XR600 Dualsport Project bike: Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun  

By Tom Niemela

[Note: This article was originally written in April 1995, but has had numerous requests, so here it is again.]

            Maybe Iím a fickle breed, but Iíve been wanting to make a custom dualsport bike for years.  Over the years Iíve had many types and flavors of dualsport bikes, but was never completely satisfied with what the factories were offering to the buying public.  Heck, I even cut my teeth on one of the pioneer dualsport bikes: the Yamaha DT-1 250 Enduro.  Dualsport bikes typically got five year old (or more) technology and an apathetic interest from the factory R&D departments.  They were usually overweight and undersprung rides that were only meant for modest off-road excursions. 

            Suzuki took a giant leap forward for dualsporting by producing the popular DR350 and people swallowed them up.  But they were still rather heavy and didnít have the amenities that the serious off-roader craved.  Many moons ago, I remember taking my old DT-1 and removing the blinkers and mirrors and racing the thing on weekends.  Then Iíd go home, bolt everything back on and ride it to work or school.  Bikes werenít as specialized as they are today.  I knew that my ideal dualsport bike would have to be similar to my old DT-1: street legal, but completely race worthy if I ever wanted to do some serious thrashing. 

            So I pondered this idea with many riding friends and the Honda XR600 repeatedly was the bike that was suggested as the bike of choice.  Bottom line: I wanted a full-tilt race machine and then make it street legal.  Scott Summers rails on his XR in an exhilarating display of determination, skill and manliness.  There are a few companies out there that can make the XR street legal, but the most popular appeared to be the Baja Designs kit.  So after many phone calls, barley pops, and discussions with any and all four-stroke gods that I could think of, my plan was started.

            First was the bottom line: cost.  The mods that I wanted to make would not be cheap, so I decided to go on a quest for a used XR.  My checkbook would not allow me to spring for a new XR and then lay down greenbacks for mods.  The XR gods all said to get a Ď91 or newer, since it incorporated the cartridge fork and rear disk brake.  This was one of the hardest parts: finding one of the beasts.  It seems that people that buy one of the mighty XRís donít generally let go of them for many years because they are as reliable as a brick and are as fun to ride as the Log Jam at Knottsberry Farm.  After many, many phone calls through the want ads and rumor mills, I finally found a ďslightly usedĒ one at Taylor Motorcycles in Woodburn, Oregon.  It had belonged to Dave Morton, who was the parts manager for Taylor Motorcycles.  Dave said with a grin that it was ďonly ridden on SundaysĒ, but I knew that his past Sunday rides consisted of a few national ISDE qualifiers, so the XR had definitely been broken in.  I had also met the owner of the shop, John Taylor, at a dualsport event earlier last year and he also had a love for dualsporting along with being quite knowledgeable about them.  Daveís bike already came with a few additions that made this project easier.  He had installed a Scottís steering dampener, a rear disc guard and it was already licensed.

            Now I was getting somewhere!

Creature Comforts

            With Dave and Johnís knowledge and help, the first thing I did was send the boingers to Race Tech for revalving and heavier springs, since Iím in the 200+ Club.  The stock springs work fine for a 160 pound rider, but I wanted ample clearance and support, especially if I ever wanted to race the bike.  As with all my bikes, I ordered a one-inch taller seat from Ceet Racing and tall CR bend OíNeal IFS bars.  A set of Thumper Racingís Burly Pegs were also installed to accommodate my size 11ís.  Now the bike was starting to fit my six-foot frame. 

Legal Eagle

            The Baja Designs Kit was ordered along with the stator rewind option that they  offer.  Stock, the stator puts about 35 watts of juice and BD can rewind the stator to allow it to produce a whopping 100 watts.  This mod would make it the ultimate nighttime machine.  You could even mount extra lights if you wanted to get that brighter light source for the evening Teepee Runs.  The BD Kit includes excellent instructions and the entire kit installs easy even if you donít have a degree in Electrical Engineering!  Itís basically plug-and-play and all components are of high quality.  I also ordered smaller blinkers from Lockhart to replace the larger ones in the BD Kit.  They went on easily and worked functionally. 

Protect That Puppy!

            Then, since the plastic looked aesthetically like Dave had raced it through a wire brush factory, all new Maier plastic was ordered to make the bike look like new again.  This included fenders, side panels, fork/disk guard and hand guards.  Aluminum handguards from Lockhart/Phillips protected the new bars, levers and my greasy paws and  the smaller Maier plastic guards were bolted onto them.  An island-sized aluminum skidplate from Steahly Off-Road Products was ordered to protect the delicate underbelly of the bike.  Also from Steahly was a sturdier aluminum chainguide to protect the beefy RK SMO O-ring  chain matched to the Titan Tough Sprockets from Sprocket Specialists.  A set of heavy-duty tubes were mated to a pair of Pirelli MT21 bumpy tires on each end and then balanced.  These tires are quite aggressive, yet DOT legal.  A sturdy, IMS folding shift lever was installed to replace the clapped out stocker.  A large Ceet tank decal was ordered to protect the tank from scuffing by my knees and added aesthetics to the scoot.  A tubular dash guard from Lockhart was installed to protect the dash equipment and a Maier headlight lens guard was installed.

More Mods

            The stock gas tank will allow you to go about 80 - 100 miles, so a larger four-gallon IMS tank was ordered.  This tank has a nice fit on the bike and an equally nice fit while  straddling it.  A new foldable mirror was ordered from Maier that is the size of a normal cycle mirror, but quickly and handily folds horizontal with the bars and out of the way from any low-reaching limbs that have an attitude.  A set of Dunlopad brake pads  were ordered from White Brothers to slow the mighty XR down.  A set of excellent Motion-Pro cables were installed to help ease the tired grope syndrome.  Some nifty items were ordered from Thumper Racing, such as a clutch arm extender, which eases the amount of effort to pull in the clutch.  A TR throttle reducer was also installed to lighten the spring tension on the throttle for those long rides.  Also from TR was a neat little protective unit that protects the sidecase from breaking in case a branch snares the clutch cable and pulls it back.  Another TR trick item was their clutch cable (which is made by Motion-Pro) that has easy, knurled knobs by the clutch lever for quick adjustments.  A Lockhart enduro type roll-chart holder was ordered for route charts.  A roll-chart holder is a must for the quality dualsport events, which offer detailed roll charts that guide you along the course.  A set of buddy pegs, that attach to the swingarm, were ordered to facilitate riding two up.  I raised the mainjet up two sizes and the pilot up one.  I also put blue Loctite on anything that had threads (except the riding gear).

            Since it didnít have an ignition key, just a simple on/off switch, I decided to order a Quorum alarm.  This is a compact, handy and loud little device that will clear out a coffee shop in seconds.  It becomes activated by motion, plus, the sensitivity is adjustable.  It is easily carried in a jacket or fanny pack.

            For a speedo and odometer, there was no other choice than the Moose Racing Pacemaker enduro computer.  This baby can be easily calibrated to the speedo that set up the roll chart for any course, plus, since it has a three mode display,  also shows the speed that you are traveling.  Good stuff. 

Thatís One BIG Motor!

            In the interest of reliability, the big four stroke was left alone except for the intake and exhaust.  A White Brothers Twin-Air filter was inserted and some pre-filter foam was installed over the airbox opening after the intake baffle was removed.  To allow it breath even better, some one-inch breathing holes were drilled on the right side of the airbox and four round, filtered breathers from Lockhart/Phillips were installed. 

            On the exhaust, I wanted to stay as quiet as possible.  This is very important, since I believe in the Project Stealth philosophy.  The stock muffler emits a whisper, but is stifled with a dime sized hole on the end of the pipe.  If you remove the restrictor though, it becomes too loud for acceptable dualsporting.  The solution was to install Thumper Racingís insert, which replaces the stock restrictor with a ďdown-snoutĒ pipe along with an additional core that has muffler packing.  This solved the restricted exhaust problem for normal dualsporting in an excellent manor, but for racing applications, the muffler still weighed rather hefty.  A Cobra ISDE muffler/spark arrestor was ordered for when the turn signals were removed and the racing numbers were installed.  This also shaved about five pounds off of the stocker.  Five pounds can make a big difference when racing for long distances and the Cobra unit looks good too. 

            Rumor has it that the XR mill can get rather toasty when pushed hard in scorching  temperatures, so a call to White Brothers produced a JAG oil cooler.  Unfortunately, the unit didnít arrive in time for photos, but I can say that it is a quality looking unit that bolts up in front of the cylinder on the left side, similar to the Suzuki DR650.  This helps extend the life blood of the motor without sticking out like a sore thumb. 

Mr. Hyde - The Acid Test

            Since I wanted this bike to be just like the gum commercial: two bikes in one, it was now ready to be stripped of the easily removable dualsport gear and set up for a bonafide race.  Off came the blinkers, large tank, mirror, lights, etc.  To make things fun, the horn was left on.  In efforts to lighten the bulk, the stock muffler with the TR insert was removed and the lighter and slightly louder Cobra unit was installed.  Thatís it!  It was now ready to race!  Life should be so easy. 

            Off to the Loboís Spring Opener desert team race.  This is a fairly high-speed race that has plenty of power-robbing whoops to keep everyone honest.  A perfect christening for the big brute.  Since this was my first ride on the gnarly XR, (other than an earlier putsy down to the local grocery store) it took awhile to get used to it.  Starting the XR is much easier than the rumor mill says.  Just kick it to top dead center, lift the kick lever to the top, pull in the compression release and push the lever three hairs (not two) past top dead center, release the compression lever and give it a healthy whack and NO throttle.  Thump, thump, thump...  My first lap gave me many awakenings: the Race Tech'd suspension was nothing short of awesome, I thanked the dirt bike gods that I had a steering dampener installed, and the power made me remember how much FUN a four-stroke is to ride!  Geez, just put it into a higher gear, slip the clutch once in a while and grin.  Thereís a fast fire road section coming up - so just snick it into fifth gear, put Poli-Grip on your hands, duct tape the throttle WFO, and soon youíll be going so darn fast that your eyes will bleed and your cheeks will hurt from grinning so much!  The mighty XRís tonnage only reared its head in the casket deep, loamy whoops.  A small price to pay for something more fun than free E-tickets in Disneyland!

Dr. Jeckyl

            OK, in race trim it works exactly how I wanted it.  After coming home and installing all of the street legal gear, it was time for the maiden voyage down the highway.  Hey!  This bike is just as smooth as my old XT 600 Yamaha, but considerably more responsive.  Little things are noticeable like the lack of rubber cushioning on the rear sprocket hub, but itís certainly tolerable.  All the BD electrics work super, the Pirellis stick to the pavement much better than expected, the Moose Racing Pacemaker shows exact mph and distance, and the larger IMS tankís girth isnít even noticeable.  The Cobra muffler is quiet (about 93db), which is quieter than most, but the stock muffler with the TR insert (about 89db) is stealthiest when riding around the public and in the forests. 

            20 smooth miles later (the XR has a built-in counter balancer for the engine) and it was time for a soda.  Set the Quorum Elert alarm and stroll into the store.  After returning, a small group of people were admiring the bike.  One of them touched the tank, which set off the alarm.  WAWAWAWA....!!!  A quick touch of the code and it was off.  I like it.  Plus you can use the Quorum unit on your bicycle, gear bag, etc. 

Coupeí de Grace

            To sum things up, the chain didnít stretch, the bike doesnít shake like a paint mixer, the tires work good in all conditions, it handles like a scared alleycat, itís light (compared to its dualsport brothers), quiet, comfortable, street legal, extreme and above all, fun.  This is my answer to a true ďdualsportĒ bike.

            I would like to thank the kind folks at Taylor Motorcycles [(503)981-1813] for their help in brainstorming and setting up this bike.  They are dualsport experts and if you have any questions, they will be happy to help out or set you up on a similar machine.