The XR600R

Wheelie fun times!


Steve jumped up and down on the kickstarter for a while, cursed a bit, and finally wobbled off around the block looking decidedly uncomfortable. After all the time and trouble we’d gone to trying to improve the XR’s handling and roadholding, it was pretty funny seeing him nearly fall off three times in the first thirty metres. Maybe we should have tightened up the fork pinch bolts and calliper mounting bolts before we sent him off, but it was just so much fun watching him trying to work out what was wrong. We were still killing ourselves laughing when he pushed the bike back to the workshop shaking like a leaf. Strangely, Steve didn’t seem to get the joke. He chucked a major tantie, grabbed the pinch bolts out of the forks and locked them – and himself – in the dunny. He flatly refused to come out, so Richard had to take over the Crash Test Idiot duties. Such is the depth of talent in the Feral team that even when the sheer lunacy of our creations reduces our designated tester to a gibbering madman, we’ve got another fruit-loop standing by ready to meet the challenge. Damn we’re good!

Kiddies, riding a motorbicycle without any pinch bolts in the fork legs is an extremely silly and dangerous thing to do. Do not, under any circumstances, try it at home. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Not even if Mummy or Daddy says you can. It’s very, very naughty and you mustn’t do it. When you do, however, make sure you do the same as nice Uncle Richard and wear all the right safety gear. In the likely event of something going pear-shaped, a nice thick layer of protective leather is the best defence against injury. Cowhide is good. Kangaroo is better. But the dense mass of scar tissue that covers Richard’s entire body is the best possible protection short of eight inches of armour plate.


Despite his inherent injury-proofness, Richard proved to be a rather cowardly Crash Test Idiot. Instead of putting the XR’s modified front end to the test properly, he dumped the clutch, hoisted the front hoop into the air from a standstill and kept it there for as long as possible. True, it is the purpose and function of a SuperMotard to keep the front tyre away from terra firma as much as possible, and thusly he was only riding the machine within its design parameters. However, his performance scored a big fat zero from the judges. We were waiting to see him bin it spectacularly and hurt himself. Again. Yes, we’re sadists. So sue us.

With Richard’s test ride successfully completed, we turned our attention to Steve and his smelly bastion of sulks. Eventually, with a lot of negotiation and the judicious use of an electric cattle prod, we managed to get the hostage pinch bolts out of the dunny and back in the bike. Steve was twitching with happiness at the thought of having a blatt with the pinch bolts installed. We think, anyway. He was certainly twitching. Possibly with happiness. He may even have been thinking – lack of evidence or precedents notwithstanding.

After a couple of jolts from the cattle prod, Steve even agreed to give the brakes a quick test. As you’d expect, his first few braking runs were a bit tentative. To our minds they were a bit more tentative than just bedding in the pads, so on his next circuit we gave him a little surprise with the prod. With his traumatic memories of the first test-wobble banished (or at least replaced by something a bit more immediate), Steve’s next run was a lot better. Before too long the rear wheel was trying to play leap-frog with the front, which is the way it should be. Steve reported that the larger disc had increased braking power exponentially, and despite the long rubber line, initial bite and lever feel were excellent. The biggest problem with the new brakes was actually the front suspension. When the brake lever was squeezed the forks dived as quickly as the Titanic, and nearly as far. It took a bit of getting used to, but didn’t cause any handling or stability problems under brakes.

Now that the brakes had been checked the Motard was dispatched to a local goat-track to check the handling. This particular stretch of bitumen falls somewhat short of being a shining example of the road-builder’s art. As a test of motorcycle handling and suspension, however, it rocks. Literally. They jump off the cutting faces and lie on the racing line in a deliberate attempt to pop tyres, bend forks and bring fuel tank and groin together with gonad-bursting force. They’re friggin’ huge, all over the place, and no bugger ever sweeps ‘em off. The rocks aren’t the only hazards, however. Potholes also get a special mention, ranging in size from tooth-chipping through mild-whiplash right up to bomb craters you could lose a Kombi in. Bumps, ruts, corrugations, rough timber bridges, huge edge drop-offs and generous sprinklings of gravel on most of the corners all contribute in their own special ways. There are numerous blind crests, single-lane sections and off-camber tightening-radius corners. Livestock and natural fauna wander across the road freely and seem to believe that they have complete right-of-way. The local yokels (believe it or not, they’re even more inbred than Steve) all own large 4WDs and continually drive on the wrong side of the road pissed as newts with their eyes closed. It’s the sort of road you’d only expect to find in outer Mongolia, war-torn Afghanistan, the seedier parts of Nigeria, or… yup, South-East Queensland. Welcome to the Smart State. When the sun shines you can’t move for the damn tourists. When it rains the roads fall apart. Beautiful one day, potholed to shit the next.

So it might not be the Nurburgring, but the test track is perfect Motard territory. It has all the right hazards in all the wrong places to put a bikes brakes, suspension and handling to the test. So how did our home-brewed creation stack up? Well, even with a woose like Steve aboard the Motard chewed up the test track, spat out the bits in contempt and came begging for more. The bumps and corrugations may as well have not existed. Rocks and potholes that would have explosively neutered a roadbike rider only extracted a gentle whisper from the forks as they effortlessly soaked up the impact. Not having to worry about the cruddy surface meant that Steve could concentrate on getting his lines right and staying on the black stuff – something he’s had quite a bit of trouble doing in the past. Not this time, though. The Motard handled like a dream. Pretty impressive considering we only lined up the wheels by eye!

With the XR successfully converted the Feral team cracked open some frosty brew-skis and sat back to count the cost. All up, including consumables like tyres and sprockets, the XR had cost less than $350 to Motard. At that price, it’s impossible not to love the thing. Sure, the 17” mag front wheel and spoked 18” rear hoop are a bit mismatched. It was bodgied up in a backyard shed, and it shows. It is exactly what it looks like – a cheap, tough, no-bullshit converted dirtbike that’s so much fun it’ll give you a nosebleed. Gotta be happy with that!

Next on the agenda: injection. Steve rebuilt the donk with race-kit parts, but the carby is stock. Aftermarket pumper carbs are reckoned to be THE best engine modification for XRs. A whopping great big injector squirting high-pressure fuel everywhere has simply gotta be better than that. For even louder thumps, bigger wheelies, flatter roadkill and hotter melted rubber, we simply have to inject it!

To Be Continued...