It had been 10 long years since Honda's last 250R rolled off the assembly line in 1989, leaving the high-performance ATV crowd with few options other than a custom-built quad to rip up the track on. These custom monsters could easily surpass the $20,000 mark, so for the enthusiast or amateur racer on a limited budget, being competitive was extremely difficult. The wait had been long and grueling for the hard-core Honda rider seeking a high-performance machine, but in 1999, Honda met the demands of the consumer with the introduction of the TRX400EX. This was the answer to the weekend warrior who sought a low-maintenance machine that could hold its own, shredding the track or devouring the local trail system. During this transitional stage between the reign of the dominating two-stroke and the developing four-stroke, the aftermarket was booming, creating a vast array of technologically advanced chassis and engine components. This time period opened the door for many of today's leading shops and product developers. The 400EX provided an affordable platform, which could be transformed from a mild-mannered recreation machine to an incredible raging beast for its day. It has been nine years since the first TRX400EX was unveiled, and unlike the short four-year life span of its 250R predecessor, the 400EX continues to evolve, appearing to be here to stay for at least a few more years.
Getting our hands on a pair of the first revamped 400s to come off the production line was top priority in our minds. So to make this happen, we hooked up with Honda's PR rep Tim Patnode. Patnode was surprisingly eager to travel from Honda's corporate office in Southern California with a couple of new units from the warehouse across the country to Georgia. This way, we could put the 400 to the test while getting to know Patnode, who is our new go-to guy for anything red. Aside from the drought we're experiencing creating severe dusty conditions, it was certainly a pleasure showing Tim the great riding to be had here in the Empire State of the South, with tight winding woods that possess endless roots, gnarly rocks and tiring ruts. It was going to be a great day for testing these machines.
The new look of the 400EX is spectacular, to say the least. Sleek lines and smooth transitions from nose to tail aren't only visually appealing, but are more ergonomically suited for the rider. A wider seat narrows as it flows into the fuel tank further improving rider comfort and providing additional control of the machine. Another change taking place in this makeover is the retuning Honda performed to the Showa suspension, which makes those long rides more enjoyable and allows for less body fatigue. With these changes along with the added reverse gear in '07, it appears this machine is headed into the hands of the enthusiast who desires smooth function while navigating the trails without the necessary higher maintenance required with a race-tuned 450. It's the perfect machine for any weekend rider who just wants to head out and have a great time.