If ever there were a dirt bike capable of recapturing the joy of your first riding experience, the Honda XR100R is it. Legions of budding motoheads have caught the fever while aboard this 99cc fun factory ever since Jimmy Carter was in office. As well they should. With a bike as easy and entertaining to ride as this, it’s no wonder “You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda.®”I purchased this used 2002 model from a co-worker last November. The pit bike craze was sweeping the country, and I always wanted a smaller bike that would allow me to teach my girlfriends how to ride. Although I wasn’t too thrilled with the bike’s spindly suspension and old-tech drum brakes, I knew the only two things that are capable of surviving nuclear war are cockroaches and Honda XR engines. With the air filter kept clean and the oil changed often, I reckoned this was a bike that I may be teaching my future grandkids to ride some day. The number of ratty old XRs that I’ve seen thumping through the Georgia woods on engines that continue to purr decade after decade is a testament to that.It was with great joy that I wrote my friend a check, strapped on my helmet, and swung a leg over the XR in a grassy field after work one fall afternoon. The first thing I noticed about the bike other than its smooth kick-start stroke, is that it can be a little cold natured. After the bike warms up however, it’ll purr all day. I snicked the XR into first gear, and took off. About 10 feet later, it was already time to shift. Holy gear reduction, Batman! First gear is way too low, unless you’re used to driving a tractor. The rest of the gears are well spaced. As I clicked through all five of them while riding around the field, I found the XR to be a peppy little scoot. It propelled this 6’3″ 170 lb. big kid around just fine, even if I did look like an elephant riding a peanut.The XR100′s engine is the definition of “go with the flow.” Whatever you want to do, it’s happy doing it. The 2-valve, air-cooled mill has enough torque to pull you around at lower RPMs, yet it’ll scream if you want it to. Spark plug access is simple, as is the air filter and oil drain plug. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the engine is its’ sound- or should I say lack thereof. I bought this bike as a backyard pit bike; one that won’t annoy the neighbors and yet still get me some seat time when I can’t ride my KDX200. The stock exhaust keeps your backyard fun hush-hush as far as your scowling Sierra Club neighbors are concerned. We recommend you keep it that way by leaving the spark arrestor in. Nothing says “trail closure” like a loud, raspy 4-stroke.One quibble I had with the bike right away is that the carb was jetted too lean from the factory and had a serious bog whenever the throttle wasn’t gently rolled on. To cure this, I simply raised the carburetor needle one notch. The extra fuel improved the throttle response, and the bike pulls through the gears a little harder now. Third gear wheelies are now possible with a quick yank of the handlebars. I’ve proceeded to ride the heck out of the XR over the past few months, with nothing but minimal maintenance performed. The one-gallon fuel tank takes forever to run dry, whether you’re just taking it easy on the throttle or wringing the engine’s guts out. Build quality is typical Honda; in other words, the benchmark of the industry. From the quality of the grips down to the feel of each fastener, this is a bike that will stay tight for a long time. However, maybe I was being too hard on the bike during my backyard hot laps and power line trail excursions, because during every hard ride the stock chain stretched like old bubble gum. An aftermarket chain and sprocket set has seemed to cure this.What about the suspenders and brakes, you ask? Don’t go there. The suspension probably works okay for its’ intended audience, but adults using this as a play bike are going to wince whenever going over any big bump at speed. You’re going to hear that harsh “CLANK-CLANK!” of the suspension bottoming out and get dollar signs in your eyes. Stiffer fork and shock springs are definitely going into my bike soon. The drum brakes will stop the bike adequately, but the levers take some squeezing. Hop on a modern motocross bike after riding the XR and you’re likely to throw yourself over the bars the first time you tap the brakes. Racers, rejoice: a plethora of aftermarket engine parts exists to turn your docile stock 100 into a rip-snorting little hellion.As a training bike, the Honda XR100 is an absolute breeze to teach with. Although electric start would be nice, the bike kick starts easy enough as it is. The engine’s power band is super-friendly for a first-timer, and difficult to stall. Its buttery smoothness will calm even the most nervous beginner. Furthermore, the low seat height gives the beginner a greater sense of control. If I had to pick a bike to teach my 74-year old grandmother to ride, this would be it. Two separate girlfriends of mine have learned to ride a motorcycle aboard my XR, and both were smiling and up shifting into second within a matter of minutes.In conclusion, the XR100 darn near does it all: as a backyard racer, a tool to introduce newbies to our wonderful sport, as a quiet and nimble scoot during trail clean-up days, or heck, even as a backup bike for when your big bike is out of service. After all, a ride on an XR100 is better than not riding at all. When it comes to smiles-per-hour instead of miles-per-hour, this little red rider is king. Don’t be too surprised if even your tree-hugging neighbor cracks a smile after taking a test ride, either!
DR TestedMSR Dominator T-Handle and SocketsWhether you’re a backyard tinkerer or a professional service technician, a T-handle is a necessity that no dirt rider’s tool box should be without. T-handles provide both speed and leverage, and they’re the tool you’ll most likely reach for first when doing any work to your bike. But why buy an entire set when you can buy just one T-handle that will accept -inch drive sockets on all three ends? That’s exactly what MSR has done with their version of the tool called the Dominator.At an MSRP of $18.99 for the handle including four sockets, I found the Dominator to be a reasonable value. The metric sockets are the sizes that you’ll most frequently use on your bike- 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, and 13mm. The 8mm is especially handy for doing a quick pre-ride check of all those bodywork bolts that may have rattled themselves loose since last time. Attach an Allen head socket to the Dominator and grab a box end wrench and you can quickly check those pesky rear sprocket bolts and nuts that always seem to come loose. The only thing you’ll have to look out for with this tool is the stray fourth socket, which doesn’t have anywhere to attach itself and risks getting lost on the trail.The MSR Dominator is a very versatile and well-built tool. It feels sturdy in your hand, and the sockets fit onto the head of a bolt without any play. Flimsy tools have no place in my Camelbak, which the Dominator fits into nicely, by the way. In fact, I engraved my initials on my Dominator with a Dremel tool to keep my riding buddies from “accidentally” putting it in their pack after borrowing it from me during a ride!www.msracing.com
Additional FeatureThe Big TalkerYou know the scene. It’s 10:15 on a Saturday night in a poorly lit garage. I’m sitting on a milk crate that I found on the side of the road a couple of years back, pondering how I’m ever going to get that master link clip back on without losing some skin. Gripping a Mag Lite with my knees, I struggle to get the clip on with my trusty Craftsman flat-blade screwdriver. The kind of tool that OSHA says should never be used as a pry bar. Unless it’s 10:15 Saturday night in a poorly lit garage; then of course anything goes.I’m finishing up the last bit of Hail-Mary maintenance that I hope will hold my ratty bike together long enough for another day of riding tomorrow, when my cell phone rings. It’s my buddy, The Big Talker. Everybody’s got a friend like him- the type that brags about his new bike over the phone, spreading his enthusiasm and getting you hyped up all week to hit the trails with him Sunday morning. As I touch the speakerphone button with a greasy finger, I can barely hear him over the blare of a Mariachi band in the background, and his voice is a little slurred.”We’re still at the Mexican restaurant, but look dude, you’re gonna be at the trailhead at 8:00 tomorrow, right?”"Yeah, I’m finishing putting on a chain and a set of sproc-…”PING! My screwdriver slips and the master link clip goes flying across the garage. It bounces off my tool box and lands in a cobweb underneath my workout equipment.”…and then I’m loading up and heading to bed.”"Alright man, see you at 8:00. I can’t wait! Too legit, too legit to quit!”Click. He hangs up.Any time The Big Talker starts quoting M.C. Hammer songs, it can’t be a good indication of his sobriety. Nevertheless, I retrieve the master link clip and finally snap it in place, but not before it takes a couple of more trips across the room, taking some skin off my knuckle in the process. Then I install some new grips on my handlebars, after coaxing the last molecule of grip glue out of the tube that was already empty the last time I remember using it. I scrape the layer of gooey crust off my air filter with a used Popsicle stick, kicking myself for not getting to the bike shop in time to get a new can of filter cleaner before they closed.But dang if work hasn’t been a big drag lately, and there’s been a ton of stuff to do around the house. But at least I got the grass cut and the yard trimmed earlier this evening. Good thing too, because the smell of two-stroke exhaust from the weed whacker really got me in the mood to ride. I quietly roll my bike out of the garage, and get a running start up a wooden plank into the bed of my high-dollar factory support vehicle, i.e., my old Ford truck. The nighttime dew on the grass makes the bottom of my tennis shoes slick, and I start to slip as the front wheel of my bike hits the front of the truck bed. Lucky for me, a cold steel foot peg is happy to hit my shin and break my fall. My aching muscles flex one last time for the night as I compress my forks and hook two greasy tie downs to my handlebars. I take the milk crate I was sitting on and fill it with a can of chain lube, a bottle of pre-mix, and various odds and ends. Then I head inside for the night. Sleep always comes fast and easy after one of my late-night garage sessions.There’s no sign of The Big Talker at the trailhead parking lot the next morning. I dial his cell, and a walrus answers.”I appreciate you yawning in my ear. Where are you?” I ask.”My head feels like it’s been run over by an XR 650. Dude, I don’t think I can make it this morning.”"What?! That’s a heck of a 180. You talk smack all week about smoking me on your new bike, and now you bail on me? I stayed up late scrambling to get my bike ready last night! The drinks you were having at the Mexican restaurant last night wouldn’t have anything to do with this, would it?”"Sorry man. Must’ve been the Mariachi music. They did a cover of “Can’t Touch This.”Click.This time I’m the one who hangs up first. I need to find a riding buddy who isn’t obsessed with MC Hammer, for some reason. The pajama pants he always wears when he’s riding are a little embarrassing, to say the least. I spy a group of riders about to head out on the trail. Surely they’ll let me join their posse. I’ve learned two things from this: master link pliers are a good investment, and never put faith in a Big Talker.Need more info on Mr. Red before making your decision?
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