLOW RIDE          SLOW RIDESLOW RIDESLOW RIDE
1-Ben Wolfe       1-Eric Peabody       1-Louis Ferris1-Toby Phillips
2-Bill O’Connell          2-Ted Jenkins  2-Larry Sudan2-Larry Telling
3-Mark Lyon       3-Eric Kausch         3-Jeffrey Garant    3-Stan Howarth

OVERALL             OVERALL      OVERALL   OVERALL
1-Ben Wolfe       1-Eric Peabody        1-Louis Ferris1-Toby Phillips
2-Mark Lyon       2-Eric Kausch  2-Jeff Bourdage     2-Dave Thomson
3-Bill O’Connell          3-Ted Jenkins   3-Jeffrey Garant     3-Larry Telling