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Farewell to the Big Red Pig

It has been a busy summer, and of all the running around we did, the biggest event is that I sold my beloved XR650R, the “Big Red Pig” (or BRP). The 650 has been a great motorcycle for the past ten years, but now it is time for someone else to enjoy it.

Finding My Big Red Pig

In the summer of 2003, my wife, Jennifer, and I made our first trip to Taylor Park. We decided it was time to upgrade our motorcycles. I had been riding a 1989 Honda XR600R, and we had just upgraded Jennifer’s motorcycle to a Suzuki 250.

Pole Hill Pictures 032

One day in early 2004 while in Denver for work, I stopped into a motorsports store. My intent was to purchase a new pair of Scott Goggles when I spotted two Honda XR650Rs in the showroom. The salesman informed me that the 2002 was leftover over from 2 years ago. It was discounted, and I went home armed with this information to share with Jennifer.

I don’t recall the conversation lasting very long; my wife insisted I purchase the new bike, as I don't treat myself to new things all that often. By the time that next weekend rolled around, we drove eighty miles to Denver and returned with a new bike. For the first time in my life, I had a brand new motorcycle in my garage. I felt confident that the Pig could take on any trail or track that the Colorado Mountains had to offer.


Rough Start

Although I live at an elevation of about 4300 feet, the dealer felt it best to jet the carburetor for an elevation of about 9000 feet. It was February, and the mountain trails were closed for the season. A ride at 9000 feet would not be in the cards for several months. When I tried to ride the bike at our usual riding spots, the coolant overheated, which prevented the motor from starting. The main jet was too narrow; not enough fuel was getting into the carburetor. We returned it to the stock jetting and that took care of the issue.  

We decided to make a trip to Grand Junction in Colorado. It's been one of our favorite riding spots, and now I had new bike born and bred for desert riding.

The ride was epic... for the first 20 minutes. I was searching for a good trail when I grabbed a handful of front brake and was unprepared for the results. A brand new bike is a lot more responsive, so squeezing the way I did on my old bike resulted in me tumbling over the handlebars and careening into a 20-foot ravine. The pain was everywhere.

When I gathered myself, I was bleeding in several sports. My knee hurt. I got to my bike, rode the few miles back to the trailer, and when I got off the motorcycle, I felt something in my knee pop. I sheared my PCL into two pieces, which fortunately didn't require surgery, but resulted in two months of recovery. It was summer before I was able to ride again. 

Good Times

After working out the kinks, I was off and running. The Pig took me on countless trail rides in all types of terrain. The BRP never failed, and those fond memories will last a lifetime.

Of all the trail riding trips that I went on with the 2002 Honda, my fondest memory is of my epic 40th birthday ride on August 7, 2011. After a year of attending several 40th birthday parties for friends, I wanted to do something different. Jennifer, Joey (my son), and I decided to meet a large group of friends in Taylor Park, Colorado, including Mike and Dave.

American Flag Mountain

Mike, Dave, and I decided to do my birthday ride together. We took Lily Pond Single-Track, a very tight, winding trail through trees, over rocks, and across a river. It was challenging and fun, and it led us to the Italian Creek Trail. From there, we traveled west to what would be the climax of the entire trip: the summit of American Flag Mountain! This is a tough climb; the trail is steep littered with loose shale, making it difficult to gain good traction. I was able to coax the Pig to the top, and I will never forget the sights that awaited on that mountaintop.

During a 2010 trip to Pagosa Springs, I navigated the rocky terrain on the Pig while the rest of my family rode quads. As we stopped for a short break, a group of ATV riders pulled in. A gentleman marveled at the fact that I was aboard a motorcycle and not a four-wheeler, making me feel that my dirt biking skills were more impressive than they are. At a local restaurant, the waitress got wind of my motorcycle exploits and seemed quite impressed that I would attempt such a feat. Upon telling friends of my experience, I was nicknamed Rock Slayer: a combination of being a rock star in Pagosa Springs and from years of riding rocky trails in the Colorado mountains.

James racing a hare scramble

As I write this, my relatively new venture into hare scramble racing brings a smile to my face. When my son, Joey, started racing, he asked me to take on the endeavor with him, so I did. The Big Red Pig ran 2 races in the last year of owning the bike. I was not fast nor near the top of the final standings in either race. I finished both races, which was my goal when I left the starting line. Friends were impressed that I was able to ride continuously during these two-hour races. Honestly, I was quite proud of what I had accomplished, as well.


My old Big Red Pig was an awesome motorcycle; I had it set up just the way I wanted, which always included Maxxis Desert IT tires. They have the traction I need no matter where I'm riding. Jennifer and I used to laugh at the fact that no one else ever asked to ride it, nor take me up on it when the courtesy was extended. I think that my brother, Brad, (a fellow XR600R rider) was the only other person to ride the bike while I owned it. I assume the size intimidated many. 

After the ride my buddy Mike and I took to Woodland Park, Colorado, on my new CRF450X, I decided that I didn’t need both bikes. The BRP would sit in the garage and rot away, so I placed an ad on Craigslist. After many emails, the BRP found a new home in the Black Hills, South Dakota, and is creating memories for a rider who will appreciate them as much as I did.

So long, my Pig, so long.

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