Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1970's

Cycle News 1979 11 21

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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.... ---------~--------------------------------- 1"""4 CN I-< Q) ..c S ~ Honda opted to U88 a 23 Inch front wheel on the XR, while Kawasaki stayed with a conventional 21 inch arrangement. and a separate housing for the oil filter used, doing away with the cumbersome task of pulling the entire side co~r to get at the filter, as was previously done. The KX chassis recei~ a different steering r.ake of 28 degrees for sharper turning control, plus a hefty looking swingarm was added that is also found on Kawasaki's new 400cc effort, the KDX. No speedometer is found on the KLX, the designers opting for a double odometer unit that is resettable on the left side to 99.9 miles and tallies total mileage on the right side.Those who buy the bike for an enduro mount will have an additional investment to make, that of a lighting kit. Kawasaki decided to leave the assembly off the KLX and $49 will be needed to get the headlight/number plate unit, small enduro taillight and necessary wiring. The KLX went to the production line with an admirable claimed weight, 233 pounds dry. Motocross demands- had already kept the weight of the KX down, and the addition of the KL motor still put the KLX in a competitive category. For those who want more ponies, Kawasaki also offers a modification kit that boosts the motor to 301cc. According to Kawasaki service representatives in Atlanta, Mike Hannon, the company's factory enduro rider, has tested the kitted KLX and found it to be more than a handful. White Brothers Cycle Specialties also offers three engine kits for the KLX plus a complete line of accessories. Putting the XR to a field test left little time for preparation, as the bike went from the crate onto the starting line of a hare ~rarnble.Once a leg was swung over the mount the first feeling was that of comfort. The well padded seat combined with soft suspension took away a bit of the uptight apprehension concerning the unfamiliar machine. Starting the XR was an easy task. Those who designed the decompression system for the bike did their homework, as the 'release allowed for almost effortless kicking. Vibration was also hard to feel, a nod of approval going to Honda's counterbalancers in the XR. The XR didn't let out a raspy scream as one could expect of a fourbanger. Instead it emitted a quiet exhaust note which would pass any sound test with flying colors. . Once down the trail the Honda let one fact be known--it liked to restart after being crashed. No matter if laid down, looped or high·sided, three or four kicks would bring the XR back for more. Shifting was also positive. The XR's transmission had a fairly long throw, but no guessing was -needed to tell when -another -gear was w~ enga~. This was true of dutch or dutchless shifts, either up or down the gear range. The pulling power and low end grunt of the XR would put almost any enduro machine on the market to shame. Over rocks, through mud or up hills the four-stroke package made one see why the concept was, in reality, indeed practical. Mistakes could be made with the XR that couldn't be made with two·stroke bikes; a dead stop on a sheer uphill didn't antagonize the XR, as a flick of the clutch in first gear kept it headed for the top. A quick motor was an attribute the bike fell a bit short of. In strictly enduro situations the XR will fmd itself at home, but if put to the test against other enduro mounts on two-trackers or in more open terrain, the XR would be left behind. A thought to also consider is how much speed the XR could handle if it did have more motor. The suspension seemed woods oriented, the soft setting soaking up rocks and logs at low speed, yet not really designed for a tap-it pace through a rutted field. It's at this point the bulkiness of the XR appears. The suspension is stable; yet it has to be when 252 poun· ds of motorcycle is dr'Wping into and out of rough terrain. The 23 inch front wheel was doing its job, being easily loftable over obstacles with a feel all its own. When Honda designed their clawaction tires, it must have been at a test facility that hadn't seen rain for forty days and forty nights, as mud must not have been taken into consideration during the tire's development. On dry surfaces the rubber performed well, hooking up whenever possible and holding the front end in a straight line. But even a small mud hole would leave the XR at the other side with a hesitant test rider, the bike skating around for about 20 yards before the claw-action design threw out their load of sticky stuff. Mud and water also raised havoc with the brakes. The rear shoes went away during the hare scramble after a few dousings. In defense of the stopping system, however, it must be stated that dQwsing is defined as putting your bike in muck up to the tank ·and taking 15 minutes to get it OUt-the brakes did have a chance to suck up some slop. Mud holes also brought out another item the XR could use··a better grab loop on the rear. There wasn't enough room between the fender and pipe on the right side to get a grip; the left side didn't offer much as far as a handle, either. The end of the rear fender was the only decent place to grip on, but the plastic goop stopper is bound to give way after a few tugs of that order. The headlight/taillight assembly for the KLX is an additional $49, while the XR lights are stock, o Z Both rear ends will soak up the rougnstuff, Honda's claw-actlon design tire didn't match the K,LX's when the going was muddy. The run was complf!ted, and the Honda could be more greatly ap· preciated after the e~ent since many other bikes wouldn't even have seen the finish line if ridd«;n in the manner the XR was. Thoilglt crashed, stuck, stopped in the middle of uphills, and dropped on off-cambers, the XR was forgiving. It started when down, found a new line up hills (even if stopped in the midde) and used its four-stroke back pressure to help negotiate downhills. The Honda beat other bikes just because it kept going. Tearing down the bike after the race exposed more of the Honda's en· duro orientation. Easy access air filter, quick change rear wheel, bent and marred shift and brake' levers that weren't broken because they fold and many other small design items that keep maintenance hassles to a minimum. The same hare scrambles course "'as run again at a later date, with disasterous results. Rain plagued the area for two days before the event and kept coming until the event was over. The XR completely unpredictable at any .sort of pace, due to the clawaction tires refusing to throw off mud and converting themselves into slicks. There wasn't much time to play slip' slide, however, as the XR burned out its clutch climbing a hill only five miles out. Any bike has its limit of abuse, and the Honda received more than its share. When the clutch fmally went the Honda was being lurched up a hill by slipping the clutch in third gear. Completely faulting the clutch in this situation would be less than fair. After the bike was brought back to the shop and hosed off, one of the first things noticed was the cliain--the ten- IAbove) Honda's conventional speedometer/odometer was easily resettable.lBelow) Kawasaki's unit worked well but wes difficult to reset. was 15

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