Project: Honda XR400R Desert Rally Build
The last time we met Tom Nolan, he was given a perfect specimen from which to build a one-of-a-kind XR650 Rally convertible —The Big Rally Pig (ADVMoto Sept. 2015, No. 88)—that doubles as a racer and dual-sport overlander. It’s been raced well, built 1,500 kilometers of BAJA RALLY stages, and was used as an off-season explorer worthy of an “end days” speed, destined for the gates of Valhalla (aka Mad Max Fury Road).
This time, we raised the bar even higher for Tom when we dropped off a wretched corpse of a 2003 Honda XR400 at his shop. His goal: Reincarnate the pile of (s)crap into a bright and shiny object, with both utility and versatility top of mind. This is the legendary Baja model already famous around the world for being bulletproof and invincible. The bike was purchased from a widow in Mexico whose late husband’s estate had “let it go,” in every sense. We paid $800 out the door. It was rusted and could barely roll. Tom was not alone in his year-long project. The companies who contributed and the individuals who collaborated with Tom on his masterpiece donated the organs and appendages that brought new life to mechanical morbidity. Just like the SixMillion Dollar Man—We Can Rebuild Him, this was a crazy project.
• Highway Dirt Bikes
Fairing and Custom Nav Tower Assembly
HDB had a cult-like following that has now gone mainstream with Paul Degarate’s work showing up on dual-sport rides and races worldwide. Paul went completely off the rails to fabricate their Rally Lite fairing with all of the electronics and wiring, things Atomic Tom tends to shy away from. There have been two basic options for mounting HDB fairings: fork-mounted or bolted (tapped) onto the head tube of the bike’s frame. We needed to mount the road book reader, so neither would suffice on the XR400. Her stock oil cooler mounts on the head tube, thus blocking the path for frame-mounting the tower. Instead, Paul pulled out one of his new offspring: The fairing, nav tower and all of its cumbersome equipment join the bike with a milled aluminum “tongue” sandwiched brilliantly between BRP’s triple clamp and HDB’s own top clamp. HighwayDirtBikes.com
• BRP Racing
Top Triple Clamp, Bar Riser and Chain Guide
The tech team at BRP Racing spec’d the triple clamp perfectly to fit HDB’s tower assembly and top clamp. Their chain guides are standard additions to most race bikes in this part of the world. BRPmoto.com
• Woody’s Wheel Works
Like Steve Austin’s bionic legs, Chris and the crew in Colorado spared the OEM hubs with a bead blast and laced up eight- and nine-gauge spokes onto Notako Excel rims. We’ve learned the hard way that stainless steel nipples are the only way to go because the shiny aluminum ones will crack and break; Woody’s never uses them. These wheels are heavy duty and worth the time and money. WoodysWheelWorks.com | RKExcelAmerica.com
• NiteRider Off Road
From the start of BAJA RALLY, NiteRider has been lighting the way for us, and supporting the people and the machines who create it. Technically, there is no “night racing” in BAJA RALLY, but
many racers use NR products to light the way to the start of special stages, sometimes in the dead of morning darkness. HDB and Atomic Tom worked with the notorious “NiteRider Dave” (that is his legal name) and founder TC, and dropped the PRO ADV SET into the HDB fairing tower along with NR’s hardwire harness kit and inline 15-amp fuse with remote thumb switch. It really lights the night with up to 7,200 lumens; the best part is being able to adjust the pitch and angle by hand, setting this system apart from others. NiteRider.com
• Galfer Braking
borating with Galfer and getting to know the company on the inside is they are a not a “brake company” at all. Domiciled in Spain, Galfer is a racing company, pure and simple. For this reason, I will consider them an essential on all future builds, ADV and rally alike. GalferUSA.com
F2R Road Book Reader Rally Max-G
U.S.-based ICO Racing and her sisters, Rally Management Services and Team Rally Pan AM, have the lion’s share of the relatively small rally racing market in this part of the world. But their persistence during the proliferation of the sport is leading them to innovate and improve on the components and gadgetry that often intimidate newbies delving into the sport of rally. With their schools and training programs, they also teach people how to fish. ICORacing.com | RallyManagementServices.com | RallyPanAM.com
Skid Plate and Shark Fin Rear Disk Guard
Very simple and the name says it all. If the world were to end today, there is one name synonymous with Baja California and racing: Malcolm Smith. These two items are the placards of the XR400 Rally-Lite. MSRacing.com
• Personalized Essentials Controls
Flexx Handlebars, Pivot Pegz, Pro-Grip Foam Rally Grips
These items are the bread and butter for every bike we build and standard equipment for anything I call my own. As we age there are a few choices to make: shorten our rides, suffer with soreness or pay a little more for better controls. PivotPegz.net | Fasstco.com | ProGrip.com
So why feature a “race” bike and the fancy rally stuff on the pages of an ADV/dual-sport publication? Quite simply because these prototypes bring out the strongest, best engineered components, technology and thinking in the two-wheel world. So, whether you plan to circumnavigate both hemispheres or meet buddies for a latte at SBUX, readers and builders need to know what’s available today, what works and, by deduction, what doesn’t work.