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.
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
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...