Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide from
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The 1982 ATC200E, a.k.a. Big Red(R), had more of everything necessary to get a host of jobs done. Its 192cc engine and five-speed dual-range gearbox cranked out more power, especially low in the rev band, to make chores such as towing, spraying, seeding and fertilizing easier. An electric starter in addition to the standard recoil system made starting the day as easy as pushing a button. Dual racks and a 9.2-liter storage box made carrying tools, hay bales, fencing and other agricultural essentials easier. A new sealed rear drum brake survived the muddy fields and water crossings, and telescopic-fork front suspension made a day in the saddle that much more comfortable. Big Red added a reverse gear in 1984, and its drive chain was replaced with shaft drive for extra durability and less maintenance.
The other major ATV theme of the '80s-racing-was being played out everywhere from frozen lakes in the East to Western deserts to the dirt ovals of Middle America. Racing was an essential part of Honda from its founding in 1948. Thus it became part of ATC vocabulary as well, and the introduction of the ATC250R in 1981 put the rest of the world on official notice that Honda was as serious about winning on three wheels as it was on two. The world's first high-performance two-stroke ATC adapted Honda's CR(R) motocross technology to the three-wheel world with predictable results, taking hordes of unsuspecting competitors by storm.
Running unofficially in the 1980 Baja 1000 on pre-production ATC250Rs, a group of Honda associates surprised racing legend Mickey Thompson when they caught and passed him pre-running for the race. Honda's first official ATC racing participation came in the SCORE-sanctioned 1981 Parker 400 held in the Arizona desert. Thanks to Thompson's considerable influence, an official three-wheel class was sanctioned in the 1981 Baja 1000. In 1984, Honda's ATC250Rs started just behind the motorcycles rather than from the very back of the starting order, and then finished first and second in class, putting them fourth and fifth overall. Nothing on four wheels finished ahead of the ATCs. The three entries that did well were all large-displacement motorcycles, including Honda's race-winning XR(TM);. Honda raised the bar in 1985 with an all-new, liquid-cooled version of the 250R that cranked out 38 horsepower and offered nearly 10 inches of suspension travel at both ends, giving it the power to do disappearing acts ahead of other brands at race tracks across the country.
Though it was never as successful in the desert as the more potent 250R, the ATC200X that debuted in '83 proved that Honda four-strokes could run with the best of them. The 200X combined a high-performance 192cc engine, five-speed gearbox and manual, motorcycle-style clutch with long-travel suspension and sporty chassis geometry that was more at home ripping up race tracks than handling farm chores.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, building ATVs to endure the stress of utility use put Honda R&D on a steep learning curve. Approaching the mid-'80s, ATVs were inspected, dissected and exhaustively scrutinized with more data acquisition equipment than any other Honda product. Machines were run hour after hour, day after day for weeks, with riders wearing 50-pound instrument packs that recorded information on every aspect of the machine's operation. As the market's swing toward utility continued, Honda's research made it clear that the next step in the ATV's evolution would be another wheel. Thus Honda's first four-wheel ATV, the TRX200, debuted in 1984.
The market responded almost immediately, making 1984 Honda's biggest sales year for ATVs. The 370,000 units delivered in 1984 remain the high-water mark for Honda ATV sales, making up a full 69 percent of total ATV sales in the U.S. that year. The upswing in utility use and the introduction of the four-wheel TRX200 were also the beginning of the end for Takeuchi's three-wheel matrix. Four-wheelers were considered more versatile tools by customers, and tools were what people wanted most.
By 1986 the smart money was all on four wheels in the ATV world. The ground-breaking Honda TRX250R made an unmatched four-wheel performance statement with a liquid-cooled 246cc two-stroke engine similar to the ATC250R's. On the utilitarian end of the spectrum, Honda unveiled the first four-wheel-drive ATV that same year. The FourTrax(TM); 350 4x4 arrived at its coming out party in grand style-lowered from a helicopter to show all four wheels moving under their own power. Market forces were already at work to replace three wheels with four.
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From copper mines to banana plantations, golf courses to pig farms, forest reclamation projects to shopping center maintenance, nothing on wheels had ever been as versatile, reliable, efficient and affordable, on the job or on the weekend, as the Honda ATV.
Though sport models such as Honda's FourTrax 300EX and the new-for-'99 400EX are immensely popular with sport and recreational riders, industry observers estimate that 85 percent of ATV use in the '90s revolved around some sort of enterprise. Mr. Takeuchi's idea had grown up, gone to work and done a good job. When asked what products had the greatest impact on their farming operations since 1967, the readers of Farm Industry News ranked the Honda ATV right up there with Dekalb Biotype E Sorghum, A3127 Hybrid Soybeans and the Miller Electric Mig Welder as a Landmark Product of the last 25 years. That's high praise from one of the most brutally sensible groups of people on the planet.
In America, having a FourTrax on the job makes a host of jobs more efficient. In countries without our infrastructure, manpower and financial resources, the Honda ATV's reliability and efficiency handle jobs that simply couldn't be done before. Folks on other parts of the planet were discovering what America had discovered a decade before, and began putting Honda ATVs to work, performing all manner of work that was either impossible, impractical or both. Whereas Honda ATVs were largely a domestic phenomenon before 1990, they're currently working in more than 35 different countries worldwide.
The 1995 Foreman 400 4x4 introduced the working world to the strongest, most efficient Honda ATV yet. Powered by an innovative longitudinal engine design that positions the crankshaft perpendicular to its axles, the '95 Foreman's front and rear drive shafts transfer power to all four wheels with fewer power-robbing directional changes, fewer parts, less weight and a lower center of mass.