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Chapter XIII: Ride #1 - Finally



I had finally reached a point where I could begin a true evaluation.  The bike was running, though I knew the carb jetting was still miles off.  Fortunately, a good neighbor had taken interest in the project.  When this stage was reached, he invited me out to a local private riding club called CTOR, or Central Texas Off Road, for a half-day shakedown.  In addition, he allowed me to run the same trails on his 2004 KTM 200 EXC for comparison, which allowed me to gauge what was really going on. 

I had realistic expectations and a good attitude.  The result of both was better than I expected.

The first positive out of the trip involved vibration, or in this case, the anticlimactic lack of it.  Many detractors told me to expect nasty vibes from the 1997 CR with the thick aluminum frame.  Though initial startup had me worried, I was pleased to notice that the vibration was not a problem for me in the 20- to 30-minute runs I used for testing.  Switching to the rubber-mounted triple seemed to be enough at this stage.

The second minor point of notice was the ergo package with the CR-High bend bars.  These felt WAY too low when standing.  Of course, I was “old-man standing” like a trials rider rather than an attack-crouch motocross rider.  Regardless, a higher-profile bar hit the must-have list…glad I purchased cheap bars and grips to test with.

The suspension was a victory of sorts.  I intentionally left all damping fully backed out, so I could evaluate just spring rates.  The bike never bottomed and behaved far better than it should have.  The shock was pure pogo-stick action…a rebuild was in order.

This led to a general issue regarding handling that I’ll need to spend time pinning down.  The front-end on the bike was the equivalent of reading a speech after having Novocain…you just had to trust that things would come out.  There was no sense of feedback from the front-end at all…I mean zero feel.  It jumped out of a line once, but this was with an older, overweight, stale-skilled rider on a new bike in loose, grapefruit-sized rocks.  My hope is that getting the rear rebuilt, setting sag properly and having the damping properly dialed in will help greatly, as will lowering air pressure in that front tire to assist with a bit more grab.

Gearing was fine…I found I had no issues with running out of top-end.  The more technical kind of riding I’m doing, and the more relaxed pace at which I’ll be riding (not racing) felt just fine with the bike.  All shifts were drama-free.

Braking was also drama-free, though the rear pedal setup was not to my liking.  The rear brake was a light-switch to locking with the pedal in stock-height position.  Lowering that pedal position is a requirement, and I almost wish I could lighten the ratio a bit to get a more progressive application.  That could have also been the stale rider with stiff boots, so no points lost there.

Motor power was entertaining.  I really liked the character of the mill.  This was with atrocious jetting.  Splooge was everywhere on the back of the bike.  It smoked horribly, even when running 50:1 with Amsoil Dominator.  It had a horrible stumble before cleaning out on top, which was bad enough to feel like ring flutter, though I knew it wasn’t.  Given the unsupported state of the PJ carb, I knew I had to give in and purchase either the Lectron or a new, properly set-up, Keihin PWK Air Stryker unit.

A flywheel weight was absolutely ruled out for two reasons.  The first is that I loved the nature of the motor so much that I’d hate to kill that free-revving character with fourteen ounces of steel added to the crankshaft.  Yes, I did stall the bike twice (recovered once by dumping the clutch while rolling…easy bump-start with no lost momentum), but there are other remedies to that…which I had the pleasure of experiencing on that 200 EXC.

Though the goal was to not go nuts on this bike, I have found my first truly large-scale expenditure I must indulge.  The KTM had a Rekluse Core auto-clutch.  All I can say is that is was like cheating.  With that clutch to eliminate the stall risk, and the ability to still stab at the lever if I wish to spin up the mill, spirited (but not competitive) riding became far easier.  The Rekluse will allow me to keep the free-revving nature of the motor while doing everything I would have attempted with the flywheel weight.

On other fronts, I was able to stop worrying about the cooling situation.  We were out on a 100-degree day and the CR never even got close to overheating.  I’ll never work this bike hard enough with my preference for 80%-max “flow-riding” to worry about aftermarket impellers, thicker radiators or any other gimmicks.  There was huge relief with that knowledge.

Given what the outcomes could have been, this first shakedown run was a delight.  The list of must-do items has dropped radically, though the budget has just been blown wide open.  Such is always the case with bikes like these.


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