XR400R Budget Baja build - for Baja Rally 2016

Discussion in 'Thumpers' started by JMo (& piglet), Dec 5, 2015.

  1. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,777
    Location:
    UK and USA
    I thought some of you might be interested in a project I've been working on recently...

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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.
    #1
    Noprogram, shinyribs and xr400r like this.
  2. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,777
    Location:
    UK and USA
    So, with the frame back from the powder-coater, and the refreshed engine reinstalled, it was time to try and tie everything together...

    [​IMG]

    Above: the rear tank in place, with an old side panel cut as a template to fill in the space between the tank and air-box.

    Small tabs were welded to the frame on each side (yes, I realise this ought to have been done before the powder coating, but it's simple enough to get the subframe re-done now the brackets have been finalised), and custom tank brackets made to tie the two together.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    photo. Steel is used for these brackets (rather than alloy) as it is less prone to fatigue.

    Initially I tried to retain the OEM rear fender, particularly as I like the low-profile rear light and the fact the licence plate (in this case a sticker) can be attached directly to it... however, the stock fender is just a little too wide/square for the WR tank to fit over and allow the seat-bolt hole to line up properly, so ultimately I replaced the original shape fender with a Polisport MX style straight version, which as it turns out is also sightly slimmer and fits perfectly under the tank with no cutting required at all - result!

    [​IMG]
    photo. I also bought a pair of new side panels to freshen up the rear end, and cut the left side cleanly as a short infill panel on the left hand side.

    I finished this new rear fender off with a DRC Anato rear LED light and licence plate holder, that again was a left-over/used part from my old WR450F rally bike.

    The only other modification required was to trim the rear edge of the seat on the left side, so it cleared the WR tank. Rather than cut up my still excellent condition OEM seat, I bought an SDG replacement seat with a gripper cover - although ultimately I may get that recovered as part of the final colour scheme (see later).

    [​IMG]

    cont.
    #2
    Noprogram, shinyribs and xr400r like this.
  3. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,777
    Location:
    UK and USA
    Hooking up the fuel lines was relatively easy - with a QR shut-off valve so the rear tank can be removed easily (and the bike even run with the stock seat and rear fender if desired), and a Y joint where the two tank hoses enter the carb.

    [​IMG]

    The carb itself was updated with the cable idle knob from the XR650R - which makes access much easier with the deeper IMS tank in place:

    [​IMG]


    Hard Parts

    So with the bike up and running again, it was time to turn my attention to a few hard parts.

    The bike had already been fitted with a full FMF system with a Q-pipe silencer for some time, and I see no reason to change this:

    [​IMG]

    I did however replace my original Apico skid plate that was distinctly battered, with a Devol engine guard - which is still nice and lightweight, but offers increased protection to the sides of the engine without looking ungainly I feel.

    You'll also notice above the IMS/XR's Only foot-pegs which have been on there since 2007. I actually have two pairs, as I also had them on my XR650R, and which are now my spares.

    Oh, and the IMS tank has changed colour of course - I sold the black version and bought a new red one, as I intend to go retro with the colour scheme.



    Together with extra fuel and a decent skid plate, the only other thing I considered essential for a rally [lite] bike would be a steering damper.

    While I already had a GPR V4 damper from my old WR, their fitting kit for the XR400 mounted the arm backwards, and used the oil filler to locate the post - which I considered would be tedious with regard to checking the oil level on a regular basis.

    I therefore ended up eBaying that damper (and WR mounting kit), and put the meagre sum towards a brand new Scotts damper and BRP billet top triple-clamp, which mounts the damper under the Fat-bars, and fundamentally with a post forward of the steering tube, so that access to the oil filler is retained:

    [​IMG]
    photo. I do like a nice bit of billet!


    [​IMG]

    The BRP clamp comes with Fat-bar risers, in a nice low-profile installation. However, be aware that the damper adjuster pointer is a little too long in the XR installation (to rotate a full 360°), so you have to trim the end off it.

    Finally, with the RC bend Renthal Fat-bars in place, the clamps were topped off with this custom 'T' bar to mount the rally nav gear.

    [​IMG]


    The only other thing required as part of the steering damper installation was to extend the steering stops, as otherwise the damper arm hit the bar risers before the lower triple-clamp reached the original frame stops. The stops were drilled and tapped, and a pair of M4 socket-head bolts thread-locked in.

    [​IMG]


    Two further hard-part additions/upgrades were a set of Barkbuster Storm hand guards (to replace my original KTM plastic ones):

    [​IMG]

    Again, these were left-over spares from my original WR Dakar bike, and I particularly like the design of the Storm shield as it wraps around the end of the bar - helping to protect the edge of your hands from things like those bloody cactus spines I hit this year!

    I also replaced the previous 240mm front Braking Wave disc that was getting past it's best, with a brand new EBC 270mm oversize floating disc and corresponding calliper adaptor:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    However, bearing in mind this bike is over 12 years old now, and has been through an aweful lot of crap in it's 48,000 miles, I was still not happy with the original front calliper. Despite overhauling the seals and rubbers, it still appeared to be dragging (not terminally, but enough to be irritating), and ultimately I decided to replace the original set-up completely with a New-Old-Stock Nissin calliper from a KLX450 (the same dimensions - result) and a NOS master cylinder from an early CRF450 (the same as the OEM XR400 one) - gotta love the 'Bay!

    [​IMG]
    photo. KLX450R calliper is physically smaller that the OEM XR version, but dimensionally the same - right down to the original mounting bracket too if you are looking for a direct replacement. Goodrich stainless steel hose and banjos completed the front brake upgrade.

    cont.
    #3
  4. Scubawerx

    Scubawerx Scubawerx

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2012
    Oddometer:
    643
    Location:
    North Georgia
    Nice project. Keep the pictures and report coming.
    #4
  5. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,777
    Location:
    UK and USA
    So, all these new parts seem a little at odds with the title of 'budget' build you might think?

    We yes and no. All these parts I've replaced with new are primarily because the existing items were worn [out] after many years riding and racing... and that fundamentally, these improvements will not only refresh the bike and make it feel new again, but should not cause any issues during the immediate and future events. Prevention being better the cure etc.

    However, in keeping with the 'make-do-with-what-you've-got-on-the-shelf' idea, fortunately the rest of the rally prep would essentially be refitting parts I'd amassed over the years - and indeed, this build really is a homage to all the [rally] bikes that have gone before...

    The front fender and headlight mask are the original OEM parts from my XR650R that I bought in 2007, and immediately built into a rally bike with and Acerbis tank, fairing and low fender.

    [​IMG]

    Since I really like the low profile shape of the 650R headlight, ideally I wanted to retain it in the original position (rather than on an MRS bracket or similar) - not least because this would also remain my trail bike for 99% of the time.

    However, as anyone with an XR650R (or 400 for that matter) will tell you, the stock 35w headlight is woeful - and while I wouldn't be racing at night, there is every chance (and especially on the Baja Rally) that liaisons would happen early morning before sunrise. It would also be nice to try and maximise the available wattage from the still stock stator, in an effort to provide enough juice to run the nav gear (particularly the motor in the road book, as every little helps...)

    The solution was to pair-up the two Vision-X Solstice LED lights that had been fitted to my WR450F after I'd refurbished it post Dakar 2011 (but sadly never raced it again - denied!). Each lamp only draws 10w while providing 900 lumens a piece, and with one spot and one flood, I effectively had a high and low beam together than fitted inside the original lamp aperture:

    [​IMG]

    Removing the plastic lens from the original lamp made the perfect headlight protector:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    photo. Siliconed in place.


    With a high beam and a low beam now, I would need some kind of switch, and thought it was probably a good idea to also wire in a 12v horn too (which tends to be required at scrutineering, even if until now I'd considered it optional when trail riding).

    I also felt it would make a lot more sense if I could have my navigation gear powered without the engine running - particularly to wind-on the road-book paper roll in the evening without pissing everyone off in the paddock who were trying to sleep!

    This would therefore require a battery of some kind, and some inevitable additional wiring to bring the various power feeds back and forth to switches on the bars.

    It took a good deal of scribbling on scraps of paper and head scratching to create the most simple [additional] loom possible that fundamentally would be field repairable, and could be isolated so that the bike would still run in it's original and basic get-you-home mode should anything fail.

    [​IMG]
    photo. Baja Designs dual-sport kit 12v Ni-Cad battery is tiny, and looks like it was made specifically to fit in the recess in the XR400 air-box!

    Rather than feeding directly into the lighting loom as before, the power from the stator & reg/reg now goes straight to the battery under the seat (via a diode so there is no back-flow discharge into the stator), then via a master switch on the right hand handlebar, before connecting to the original loom that feeds the lights and [now] navigation gear.

    Should you wish, you can run the bike without any of the lights or nav gear on (in stealth mode ;o), giving maximum charge to the battery if required. Alternatively, should the battery crap-out, in an emergency you can simply connect the feed from the reg/reg directly to the lighting loom as before and continue - such is the joy of bullet connectors!

    [​IMG]
    photo. say what you like, but I've found that good old-fashioned bullet connectors inside a length of mountain-bike inner tube is the perfect waterproof* and field-repairable set-up.

    *OK, perhaps not water 'proof' - but very very weather resistant, and more than sufficient in the location under the tank.


    Bullet connectors allow you to test each terminal easily with a meter, and if you'd got the male/female connectors the right way round, then it's straightforward to bypass and/or reconnect depending on what is required (as per the scenario mentioned above for example). At a push, you can even bodge the connections with pliers and tape to get you going again.

    [​IMG]

    Under the seat is where the connections for the brake and tail-lights are made, together with the main fuse for the 12v battery. Again, I chose to use bullets as the loom is not especially complicated, and essentially each wire has it's own connector which means they can be easily disconnected [and/or tested] if there is an issue with any of the circuits. Again, they are ultimately wrapped in a length of inner tube to help keep things protected from the elements.


    Navigation gear

    Fortunately the navigation gear set-up for an event like the Baja Rally (and most other non-FIM events) is very straightforward - just a single ICO/IMO trip computer, and a powered road-book holder - and perhaps a GPS (not strictly required on the Baja Rally, as the organisation provide a Rally Comp device that is pre programmed with all the GPS information you need - plus acts as a speedometer, CAP compass heading and additional odometer, together with warning you in speed zones etc. and tracking you in real time - it's basically like a mini version of the UNIK GPS and Irritrack devices used in FIM events).

    While some people like to double up (especially with their ICO trip meters) for both redundancy and to offer different displays, the advent of the Rally Comp really means additional instruments are no longer really necessary, and this is particularly important if you're running a bar-mounted rally-lite set-up - helping to keep weight and clutter to a minimum.

    [​IMG]
    photo. Modifying the mounting plate to accept the Touratech IMO (rather than the ICO brand) top left, while the holes on the right hand side will locate the Rally Comp device that as the same footprint as an ICO.


    [​IMG]
    photo. Simple 4 way fuse box is fed by a power tail behind the headlight, connected to the main lighting circuit - when the lights are on, the nav gear is live. Power for IMO, Road-book, [optional] GPS, and supply lead for the Rally Comp (same as an ICO power lead).

    [​IMG]

    With the navigation gear rotated forward and bolted in position, the fuse box and associated wiring is then behind and protected by the headlight cowl. Obviously there is a degree of compromise having the road-book mounted closer to your body than forward and higher on a tower, but at the speed I ride (and sitting down whenever I can ;o), it is not too much of an issue - and of course the equipment is well protected between the bars in the event of a fall.

    The Garmin GPS60 is mounted in a RAM cradle, that is connected via a short arm to the bolt on the Barkbuster hand-guard. In general I like to run with a separate GPS, as the visual track log can prove reassuring if you happen to loose your bearings. However, next year I will most likely leave it off during the Baja Rally, to save clutter and weight on the bars.

    The road-book and IMO is controlled by the RNS remote control on the left hand bar, and next to this is a HDB (Highway Dirt Bikes) twin perch switch - a momentary for the horn (red) and a latching for the high beam on/off (black).

    The low beam is always on (when the master power switch is on) as per rally regs, and as a daylight running light specified in most european countries these days. note: RAM ball on the RNS remote allows for a Double Take mirror to be fitted for scrutineering - I tend to fit a micro bicycle mirror once the event is underway ;o)

    So that is pretty much the build so far...

    The bike is ready to go now, although there are a couple of further refinements I'd like to make...

    The first is to have the seat recovered in the original XR blue colour vinyl (to match the OEM 80's fork gaiters I snaffled from eBay recently), and then perhaps to complete the retro look - a new set of of wheels with gold Excel rims, while the original wheels will become my spares for the event.

    Do feel free to ask any questions, either about the bike, or the event itself - and hope to see some of you there next October!

    Jenny xx
    #5
    shinyribs, oldfartrr, Benduro and 7 others like this.
  6. JensEskildsen

    JensEskildsen Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,846
    Location:
    Denmark
    Cool stuff!
    #6
    mancunian likes this.
  7. yachabibi

    yachabibi Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,687
    Location:
    North east US of A, MA-PA
    Jenny
    Well done, this build shows wisdom and experience. Not over done. Just what you need to do the job right. I would even call it elegant. Thanks for sharing.
    I suppose this means that you won't be stuffing a CB500 engine in there anytime soon....

    Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk
    #7
    JMo (& piglet) likes this.
  8. yachabibi

    yachabibi Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,687
    Location:
    North east US of A, MA-PA
    Have you made any adjustments or mods to the suspension?

    Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk
    #8
  9. bananagas

    bananagas Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2015
    Oddometer:
    86
    Location:
    Hawthorne, CA
    Great read. Thanks for posting.
    #9
  10. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,777
    Location:
    UK and USA
    Hee hee - no, not just yet at least... although that's certainly a project for another day perhaps?!

    The suspension components are stock. At one time I did fit stiffer replacement springs in the forks (when I was doing a bit of MX and Enduro style rally events on it in the UK), but actually for trail (and rally) riding I preferred it with the slightly softer springs, so reverted back - they are fine for my weight and the speed at which I ride, and on the whole I like my rally bikes plush (mainly because I'm lazy and like to sit down whenever I can ;o)

    I had the forks completely rebuilt earlier this year (by Martin at Torque Racing) and they feel really good again. I'm sure a set of new springs could be slipped in there, but for now I'm going to see how it rides before going to any further expense in that regard.

    Similarly, the rear shock just seems to keep on truckin' - it is a bit soft and squidgy after all those miles, but again, seems to provide great traction and the damping is still there - certainly over rally style terrain. If I can wangle it before the Baja Rally next year, I would like to see if TracTive can offer a replacement shock in the right dimensions (and spring/damping rate etc.) for this bike, as having ridden their shocks on the LC4-50 and more recently the CB500X Adventure, they are beautifully controlled.

    At the end of the day though, this build is very much abut using up what I've got left, and left over - essentially it's an amalgam of all my previous bikes and various rally parts - to try and create an affordable and overall 'simple' way to continue rally racing with minimal additional outlay.

    While I am very attached to this bike (and would still keep it as a trail bike - in fact it still is effectively, if I simply remove the bar-mounted nav gear and the rear tank), from a strictly competitive point of view I realise there comes a point when really I'd be better off on a CRF450X or similar - not least for the better suspension and electric-start. However, I'm not sure if I can warrant such an investment at this stage, particularly since these days I'm not really looking to contend the professional circuit.

    Jx
    #10
    yachabibi likes this.
  11. Cabrito

    Cabrito On the mend 76%

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    373
    Location:
    415
    This is a great build thread!

    I really like the headlight - that thing looks awesome!
    #11
    oldfartrr likes this.
  12. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,777
    Location:
    UK and USA
    Thanks Cabrito - I have to say, it is frikkin' bright now!

    Low beam:

    [​IMG]

    Plus high beam:

    [​IMG]

    And only 20w draw combined - result!

    (note. these were fitted inside the original XR400 housing to test, before I drilled holes in my nice XR650R surround...)

    Jx
    #12
    oldfartrr likes this.
  13. Maxacceleration

    Maxacceleration Off the grid

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,016
    Location:
    Wa
    Nice build up Jenny. I have been a fan of air cooled XR's forever and still own my bought new 2000 XR250 (for the six speed). Had a new '85 XR600 back in the day.
    Nice easy torquey power (on the 400).
    You got a good ride there. :thumb Do enjoy.
    #13
  14. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    21,648
    Location:
    Burbank CA
    very nice!

    the xr400s will live forever!
    #14
    JMo (& piglet) likes this.
  15. DaveOz

    DaveOz Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2014
    Oddometer:
    119
    Location:
    North QLD, Australia
    I never should've gotten rid of my xr. They are amazing bikes!!!
    #15
    JMo (& piglet) likes this.
  16. izom

    izom Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    429
    Location:
    LandofArnoldS/Vienna
    ...like that! bring it on !! ;-)

    btw. arent you a bit early!?? the baja is in ?? september?

    but so you have enough time for testrides!? ;-))

    good luck
    #16
  17. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,777
    Location:
    UK and USA
    I agree Dave - I have now sold all my bikes (there have been a few in recent years) and I think it's telling that the XR is the only one left...

    I love it!

    Jx

    ps. OK, so I admit I just bought a CB500X to keep in the USA, but that's a whole other project... ;o)
    #17
  18. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    7,777
    Location:
    UK and USA

    Hi Izom - yes, very early (October 10-15th next year in fact)...

    I did actually start building it over this past summer in preparation for the 2015 event, but once the European shipping deal was postponed I put the project on the back burner (it was all ready to go, other than the new front brake calliper and master cylinder, which was the most recent modification), and am finishing it off over the winter here in the UK.

    I'm certainly looking forward to getting back out on it soon - although currently the cold and wet here is the polar opposite of the conditions I actually built it for!

    Ideally, if my budget allows, I'd even like to race it in the spring somewhere, before sending it over to the US next summer...

    Jx
    #18
  19. The Jester

    The Jester Long timer

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,153
    Location:
    Cyprus
    I'm assuming you are aware of the Rallymoto roadbook series in the UK?
    #19
    JMo (& piglet) likes this.
  20. Johnnyboxer

    Johnnyboxer Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,239
    Location:
    Yorkshire, UK
    Nice, I do like my XR4R too
    #20