I thought some of you might be interested in a project I've been working on recently... Earlier this year I raced the Baja Rally 3.0, and had a fantastic time (a brief event report here on the 2015 event thread in Racing)... Suffice to say it was an awesome event in every respect, even if I was on a borrowed bike this year (thank you Garfey) and not this little number below, which I'd originally built up especially for this event. However, with the 2016 entries now open, I am once again committed to taking part, and this time I hope to be taking my own XR400R rally-lite bike as part of the European shipping deal - all info here on the Baja Rally website. So, what about this bike then? Well, it all started about 12 months ago with my ageing 2003 model XR400R, which I've owned from new. This has always been foremost my 'trail' bike for riding green lanes in the UK, plus the odd trip down to Spain (the Pyrenees) and even Morocco on occasion... yes, it's been well travelled and covered around 48,000 miles before the engine finally needed a thorough overhaul towards the end of last year - hence the lack of engine in the photo above! So while the engine was being refreshed with a new piston & rings, the bore recoated and ground, valve stem seals replaced, and the valves themselves re-seated (excellent work by Martin at Torque Racing), I also took the opportunity to have the frame re-powder-coated (the original silver I'd had replaced with black in 2006), and also to see if a few 'rally spares' I had kicking around could also be incorporated into the new build. Since this was the US version (AC electrics with just a single head and tail light) originally, I wanted to try and keep it as simple as possible. All I'd added were hydraulic brake light switches and a regulator/rectifier with a capacitor to provide DC for a GPS (only when the engine was running of course), in an effort to give it some semblance of street-legality here in the UK. Certainly my intention was to continue this ethos throughout the rally build. Being air cooled and kick start only, there is so very much less to go wrong in the first place of course, and coupled with the general 'unbustability' of the basic bike, I felt would be an excellent 'Malle Moto' style steed that ought to require minimal maintenance during any event itself. Therefore anything else that I'd need to add (primarily extra fuel and navigation equipment) needed to follow this simple and basic approach too. Having finally sold the last of my dedicated rally bikes during the past couple of years, all I was now left with was the XR, plus an array of used components from my past races... FUEL The Baja Rally doesn't require a huge range between refuels (approx 120 miles or 190ish kms) but that is certainly more than the stock tank, and typically on the limit of most medium sized aftermarket tanks too, particularly if you're racing in sand. The obvious choice would have been the 22 litre Acerbis tank (which I've used in the past on this bike) - a single big tank being simple, if a little bulky between the knees. However, I really like the narrowness of the XR with the IMS 4 US gallon (15 Litre) tank fitted, and also having my redundant WR450F rear Safari tank on a shelf, I set about seeing if it could be made to fit: I was surprised just how well it fitted over the rear subframe! - and as you can see, even lined up pretty perfectly with the seat bolt on the left hand side - I have a feeling this is going to work after all! By using two fuel tanks, not only does it help to keep the bike nice and narrow (a key exponent of the XR, not having any radiators of course), but also spreads the fuel load more evenly over the bike. Also, in a worst-case scenario, should one tank get holed, or a tap fail for example, you've still got the chance to ride out on your remaining fuel? This particular combination offers 15L of fuel up front, and a further 5L in the rear - and each tank is independently switched, so you can empty one or the other (or both together of course) as desired. Certainly in soft sandy conditions (of which there are a lot in Baja) it makes sense to try and empty the front tank first, keeping the weight towards the rear of the bike and the front wheel as light as possible. Conversely in tighter technical terrain, it may be preferable to empty the rear to help keep the weight more centralised. However, in general, I'll mainly consider the rear tank as more of a reserve for the longer stages. cont.