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The magazine's Honda XR650R began as a potent desert enduro bike with a Baja Designs dual-sport conversion kit. The bike has power to spare, especially after the rebuild of the engine top end and installation of a Hot Cams Stage 1 camshaft. Machine work by L.A. Sleeve enhanced the performance and reliability of the motorcycle. Now street legal and plated, the platform serves our video filming in the field. This purpose built motorcycle has the inherent agility and chassis engineering to get the job done in the desert and mountainous terrain. Here, tires are a crucial consideration for a motorcycle that winds up a hundred miles from nowhere in remote backcountry. For dual-sport tires, I picked the Michelin T63 and the Michelin Cross AC10 rubber with Michelin matching tubes. If you'd like to see how I mounted and tested these tires, go to: http://www.4wdmechanix.com/4WD-Mechanix-Magazine-Tests-Michelin-Dual-Sport-Motorcycle-Tires.html. I put these tires to the test in the dirt and on highway under the brute torque of the Honda XR650R in the Part 2 video. This Honda XR650R has ample power for additional equipment. For an improved skid plate and engine side guards, plus rear bag racks, I turned to TCI Products. In the Part 2 video, you'll see this equipment and the high quality Nelson-Rigg bags that will tote gear and video equipment into the back country. Expect detailed HD video coverage on the TCI and Nelson-Rigg products shortly... Moses
It all began with a passion for desert enduro bikes. After a dozen viewings of "Dust to Glory!", my bike of choice was the Honda XR650R liquid cooled thumper. Finding the right used machine, rebuilding the engine top-end with machine work by L.A. Sleeve, dialing the tune, after months of waiting, I finally mounted the beast and headed into the desert. An hour of dirt riding validated my choice, for my kind of riding, this is the perfect motorcycle. Fresh top-end rebuild with a Hot Cams Stage 1 camshaft, the magazine's XR650R is ready for the desert! With an estimated 55 horsepower and 50 lb-ft torque in this form, the bike will meet every performance demand. My original goal with this motorcycle was a reliable, highly capable motorcycle for HD video filming at off-road events and travel-adventure rides. And now I faced a significant obstacle: Where would I put all the camping and video gear? Was a purpose built enduro motorcycle able to perform double duty like this? Michelin T63 and Cross AC10 tires were the first step toward taming the desert beast and making it more on-highway capable. The DOT approved T63 tires offered the best trade-off for both dirt and asphalt use. The internet is rife with examples of Honda XR650R motorcycles morphing into supermotards and dual-sports. In fact, despite its reputation as the ultimate Baja racer and "off-highway" desert bike status across North America, the Honda XR650R reached much of the global market in semi-street form. Draped in highway amenities and trim for Europe and Australia (detuned substantially for the Down Under market, making it all the more street worthy), the XR650R has the ability to serve incredibly well as a dual-sport. My cycle was purchased in just that form, the previous owner was Texas based and had added a Baja Designs conversion kit and DOT tires. The bike was on- and off-highway legal, and I readily registered, plated and titled the motorcycle as such at Nevada. Off pavement, the Michelin T63 tires work well. DOT for the highway, they deliver on asphalt, too. Here, I test the tires at Nevada's wild horse country and later on a curving ribbon of asphalt. The Honda XR650R dual-sport conversion can deliver in both worlds! Here I was with a dual-sport platform, so why not go the next step and add the necessary cargo racks and luggage? As a highway rider as well as a dirt guy, I instinctively switched to the Michelin T63 tires for an on-highway improvement. Tested on dirt and the highway, the tires were as close a compromise as practical for both asphalt and Nevada's graded gravel roads and alkaline dust single-tracks. The next step was a leap, the choice of TCI Products' Sequoia and Borrego racks, along with TCI's skid plate and engine guard protection. Installed, there was no going back. The Johnny Campbell/Steve Hengeveld Honda A-Team profile vanished. Was this okay? Well, truthfully, I did pause for a moment. After years of selling myself on the idea of a Baja-bred desert enduro bike, to see these, admittedly, well-crafted and precisely fitted saddle bag and tail racks, hanging off the back end of a race-bred dirt motorcycle, was certainly a "different" look! This video gear and motorcycle camping gear need a place to ride! The Nelson-Rigg luggage and TCI Products racks have provided an outstanding solution. The package transformed the Honda XR650R desert enduro bike into a dual-sport that rivals the "big" adventure-touring bikes—at half the curb weight and nimble enough for single-track and fast-track desert! Once I added the tastefully designed and rugged Nelson-Rigg luggage to these quality racks, I was able to exhale. In fact, as I fitted the luggage onto the stable and sturdy TCI racks, following closely with the video cam to catch the nooks and crannies of the bags, it became clear that this is one good looking, highly versatile and rugged package! I'm thrilled with the utility of these racks and bags. Moreover, the cycle has the best of both worlds: Capability off-road yet ample suitability for short—and even long—highway riding! Click on the links to see the tire testing, the TCI Products rack and engine protection installations, and my choice in Nelson-Rigg luggage. You'll not only be impressed, if you've been indecisive about converting your pristine enduro bike into a dual-sport, this might very well tip the scale! Moses
The burgeoning interest in overland motorcycle travel and dual-sport conversions has many incentives. Aside from the relatively inexpensive nature of motorcycling when compared to four-wheeled travel, there is also the unique sensation of open-air, two-wheeled adventure, traveling overland to far away, dirt road places...Every dual-sport enthusiast has his or her idea of the ideal motorcycle adventure. Mine happens to be twofold: the Himalayas (specifically Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet) or Mongolia! Oh, then there's also the Silk Road... To even consider such a grand scale trip would require solid planning and the right equipment. Motorcycle stowage space is limited, and fuel is scarce at distant places. Fuel capacity is always a concern, often remedied with an aftermarket tank during a dual-sport conversion. Camping gear must be compact, light in weight and effective. Despite space limitations, your physical needs will be the same. Quality, life-preserving equipment is the order of the day. This forum community is for those of us earnestly outfitting for long distance travel to remote places. Even shorter jaunts across a remote mountain range, a desert like the Mojave or Black Rock, Death Valley, Central Nevada or whatever, requires provision for the temperature extremes in an arid climate. I've lived at high desert and higher altitudes the majority of my life, so temperature swings of 40-degrees F or more in a 24-hour cycle are not foreign. I've worked outdoors at -20-degrees F with wind chill added from there. I know what materials are life saving in extreme cold—whether running heavy equipment at Winnemucca in December or riding a motorcycle over the Sierra in the late fall or spring. Enjoy this Dual-Sport and Dirt Motorcycle Equipment Forum, it's a community where we can all share our enthusiasm and insight for safely and practically traveling to remote places!—Moses Ludel