Monday, December 31, 2012

BAM!  Mmmm that orange Kool-Aid is goo-ooo-ooooood.  My new-to-me 2007 KTM 450EXC!

Yeah okay so my last post said that this bike was my runner-up and I was gonna hold out for a 525.  That was before I talked with several riding mates (big shout out to all the guys at District-37!).  So yeah the consensus was that this looked like a clean bike for a decent price, and had some nice mods that I'd want to do right away anyway.  I found a few 525's but they weren't as nicely equiped and most seemed to be in some state of repair. 

The folks I talked to said that the 450 was plenty of power, especially coming off an XR.  Also, and this was what sold me, its not terribly expensive to change the 450 into a 525 if I ever feel the need.  The bike is pretty clean, although the plastics have some decent wear from your usual dirt spills.  They're fine for now, but I might eventually pick up a set of street plastics and keep these for off road use.

So on delivery it has: 
FMF Powercore silencer, Scotts steering stabilizer, Clarke 3.2 gallon tank, extra high cushion Enduro Engineering seat, Enduro Engineering aluminum skid plate, Baja Designs blinker/headlight control switch, Promoto kick stand, Fastway adjustable extra wide foot pegs, Z Racing tuned and jetted, Clean Racing valved tuned forks/shock. 1 ride on new Dunlop tires, heavy duty tubes.
Not too shabby!  The tires aren't DOT so those will go.  I'll swap em to Tubeliss again of course.  The previous owner ran it without mirrors usually but included the stock ones.  I put my Doubletake mirrors on as soon as I got it home.  I'll need to pick up a different ram ball mount to get them where I want but that's easy enough.  Anyway all in all a nice find and I'm excited for the new project.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 30, 2012


     The XR is no more.  That was a damn good bike and I'm really hoping I didn't make a huge mistake in selling it.  I keep telling myself that I can always build another one - those XR400's aren't exactly rare, even with Ca plates.

     So now begins the dash to find a suitable KTM to replace it with.  My preference is for a 2007 525EXC, although a 450 would easily suffice, as would the same bikes in the 2004 year.  Why only those 4 bikes?  KTM made some nice upgrades to EXC line with the 2004 bikes, so I don't want anything older than that.  After January 31st 2004, California made it illegal to plate dirt bikes, so I can't go with the 05 or 06 models.  In 2007 however, these models came street legal from the factory, which is a nice selling point, plus it saves me some time of having to run registration history reports.  In 2008, KTM switched from the RFS to the R engine, a poor move from what I've read.
     So having a narrow search parameter can be both good and bad.  There's a nice 07 450 that has most of the mods I'd like to do already installed, but its at the top end of what I would consider a fair price and is lacking one of the major mods I'd like (a $500 oil cooler).  While I'm tempted to jump on this bike, my gut is telling me to wait a few days to see if a nice 525 pops up.  I know I don't need the extra power, but I've read that the 525 has a bit more low end grunt, which is great for those slower, more technical climbs.  Plus one of the things that I hated on my 400 was any freeway.  While it would do em, it just felt like I was buzzing my engine to death at those speeds.  Both of the KTM's have a 6 speed tranny so that should alleviate most of that issue, but while I know that the 525 will handle a freeway with relative ease, I'm not as confident about the 450.  While I don't think you should buy a dual sport based on its freeway handling characteristics, it certainly is something to consider.  Given that both bikes are almost identical except for displacement, why not get the one that has that extra go-anywhere factor?

     So that's it then.  A 2007 525EXC, unless a 450 pops up for the right money or I can't find anything else in which case I'll grab that 450 I already found and drop the extra $500 for the oil cooler.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


DNF, or Did Not Finish.  That was my 1st LAB2V.  I am, of course, disappointed, but really it was as gentle of a DNF as I could possibly have.

Day 1 went well enough.  I had a flat on my front tire after only about 40 miles in.  With the Tubeliss, this just meant I lost 15 minutes while I plugged the hole and stripped off several layers of clothing as the temperature was already starting to climb.  I took it pretty easy all day, knowing that I had 280 miles to do the next morning.  Had one dismount late in the day.  No biggie, I was getting kinda lazy and didn't really notice how deep the sand berm was on the side of the trail.  I dropped off some rocks and let the bike drift into the sand and out went the front tire from under me.  Got to Barstow with plenty of daylight to spare.  All said, 215 miles, 62.7 max speed, 7h 8m moving time, 9h 39m overall time, and 30.1mph average speed.  Not too shabby considering half the route had a 30mph speed limit due to it being a desert tortoise habitat area.

Speaking of that speed limit.  I seriously felt like I was the only one actually adhering to it.  Both days I'd be cruising along at 30 and I'd have bike after bike go flying past me.  I honestly felt like I should be wearing a traffic cone on my head given what a hazard I was at that speed.  Pissed me off too.  I'd really like to do this ride with my kid in 14 years, and with all these yahoo's ignoring BLM requirements for this ride, I just don't know how they'll keep granting us access.  I kept thinking; its a flat, wide open dirt road, and 499 other riders participating in this event are just as "skilled" to ride it at 45.  The only reason I'm not is because the event organizers specifically told us that breaking this speed limit is the #1 way we're going to lose our permits next year.  Best of all, without fail I'd catch up and pass every single person that blew by me when they stopped for a break and I didn't.  5 minutes later I'd be choking on their dust again as they flew passed me - still in the tortoise area.  Dumb.

Anyway day 2 started off decent enough.  Very dusty and sandy as we rode from 1 sand wash to another.  Everything was fine and we finally got out of tortoise territory (and out of the sand washes yay!) when I had a massive blowout on my front tire.  Pulled over to find a 3/4" gash in my tire.  Well. Shit. On. Me.  I considered my options.  The tubeliss was useless.  I could try to plug the hole with multiple plugs but knew I wouldn't be able to maintain any sort of pressure for very long.  I could try a tube, but honestly with a hole that big I knew that the tube wouldn't last long.  I had just dropped out of the mountains and was only a mile or so from the 40 freeway so running a tube was likely to just get me further from rescue before it failed.  I was bummed but I called my support crew back home and told them to come get me.  I'd try to do what repairs I could and see if I could get the 38 miles back to Barstow via the road. 

Several plugs later I had a tire that actually held air better than expected.  It leaked like a sieve until about 7psi but then it slowed to a rate that actually allowed several miles between inflation stops.  I limped along like that down to Route 66 and took that back into Barstow.  Once there, I pulled into the nearest dealership and bought a new tire and got it all installed while waiting for the wife to show up with the truck.  My hope at this point was to try to drive to Sandy Valley and rejoin the ride before sweep pulled out of there at 3pm.  She arrived, we loaded up and hit the road as fast as we dared.  Unfortunately, at 3pm we were still some 30 miles from Sandy Valley.  Damn.  Not wanting to risk being stuck out in the desert at night and with no support, I decided that my day was done and I'd do the safe thing and just finish the trip to Vegas in the truck.  It wasn't an easy drive.

So yeah, I am disappoint.  But to be fair, there were several lucky aspects to my breakdown.  For starters, I didn't crash when it blew out.  Also the bike was repaired and ready to finish the ride the same day, and would have if we were 40 minutes faster.  Also, if you're going to break down on a ride like that, you have to consider yourself pretty lucky when it happens so close to a major paved road.  My support team came through for me.  Not just my wife who drove out to get me but my parents who took my kid so that we didn't have to attempt all of this with a 2 year old in tow. 

So yeah I'm thankful that it happened like it did, but still wish it hadn't happened at all.  Next year I'm hoping that the offspring will be old enough that my wife can drive the truck out to Barstow on day 1, thereby being in the area if I have an issue.  Plan A is to have things like spare tires on hand in the truck.  Plan B is to just have another bike ready to go, and I'll just swap my rider number onto that and keep going if there's an issue with bike #1.  Either way, I hope the 30th annual LAB2V is my first one to finish.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Last Minute LAB2V Work

     It's finally here!  I read about the LAB2V back in July of last year but I just couldn't gather up the funds needed to make it happen in 2011.  So for the last year or so I've been prepping my bike for longer excursions away from potential rescue.  While the LAB2V isn't exactly isolated from rescue, it is 500 off road miles over desert terrain and I really don't want to break down.  I've spent too much effort on this ride to bail out 20 miles in on day 1.
     Well since I'm planning on selling the XR after this ride, I really tried to not spend money on parts that I can't put on my next bike.  In some cases, like grip heaters and a new 18" wheel, I failed miserably.  In others, like new off road lighting and Cycra handguards I did quite well.
     Also as a side note.  I sold the DR200SE.  The wife never put the time in to learn how to ride it and so she was never comfortable with it.  I broke even so at least it was a free test to see if the dual sport bug would bite her.  Going to hang onto the money and put it towards the purchase of the KTM when somebody buys the XR.  Yep, I put it back on the market for $4500 - a pretty fair deal when you figure that's about the cost of just the aftermarket parts it has on there.  Buy the accessories, get an XR for free?  Plus this is California where a plate adds $1000 to the value of the bike.  I've seen plenty of clean but stock XR's being sold for $3000+ with a plate out here.

Just some overall pics of where the bike is today since I tend to swap things around a lot.

Couple pics of the engine bay.  Finally cleaned up the oil filter plate, plan to do the stator and clutch covers as well after the ride.

Finally!  Everyone raves about these Pirelli MT-43's for dual sport use.  My 19" wheel always limited me but a new wheel fixed that.

Only reason I snagged these Cycra Pro Bend handguards is because I plan to put them on my next bike.  Way too spendy for handguards in my opinion and they don't fit nearly as well on this bike as my Uniko's.  I just wanted the lever protection for the ride and when I swap to the KTM hydraulic clutch I'll really need to run them.  The Uniko's do a fine job for bug and gravel deflection, they just don't do anything for crashes.
Had to move the blinkers for the new lights.  I'm not crazy about their placement.  I found some nice LED blinkers that mount to the handguards so I'll be replacing those soon.


Rigid LED lights in spot and flood.  They're a seriously nice upgrade over the Cyclops but not DOT approved for on road use.  Another mod I'll be removing right after the ride so the wiring is all just sort of wedged behind the headlight.

My dash as it stands now.  Swapped the CR-High bend bars for the slightly higher Windham bend to make riding while standing more comfortable.  I mounted the switches for the 2 LED lights and the grip heater hi/low switch up here as a temporary solution.  Actually I really like them there and think that's where I'll keep em.  Very convenient location and looks good too.  You can also see my twisted strand grip heater wires which are just sort of laying across the triple.  I'm planning to completely gut the electrical in the very near future because I'm getting more and more of these semi-temporary electrical solutions.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ogio Flight Vest Review

    I got my flight vest a month ago and feel like I've gotten enough use out of it to properly give it a review.

     This is my vest in its ready state (minus water).  It may not look like much but I've got every tool I need for any trail repairs, a decent 1st aid kit, a 70 ounce water bladder, and my SPOT beacon all balanced out in those pockets.  To protect the vest from vibrating tools poking holes, I picked up some Husky tool organizer pouches from Home Depot ($10 for a 3-pack).  That first picture shows the two smallest pouches.  All of my tire repair items have a permanent home in my fender pack so those aren't included, however there is room if I wanted to move them to the vest.

     I'll admit the vest is not light and I can definitely feel it while I'm riding, but its 1000x better than even the best backpack.  I wear it over my chest protector which further helps to distribute the weight and has the added benefit of increasing airflow under the vest.  Having the piece of mind that I can remove any bolt on my bike is definitely nice and this is definitely the way to go if you want to ride far from camp and be prepared to get back on your own.

The negatives:

-Only one pouch has any sort of tool organization and its not particularly reinforced.  Using the cheap Husky bags is pretty much a requirement if you don't want your tools poking holes in this thing.

-The water bladder isn't the best.  70 ounces goes pretty fast, although there's probably room for at least a 100 ounce.  Also the bite valve is kind of a pain.  You have to bite way too hard and you really don't get the kind of flow that you see with many of the other bite valves.  Both of these issues I consider minor since you can easily replace the bladder and/or bite valve.

     All in all, I'd rate this a 9.8/10 and would highly recommend it to anyone that usually rides with a backpack.  Seriously this thing is golden.  Plus it costs about the same as a backpack of decent quality. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

For Sale (2.0)

     With no luck on selling the XR before the LAB2V, I turned my attention to the lonely DR.  Sadly my wife just hasn't developed the desire to learn to ride on two wheels.  She says its still too heavy and too tall - both of which are going to be true if you've only got 4 hours of cumulative riding time on the bike since we bought it 7 months ago.  Ironically with my 10 minute rides once per week to keep it running smooth I think I've got just as much time on the seat as she does.  I can't find a lighter or shorter alternative so looks like this endeavor was a bust.  Anyway its been a nice little bike, let the Craigslist lowball offers ensue!
7 months, 49 miles, and $450 worth of upgrades

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lighting Upgraded

     I had a couple of good nibbles on the 400 and really thought it might sell but it didn't.  Its getting too close to Los Coyotes, LAB2V, etc. so the ads are down for now and its time to work on the finishing touches.

     I'm hoping that I don't have to ride after sunset at all but its better to be prepared.  My DOT legal Cyclops headlight is great for road use, but not terribly good offroad unless you're going really slow.  Been sitting on a couple Rigid LED's waiting to see which bike they were going on.  Wiring is still a little temporary and I don't like how the blinkers sit so that will be addressed but I wanted to see how they worked.  1 spot, 1 flood, 1 hell of a lot more light!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

For Sale

Despite the claims from friends that I'm an idiot, I actually put my beloved 400 up for sale.  Based on the decent 400's I've seen on Craigslist, it would cost about $6000 to get one of those and duplicate my bike.  Even then that wouldn't include the custom parts I machined or the endless hours of cleaning, powder coating, painting, and polishing.  So an asking price of $4900 seemed fair.  I've seen similar 400's sold for around that price so it seems about right.  Plus I've gotten a few nibbles so we'll see.  I've got the LA > Barstow to Vegas ride coming up in November so I'll definitely have to pull the ad down sometime in early October.  Last thing I want to risk is having a new bike to tweak and figure out during that ride.  But who knows?  Might actually sell it in the next couple weeks and then I'll be scrambling to find a suitable replacement and get it tuned to my riding.

Why sell it?  Well to be honest because I'm running out of things to do to it.  Fixing bikes up is my hobby and at some point you start to discover yourself dreaming up goofy things that you can do just so you have a next project.  I can't even rely on this bike to break down properly since it just runs and runs and runs.  I'm in no hurry to sell it and to be honest I wouldn't be the least bit upset if I don't get any offers.  I'm not going to budge on the price since the plan is to replace it with a KTM (Keep Throwing Money) and start pimping that out.  Those KTM's aren't cheap to buy and then they just get more expensive from there!  I figure if there's somebody out there that wants a great turn-key bike that's bulletproof, gets a lot of attention, and won't need anything but oil changes and 5 minute valve adjustments for the next decade or so, then this is their bike.  If not, then I expect that my 2 year old will be riding this for his DMV motorcycle test - probably on the same piston that's in there now.

Monday, August 20, 2012

XR400 Specifications

Having received a request to name some specific parts on my XR400R, I not-so-quickly realized that my quick solution to link the curious party to this blog wouldn't work.  Turns out I never actually listed any specific parts on here.  I suck, I know.  All 379 people that have somehow mislinked themselves down a long road of google images, finally arriving on this page can now commence with the stoning.

I'm intentionally leaving out the vendors where I purchased these items except in cases where I only know of one place that has them.  If for some reason google has failed you and you just can't find one of these parts, shoot me a message.

Cockpit (not counting fork conversion):

-ProTaper Evo 1 1/8" handlebars CR-High Bend (looking back the Windham MX/RM bend would have been better for my 6' frame as these are a tiny bit too low).

ProTaper Metal Mullisha Grips

-Doubletake RAM mount mirrors 

-MSR Roll Chart Holder

-Garmin GPSmap 76Cx with RAM mount, 12v adapter, and cradle (Not for sale btw.  It's cheap and easily replaceable but would be annoying to lose my waypoints and routes)

Trailtech Vapor Speedometer/Computer with billet mount.

-ProCycle Mini handlebar combination switch, ignition key switch, 12v horn (behind headlight)

-Acerbis Cyclops Headlight

-Acerbis Uniko Vented Handguards

-MSR Grip Lever Set Black (1996 XR400)

-Tusk billet fuel cap

-Clarke 3.8 gallon XR400 fuel tank w/ petcock

CRF450 Fork Conversion:

-Total cost was about $600.  Emig pressed the new stem into the CRF Triple so only work I did was the assembly.  Took about an hour once I had all the parts.

-2008 CRF450 Triple clamps (top and bottom), and fork tubes

-2004 CRF450 front wheel

-2004 CR250 front brake caliper (bolt spacing changed in 2004+, otherwise the stock XR caliper would have worked)

-Emig Racing XR400 conversion stem with bore bushing

-Polisport lower fork protectors

-Acerbis CRF450 front fender (trimmed in rear to clear frame)
   *In earlier pics you'll see I had the Acerbis Supermoto Fender.  I never got used to its 17" wheel curve so I swapped it out.


-Polisport side panels and rear fender

-Random $5 MSR fanny pack from a bike show that I made into a fender bag

-LED tail light assembly - came with the bike

-Scotts Shark Fin rear brake guard

-Tusk mini stalk turn signals

-Aluminum bash plate from unknown manufacturer 

-Luggage:  Wolfman E-12 Enduro Saddle Bags (side bags), Wolfman Enduro Duffle (on top of saddle bags), Tusk Tank Bag (modified with microfiber liner sewn on - needs a bottom strap to really be useful).  These are also not included if I sell the XR.  They're universal fit so they'll be going on my next bike.


-Rear econo hub and CACR wheel from RadMFG.  (Don't be dumb and order a 19" like I did thereby limiting your DOT tire selection considerably.  If you run offroad tires it really doesn't matter.)

-Tubeliss front and rear

-Revalved/resprung for my weight

-Pirelli MT-21 rear, Dunlop D606 front

-Scotts chain guide

-15/40 Drive Street

-14/40 Drive Dirt


-FMF Q4 Exhaust

-Kibblewhite valves and springs

-Stock compression, 1 over stock Wiseco piston

-Mikuni pumper carb from XR's Only

-Uni Filter

-NGK Iridium DPR8EIX-9 spark plug (The pumper carb gave me 1-kick starts 95% of the time, this bumped it up to 99%)

-Ricky Stator 200w stator converted to DC with battery located under the fuel tank.

XR's Only front sprocket cover with a custom teflon case saver made by me.

Tusk folding shift lever (not shown in below pic)

-Black highlights are done with a light coat of Engine Enamel paint

Older pic but I seem to be lacking a good view of the left engine case.

Monday, June 11, 2012

DR Diet

Not really keen to write a whole 'How to change your handlebars' thread so I'll just say that I'm trying to drop some weight off that pig of a bike, DR.  Figured the handlebars and battery were a good place to start since they're both heavy and they're both above the center of gravity.  Plus I'm sure the rotation of the heavy bars verses light bars must have some sort of gyroscopic coefficient.

Update:  I've had a few people ask if the new bars increase the vibration since the stock bars have weighted ends.  I'm happy to say that if anything I think that there's less bar vibration.  Those Pro Tapers are pretty springy so I think that actually works to dampen some of those vibrations.  All in all both mods were great with no downsides to report about either.  Battery has had zero issues and I haven't even bothered with a tender. 

Stock vs. Pro Taper Evo handlebars = 0.75lb saved

Conventional lead/acid vs. Ballistic Evo2 battery = 4.125lbs saved:


Foam needed to retain battery strap:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just some new pics

God I hate changing tires.  Especially when you have two new tires to deal with.  That POS Shinko didn't want to come off the rim but eventually I won the battle.  New shoe is a 120/80x19 Pirelli MT21 Rallycross.  Back to the traditional knobbie, albeit DOT legal - I just hope it lasts longer.

Since the weather was overcast and I haven't washed the bike since before I got caught in a deluge last week I decided that it would be a less-than-ideal time to snap some new pictures.  That storm also made me realize that I desperately need some rain gear before the LAB2V ride in November.

The tank bag is new.  $16 at RMATV.  Part of the money left over after they graciously accepted my Wrigley's Shinko.  Haven't tried it yet although I'm nervous the cordura nylon underside is going to scratch up the tank.  Might see if I can sew a piece of microfiber on there.

I also finally got around to picking up spares for my clutch, brake, and shift levers.  Of course the new ones were much nicer looking than the old ones so the old ones are the new spares.

My DIY 'Honda Wing' graphics are bubbling bad so that idea was a bust.  I wasn't really going to mention my brilliant idea of buying sheet vinyl unless it worked.  I'm out $14 but I can salvage that a bit by making a few trim pieces that won't be on the tank.  Really though, I just need to find some clean and simple graphics that don't cost $200.  Seriously who pays that kind of money for stickers?  Plus finding graphics that aren't full of neon swooshes, dice, skulls, flames, half naked demon chicks, etc. is actually rather difficult.

MX aftermarket graphic design seems to be stuck in 1984.  I can't grow a mullet so there's no way I can put those graphics on my bike and look the part.  Why do we even have decibel limits on our exhausts when you can't hear them over the obnoxious sticker kits anyway?

I also realized that I don't have any pics of my cockpit with the GPS mounted.  It's a Garmin 76Cx which is pretty much the standard GPS of the dual sport community.  Seriously don't mess around with other GPS's - just get one of these.  They're cheap and since everyone has one, getting help or just handing them to the ride organizers to upload your route for the day becomes so much simpler.  It's mounted using a U-bolt Ram mount.  The arm is placed as close to perpendicular to the forks as I could get to dampen vibration.  Unfortunately I thought it would be clever to make a stupid face in the mirror.  Just ignore the douche making kissy faces...

All the crap with the tire made me forget about painting my clutch and stator covers during this last oil change.  So it'll have to wait until next time.  Also barely visible in this pic is my custom made prototype teflon case saver.  Its mounted behind the XRs Only front sprocket cover.  

Last but not least this blog will finally get a ride report I think.  Got the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Ride For Kids this Sunday.  Can't wait!  Should be good times for a good cause.