THE ALUMINUM FRAME XR400: THE WRAP

Duane Brown from BBR was with us last month when his son Carson test-rode the 2022 Yamaha YZ125 for Dirt Bike. Duane and I go way back, and we started talking, like old guys do, about the good old days. One of those days was chronicled in the April, 1996 issue of Dirt Bike. The aluminum framed XR400 that BBR built caused quite a stir. Remember, 1996 was before even Honda had developed aluminum frames. It was before the Yamaha YZ400F and before four-strokes were generally considered competitive, especially in motocross. Here are some excerpts from that issue.

A square-section aluminum frame for Honda’s impressive four-valve 400 would be quite a step forward, even if all it did was mimic the stock geometry, but BBR had loftier goals for its chassis. The plan included bringing current motocross-level chassis strength, geometry, handling and suspension performance to the trail bike engine. To do it, BBR took a ’96 CR250 and measured its every dimension, from steering head angle to footpeg position, and engineered the aluminum frame to hold the XR engine without disturbing the CR chassis configuration. When the Browns finished with the main frame, they were able to bolt the ’96 CR’s swingarm and linkage in place. The production swingarm was used, but BBR used Devol CR billet linkage parts. A Devol-valved Ohlins shock is used instead of the CR’s Showa.
The XR’ s fork lacked the travel to match the CR250’s rear suspension, so a ’96 Suzuki RM conventional, twin-chamber fork was slid into the billet triple clamps. BBR’s CR-copy aluminum subframe went on as well, allowing the standard Honda CR fuel tank and bodywork to be used. The special frame and chassis deserved something more striking and sophisticated than stock CR bodywork, so BBR fabricated a CR250 fuel tank in aluminum and chose black for the rest of the body parts.


BBR wanted to see what the stock XR400 engine could do in the CR-Ievel frame, so modifications were limited to a handmade pipe and appropriate carburetor jetting. We were curious as well and joined the BBR crew for the bike’s first outing. Our first laps on the 400 were a little confusing, but in a good way. Imagine feeling what is essentially a CR250R beneath you: slim, quick-steering and solid, with broad, pleasant yet unintimidating power at the business end of the throttle. The BBR XR400 is a mere three pounds lighter than the stocker, but its rigidity eliminates the kind of flex that dulls a bike’s handling. If BBR had hung the XR’s comparatively wimpy swingarm, front end and light-duty wheels on its aluminum main frame, the bike could have come out much lighter but would have the same modest handling limits the XR has.
BBR’s XR400 is truly ready for motocross. There is no over-the-counter bike that delivers quite the same sensations. Two- and four-stroke motocrossers are far more intimidating, and even the best trail bikes are plump and oafish by comparison. BBR’s 400 generates that rare, reassuring feel of a machine with a chassis that is more than a match for its engine.

Whatever happened to that bike? It turned up again just recently. BBR sold the prototype to an older rider and, for a 26 year-old bike, it has relatively low time. Duane purchased it and it’s currently in the process of a full restoration. We can’t wait to ride it again.

NEW AFRICA TWIN

2022 CRF1100L Africa Twin

Honda just announced the 2022 Africa Twin. The standard version now comes with the same rear carrier as its more distance riding-oriented Adventure Sports ES sibling. Meanwhile, that version gets a shorter windscreen for improved visibility. Both Africa Twin versions are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and both are available with either a manual gearbox or Honda’s automatic Dual Clutch Transmission, which has a program change for 2022, delivering smoother shifting in the lower gears.

MSRP
Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES DCT: $18,099
Africa Twin Adventure Sports ES: $17,299
Africa Twin DCT: $15,299
Africa Twin: $14,499
Colors
Africa Twin Adventure Sports SE: Pearl White
Africa Twin: Grand Prix Red

DAKAR NEW BLOOD

 

Mason Klein, stage 9

Mason Klein is a 20-year old privateer who impressed everyone at Dakar this year. But he didn’t just come out of nowhere. He often rides and trains with Skyler Howes, who is especially proud of Mason’s performance. Mason first rode the Sonora rally in 2020, then finished fifth in 2021. He won the Rally 2 class at the  Morocco Rally. Mason raised most of the money on GoFundMe, and rode for BAS KTM, which is a pay-to-play team that Skyler used last year. You can read about Mason and the day-by-day results of the 2022 Dakar Rally here. Congratulations!

WYOMING BDR

 

The Wyoming Backroad Discovery Route will be dropped on February 1, 2022. One of the last frontiers in America, (and the least populated state) with 48% of the state being public land, the WYBDR is the most remote adventure of all the BDR’s created to date. The WYBDR is the 11th adventure motorcycle route developed by the BDR organization for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel. The route will traverse five different mountain ranges, giving riders an opportunity to experience expansive views from the summit of two 11,000-foot mountains. Riders will explore vast high-desert regions, cross two major rim escarpments, descend several gorges and pass through many other seldom visited areas and historic mining towns. You can learn more about BDR here.

SPEAKING OF ADVENTURE RIDES …

Moose Racing introduces its new saddle bag guard for KTM/Husky/Gas Gas. Protect your dual sport bike’s saddlebags from damaging exhaust heat with this high quality, light weight carbon fiber heat shield. Not only is the carbon fiber lightweight, protective and durable, it adds a nice sleek style to any dual sport bike. MSRP is listed at $159.95. Head on over to your local dealer or to www.mooseracing.com. to check this out!

See you next week!

–Ron Lawson

 

 

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