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-   -   XR400 on the dunes (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/honda-tech/xr400-on-the-dunes-28172)

mladen 12 Jul 2007 13:24

XR400 on the dunes
I'm about to buy a honda XR400r, but I'm a little affraid that the power wouldn't be enough to take me on high dunes. Does anyone have some experience on that?

Stephano 13 Jul 2007 00:32


Originally Posted by mladen (Post 143016)
I'm about to buy a honda XR400r, but I'm a little affraid that the power wouldn't be enough to take me on high dunes. Does anyone have some experience on that?

I had one for several years in the UAE until it was stolen. It's a very capable bike in sand and sadly missed. It will get you almost everywhere but don't expect it to climb steep slopes as well as a 2-stroke or the newer and lighter 4-stroke CRFs.


mollydog 13 Jul 2007 08:46

Most of what it takes to ride Dunes is not ENGINE HEAT.

mladen 13 Jul 2007 10:36


Originally Posted by mollydog (Post 143147)
Most of what it takes to ride Dunes is not Horse power but the skill of the rider.
The XR400 (I owned one for 3 years) is a bit heavy...and that's gonna be your problem with very steep, very loose and deep sand. Firmer sand will be easier.

Run about 12 to 14 psi in your tires and keep your speed up....if you're brave enough!!:innocent:

The other thing to consider is ENGINE HEAT. If you plow full throttle through deep sand for miles and miles you WILL over heat the motor. Use caution. Honda's are tough but you CAN and will cook the motor if you push too hard in
deep sand for too long.

Good luck


Thanks a lot for both responses.

I was two times down in Tunisia with my Africa twin, and I loved to drive it down to el borma on open tracks and small dunes and eaven on the pipeline. So much fun. The problem is to drive on dunes arround el Borma, they are quite high and the second gear starts to loose power, when you put in the firs gear then you dig in to the sand. Another problem is to drive on the dunes arround Ksar Ghiliane. They are not high, but they are so close together and the weight of the AT is too much elevate, you need a lot of energy.

So the weight of an XR400 seems to me like nothing in comparission to an AT.

" Most of what it takes to ride Dunes is not Horse power but the skill of the rider."

I tottaly agree with that. My friend with the same motorbyke (AT) did climb on the top of the dune, I didn't. So it is all about skills. But I have enough skills to take a lighter motorbike on the top of the dunes arround el borma, I'm quite shure about that.

About ENGINE HEAT, everybody was telling me that this is not a problem. I ran in to a group of italians. They told me that they have problems with the XR650, because of overheating an boiling water, but none problems with the old aircooled XR600 which were in the group.

Two years ago my frend was with me on an aircooled honda XL600L (the one with the big tank). He was driving in second gear on the sand with a lot of clutch work, because of the low power, but none problem with overheating. I just couldn't belive.

I need a motorbike to drive off road in the woods all year round, and once a year in the desert for some days. I'm considering the XR400 and the yam WR450. I know that on the paper the yam WR450 is another story, but in real life, when you drive off road as an amateur I'm not quite shure that it would make such a big difference.

It is like AT and KTM950. KTM950 it's just a different story, but when I drive with my friends, we are always together at the end of an off road.

mollydog 13 Jul 2007 19:17

This will make getting through sand easier and allow more air flow
to the motor.

Stephano 13 Jul 2007 21:55

RE: tyres
I always run 10 at the front, 12 at the back.

Never, ever had a problem with overheating an XR400 or 250 and the UAE can be hot. If you're worried about temperature, XRs Only do a nice oil thermometer. I used to have one. :(

Also, do most of my dune riding in 2nd or third gear (most often forgetting which one I'm in :))

mladen 13 Jul 2007 22:59


Originally Posted by mollydog (Post 143253)
If you can pack all your gear onto a WR450, then that, to me, is a much better choice as a sand bike. First off, it is much lighter weight and will be child's play to handle in deep sand. Secondly, it has the power to keep the front end light and "on top of" the sand. This is the key thing in making progress in sand.

The problems is the WR is not as good at hauling all the gear and luggage.
Its is a very reliable bike but with a light rear sub frame it may be limited in cargo carrying ability.

On XR's and air cooled bikes. Just because the XR's made it through the desert and did not blow up does not mean they were not too hot. You have to trust me, they get very very hot and some wear will take place in these conditions.

Spinning the bike to high revs in 1st or 2nd gear to make progress is a sure way to heat things up to a dangerous level. If you can....GO FASTER...In a higher gear. This will make getting through sand easier and allow more air flow
to the motor.

Have fun.


Thanks again for the replyes.

One thing about the XR weight. Everybody claim the XR is heavier than the new high tech off road motorbikes. I have a test from an italian newspaper INMOTO. There are 5 off road bikes tested, including the most aged XR400 and the yam WR450. THe weight of the XR measured on the test is 119,4kg, and the weight of the WR450 is 119,8kg. So, I don't see any difference in weight.
They also claimed the XR400 as the most easy to handle on the most difficult terrain, but also the slowest in open spaces.

I understand that with more power the front end will top off the sand and it would be easier to drive in deep sand.

On the other hand, Stephano didn't have any problems with overheating or driving in the sand.

I really don't know what to go for!

mollydog 13 Jul 2007 23:06

Its a simpler bike with not much to break in a crash. And a used one might be less money.

BDG 27 Jul 2007 13:22

Xr400's are fine in sand, i have ridden to the top of Erg Chebbi, the highest dune at about 700 feet, in Morocco several times.

When we stop to play in deep sand we let all of the air out of the tyres for better grip, it works, but of course you need to pump them up again.

Riding in sand is strange at first but in simple terms keep your weight back and keep the power on, XR's are great.

I've also owned a WR450, but haven't ridden that in the sand so can't comment there, but the big advantage of the WR is better suspension and the electric start, even though XR's are easy to kick.

For the mix of riding you describe with only a bit of dune riding either bike will do, but i'd say the WR is a better option for general riding, but if i was doing a long desert trip with luggage i'd opt for the XR.

martync 27 Jul 2007 14:01

XR400's are great and can get up anything. I have one and have put on a 440 kit which gives it loads of bottom end grunt. Going up steep hills is in the momentum not pulling power so the XR will be good.

Only problem I have is the fact it is kick start, I'm a short arse so can't do it easily sat on the bike. I wouldn't have a Yamaha or Suzuki as they're shim valved so home adjustment isnt an easy option. Honda are easy.

Heat won't be a problem - just keep an eye on the oil level (check daily)

JMo (& piglet) 3 Aug 2007 02:26

I'd echo what the others have said - the XR400 is a great bike in the sand... if you are worried about the power when compared to newer watercooled bikes, then stick a 14t front sprocket on with the 45 rear, and it will noticably improve the performance (I doubt you'll want to do more than 60mph on sand?) - as BDG said: lower (correct for the conditions) tyre pressures play an important part in helping the engine to not work as hard too...

I have an '03 XR400R with the gordon mods (open pipe and airbox, rejetted etc.) and it basically has the same straightline performance as a KTM400EXC... the XR may feel a little heavier (although we are only talking a few Kg's at most), but the weight is carried low, and it is very tractable in comparison to the newer and more revvy 4 stroke bikes out there...


Stephano 6 Aug 2007 21:28


Originally Posted by JMo (& piglet) (Post 145843)
I have an '03 XR400R with the gordon mods.

I haven't heard that expression in a while. :)
Did you know Gordon gave up his XR400 for his Goldwing and a KTM!? :eek3:

Re: Kickstarting, if you've got the cash, Mikuni do a carb for the XR which helps a lot with starting and eliminates the lack of response you get with stock XRs if you snap the throttle open.

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