First Ride: 400EX

Nov. 01, 1999 By The Dave
My first ride on the new 2000 Honda 400EX was at a local sand dune area and I could have not asked for a nicer day. After a summer of triple digits a cool 90 was a pleasant change. I have been to these particular sand dunes many times before and covered every inch of them with my trusty 350X.

While the rest of my riding buddies were kicking their rides to life I had to work up the strength to push the starter button. Score! Nothing's worse than when it is 110 degrees outside and you dehydrate yourself trying to start a big bore thumper. Been there, done that! Electric starters are the ticket!

Being a hard core three wheeler nut and only having ridden a quad a few times before the first thing that leaped out at me was how easy and effortless riding a quad was in comparison to a three wheeler. The handling was outrageous and required a whole lot less effort from the rider to get it to do what you wanted to do. Slicing through the dunes was pure pleasure and I never got that uncomfortable, off-camber, I am going to bail feeling that a three wheeler can sometimes give you.

I don't bounce as well as I used to so avoiding the unscheduled bail is a good thing. One last word on handling. As I did have a chance to ride a friends Suzuki 230, one of the biggest things I noticed is that you feel like you are riding on top of the Suzuki where you feel like your riding "in" the 400EX. I like the "in" feeling a whole lot better, one with the machine as it were.

My first attempt at airing out the EX produced just as satisfying a result and the return to mother earth was smooth and predictable. The flight pattern was straight and level and the quad feels very well balanced . With loads of travel front and rear skying your favorite dune should be no problem if that's your thing. Thumb throttle, did I mention the thumb throttle? I hate thumb throttles and no matter how well designed one is I just don't care for them.

With that being said the thumb throttle did have a light pull and I was able to go most of the day without getting cramped up. Thumb throttles have their place and do keep some people out of trouble but I prefer a twist and I will be installing one ASAP. The 400EX powered up most of the hills without a problem.

Running the stock tires required me to effect the sneak attack on the tallest dunes and staying on top of the shift pattern was the order of the day. Paddle tires would have helped that party and that is the plan for my next trip to the sandbox. Because this quad was brand new and had less than an hour on the engine when the day started, break in procedures were in order and with that in mind we avoided pinning the throttle for longer than a few seconds.

I must admit that I was expecting more punch from the 400 and it did feel like the engine was laying down a little when I tried to pull some of the steeper hills. I think it will get better as more time is put on the engine. Additionally I think an aftermarket exhaust system would greatly help buy letting the engine breath better.

I am in the process of researching pipes and will keep you posted as to what I find. The 400EX had plenty of 'Go' but what about stop? In my early days, back when I was racing, people often heard me say "Brakes, we don't need no stinking brakes!" That was then and this is now. Stopping before I get into trouble is a good thing. With that said I was a little disappointed with the overall braking. The rear brakes work as advertised and would easily lock up the rear axle.

The front brakes on the other hand were adequate at best. They did help slow down the machine but at no time was I ever able to lock up the front tires. Now, being new to quads maybe this is an intended condition, all I know is the front wheel on my 350X would lock on command. Overall I am very happy with my new quad. Being a dyed in the wool 'Ride Red' fanatic I was expecting that attention to detail that I have come to expect with Honda products and once again I was yet to be disappointed. Everything fits and things work as advertised, period! As a matter of good practice I had a few friends come with me on my trip to the dunes. Remember to use the buddy system and never ride alone.

This simple rule could save your life someday. I let my friends Jim and Paul have a little time at the trigger so I could get their input and review of the new quad. Jim has plenty of ATV experience (on a 3 wheeler as well as the 3 wheeler on him!) so the guy is not just some 'desk jockey' but knows what he is talking about. Paul on the other hand has ZERO ATV experience so his thoughts are those of a rank beginner. This is what Jim has to say. "At first sight the 400EX looks like a real performer.

The electric start feature is soothing after a full day of riding. The bike was smooth and comfortable. The suspension works as good as it looks. I was not pleased with the braking. I felt like the bike was heavy with no stopping power. When riding, it feels like the bike is in control, if new handlebars were installed I feel that a more commanding position would be obtained.

The torque of the motor was adequate but the acceleration was very disappointing. I may have had too many expectations, but I was not pleased with the trail like acceleration. Overall this is a reliable good looking and good performing quad. From 1-10, I give it an 8." Paul had these thoughts: "Not ever having ridden one before, I did not know what is really good or bad. The only thing that I can compare it to is the Slowzuki I was riding. One has suspension, the other does not. One has power, the other does not.

For a novice rider as myself the Honda 400 with it's extra power, and better ride, were much easier to ride and control. On the Slowzuki, I always felt like I was on the edge......of killing myself." Dune season is upon us and in the upcoming months I will be adding some aftermarket accessories to try and improve the performance and "feel" of my new ride without turning it into a 12 thousand-dollar beast.

Reliability is what I am after and besides that is what a big thumper is all about. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you and my renewed interest in ATVing should provide lots to talk about. Until next time...

Model 1999 TRX400EX
Engine Type 397cc RFVC air-cooled dry-sump single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore and Stroke 85mm x 70mm
Carburetion 35.5mm CV with accelerator pump
Ignition Solid-state CD with electronic advance
Starter Electric
Clutch Manual
Transmission Five-speed
Driveline O-ring-sealed chain
Suspension Front: Independent double-wishbone with Showa shocks, five-position spring preload adjustability; 8.2 inches travel Rear: Pro-Link single Showa shock with spring preload adjustability; 9.1 inches travel
Brakes Front:Dual hydraulic 174mm discs Rear: Single 220mm disc
Tires Front: 22 x 7-10 knobby Ohtsu™ radial Rear: 20 x 10-9 knobby Ohtsu™ radial
Length 72.2 inches
Width 45.3 inches
Height 43.7 inches
Seat Height 31.9 inches
Ground Clearance 4.3 inches
Wheelbase 48.4 inches
Turning Radius 10.5 feet
Dry Weight 374.7 pounds
Fuel Capacity 2.6 gallons, including 0.4-gallon reserve
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