Project Mini Moto Graphics/Tech Bike

June 29, 2004
By Brian Korfhage
Photos By Tyler Maddox

2004 Graphics-Tech Bike - Mini Moto
Brian Chamberlain puts the Content/Graphics team bike to the test at John Lawton’s mini track.

You’ve got a brand new XR50 and $2000 to hop it up any way you see fit. Sounds like you just won a contest, right?

Most people would feel the same way, but the Graphics/Tech team led by Joe Wallace and Brian Chamberlain were feeling more pressure than joy when MotorcycleUSA’s Project: Mini Moto was underway. Anxiety builds when you are in a four-team competition to build the best possible mini in a set amount of time, especially in the MCUSA office where failure is met with ridicule, chiding, and shame.

Wallace and Chamberlain knew they wanted to create a solid all-around mini that functioned as good as it looked. They felt that the majority of their investment should be applied to the chassis and the motor, which would not only increase speed but improve overall handling. The final product would hopefully result in a balanced machine that would perform well on our buddy John Lawton’s tight and twisty mini track.

The Graphics/Tech team started the transformation of their machine by revamping the skeletal structure of their bike. The stock Honda frame was the first major renovation undertaken. Even though we have the ultimate faith in the engineers who design motorcycles bearing the winged logo, the XR50 was produced to welcome tiny tots into the world of motorcycling. Something tells me Honda never dreamed a 200-pound man would attempt to rip around a track and soar over tabletops on their smallest production machine. Therefore, a new chassis was a necessity for the big boys on the Graphic/Tech.

2004 Graphics-Tech Bike - Mini Moto
An aftermarket frame from Sano improved the rigidty of the bike as Joe Wallace demonstrates here.

The original plan for the team was to improve performance and aesthetic appeal with Fast50s products. They wanted to buy the frame, engine, and hardware components from the mini company because they offered solid looking stuff at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, failed communication between Fast50s and MCUSA left the team without parts as the deadline was drawing near. It was like every episode of American Chopper coming to life before our very eyes.

At the eleventh hour it was decided we needed to get the parts and components from any 50s supplier. Sano came through as our saviors and did a superb job of quickly getting us the components we needed to make the Graphics/Tech machine a success.

Starting with the frame, Chamberlain and Wallace built the bike around a P1 chromoly frame from Sano System. Sano claims the frame is four times stronger than a stock XR50 and will not bend or stretch like the original. Available powder-coated in either blue or black, the Graphics/Tech team opted for the black frame.

The next piece of equipment to enhance to overall performance of the bike is a Sano Long Travel Swingarm. Made from T6-6061 aircraft-grade aluminum, the swingarm is one pound lighter and considerably stronger than the measly steel version that graces the XR50. For those that don’t want to change the geometry of the bike, Sano offers a beefy swingarm that comes in the same length as the stock swingarm.

2004 Graphics-Tech Bike - Mini Moto
Joe Wallace test out the BBR SP-5 Fork kit which comes with more travel and a high-rise bar kit.

Up front Chamberlain and Wallace opted to go with a BBR SP-5 fork kit to help soak up the big hits. The SP-5 delivers 5 inches of travel and is perfectly suited to accommodate a full-size adult. The fork easily bolts onto a CRF/XR50 and includes the complete BBR CRF/XR50 handlebar kit which raises the bars so you don’t have to ride around like Quasimodo. The forks are offered in three finishes: anodized in gold or silver; CNC machined; or plain aluminum.

The Graphics/Tech team didn’t budget enough money to get the aftermarket shock that they wanted, so they had to settle for just a spring from Applied to help shore up the rear. The addition of the stiffer spring did an admirable job, but the rear end of the bike sat lower than it would if they had added a longer aftermarket absorber.

Powering the bike is an 88cc big-bore kit from Takegawa. It proved to be a better overall package than the Kittico big-bore kit which was installed in the Content Department’s bike. It ran smoother, was easier to install and provided more overall power. The Kit comes with an air filter and the necessary components to complete the installation.

2004 Graphics-Tech Bike - Mini Moto
The Graphics/Tech bike stands complete awaiting competition.

Looking for a little more acceleration out of the corners, the team ordered up a larger rear sprocket. The aluminum unit from Hardstyle USA was nicely anodized in red. Fastway provided a pair of its aftermarket pegs to provide a bigger, more stable platform to rail on. Rounding out the aesthetics is a set of XR50 plastics from Acerbis, Patriot graphics from Sano, and a BBR Tall Seat Assembly.

When the bike was complete, the Graphics/Tech team over-stepped their budget by a few hundred. Because of the communication problems with Fast50s, they were unable to get the stuff they wanted at the price they expected and subsequently missed the money milestone. The hop-up receipt totaled $2,326 retail.

2004 Graphics-Tech Bike - Mini Moto
BC gets sideways heading into the final final corner at Lawton’s Grove.

Nevertheless, the bike ended up being an excellent machine. It’s good on the track and offers ample power to compete with “50s” of similar displacement. The suspension was judged to be excellent, even with the stock shock, and it proved able to soak up track obstacles while staying planted when going through corners.

At the conclusion of our test, the Graphics/Tech bike was definitely in the running for the best bike. We’re not yet ready to make public which team in our Project Mini Moto won, but the Graphics/Tech team came to play and created a machine which is drastically better than a stocker.

We’ve got two more of our mini moto bikes to reveal before we declare our winner. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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