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By: Jason Giacchino

Augusty 2010 - Off The Pegs

Big Thrills on a Big Bore 700

Honda 700XX
Honda 700XX

If there were one class of ATV displacement I am guilty of neglecting for no good reason whatsoever, it would have to be the 700cc sport quads.  I mean the fact these monsters even exist at all is a testament to the gradual change of the public opinion on what should be possible on an off-road vehicle.  There was a time in the not-so-distant past when displacements of 90, 125, and 175cc were staples of the off-road arena while bigger bore mills were designated the domain of street bikes.

My experience on the modern open-classer has been fairly limited, and by that I mean a brief spin on the Yamaha Raptor 700 (back when it was a 660) and a couple of days spent back in 2008 with Honda’s then brand-new 700XX for purpose of testing.  My conclusion after each experience came out pretty similarly:  Torque off the charts, yard-destroying wheel-spin always on tap, transmission not required due to breadth of each gear and though way more top speed than is practical for the east-coast trails I frequent, boy, would these things be a blast in the desert!

So, you could imagine my reaction when a buddy of mine called to say that he picked up a 2009 Honda 700XX that had been outfitted with a big-bore kit and planned a mid-week test up in an abandoned quarry in Canada.  I started packing my gear before we got off the phone.

If, like me, you find yourself wondering who in the world finds logic in making a 700 even bigger, rest assured I haven’t the slightest idea.  I understand the guy who had the work done on this particular 700XX was planning on getting into the dune drag racing and hill-climbing scene and threw a few grand into pushing the displacement from 686cc stock to 727cc (turning what Honda calls a 700 into a more-realistically calculated 730) before having to relocate due to the economic downturn.  Other mods included a Stage 3 Cam, Dynojet Power Commander V to readjust the fuel mapping and a freer flowing FMF Q4 muffler & Powerbomb header.  Essentially, even if he had used a Honda 90X as a starting point, this thing would have been pretty ripping quick; a 700 was borderline mind blowing.

We arrived to the sandy abandoned pits shortly after midday on what was the hottest day of the week of what will surely be labeled the hottest week of the year.  The humidity, as I recall, was nearly unbearable and this was when we were still in the air-conditioned truck.  Stepping out into the early afternoon sun was a lesson in excess: Which, now that I think about it, would become a theme for the day.

The pits themselves were surprisingly adequate for a test of this nature with wide powdery bowls separated by steep sandy climbs and many miles of loose white-sand whoops.

The 700XX fired up after a few cranks of the electric starter with an exhaust note that managed to combine the unlikely crispness of a stock EFI-equipped motor with a throaty bark that could get even a veteran rider to start to doubt his skills.  The first few runs were precautionary in nature with each of us marveling at the quad’s ability to throw a massive roost and rolling sand cloud by simply breathing on the throttle.  After a few sessions of giving the quad the respect it deserves, we pitted for water and a top off on the fuel situation, it was time to put it through the gears as it were (a task that would prove easier said than done).

If the stock 700 seems a bit excessive in its power delivery, hold on tight because the 730 manages to dwarf it in nearly every conceivable unit of measure.  From idle the machine manages to explode with forward momentum that simply doesn’t stop building until you click it up to the next gear for a repeat of the same experience, only with the ground blurring past even faster.  This isn’t the same “wow I’m really clipping” sensation of speed common of a modern 450 when flogged, this is more of the explosive torque that pulls your helmet rearward, cramps up the insides of your elbows, and manages to unearth and overturn rocks that haven’t seen the light of day since Tyrannosaurus Rex hunted here.

Chalk it up to the cam; this is one of few big bores I’ve ridden that wasn’t violent down low but flat in the upper RPMs.  The breadth of the stock power band is definitely retained just “bigger” everywhere.

The independent rear suspension seemed almost custom tuned for this application, as single shock/ swing arm models would most certainly have squatted heavily under this type of torquey acceleration until wheel spin finally reached a point where forward momentum was inevitable.  The IRS however was stout enough to allow for some wheelies amidst the noise, dust and chaos that separated one wall of the giant sand bowl from another.  And in instances where one of us (okay, me) underestimated the speed at which he was approaching said wall, the 730 sprinted up the near-vertical ascents without demanding such time and momentum killing annoyances as say a downshift or even a little harder push on the throttle.

We burned a couple tanks of fuel and managed to cover little more than a half-mile’s worth of terrain by the time growling stomachs and a setting sun prevailed.  See, it turns out that with this type of explosive giggle-inducing power, excitement can be found in doing such mundane things as say, blasting around a sand pit for hours.  The only questions that remain to be answered are what kind of excuse can I come up with to get this thing alone and how far is the nearest desert?

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