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First Real Ride on XR400 (Long)

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I bought my XR400 about 6 weeks ago but haven't ridden it much. Either it was rainy, or I was working on it, or something. I didn't mind, because I like working on it. But after I cleaned it up, lubed and adjusted the chain, changed the oil and filter, cleaned and oiled the air filter, added an ATK speedo, Acerbis handguards, new grips, made a license plate bracket and modded the tail light into a brake light, I got antsy. I rode it a little on the road and in some fields and construction sites near the house but that just whetted my appetite. I wanted some action, and I wanted it now!

The urge to ride the XR the way it's meant to be ridden was strong. I have street bikes, and ride gravel roads now and then, but they don't feel anything like the XR. It just has tons of potential and ability and I wanted to see what all the buzz was about, first hand. Also, I wanted to see what I was capable of; could I handle the beast and bend it to my will?

So, I got a hitch put on my car and bought a MotoJackRack. (Uh, that didn't work out because the hitch is too low and my car's suspension is too soft).

I couldn't wait any longer. I had to ride. So, I rode the XR to a local MX track Sunday. It's only 14 miles away, and my XR is legal enough to get there without getting me pulled over. I wore MX pants and jersey under my street riding suit and my wife followed in the car with the rest of the off-road gear.

Once I got geared up, all of which is new and foreign to me, I was set. The track has 3 sections, according to ability. But first I wanted to get used to the local dirt. So, I rode around and found some huge piles of hard dirt where you can practice hill climbing.

I loved hill climbing on my brother's 200cc Triumph Mountain Cub back when I was a teenager (in the 1960s), so I started there. I'd read that you put your weight on the tank for the climb, and way back for the descent. Seemed counter-intuitive, but I gave it a try on the smaller hills and whattayaknow? Wow, that movin around stuff really works! I ran up and over those little hills a few more times while more experienced riders lapped me and did jumps and stunts over the same hills. Hmmm, I kinda remember getting some air as a kid . . .

There's one huge hill there that you can climb too. Doesn't look too bad from a distance but, up close, &%$#@!! Are you kidding? I couldn't climb up that hill with cramp-ons and an ice axe. But, there was one stunter that was not only climbing it, he was doing huge jumps off the top and landing them really well. So, I got up my nerve, lined up the XR and went for it.

As I neared the hill I thought I was about to hit a wall - there was no way I was going to get up that hill on my bike. I actually slowed down some. I was at the point of no return and . . . time seemed to slow down. I can remember every inch of the climb up. The XR went straight up that hill like it was nothing. Nothing, I say! I can't believe the torque the XR has. I made it to the top, trying to keep my speed down so I wouldn't launch off the other side. I didn't have time to feel all proud and butch because I had to get down. Damn, the down side is just as steep, and I really wanted to get down riding the bike and not vice versa. I slid way back on the seat, and before you can say "ohshitwhatthef*ckwasIthinking" I was jouncing along at the base of the hill, trying to avoid the giant mud pit at the bottom.

I climbed the big hill once more, and did the little hills a couple more times before deciding it was time to conquer the track.

Next installment: "The Challenge of the PeeWee and Beginner Course."

Larry

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GREAT read larry,,, im in the same boat as you,, ive just purchased a xr400 2002 model and im hanging to get it out in the dirt but i need a bit more gear,,A helmet for instance :-),, been up and down the backyard a few times but now im just drooling at the thought of hitting some dirt.

Looking forward to reading more on your adventure

Cheers Marty

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Nice read! Makes me remember the first time I took my XR out for a day's ride. If you take care of your bike it will take care of you two fold! :cry:

You didn't crash going down that hill did you?

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...."ohshitwhatthef*ckwasIthinking".....

Oh man, that part brings back many a fond memory....

,,,,of terror :cry:

Great write up and I wish you and the bike many more great discoveries.

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In St. Louis, Edmonds is getting a hero medal with his steak dinner right now. Too bad that wasn't the 7th game of the NLCS; it'd be cool to see two 7th games in one night. Now its the first inning of the Yankees/Bosox game, and the Yankee pitcher can't seem to control his breathing. He's sweating, but it's only 49 degrees out. Speaking of hero medals, Ortiz just hit another homer. Damn, all this BBall is keeping me from doing maintenance on the XR so I can get back out there this weekend.

Not that I'm totally healed up from last weekend.

There's a pretty long dirt road to the hill climb area and the first half is in good shape. I saw a Yamaha rider doing huge wheelies nearly the whole length of that stretch. Having successfully conquered the big mud hill, I was feeling pretty mega, so I decided to do some wheelie practice. A power wheelie in first didn't work; the XR just kicked up a lot of dirt without a hint of lift. Shooting a big stream of dirt is cool on a bike, though. Next, I tried bouncing up a wheelie. Accelerate in second, quickly back off compressing the front shocks, hit the gas and pull. Unh unh, nothing. Hmm, try combining that with hitting a rut for added bounce. Nope. Should I clutch up a wheelie? Wouldn't that just throw up more roost? Too late, I'm out of road and back in a parking area among cars, trucks, trailers, bikes, and people in ridng gear, all of whom can do wheelies better than me. I can think of better places to practice wheelies than in front of this crowd.

I ride up to the advanced course and watch these young kids doing huge jumps, really high and long, one after another, like a continuous, meandering moto-ballet. Elegant and effortless, like the grand slam that Damon just hit. 6-0, go Bosox! How the heck do they keep their feet on the pegs? Doesn't shock-rebound kick their feet off? I could see myself out there: first jump, feet fly up, awkward handstand on the bars, feet flailing around. Erm, I'd like to find a reason, other than my complete lack of skill and experience, why I should not try the advanced course. Why do I need a reason? It's embarassing to be a total idiot. At my age. Especially when it comes to motorcycles. Think . . .

Hey, none of those guys are riding XRs! I really couldn't tell for sure, but I was anxious to ride so a flimsy excuse would have to do.

I stopped for a drink of water and asked the guy next to me if the PeeWee and Beginner Course was off-limits to full-grown mid life crisis victims. He had two kids out there, so I wouldn't blame him for telling me to go to the advanced course. But surprisingly, he said sure, go for it. So, I jumped in.

Right off the bat there is a big bermed left/right. I had no idea what to do. I'd seen guys get up on the banks and spray dirt, but how did they do that? Oh well, just ride the first lap and sight see. Next there's a rutted area, a small table top, a bermed right/straight/right, whoops, a big right, a hillcrest with ruts on top and after, left, big whoops that were really difficult, a bigger table top, big left and another table top. Hmmm, I made it. This course is longer than it looks. So, let's pick up the pace.

Damon hits another homer, and its 8-1 Boston. I forgive him for getting thrown out at home. Life is soo good.

I pick up the pace and hit the berms with some gusto. Don't get very high on them, but I do stick my foot out. Need more speed. Hey, this table looks steeper at this speed, gotta get off the seat. I'm getting passed by 7 year olds on 2 smokes. I decide to pace this one kid. He's amazing. Jumps up high, clears the top, lands and bounces twice, right and left, straightens out and speeds up. Cool! He delays his next turn-in, then slides around the corner spraying dirt. Way cool! I'm keeping his pace, but I'm not getting any air or slide. Big ol' rider on a big ol' bike, go figure.

More laps, try getting air, approach table, speed up, shift weight back, pull on bars, hey, I musta got 6" on that one! And I still can't keep my feet on the pegs.

Keep speeding up, pass some 7 year olds, hit the big berm higher up, spin the rear wheel, lean farther and farther and slide - along the ground. Right in front of my wife. I'm up on all fours when a little kid stops and asks if I'm OK. I feel like a beached whale, embarassed but unhurt. At least, I'd be embarrassed if I were a beached whale. The bike is scuffed a bit but OK, except the left Acerbis hand guard is pushed up. I ride back to the car and get water while I adjust the hand guard. Gotta tighten those guards. The pads really worked, though. No pain.

Back on the course, keep a good pace, avoid the adult on a PW-50 with training wheels (!), try to get air. Wow, whoops are hard! About 5 - 6 laps in, I'm back at the big left and lose the front end. Ouch! My left leg is wrenched out and up. My knee feels weak and is burning. I get up slowly, get the bike up, and gently push it off the course. It's hard to kick start with a numb left leg. The XR fires right up and I ride to the wife. I rode to the course, so I'd better get home before my knee swells and locks up. BTDT. Get the pads off, I'm fine except for a twisted knee and something that looks like a rug burn next to my knee. The guy next to us tells me I should probably lower the air pressure in my tires. Good advice - I'm at 15#! I get going.

Next installment, "Epiphany."

Larry

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Hey guys, thanks for the responses. Sorry I didn't get around to answering your questions earlier.

Martymonster, you are going to love riding the XR out in the world. Get a helmet and proper boots and gear and get to a track as soon as possible. I can't describe how much fun that is.

CoreyClough, nope I didn't crash going down the hill. A lot pf people do crash there, though, including one guy who did yesterday. Not to severe, thank goodness.

drtbkr, yep, I'm talking about Watkins and the dirt hills are at the NE corner. The sure looked a lot smaller yesterday. Did it rain last week? Yeah, that must be it.

BCRider, thanks a lot. I'm sure this bike (and dirt riding in general) will offer up a lot more moments like that. You sure think fast at times like that, though.

My third and final installment is at this link, if you're still reading. Larry

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