It all started while we were planning our annual Baja trip. I had planned on riding my 87 XL600. After having considerable electrical problems, I was a little concerned that I wouldnt make it home. After all, I did get stranded in Monterey at Leguna Seca. Then I got stranded at work twice. I spent many nights troubleshooting these problems and buying expensive parts, all to no avail. At this point, I was really getting stressed. The XLs have a bad reputation for electrical problems. Of course most of them are well known and documented pretty well. But hey, Im just a backyard mechanic (actually a computer geek) and this was way over my head. The XL was a good bike for its time but it was old and heavy. It just wasnt fun off-road anymore. But what could I do? I already had three bikes, could I really talk my wife into a fourth? Probably not! It was time to plan. Let the whining begin. "Ok, so what if I sell the XL, could I use my year-end bonus to buy a late model used XR?" Her response, "Let me think about it."
Meanwhile I looked everywhere for a good, used XR 600. After calling around, I couldnt find anything. What to do? Time was running out. Then I got my break. I called Hayward Honda Suzuki and asked about used XRs. Of course they didnt have any. The sales guy asked how much I thought a used bike would cost. At this point I only found two decent used bikes. One guy was asking $4500 and the other was asking $4800. "Ridiculous" I thought. The sales guy went on to say he could get me a new one for only a little more than Id spend on a used one. Yeah whatever, I thought. I just hung up. Then I began to think (a scary thing). They gave me a really good deal on my RMX, maybe we could work something out. Ok, I decided to call back. After he said theyd consider taking my XL as trade in I was hooked. The next morning I loaded the XL into the truck. My wife, being an astute individual, asked, "why are you taking the bike to work?" "Well, um, uh, its like this" I went on to explain what a good deal they were offering and about the trade-in, etc. She said "fine, whatever" in a resigned tone, bordering on disgust. I took this as a strong "Go for it" and I did it. That evening I had a brand new 1997 XR600.
Of course getting the bike was just the beginning. That night I enthusiastically began making a list of everything I needed to make this bike usable, Yup, some consider it a character flaw. I dont question it, I just live with it. You see, (if you dont know already) a 1997 XR600 is a very good bike. Especially for an overweight, thirty-something guy like myself. I have no intentions of racing and really, Im not that great of a rider. However, I cant use anything the way it comes. I have to make it BETTER! With Baja just a few weeks a way, I had to work fast. I spent the next three nights pouring over the catalogs. I had all of the good ones, Chaparral, Baja Designs, Thumper Racing, etc. First I needed to address the performance issues. Yeah I know, there really arent any. Anyway, I didnt have time for a big bore kit so I went with a few "practical" changes. I replaced the Air Filter and got a new exhaust insert. This allows it to breathe better (whatever the heck that means). Surprisingly, other than jetting, these were the only performance mods I made.
Next I needed to address usability. First consideration here is my hands. I tend to do a lot of "bush wacking" so I needed hand guards. Oh, I need the big puffy, super-soft, dual-sport grips too. I have always used Fredette aluminum hand guards with the Acerbis plastic guards bolted to them. This time I thought Id try something different so I went with the new Acerbis Rally Guards, with spoilers of course. Next I needed to deal with my paranoia of ruining out of fuel. An IMS 4.7 gallon tank fit the bill nicely.
We had planned on being gone for a week and I wanted to carry as little as possible in my backpack. So when I saw the Baja Designs luggage rack, you know I had to have that puppy. I also got one of those large Moose rear fender bags and a front fender inner tube carrier (these are cool by the way).
Well, youd think that would do it. Nope, of course I needed the Baja Designs Dual Sport Conversion kit. Not for Baja of course, just because I needed it. Hey, who wouldnt? Anyway, when all was said and done, I ended up with the best bike Ive ever owned. Ya know, I really dont care what anybody says. For me, "getting there is at least half the fun of being there!"