The Honda XR400 is not just a dirt bike; it’s a legend in its own right. With a storied history and a reputation for toughness, it has captured the hearts of off-road enthusiasts for decades. In this comprehensive review, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of the Honda XR400, exploring its evolution, key specifications, and what makes it a timeless choice for riders.
A Brief History of the Honda XR400
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of the XR400’s specs, let’s take a trip down memory lane to understand how this legendary bike came into being.
The XR series, which includes the XR400, has been a part of Honda’s lineup since the 1980s. These bikes were designed to excel in off-road environments, offering a perfect blend of power, durability, and agility. The XR400, in particular, was introduced in the late 1990s and quickly gained a reputation as a go-to choice for trail riders, desert racers, and adventurers seeking reliable off-road performance.
1. Early Beginnings
The XR series made its debut in the early 1980s with bikes like the XR250 and XR500. These models laid the foundation for the XR400, showcasing Honda’s commitment to producing rugged, reliable, and versatile off-road machines. These early XRs were known for their simplicity, durability, and ease of maintenance—qualities that would become hallmarks of the XR400.
2. The Birth of the XR400
In 1996, Honda introduced the XR400R, marking the birth of the XR400 we know today. This new model was a significant step forward in terms of performance and design. It featured a 397cc engine with an electric start, addressing one of the common inconveniences of off-road riding—kickstarting a stubborn engine in challenging terrain. The XR400R’s engine was renowned for its tractable power delivery, making it accessible to a wide range of riders.
3. Time-Tested Design
One of the remarkable aspects of the XR400’s evolution is its timeless design. Despite minor updates over the years, the XR400’s overall appearance has remained relatively consistent. Its classic, no-frills aesthetic appeals to riders who value simplicity and functionality. This design continuity also contributes to the bike’s enduring popularity, as riders find comfort in the familiar.
4. The XR400 in Action
The XR400’s reputation for reliability and versatility extends to its performance on the trail. Riders have taken this bike to diverse terrains, from tight and technical single tracks to wide-open desert expanses. Its suspension, while not the most advanced by modern standards, offers a comfortable and controlled ride over rough terrain.
5. Enduring Legacy
As the years have passed, the XR400 has earned an enduring legacy. Riders who started their dirt biking journey on an XR400 often develop a deep attachment to the bike, considering it a trusted friend on their off-road adventures. The XR400’s durability is legendary, with many examples still tackling challenging trails and conquering new frontiers decades after their initial release.
6. The XR400 Community
The XR400’s enduring popularity has also fostered a vibrant community of enthusiasts and aftermarket support. Riders share their experiences, modifications, and maintenance tips, ensuring that the XR400 continues to thrive in the hands of passionate owners.
Horsepower of the Honda XR400
The Honda XR400 is equipped with a 397cc four-stroke engine. While this dirt bike is not known for producing eye-popping horsepower figures like some high-performance motorcycles, its design prioritizes torque and tractability over sheer horsepower.
In terms of horsepower, the XR400 typically produces around 30 to 34 horsepower at the crankshaft. It’s important to note that these numbers can vary slightly depending on factors such as maintenance, modifications, and altitude. While this may not seem like a massive amount of horsepower compared to some sport bikes or motocross machines, it’s important to understand the context in which the XR400 operates.
The XR400’s power delivery is characterized by a strong low-end and mid-range torque, which is ideal for off-road riding. This torquey nature provides excellent traction and control, making it well-suited for navigating challenging trails, rocky terrain, and technical sections. Riders appreciate the predictable and manageable power of the XR400, especially in situations that require finesse and control over raw horsepower.
While the XR400’s horsepower may not break any records, it’s perfectly suited for its intended purpose – off-road exploration and adventure. Riders often value its reliability, durability, and manageable power output, making it a trusted companion for tackling diverse terrains and enjoying the thrill of off-road riding.
The Missing Item? An Electric Start
In the world of off-road motorcycles, the inclusion of an electric start system can often feel like the “missing piece” of the puzzle for many riders. For years, kick-starting has been the traditional method of firing up dirt bikes, including the Honda XR400. While kick-starting has its merits and can be a reliable way to get your bike running, the introduction of electric start systems has brought a new level of convenience to off-road riding.
The Honda XR400, in its later iterations like the XR400R, addressed this missing piece by incorporating an electric start system alongside the traditional kick-start option. This addition was a game-changer for many riders, especially those who value hassle-free starts, whether in challenging trail conditions or during a quick pit stop.
Here are a few reasons why the electric start is often considered the missing piece:
1. Accessibility: Electric start systems make firing up the bike accessible to riders of all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned off-road enthusiast, the push of a button eliminates the need for a forceful kick-start, which can sometimes be tricky, especially in demanding terrain.
2. Convenience: Imagine being on a steep hill or rocky trail, having stalled the bike. With an electric start, you can restart your engine without the need to find a suitable kick-starting position or struggle with the kick lever in challenging conditions.
3. Reduced Fatigue: Kick-starting can be physically demanding, especially in situations where multiple attempts are required. Electric start eliminates the need for strenuous kicking, reducing rider fatigue and allowing for a more enjoyable and sustained riding experience.
4. Quick Restarts: Electric start systems are lightning-fast. Whether you stall the bike or need to restart in a hurry, a simple push of a button gets you back on the trail without delay.
It’s crucial to note that the XR400’s electric start didn’t compromise the bike’s overall toughness and simplicity, even if it provided many riders with the missing element. By retaining its reputation for dependability and toughness, the XR400 made sure that the inclusion of an electric start didn’t diminish its off-road skills.
Electric start systems have developed into a useful feature that bridges the gap between usability and off-road capability. The addition of an electric start has made the Honda XR400 an even more adaptable and rider-friendly dirt bike for riders who value the ease and accessibility it offers, reaffirming its place as a cherished classic in the off-road riding community.
Is It Possible to Install an Electric Start?
Adding an electric start to a dirt bike like the Honda XR400 is indeed possible, but it’s not a straightforward or inexpensive modification. Here are some key points to consider if you’re thinking about adding an electric start to your XR400 or a similar kick-start-only bike:
1. Compatibility: Not all dirt bikes are designed to accommodate electric start systems. To add this feature, your bike should have the necessary provisions in its frame and engine to accommodate the starter motor, battery, wiring, and other components.
2. Aftermarket Kits: Several aftermarket companies offer electric start conversion kits designed specifically for certain dirt bike models, including the XR400. These kits typically include all the components you need, such as a starter motor, battery, wiring harness, and button controls. However, these kits can be relatively expensive and may require some technical expertise for installation.
3. Installation: Installing an electric starter kit can be a complex and time-consuming process. It may involve modifications to the frame, engine casing, and other components to accommodate the new parts. Unless you have experience with motorcycle mechanics and electrical systems, it’s advisable to have a professional mechanic perform the installation.
4. Weight and Balance: Adding an electric start system can increase the weight of your bike. This can affect its handling and balance, especially in off-road conditions. Be prepared for potential changes in the bike’s feel and performance.
5. Cost: The cost of purchasing and installing an electric starter kit can be significant. It’s essential to weigh the expense against the convenience and benefits of having an electric start.
6. Battery Maintenance: Electric start systems require a battery, and maintaining the battery’s charge is crucial for reliable starts. If the battery becomes depleted, kick-starting may still be necessary.
How to Start Your XR 400 Easily
Kick-starting your Honda XR400 can sometimes be a bit challenging, especially in certain conditions. However, there are several tips and techniques you can use to make kick-starting your XR 400 easier:
- Top Dead Center (TDC): Before attempting to kick-start, make sure the piston is at top dead center (TDC). You can do this by gently pushing the kick lever until you feel resistance. This indicates that the piston is at the highest point in the cylinder. Once you reach this point, release the lever, and then kick down with a full stroke for maximum compression.
- Use Decompression Lever: Many XR 400s come equipped with a decompression lever. This lever temporarily releases compression, making it easier to kick-start the engine. To use it, pull the decompression lever in while kicking the engine over. After a few kicks, release the lever, and the engine should start.
- Proper Technique: Use a smooth and deliberate kicking motion. Don’t force the kick lever down with excessive force; instead, use a controlled and fluid motion. Kicking too hard can actually make it more challenging to start the bike.
- Check Fuel and Choke: Ensure that your bike has an adequate supply of fuel and that the choke is in the correct position. A properly choked engine is easier to start.
- Warm-Up: If the engine is cold, it may be more challenging to start. Consider letting the bike warm up for a few minutes before attempting to kick-start it.
- Maintain Your Bike: Regular maintenance, including valve adjustments, clean air filters, and good quality oil, can significantly improve the ease of kick-starting.
- Practice: Kick-starting can be a skill that improves with practice. Spend some time in a controlled environment getting a feel for the timing and force required to start your XR 400.
- Compression Release System (Optional): Some riders choose to install an aftermarket compression release system, which can make kick-starting much easier. However, this is a more advanced modification and may require professional installation.
Remember that kick-starting can vary from one bike to another due to factors like engine condition, compression, and maintenance. With practice and the right technique, you can become proficient at kick-starting your XR 400 and enjoy your off-road adventures with confidence.
Top Speed, Suspension, and Front Forks
Let’s explore the top speed, suspension, and front forks of the Honda XR400:
1. Top Speed: The top speed of the Honda XR400 can vary depending on several factors, including rider weight, terrain, and modifications. On average, the XR400 is capable of reaching a top speed of approximately 85 to 90 miles per hour (137 to 145 kilometers per hour) when properly tuned and ridden on open, flat terrain. However, it’s important to note that the XR400 is not designed for high-speed performance but rather for off-road and trail riding. Riders typically value its torque and reliability over top speed.
2. Suspension: The suspension system of the Honda XR400 is one of its key strengths. It’s designed to handle a variety of off-road conditions, making it a versatile choice for riders who encounter diverse terrain. The XR400 features a long-travel suspension setup, including:
- Front Forks: The XR400 is equipped with conventional telescopic front forks with ample travel, typically around 11 inches (280mm). These forks provide good absorption of bumps and obstacles, enhancing the bike’s ability to handle rough trails and uneven terrain.
- Rear Suspension: The rear suspension utilizes a Pro-Link system, offering approximately 11 inches (280mm) of travel as well. This rear suspension setup complements the front forks, providing a comfortable and controlled ride over various off-road surfaces.
The combination of these suspension components allows the XR400 to maintain stability and control, even when navigating challenging trails, rocky paths, and rough desert terrain.
3. Front Forks: The front forks of the Honda XR400 are robust and well-suited for off-road riding. They are designed to withstand the rigors of trail riding and offer adjustable preload settings to accommodate different rider weights and preferences. These front forks contribute to the bike’s responsive handling and ability to tackle obstacles with confidence.
Although the XR400’s suspension may not be as sophisticated as that available in contemporary motocross or enduro motorcycles, it is nonetheless well-known for its dependability and performance in off-road situations. Riders frequently like the XR400’s dependable and well-balanced handling, which makes it a reliable option for off-road excursions.
In order to provide a unique and pleasant experience on their XR400, users can further optimise the suspension settings based on their particular riding style and terrain.
Compression and Rebound Clicker Adjustment on the Honda XR400: Fine-Tuning Your Ride
The Honda XR400 is a legendary off-road machine known for its versatility and rugged performance. To make the most of your XR400’s capabilities, it’s essential to understand and utilize its suspension features. One crucial aspect of suspension tuning is adjusting the compression and rebound clickers. These adjustments can significantly impact your bike’s handling and comfort, allowing you to tailor it to your riding style and terrain.
Compression Clicker Adjustment:
- The compression clicker controls how quickly the suspension compresses when subjected to an impact, such as hitting a bump or landing from a jump.
- Turning the compression clicker clockwise increases compression damping, making the suspension stiffer and reducing dive under braking.
- Turning it counterclockwise decreases compression damping, providing a plusher ride over rough terrain and enhancing front-wheel traction.
- Adjust the compression clicker based on the type of terrain you’re riding. For rocky or rough trails, softer compression settings are often preferred for improved comfort and traction. In contrast, tighter settings are suitable for faster, smoother terrain to maintain stability.
Rebound Clicker Adjustment:
- The rebound clicker determines how quickly the suspension extends after being compressed. Proper rebound adjustment is crucial for maintaining control and stability during rapid terrain changes.
- Turning the rebound clicker clockwise increases rebound damping, slowing down the extension of the suspension. This can prevent the bike from feeling “bouncy” over rough terrain.
- Turning it counterclockwise decreases rebound damping, allowing the suspension to extend more quickly. This can be beneficial for maintaining traction on high-frequency, choppy terrain.
- Adjust the rebound clicker to find the right balance between stability and control. In general, slower rebound settings are favored for high-speed sections, while faster settings can help the bike track well in technical sections.
Finding the Right Balance:
Suspension tuning is a dynamic process that may require experimentation. Start with the manufacturer’s recommended settings and make small adjustments based on your riding preferences and the specific conditions you encounter. Keep a record of your changes and their effects to fine-tune your XR400’s suspension for optimal performance.
Seat Height and Weight
Let’s discuss the seat height and weight of the Honda XR400:
1. Seat Height: The seat height of the Honda XR400 typically measures around 37.6 inches (955mm) from the ground to the top of the seat. This relatively tall seat height is a characteristic of many dirt bikes, including the XR400. The elevated seat height allows for better ground clearance, which is essential for off-road riding where riders encounter various obstacles, including rocks, tree roots, and uneven terrain.
While the seat height may initially feel tall for some riders, it’s important to note that the XR400’s design includes a narrow and relatively flat seat profile. This design allows riders to shift their weight and position easily, whether sitting or standing, providing greater control over the bike in off-road conditions.
Tall seat heights are common in off-road motorcycles as they offer advantages in terms of maneuverability and obstacle clearance when navigating challenging trails and terrain.
2. Weight: The Honda XR400 has an approximate dry weight of around 267 pounds (121 kilograms). This weight measurement typically excludes fluids like oil and fuel. The XR400’s relatively lightweight design is one of its strengths, contributing to its agility and maneuverability in off-road environments.
Riders who seek control and responsiveness when tackling trails, single tracks, and other off-road terrain frequently choose the XR400 because of its manageable weight, which achieves a balance between stability and simplicity of handling.
Although the XR400 is not the lightest dirt bike available, its weight is evenly distributed, and its design enables confidence riding in a variety of off-road situations.
The XR400’s adaptability and performance in off-road adventures are ultimately influenced by its seat height and weight, which enable riders to go across difficult terrain with comfort and control.
Honda XR400 Pros and Cons
Here are some pros and cons of the Honda XR400:
- Reliability: The XR400 is renowned for its legendary reliability. Its simple air-cooled engine and durable construction make it a trusted choice for riders who prioritize dependability.
- Versatility: This bike is highly versatile and can handle a wide range of off-road terrains, from tight and technical trails to open desert expanses.
- Torquey Engine: The XR400’s four-stroke engine delivers strong low-end and mid-range torque, providing excellent traction and control in off-road conditions.
- Suspension: With long-travel front and rear suspension, the XR400 offers a comfortable and controlled ride over rough terrain, enhancing its off-road capabilities.
- Timeless Design: The XR400’s classic, no-frills aesthetic has endured over the years, contributing to its enduring popularity among riders.
- Lightweight: With a manageable dry weight, the XR400 strikes a balance between stability and agility, making it easy to handle on challenging trails.
- Kick-Start Only: While the XR400 offers an electric start option in later models, some earlier versions are kick-start only, which can be challenging in certain situations.
- Limited Top Speed: The XR400 is not designed for high-speed performance. Its top speed is relatively modest compared to some other dirt bikes, but it’s well-suited for off-road riding.
- Aging Technology: The XR400’s technology and design have remained relatively unchanged over the years, making it less competitive with more modern dirt bikes in terms of features and performance.
- Lack of Fuel Injection: The XR400 uses a carburetor rather than fuel injection, which can require occasional tuning and adjustment for optimal performance.
- Narrow Seat: While the narrow seat profile aids in maneuverability, some riders may find it less comfortable for extended periods of seated riding.
- Limited Street Legality: Depending on local regulations, the XR400 may not be street-legal in some areas, limiting its versatility for dual-sport riding.
When Did Honda Stop Making XR400?
Honda discontinued the production of the XR400 in the United States in 2004. This model was well-regarded for its off-road capabilities and durability during its production years, but it was eventually phased out to make way for newer models in Honda’s lineup. However, it’s worth noting that the XR400 may have been available in other regions for a few years after its discontinuation in the U.S.
1. What is the Honda XR400 known for?
The Honda XR400 is renowned for its versatility and reliability, making it a popular choice for off-road enthusiasts. It’s recognized for its robust construction and impressive off-road performance.
2. What type of engine does the Honda XR400 have?
The Honda XR400 is equipped with a 400cc, air-cooled, four-stroke engine known for its durability and torque. It’s a single-cylinder engine designed for off-road use.
3. Is the Honda XR400 suitable for beginners?
Although the XR400 is a flexible bike, because to its size and power, it is often advised for riders with some off-road expertise. The XR400 can be used safely and successfully by riders of all skill levels, though, with the right instruction.
4. Can the Honda XR400 be used for both trail riding and motocross?
Yes, the XR400 is designed to handle a wide range of off-road conditions, making it suitable for both trail riding and motocross. Its suspension and power make it a versatile choice for various terrains.
5. What are the key features of the Honda XR400?
Key features of the XR400 include its air-cooled engine, electric start (depending on the model year), robust suspension, and durable frame. It’s known for its reliability in challenging off-road environments.
6. How do I maintain the Honda XR400’s suspension?
Proper suspension maintenance is essential for optimal performance. Regularly check and adjust the compression and rebound clickers to suit your riding style and terrain. Consult the owner’s manual for specific maintenance instructions.
In summary, the Honda XR400 is more than simply a dirt bike; it represents off-road adventure, tough dependability, and a link to the sport’s origins. Its development over time has improved its appearance and performance, but it has never lost sight of its fundamental principles—providing an off-road enthusiast with a dependable, adaptable, and pleasant ride. The Honda XR400 welcomes you to go out on amazing experiences, continuing its tradition of toughness and dependability, whether you’re an experienced rider or new to the sport of dirt riding.