Category Archives: Project: BMW Xcountry 650

Barkbuster Storms: 15 years 10 bikes

My current 300L came with Acerbis handguards so I’ve decided to recycle my trusty old Aussie-made Barkbuster Storms (see ebayuk). Looking back, I realise what a great life of adventure they’ve enjoyed!
Proper handguards based around a metal frame clamped to the handlebar are a no brainer. A simple fall over can snap a lever or mount. That’s never happened to me since I’ve been busting the bark.

I bought my set in 2008 for my near-new Yamaha XT660Z to research the first edition of my Morocco Overland guidebook. Turned out I needed them too when I look a piste too far up Jebel Saro (right). The 660Z was also the first bike with which I experimented with DIY tubeless tyre spoked rim sealing. I’ve got better at it since. And the XT was my first bike with efi. What a miracle that proved to on a big single; smooth running at low rpm and over 80mpg possible. Where possible, I’d never go back to a carb bike.

Yamaha XT660Z – barked!

Next bike was another near-new CRF250L I bought in Arizona. Over the years right up to my current 300L, I’ve profited from new owners’ selling on bikes with barely four figures on the clock and at a massive depreciation.
The L led me on a fabulous 3200-mile clockwise lap of Southwest USA through northern California, across Nevada, into amazing Utah and back down into AZ via the ‘do-it-before-you-die’ White Rim Trail. Road and/or trail, SWUSA like being in your own road movie, a trip every rider needs to tick off.

CRF250L barking on the White Rim

The BMW XCountry was one of my periodic breaks from reliably reliable Jap machines. I used it in Morocco on my first Fly & Ride tours which have also got a lot better since. It’s a shame BMW ditched these X bikes. This one had a grand’s worth of Hyperpro suspension – on the road you’d not notice much but off road riding was believing. The X-tank too was an ingenious idea since picked up by Camel tank and an easily replicated DIY job.

Taking a dab on the BMW XCountry. Photo David W

Soon after they came out I got myself another near-new, low miler; a Honda CB500X. I barked that up along with adding prototype kit from Rally Raid who also saw potential in the twin and went on to produce a popular line of 500X-ccessories. For years my 500X page was the most viewed on this website. I used the X in Morocco on tours and for researching my Morocco 2 book.

CB500X RR barking up in the High Atlas

I went back to Arizona and this time got a KLX250 – basically like a CRF250L but for some reason never as fashionable and with better suspension out of the box. Unlike Europe, it was a carb model that ran horribly on low octane back-country fuel.
I ticked off another memorable tour of the American Southwest, including a dream visit down to Baja and Mike’s Sky Ranch with Al Jesse of bevel luggage fame. Below, barking along on the amazing WRT in Utah again: ‘the best 100 miles of dirt you’ll ever ride‘ as I wrote in Bike magazine.

White Rim Trail again – Heaven’s Dirt

On that KLX ride I met a chap on a WR250R near Death Valley. I never fully realised that Yamaha’s WR250R was actually a well-spec’d but expensive trail bike, not a dirt racer like the near-identical looking 250F or 250X which put out 40hp or more and so need regular maintenance. Yamaha imported the R for a few years into the UK but they proved an overpriced dud and by 2016 when I was looking, good ones were hard to find. So I bought one off Hyperpro in Holland just before Brexit confounded the whole import process, did it up and and set off for Morocco, the Dig Tree and edition 3 of the guidebook.

WR-ing about

A 135-kilo WR-R makes the same power if not a bit more than my current 300L, but it’s located up in the stratosphere beyond 10,000rpm. As a result the bike didn’t work on well the road and left me with a back ache for months after. As a result I decided to suspend my search for the 250 unicorn.
Back home I bought a smashed up XSR700 with the creamy CP2 lump. I repaired it, jacked it up a bit and added the usual protection, including my trusty busteros, now on their 7th outing. I still wish Yamaha would make a more serious 19/17 scrambler using their brilliant CP2 motor.

Barks and volcanoes

Next, I got some pals together on a supported tour to Algeria where I rode a lot in the 1980s. The tour finally gave me an excuse to buy an XR400, the all-time classic trail bike from the mid-1990s which was always too skimpy of subframe to make a serious travel bike. Sadly mine turned out to be skimpy of piston rings too and began guzzling oil, but was a joy to ride in the sands of the Grand Sud. The old Barks were needed, navigating through the tussocky oueds.

Barking at the border

The Himalayan came out and following teething problems it looked like it was worth a punt; a low saddled trail donkey that was perfect in Morocco, if not so much the getting there. We tried to reach the fabled Dig Tree again, but tyre problems saw to that. Still, at least my mate got a nice cover shot of the Bark-clad Him for the current edition of AMH.

For barking out loud!
Fermed
Barks on the continental shelf.

For the kind of riding I like to do I’m not a fan of giant ‘adv’ bikes but many are, so I thought I’d take the popular Africa Twin down to Mauritania in search of manageable pistes.
Hotel Sahara’ I called that trip, and the outbreak of Covid 19 put an early end to it, close to the Mauritanian border. I raced back north before Morocco locked down, but punctured the engine and had to dump the bike and fly out on the last plane. Corona went on longer than we guessed, and it took me a year and a half to recover the AT from Morocco.

AT at the Tropic of Corona

Back in London the Barks were removed for next time just before they pinched my AT. Now I feel they’ve paid for themselves many times over so it’s time to let them go. There’s easily another 15 years of protection left in them.
Who ya gonna call? Bark Busters!