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‘05 Honda XR400R – Benjie’s Café Racers


Posted on February 3, 2015 by Scott in Tracker. 27 comments

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Written by Marlon Slack.

I’m sure all Pipeburn readers were caught up in the outpouring of emotion that swept the community when Honda discontinued the XR400R. I personally remember lighting a candle and settling into bed early, listening to the radio address from the Pope lamenting the passing of one the tidiest mid-range enduro bikes to be manufactured. No? You didn’t hear about it? Well, you wouldn’t be the only ones who missed the mid-range trailbike’s departure. With its relatively light weight and moderately powerful air cooled single-cylinder engine the Honda XR400 is probably the kind of bike that would suit most people’s riding, but is usually overlooked – but not by the guys at Benjie’s Café Racer, who have spent no small amount of time turning this 2005 model into a beautiful, but practical on and off-road commuter.

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For those of you who don’t know much about the XR400, I can’t blame you. Built from 1996 to 2004 it occupied a strange place in Honda’s product line up – between the diminutive entry level XR250 and strong-as-the-balls-of-Thor XR650R. The 400 is often overlooked by many riders, being too large for beginners to fall off, too slow for the Monster Energy drink crowd and too small for Ewan McGregor-esque cross continental expeditions of narcissism. But it’s still a dependable, easy to service bike with a good amount of usable horsepower.

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And there’s a few more ponies in this particular example – when they first got their hands on the XR it had already undergone the ‘Super Commuter’ treatment, with 17” Talon wheels, Akrapovic exhaust, 450cc piston kit and hi-lift cams. The guys from Benjie’s Café Racers removed all the faded old plastics and spent no small amount of time planning the best way to turn this practical bike into a neat custom bike.

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One of the first things they tackled was the front end of the bike – and there’s a surprising amount of work that goes into getting an enduro bike set up with a stance like this. The standard long-travel XR forks were swapped for a pair from an early model Honda CBR600 which, while lowering the front end and bringing the wheel closer to the frame, yielded its own set of challenges – the steering stem had to be modified, a new front axle fitted and a new brake caliper mount had to be milled.

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The lower front end raised the Honda’s tail like a flirty moggie so a new, flatter rear subframe was manufactured to bolt into the existing mounting points. A flat tracker seat was fabricated out of carbon fibre, with LED brake and indicator lights mounted on a small brushed aluminium plate. The upholstery was finished in durable Alcantara suede, double-stitched in gold to match the tank.

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And Benjie’s Café Racer didn’t go the easy route with the tank either – deciding to make their own teardrop-shaped polished aluminium number from scratch. Finished with an understated black and gold scallop and a tidy little gas cap they also made themselves it looks beautifully proportioned and light – and as someone whose attempts to build an alloy gas tank resembled something like an after grog bog from Wall-E I’m especially impressed. Their fabrication skills didn’t stop there – the bars were bent out of 7/8 stainless steel and the front number plate was also made in-house out of aluminium, strategically cut to allow air flow to the oil cooler. The oversized header pipe is also their creation – left with a brushed finish with exposed welds.

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The guys from Benjie’s Café Racers have taken a humble XR400R enduro and made an ordinary bike really special. They’ve shed a lot of weight, replacing parts with aluminium and carbon fibre bits of their own fabrication and managed to keep the lines flowing beautifully. And the finish is fantastic too, with just the right mix of polish of measured restraint. This XR looks to be a bike that would not only looks gorgeous but would be terrific fun to ride – which can be a rare mix on the custom bike scene.

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[Photos by Ben Chan and Dante Dizon]








  • Luca

    Steep rake, i guess it is quite twitchy.

    • From my understanding of rake, less angle on the forks does not equate to ‘twitchy’ handling.

      • John_Tangeraas

        Tony Foale did some experiments on a BMW with different front setups, perhaps he is the guy you are thinking of?

        http://www.tonyfoale.com/Articles/RakeEx/RakeEx_files/image010.jpg

        • Kuiper Max

          That BM had negative rake and zero trail ( from memory ).

          It impresessed the World’s best motorcycle engineers at BMW so much.

          You can see the fruits of it, in the legion of BMW riders, whizzing down the Autobahnen. With their forks on backwards, and ihre Hände gebehinden das gebackerenen.

      • Kuiper Max

        You need someone drinking all your cheap coffee and breathing on the back of your neck who has some idea of motorcycle engineering.

        This bike has zero, or even negative trail. In short it would be unstable and steer like shit. The close to 20 degrees of rake would also make it twitchy, imprecise and very dangerous.

        99.9999 % of all the bikes in the World have at least 80.0 mm of trail.

        I’ve got to get a T shirt from this clown, purely for comedic purpose.

        The XR400 was the best serious four stroke trailbike of it’s era. 250cc type weight with near 500cc power.

        • cagivarider

          Agree with you on the twitchy steering, but the second
          pic plus two sheets of paper prove the trail is positiv 😉

          Anyway, nicely crafted bike! Dig these headlights!

          Kind regards
          Sven

          • Kuiper Max

            I don’t think you understand the difference between fork clamp offset and measured trail.As far as I can calculate, this bikes fork geometry has zero static trail and negative trail with the forks fully compressed.

          • cagivarider
          • Kuiper Max

            Your drawn lines are pretty vague and inaccurate.I still stand by my geometry analysis.

          • cagivarider

            So please tell us about your analysis, all you posted so far was a mere assertion!

            Kind Regards
            Sven

          • Kuiper Max

            I drew it up like you did, earlier than you did. I think.

            My lines where more accurate in regards to the headstem and axle. So I got more valid results.

            This bike has virtually no trail, and almost certainly no trail with the forks fully compressed. As far as I can determine from the photos.

          • Darkbrador

            Another armchair expert advice, backed by a 12 years-old attitude. At least that Sven guy is showing some sort of demonstration of his point. Time to chill now.The only way to know is to get feedback from the owner/rider of that bike … Who am sure is riding and grinning all the way.

          • Kuiper Max

            -Decades of experience. -In over ten M/C workshops.

            I doubt this bike has ever been ridden.

            About half the commentators here say the front end is just plain wrong. Not just me.

            I drew it up, and confirmed my impression of the bike.

          • cagivarider

            Max, just to exclude any misunderstanding:
            the definition of “trail” is known to you?

            Kind regards
            Sven

          • Kuiper Max

            I’m going to deconstruct my English language here to a level that a space monkey could probably comprend.

            Bikie lookie lookie.

            Notee slidie ridee.

            Benjie boogie boy.

            Trail detail fail.

          • cagivarider

            Perhaps geometry too much difficulty for Maxi?
            Better go workshop sweepie sweepie?

          • roy

            f’in hilarious

  • John Wanninger

    That is a great motor.

  • Von Sieben

    that rake… looks like the bike had an accident. i really do like nothing about that thing.

  • Tom

    neither practical on or off road

  • Astounded

    Front forks with +/- 1/3 – 1/2 the travel of the rear suspension as well as a steering angle so steep it makes flat trackers look choppered out…..wtf.

    Clearly there was some time, money, and skill poured into this bike, why then are there such blatant, and easily remedied, flaws with elements as crucial as geometry and suspension travel?!?!

  • arnold

    My guess is that when I settle my big butt down to take out the preload , it will look just fine.
    (although the coils look pretty close on the rear shock already.)

    • Kuiper Max

      And then you brake hard? Then it is worse than it looks.

  • MotoTrooper

    Still would like to get my hands on a stock xr400, from the reports I read they were a fine off roader. Agree with the general consensus on the front end instability there, very surprising that a builder wouldn’t educate themselves on suspension geometry or at least google it after doing a mock-up and seeing the direction they’re headed. The wider wheels and wide handlebar will help somewhat but a good steering damper will probably need to be fitted.

    Aside from all that front forkiness, this bike does look well crafted and handsome.

    • Kuiper Max

      A steering damper will be of little assistance in this bikes dire setup. In fact it could make it far worse.You can’t just solve handling problems just by making it harder to steer.

      This bike would be good for riding around in tiny circles. Like at the circus.

  • randy the great

    I want to ride the piss outta this bike, looks like fun!

  • four candles or fork handles