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I've written six 4x4 Jeep® and truck books plus a Harley-Davidson book. Most know me as a 4WD Jeep, light 4x4 truck and automotive guy, some as a Harley-Davidson author, and few are aware that motorcycling has played a role in my life. My earliest on-highway vehicle operators license, at age 14, was a Nevada Scooter License. Unique to that era, without the sanctions of insurance and high registration fees, scooters were a recognized means for getting to high school. Nevada was the fifth largest state in the U.S.—with the smallest population at the time... I rode a Cushman on the highway and a friend's Honda Trail 55 on dirt. By sixteen, my attention turned to Jeep 4WDs and muscle cars, though I never turned my back on motorcycling. My first return to two wheels was a series of three pre-owned BSA motorcycles (each '69 model year by sheer coincidence). One was a Victor 441 B44, allegedly a scrambler but rather ill-equipped for the dirt by today's standards. Cycles with vertical rear shocks and short stroke, highway style front forks were hardly off-pavement material. (This was "On Any Sunday" stuff, and many of us, including J.N. Roberts, Steve McQueen and Malcolm Smith, rode near vertical rear shock machines.) If nothing else, at nearly 10:1 compression, the Victor was the quintessential "thumper" and a good way to learn about compression release starting! Several road bikes have been notable, my BSA 650 Lightning and 750 Rocket III, a BMW R80GS (that hardly met "off-road" standards despite the implications), a BMW K1100LT that was a highway delight and a Gold Wing GL1500 that I can only call "a beast"—ridiculously cumbersome and far beyond the realm of a flick-about motorcycle. My takeaway from the Gold Wing was that I'd never ride a cycle over 500 pounds again. So much for today's "cruiser", touring bikes and dressers! As long as I can swing a leg over the saddle, I'll take a sport bike under 500 pounds, hands down. We discovered serious dirt riding and cycles two decades ago when youngest son Jacob was 11-years-old. I wanted him to ride sensibly, and a vintage XR75 was the choice after a brief detour with a Kawasaki KX80. Honda's "red" assets caught our fancy, and I acquired a used XR200R to accompany Jacob. That quickly grew to an XR350R, passing the XR200R to Jacob (typical family maneuver with motorcycles). The XR350R had been prepped and "blueprinted" by the late Rick Sorensen for his daughter Natasha to race. Rick was a topnotch aircraft A&P mechanic and motorcycle tuner...In pristine condition, this cycle has remained in my stable since, impressive enough to warrant the acquisition of an XR500R counterpart. Both are '84 model Pro-Link chassis, the 500 boasts dry-sump engine oiling...hot for the era! Yes, I do ride dirt motorcycles—with passion and vigor, desert enduro type terrain my favorite, single track or destination "overlanding" well within bounds as well. Today's cycles draw me toward an XR650R Honda for my current kind of riding, fitted with a Dakar tank and dual-sport retrofit kit, ready for long distance travel. We live at Northern Nevada, a virtual Mecca for dirt riding and backcountry motorcycling access! A CRF450X might be a consideration, though "Dust to Glory" and the XR650R are forever etched in my mind—how can Johnny Campbell, Andy Grider, Steve Hengeveld and Mouse McCoy be wrong? The XR650R Honda is the ultimate icon, a virtual cult dirt bike for the desert. So, don't be surprised if I'm regularly peeking into this forum and even adding my two-cents worth. Dirt motorcycling is on my mind—a lot. It's an incentive to stay in top physical condition, to keep my reflexes primed and not to let chronological age blur my self-concept. I'm still healthy, quick reflexed, and more than ready to ride a converted dual-sport—anywhere, any time!—Moses Ludel At left is our third XR Honda, an XR350R. We have a fourth one, too, an XR500R, for possible restoration. Or maybe we'll add an XR650R built with Baja/Dakar trim with a dual-sport conversion!...Tying to the Karavan dual-motorcycle trailer, it's time to ride in the desert. The magazine's XJ Cherokee (right) provides a good tow platform for getting the dirt bike to a trailhead or desert dry lake. A dual-sport conversion would eliminate the tow need. This cycle has done a variety of chores for more than a dozen years, included getting me around with a video camcorder for covering the Stampede Race and King of the Hammers.
My recent comments on dual-sport motorcycles became the prelude to our latest acquisition: a Honda XR650R motorcycle for the 4WD Mechanix Magazine vehicle fleet! There's a long history behind my relationship to off-road motorcycling, which began when I acquired my first purpose built desert motorcycle in 1971, a 1969 BSA B44 Victor. In the mid-'eighties, my editor at Argus' OFF-ROAD Magazine was Rick Sieman, better known in motorcycle circles as Super Hunky. His legendary roles as both the Senior Editor at Dirt Bike and AMA Veteran Class Plate #1 were Rick's other credentials. When Rick encouraged me to ride the Mojave Desert with him at speed on Husqvarna and KTM motorcycles, I was sold! Over the last two decades, I have owned and ridden a variety of motorcycles, both highway and dirt types, finding the emerging dual-sport models increasingly more practical for off-road travel and journalism. My interest in motorcycle adventure travel with dual-sport cycles has also grown steadily. Our vintage '84 Honda XR350R has served well since the 'nineties. More recently, it has provided video access, I used it to cover events like the King of the Hammers and hard trails footage. I'm a Honda guy, and the XR650R has been on my radar screen since the cycle earned icon status in "Dust to Glory". (I confess to at least a dozen reruns of the motorcycle segments in that film, along with numerous reruns of the "Long Way Round" and "Long Way Down" travel documentaries.) When a 2000 XR650R became available with ultra low miles (just over 700 original miles!) and an extraordinary history, I took the leap—right into ownership of a BRP ("Big Red Pig")! In its earlier life, the bike had been "plated" in Texas as a dual-sport conversion and boasted a Baja Designs kit. The owner, a former F15 pilot and motorcycle enthusiast, had no time in his career to ride the motorcycle. After years of garaging the bike, he elected to sell it—and the magazine now has a new thumper dirt motorcycle in its stable! My 19-month-old grandson calls the XR650R the "Big Honda", and the XR350R has become the "Little Honda". A liquid cooled Honda XR650R was chosen over the KTM, Yamaha or even a Honda CRF450 for its desert enduro record and long distance stamina. The aim is a street legal dual-sport, light enough to do the desert and trails right while having the power to carry gear and video equipment as a filming platform. This is the start, and you can track the dual-sport Big Red Pig, the magazine's latest off-road vehicle project, at the forums photo gallery...Count on much more to come as the BRP gets readied for its chores and the single tracks! Moses