Ok...let's go. I need a break from what I've been doing this morning, and I'm no good to work right now. My Father passed away at 7:30 am....and you know what all goes with that. But, since he was my original inspiration to ride, I'll consider completing this Shootout as a tribute.

Not to digress, but a side note seems worthy. I stopped by Dad's apartment to check on him yesterday about 2pm. He was looking poorly. Called 911 and loaded him in the ambulance. Last thing he sees when I say my last goodbye is: me standing next to R² in the parking lot behind the ambulance. He points at the bike and nods his head...I knew what he was saying, "Cool...New Bike!" And, he gives me a big thumbs up! Doors close and that was the end.

Now, let's move onward.

I decide to complete the Single Track Test in my favorite riding area of USA: Red River Motorcycle Park.

Plenty of photos on their website, I'm sure. Lots of easy trail, lots of hard trail. Big hills and deep river beds. Tons of rocks. Tons of hard rocky/sandy climbs up big hills. Enough space to get lost, even when I've been coming for over 20 years to this wonderful PRIVATE motorcycle dreamland, owned by Mrs. Harris, and recently made famous by the annual Red Bull Last Man Standing competitions. It’s home to a huge National Enduro each year too.

A 5-hour drive from home…that's how serious we were about this test. Well, and the fact that there was a big USA Central Regional Trials Championship 2-day event had a little influence on the timing.

We roll in Friday night and setup camp. We've got all Saturday morning to ride the Single Track for our Shootout. Trials event doesn't start for us until afternoon. I take R² first, naturally, and Krabill seems plenty pleased to just be there and have a WR450F to ride. I had to pinch him, to make sure he was back in the real world. I think he needs more fresh air than he's been getting lately. Can you relate?

I lead on a 10 mile ride that wraps thru the park and covers all the good stuff. R² is doing pretty darn good. Surprisingly, I'm not having any lack of low-end grunt problem anywhere. Completely opposite to what I was expecting...because I had not geared down the drive train, like so many are doing. Its bone stock with one exception, I pulled off the solenoid above the airbox and all the attached apparatus. Plugged that intake port at the fuel injector. Then, Devcon glued the flapper down. Also, I cut a rectangular shape of plastic, painted it black, and glued it over the hole where the solenoid had been. Pretty nice work. Didn't take long at all. Very easy to do. That, plus the D606 tires. Those are the only mods to date. I still haven't made a single adjustment to the suspension yet.

I didn't find myself running so slow on the trails that I really needed lots of low-end torque. Something you don't think about when you're actually on a bike with lots of grunt. Instead, I always seemed to be in the pulling range of the motor naturally. 1st and 2nd gear in the tight stuff, and 3rd on the more open areas. Never went to 4th in the woods. I was really pleased with the pull at the pace I wanted to go. Keep in mind, we don't ride too slow. Many are hard pressed to keep pace with the Krabill and me thru the trees. But, we're not GNCC racers...no, not at all.

We hit some big hills...what I was most anxious for. R² just shot right up them. Pulled great, no problems at all. Fantastic! I was worried about that. We did both get stuck on one big one that had a blind 2 - 3 ft. rock ledge at top with deep sand in front of it. That was a mean trick. All the orange fencing from the Red Bull event was still lining the sides. We didn't do it over, but knowing what's up there gives you a different game plan at the bottom. I think I could make it fine. But, once back at the bottom, it seemed like a good time to switch bikes and reverse our exact course to make the fairest comparison.

At this point, I felt good about R². Quite good. Better than I expected. I thought it would wimp out on the tough trails. It didn't....quite the contrary. But I knew the WR450F awaited me. MY WR450F! A very familiar, desirable bike for me. And, it was the first time I took it down to Red River Park. Man, was I ready for my 450! Give me that thing...

So, I trade bikes with the Krabill and reclaim my WR450F. Hit the magic button (love those thingy-ma-jigs), and launch. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Total awesome power! I run hard and don’t look back. Can’t hear anything behind me. I’ve got a GYTR Insert in the stock 450F Can. Did wonders for the bike. Must have left Krabill in the dust. I slow down and have a look behind. That turkey is right on my tail like some kind of Stealth Fighter (huh).

Oh well, got to forget about him and focus on my 450F. Enjoy that awesome power. After all, I truly LOVE my WR450F. But I soon realize that I’m kind of wrestling the bike to “hold my line”. Need really good throttle control. The power can easily push me off my line thru the loose stuff. Front end isn’t as stable as it used to be.

A few more miles go by…man, what’s this? I’m sweating! And getting some arm pump. Never noticed these things before. What is happening here? I’m realizing that I have to stay on my game to maintain total control of this big Blue Beast.

As we climb out over the hilltop and approach our return to camp, I find myself internalizing a mantra, “I love my 450, I love my 450, I love my 450.” I shut her down at a nice vantage point. A Texas sized panorama framing in a large (new) windmill farm in the distance. The Boone Pickens plan in action, I reckon.

Krabill slides alongside and just gives me a bewildered stare. He knows the routine. On the count of three, we kind of do a Rock-Paper-Scissors thing and throw out our pick. Except this time, I’m silent. It’s obvious what his thoughts are, but I’m reluctant to share mine…because suddenly, I’m not sure I like where this Shootout has taken me. Without a doubt, in a shockingly rare moment, I actually agree with a gleaming Krabill. R² has just bumped The Blue Beast off the trail. The "mantra" didn't work.

I made another solo run on Sunday morning to be sure. It was. I am. The WR250R was more comfortable, better handling, better planted, less fatiguing than my WR450F. YES, its down on power compared to the 450! I said it. Does that make you feel better? But that is the ONLY place the 450 beat R² out on the single track (from a pure Fun Factor vantage point, not a "Racing" vantage point). This shootout is not about Racing.

That’s when it happens…I have a revelation. You see, revelation is something you always knew, just never realized. That weekend, I just realized I really don’t use much, if any, of that “awesome power” of the 450F out on the single track trail. Who’s kidding who? You want an honest report, right? And, I’m a decent rider. Here it is: I spend most of my time running around the woods at 1/4 throttle on the WR450F. Always in that “grunt” range. Conditioned to feel the grunt. So, it seems something is missing when that much grunt ain’t there. But, a 450F doesn’t run its best "down there". No sir. It was made to scream! Runs best above half throttle. At a speed sure to leave me impaled on a tree! Think about it, most every bike is designed to run best at or near peak performance. Surely, up in the mid-range versus the low-end. So, why have I (or most of us) been out lugging a high powered bike on the bottom, instead of pushing an underpowered bike toward peak performance? A fair question that I must resolve.

I kind of think that is what was going on here with R². I was running in a really comfortable performance range for the motor. You could just feel it. And it liked being there. And I liked being there. At that point, it was always ready to deliver more at a blip. Lack of low end torque wasn't even an issue. No, it didn’t jerk my arms off. But my traction was embarrassingly better than on the 450 (never breaking loose). And I do have great throttle control from mucho years of Trials riding.

That darn R-Squared is just more comfortable and more FUN for a long, long ride in the woods. Nothing was too tight for it. Never found it feeling heavy. It never falls in on the turn. Torques right up the hills. Not at a putt-putt pace, mind you. I’ve got a Trials bike for that. But, I didn’t have to charge the hills real fast and hard either. I just went! Didn’t fool around. When I go…I go. And I don’t stop for anything during a climb. R² gave me all I needed…maybe all I wanted. With STOCK gearing! And with plugged up plumbing!

I know. This all seems insane. After a week back home and running all over hill and dale thru town and country on the blacktop, I can honestly say my garage is about to gain a whole lot more space. It’s bittersweet to some degree, but I’ve decided to sell the DR350, sell the WR450, and maybe sell the KLR. Now, I’m not sure about that last one. Pig and I have been thru SO much together. It would be kind of like losing Dad. Pretty emotional. So, I think I’ll keep Pig around for awhile. I’m not convinced yet, whether or not R² will run the slab into the wind with all my camping gear aboard. But, I guess that will be a whole new test.

Highfive update…6 months later: R² past that test too, with flying colors! But, I had to gear it down a little bit (recommend 13/46 with longer chain…need 110 links).

Time to dial her in, clear the plumbing, add some power, and farkle R2 up a bit. SHE'S A KEEPER!

Yesterday, I ordered the FMF Power Programmer for the fuel injection. Got the very last one before backorders kicked in. Arrives Tuesday. Guess we’ll have some more discussion later.

Next Up: Shootout Final Summary