OE endcans often weigh as much as the Titanic’s anchor and can be just as rusty. There are great weight savings to be made here but don’t opt for anything noisy if you are going to junk the original. Boyd replaced the ‘industrial smoke stack’ on his Tenere with an aftermarket Arrow pipe bought from XT guru David Lambeth 01205 871945 www.davidlambeth.co.uk and the 660 burbles along with a lovely muted exhaust note.
Before you ditch the rear rack and pillion grab handles consider how handy they’d be, not just for strapping things to but also to use for hauling your bike out of the mire when it does get stuck. If it’s a really hefty hunk of metal can you get away with a little light trimming?
Finally, as we touched on earlier, you may well need to do some general servicing too. Rusty bolt heads, chewed screws, sticky cables, tired brakes and notchy bearings are all par for the course on an old trailie so replace where necessary. ‘Watch the wheel bearings,‘ advised Boyd. ‘They’re the first things to go once you start using them off-road...’
The Big Ride
Engines such as Yamaha’s single cylinder 660, Rotax’s old 650 and KTM’s previous generation LC4 are great old skool dirt motors, blessed with the kind of thudding power delivery which digs into the dirt and finds traction where even modern enduro bikes will light-up their tyres. Power-to-weight ratios are generally pretty miserly, so don’t expect off-the-throttle wheelies in third gear, yet there’s still enough mumbo to cruise comfortably at motorway speeds or grunt up big climbs.
If the mellow power delivery is easy to appreciate on the trails, the lack of ground clearance and the lowly suspension travel require you to readjust your riding if you’ve just jumped off an enduro weapon. Whilst awkward in deep ruts, perhaps the biggest stumbling block on a big trailie is ascending or descending rock- or root-steps. Sometimes you simply can’t drop off a boulder like you can on a competition bike without bringing the sumpguard down with a resounding ‘clang’!
You soon learn to live with, or ride around, these foibles and adapt to a new riding style. Depending on which bike you opt for, the front-end geometry may take some getting used to and feel a little vague on the dirt compared with a smaller dirtbike. This, and the physical size and weight of the machine, means that when things start to get tricky steering with the rear can be an easier option than putting all of your faith in the front tyre. Riding big bikes on the dirt is fun, picking them up isn’t!
So if you’re up for some light tinkering and like the idea of an adventure bike which doesn’t cost a fortune (who knows, you might even make some money on it!) then a bargain big trailie is worth searching out. It might just open up a whole new world of dirtbiking…
Thanks to: Boyd Emmerich at Overlander Trail Tours in the Peak District for his help with the feature. Alongside their usual green lane tours OTT run dedicated big trailie rides, as well as the occasional foray into North Africa. For more info call Boyd on 01298 83748 www.overlandertrailtours.co.uk
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