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Honda XR650R Parts, Service, and Repair » XR650R Road Test http://www.honda-xr650r.com Organizing all the essential Honda XR650R information! Fri, 04 Feb 2011 06:35:42 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 XR650R Review by Australasian Dirt Bike Magazine http://www.honda-xr650r.com/xr650r-review-by-australasian-dirt-bike-magazine/ http://www.honda-xr650r.com/xr650r-review-by-australasian-dirt-bike-magazine/#comments Fri, 02 Apr 2010 06:02:13 +0000 Evan Fell http://www.honda-xr650r.com/?p=778 An Australian dirt bike magazine wrote a great review of the bike many years ago. Here are all the scanned in pages.

Warning: They are VERY big images!

XR650R Review Page 1

XR650R Review Page 2

XR650R Review Page 3

XR650R Review Page 4

XR650R Review Page 5

XR650R Review Page 6

XR650R Review Page 7

XR650R Review Page 8

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XR650R Road Test by MC News http://www.honda-xr650r.com/road-test-by-mc-news/ http://www.honda-xr650r.com/road-test-by-mc-news/#comments Wed, 10 Mar 2010 09:00:57 +0000 Evan Fell http://www.honda-xr650r.com/?p=321 More >]]> This road test was done by MC News in Australia and is a road test review of a stock XR650R (which came street legal from the factory). The original article can be found here: http://www.mcnews.com.au/


This was more of an adventure than just a road test.

We covered around 350 kilometres aboard the new XR through the Snowy Mountains. The terrain was awesome, at times we were nearly 6000 feet above sea level and riding through clouds! This was as much of a test for this journo’ as it was for Honda’s new XR650.

The XR650 was up to the challenge much more than I. The hill climbs were incredible and seemed to go on forever. The tractor like pull from the new 649cc engine was what got me up to the top of them, not skill, not luck, just masses of low speed pull in any gear – available everywhere in the rev range with no pinging or protesting of any kind from the drive train.

That is not to say the 650 lacks a top end – it doesn’t. It loves to rev and doesn’t tail off like its XR600 predecessor. The de-restricted XR650 with competition baffle is good for around 50 rear wheel horsepower. Torque is also prodigious. (Dyno charts will be up later this week).

De-restriction is carried out by removing the air intake snorkel and additional plate in the rear of the airbox. The rubber manifold between the carb’ and cylinder head is replaced with the unrestricted manifold that is supplied with the bike. The standard muffler baffle can then be replaced with the competition item that is available from Honda dealers for around $260. The standard jet is a 112. The supplied competition jet is a 175 but this was thought a little rich for our test bikes so we ran with a 162. Pilot remained the same and the mixture screw was set 2 turns out.

The starting process is carried out by way of a kick-start lever that has a built in safety mechanism to prevent any injuries from kickbacks. A breakaway bush is mounted at the base of the kick-start lever that actually slips if severe back tension is experienced. The XR650 has a camshaft actuated de-compression system that works quite well and with the improved kick-start ratio makes for easier starting than the XR600.

The carburettor looks similar in appearance to the XR600 but is very much a changed unit. It has a 40mm bore and provided us with perfect carburation, surprising given the extreme altitude changes we were putting them through. I never stalled once even with the very low speed manoeuvring that was needed to overcome some of the obstacles. This speaks volumes for how well the fuel delivery system worked. The carb’ is fed from a 10-litre fuel tank which includes a 2-litre reserve. Fuel economy should range between 100 kilometres (going hard) and around 170 kilometres (going slow).

One of the guys managed to dunk a XR650 in one of the 30 or so river crossings we negotiated. The bike was retrieved and the air-box inspected to reveal that no water had found it’s way in to the engine whatsoever. A few kicks with the ignition turned off cleared out the unburned fuel, and then she fired up quite quickly to everyone’s surprise and relief.

A similar automatic timing chain tensioning system is used as that on the XR400. The camshaft has 3 lobes, 2 for the pair of inlet valves and one for the exhaust valves which works by way of a split rocker arm loading both of the exhaust valves to allow the spent gases to escape. Valve adjustment is simple and is accessed by way of covers similar to those seen on the ‘83/’84 XR 250.

The dual-radiator liquid cooling system appeared to work very well but it must be said that the environment we were testing in was far from hot. I did have the 650 spit some coolant out of the overflow after idling for sometime but I feel that this was due to the system being slightly over-full as it never happened again. The 1.4 litre dry-sump lubrication system uses the frame as the external oil reservoir. A reed-valve type system opens to allow excess oil from the crankcase to flow through to the gearbox.

The gearbox is a gem; upshifts or downshifts are always smooth and easy. The clutch material is changed from the 600 and has good feel through the lever. I stopped with a bad leg cramp halfway up a particularly rocky and steep hill, the bottom end pull of the donk combined with the good feel from the clutch made getting going again a bit easier than I had expected. One slip, and I was faced with a very long tumble back down to the bottom, more than enough encouragement to ensure I made it. The smooth drive train transfers very little in the way of vibes to the rider.

On the standard gearing (15/41) a genuine 188kph was seen on the radar gun. For this test we opted for 15/50 gearing due to the nature of the terrain. 14 teeth front sprockets were not yet available for the new XR in Australia. Use of the large 50 teeth rear sprocket necessitates either adding links to the standard chain or replacing the chain with a longer 112-link item.

Chain adjustment is no longer by way of snail-cam adjustment but by the regular road bike system. Hard chargers have been known to bend the snail cam adjusters on previous XRs. The rear axle nut is now up to 27mm (same as ’99 CR) from the previous models 24mm. The chain guide is also improved to prevent excessive side movement. This should ensure the chain & sprockets have improved longevity.

The bikes come with IRC TR8 tyres as standard fitment but we had medium-hard terrain Dunlop 739s mounted on the fairly robust alloy rims.

The front light, light surround, brake line, master cylinder, caliper and disc are all lifted straight from the incredibly popular XR400. A headlight protector is a must. Feel from the 240mm front brake is okay but the hard-core fraternity will want to fit a stronger brake line. The reinforced front brake line from the later model XR600s will bolt straight on. The 240mm-rear brake is strong and has quite good feel.

Stephen Greenfield, Australian Safari winner and twice Finke Desert Race winner, was along during the test and I used his comments to help me judge the suspension.

He thought the suspension to be much improved over the XR600. The action is more progressive with much more adjustment available to those riders who genuinely know how to set up a bike. I thought the 46mm cartridge forks worked great on the bumps.

The rear suspension has 308mm of travel and works well with a CR derived linkage ratio that is much improved over the XR600 set-up. Really serious guys will probably want to firm up both ends for racing but the fast guys we had along only managed to bottom the XR on a couple of occasions.

I never bottomed it out and had the sag at around 30mm. I did experience quite a bit of front wheel deflection over the rocky stuff however. This is probably due to geometry rather than fork action and really fast guys probably won’t notice it at all. Riders who like to dig the front end in hard will probably drop the forks 10mm through the clamps.

The frame is of a single backbone semi-double-cradle design and appears to be ultra strong. It weighs in around 5 kilos heavier than that of the XR600. Of course the extra weight of the frame is offset by the loss of a lot of weight from other areas. The bike weighs in around 136 kilograms dry with all road gear.

The switchgear is standard road/trail fare and works well. Instrumentation consists of a small speedo with tripmeter and odometer with a light for the indicator and high beam. We didn’t get a chance to try and prove the effectiveness of the headlight, but we know the XR400 unit is pretty woeful and the 650 employs the same unit. This won’t be too much of a problem as more than half of XRs sold are never ridden on the road.

Front indicator removal is necessitated by removing the top triple clamp bolts and unplugging the wires from behind the headlight. The sub frame can be removed with 2 Allen bolts each side and 1 in the rear guard. The rear indicators unplug from under the seat. It should be noted that 2 holes are now in the rear guard next to the airbox intake area. These holes should be sealed to reduce the chance of foreign objects entering the airbox. The better solution may be to replace the rear guard with a US ‘A Type’ guard. (P/N 80200-MBN-670ZA). Of course with the indicators etc. no longer fitted the bike is no longer legal to be ridden on the road. As standard the taillight on top of the rear guard is not operational. By obtaining the US ‘A-Type’ globe holder and globe this light operates as a taillight that is suitable for enduro use.

The bike comes with a skidpan constructed of high-impact resin, which proved to be much stronger than it appeared. Enduro riders will want to add another piece to the to the top of the pan near the bottom radiator hose as this is somewhat vulnerable. Of course for ultimate protection the after-market suppliers will soon have tough aluminium bash plates available.

The seat is reasonably comfortable for this style of bike, it is also easy to move about on.

The XR was of course nice and easy to mono but it surprised me how easy it is to keep the front wheel on the deck if you need to, like uphill sections for example. The bike also hooked up incredibly well.

All considered the XR650 looks to be a fantastic trail or enduro bike for riders of all skill levels. Unlike some of the more hard-core European competition it doesn’t demand to be ridden hard in order for it to work. This means that the XR650 is just as happy tootling along (as I do) or being thrashed senseless through hard terrain.

The $9,990 + ORC asking price seems quite reasonable when stacked up next to the competition. The XR600 replacement has been a long time coming but it seems to have been worth the wait.

This was more of an adventure than just a road test.We covered around 350 kilometres aboard the new XR through the Snowy Mountains. The terrain was awesome, at times we were nearly 6000 feet above sea level and riding through clouds! This was as much of a test for this journo’ as it was for Honda’s new XR650.

The XR650 was up to the challenge much more than I. The hill climbs were incredible and seemed to go on forever. The tractor like pull from the new 649cc engine was what got me up to the top of them, not skill, not luck, just masses of low speed pull in any gear – available everywhere in the rev range with no pinging or protesting of any kind from the drive train.

That is not to say the 650 lacks a top end – it doesn’t. It loves to rev and doesn’t tail off like its XR600 predecessor. The de-restricted XR650 with competition baffle is good for around 50 rear wheel horsepower. Torque is also prodigious. (Dyno charts will be up later this week).De-restriction is carried out by removing the air intake snorkel and additional plate in the rear of the airbox. The rubber manifold between the carb’ and cylinder head is replaced with the unrestricted manifold that is supplied with the bike. The standard muffler baffle can then be replaced with the competition item that is available from Honda dealers for around $260. The standard jet is a 112. The supplied competition jet is a 175 but this was thought a little rich for our test bikes so we ran with a 162. Pilot remained the same and the mixture screw was set 2 turns out.

The starting process is carried out by way of a kick-start lever that has a built in safety mechanism to prevent any injuries from kickbacks. A breakaway bush is mounted at the base of the kick-start lever that actually slips if severe back tension is experienced. The XR650 has a camshaft actuated de-compression system that works quite well and with the improved kick-start ratio makes for easier starting than the XR600.

The carburettor looks similar in appearance to the XR600 but is very much a changed unit. It has a 40mm bore and provided us with perfect carburation, surprising given the extreme altitude changes we were putting them through. I never stalled once even with the very low speed manoeuvring that was needed to overcome some of the obstacles. This speaks volumes for how well the fuel delivery system worked. The carb’ is fed from a 10-litre fuel tank which includes a 2-litre reserve. Fuel economy should range between 100 kilometres (going hard) and around 170 kilometres (going slow).

One of the guys managed to dunk a XR650 in one of the 30 or so river crossings we negotiated. The bike was retrieved and the air-box inspected to reveal that no water had found it’s way in to the engine whatsoever. A few kicks with the ignition turned off cleared out the unburned fuel, and then she fired up quite quickly to everyone’s surprise and relief.

A similar automatic timing chain tensioning system is used as that on the XR400. The camshaft has 3 lobes, 2 for the pair of inlet valves and one for the exhaust valves which works by way of a split rocker arm loading both of the exhaust valves to allow the spent gases to escape. Valve adjustment is simple and is accessed by way of covers similar to those seen on the ‘83/’84 XR 250.

The dual-radiator liquid cooling system appeared to work very well but it must be said that the environment we were testing in was far from hot. I did have the 650 spit some coolant out of the overflow after idling for sometime but I feel that this was due to the system being slightly over-full as it never happened again. The 1.4 litre dry-sump lubrication system uses the frame as the external oil reservoir. A reed-valve type system opens to allow excess oil from the crankcase to flow through to the gearbox.The gearbox is a gem; upshifts or downshifts are always smooth and easy. The clutch material is changed from the 600 and has good feel through the lever. I stopped with a bad leg cramp halfway up a particularly rocky and steep hill, the bottom end pull of the donk combined with the good feel from the clutch made getting going again a bit easier than I had expected. One slip, and I was faced with a very long tumble back down to the bottom, more than enough encouragement to ensure I made it. The smooth drive train transfers very little in the way of vibes to the rider.

On the standard gearing (15/41) a genuine 188kph was seen on the radar gun. For this test we opted for 15/50 gearing due to the nature of the terrain. 14 teeth front sprockets were not yet available for the new XR in Australia. Use of the large 50 teeth rear sprocket necessitates either adding links to the standard chain or replacing the chain with a longer 112-link itemChain adjustment is no longer by way of snail-cam adjustment but by the regular road bike system. Hard chargers have been known to bend the snail cam adjusters on previous XRs. The rear axle nut is now up to 27mm (same as ’99 CR) from the previous models 24mm. The chain guide is also improved to prevent excessive side movement. This should ensure the chain & sprockets have improved longevity.

The bikes come with IRC TR8 tyres as standard fitment but we had medium-hard terrain Dunlop 739s mounted on the fairly robust alloy rims.

The front light, light surround, brake line, master cylinder, caliper and disc are all lifted straight from the incredibly popular XR400. A headlight protector is a must. Feel from the 240mm front brake is okay but the hard-core fraternity will want to fit a stronger brake line. The reinforced front brake line from the later model XR600s will bolt straight on. The 240mm-rear brake is strong and has quite good feel.

Stephen Greenfield, Australian Safari winner and twice Finke Desert Race winner, was along during the test and I used his comments to help me judge the suspension.He thought the suspension to be much improved over the XR600. The action is more progressive with much more adjustment available to those riders who genuinely know how to set up a bike. I thought the 46mm cartridge forks worked great on the bumps.

The rear suspension has 308mm of travel and works well with a CR derived linkage ratio that is much improved over the XR600 set-up. Really serious guys will probably want to firm up both ends for racing but the fast guys we had along only managed to bottom the XR on a couple of occasions.

I never bottomed it out and had the sag at around 30mm. I did experience quite a bit of front wheel deflection over the rocky stuff however. This is probably due to geometry rather than fork action and really fast guys probably won’t notice it at all. Riders who like to dig the front end in hard will probably drop the forks 10mm through the clamps.

The frame is of a single backbone semi-double-cradle design and appears to be ultra strong. It weighs in around 5 kilos heavier than that of the XR600. Of course the extra weight of the frame is offset by the loss of a lot of weight from other areas. The bike weighs in around 136 kilograms dry with all road gear.

The switchgear is standard road/trail fare and works well. Instrumentation consists of a small speedo with tripmeter and odometer with a light for the indicator and high beam. We didn’t get a chance to try and prove the effectiveness of the headlight, but we know the XR400 unit is pretty woeful and the 650 employs the same unit. This won’t be too much of a problem as more than half of XRs sold are never ridden on the road.Front indicator removal is necessitated by removing the top triple clamp bolts and unplugging the wires from behind the headlight. The sub frame can be removed with 2 Allen bolts each side and 1 in the rear guard. The rear indicators unplug from under the seat. It should be noted that 2 holes are now in the rear guard next to the airbox intake area. These holes should be sealed to reduce the chance of foreign objects entering the airbox. The better solution may be to replace the rear guard with a US ‘A Type’ guard. (P/N 80200-MBN-670ZA). Of course with the indicators etc. no longer fitted the bike is no longer legal to be ridden on the road. As standard the taillight on top of the rear guard is not operational. By obtaining the US ‘A-Type’ globe holder and globe this light operates as a taillight that is suitable for enduro use.

The bike comes with a skidpan constructed of high-impact resin, which proved to be much stronger than it appeared. Enduro riders will want to add another piece to the to the top of the pan near the bottom radiator hose as this is somewhat vulnerable. Of course for ultimate protection the after-market suppliers will soon have tough aluminium bash plates available.The seat is reasonably comfortable for this style of bike, it is also easy to move about on.

The XR was of course nice and easy to mono but it surprised me how easy it is to keep the front wheel on the deck if you need to, like uphill sections for example. The bike also hooked up incredibly well.

All considered the XR650 looks to be a fantastic trail or enduro bike for riders of all skill levels. Unlike some of the more hard-core European competition it doesn’t demand to be ridden hard in order for it to work. This means that the XR650 is just as happy tootling along (as I do) or being thrashed senseless through hard terrain.

The $9,990 + ORC asking price seems quite reasonable when stacked up next to the competition. The XR600 replacement has been a long time coming but it seems to have been worth the wait.

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XR650R Road Test by MC USA http://www.honda-xr650r.com/road-test-by-mc-usa/ http://www.honda-xr650r.com/road-test-by-mc-usa/#comments Wed, 10 Mar 2010 08:57:58 +0000 Evan Fell http://www.honda-xr650r.com/?p=317 More >]]> This road test was done by JC Hilderbrand for Motorcycle USA. He was riding a 2006 Model XR650R. The original article can be found here: http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/


When I signed on as a motojournalist for MCUSA, they warned me that it wasn’t all going to be bike tests and hob-knobbing with the pros. Sure, those are the best parts of the job, but I was assured that there would be instances where I had to put in time as the new-guy and do the dirty work. As it turns out, the “dirty work” includes driving 1500 miles round-trip to SoCal, in a company van, to pick up a trailer full of brand-new bikes. Damn. Life’s tough sometimes.

Maybe the three-day road trips are going to get old sooner or later, but compared to my former profession as a carpenter, a bad day at MCUSA sure beats the hell out of packing lumber and hoisting drywall for eight hours. As luck would have it, the office guys pulled rank on me and sent the newbie on his first little road trip only a week after acing my piss test. My charge? A fleet of four spankin’ new, 2006 XR650Rs straight from American Honda.

I made the trek from southern Oregon and arrived at the Honda complex bright and early Monday morning (yes, they make me work weekends). I must say, I was a little unprepared for the enormity of the race shop. Obviously American Honda is a major player in the motorcycling industry, and it was pretty cool to see the base of operations for the entire U.S. program. What was even cooler is how I managed to avoid getting lost in L.A., picked the right loading dock at Honda on the first try and walked out of the place with the MCUSA Sprinter loaded to the max with new machinery. The last time I picked up a Honda it took hours of financial negotiations and a dozen signatures before I could finagle a single bike. This time the process was simplified requiring only one John Hancock and I was off and rolling. The hardest thing was trying to muscle 300-pound machines up the ramp solo and not making an ass of myself in front of all the Honda guys.

Loaded up, I then dropped one of the XRs off at Precision Concepts to be transformed from a stock trail bike into a race-ready, cactus-dodging desert steed. With the other three in tow, I set the cruise control and blasted north, homeward bound. With the wind in my hair and music blaring, it’s possible that I was the most enthusiastic road-tripper/delivery-bitch in MCUSA history.

Back in the Beaver State, the big thumpers were unloaded next to an additional XR650R that was already waiting in the warehouse. Of the four bikes, three were California models featuring a choked-up exhaust, blocked-off airbox and intake manifold and an exhaust emissions control system. We knew that the Cali bikes were going to suffer a serious power deficit, but we felt it was only fair to give them a day on the trails to prove themselves. What we actually proved was that we shouldn’t have wasted our time. We went straight back to the shop and uncorked everything we could in an effort to make the bikes more comparable to the punchier 49-state model.

We drilled the restrictive end cap out of the muffler, removed the airbox plugs, installed a new freer-flowing intake manifold and yanked off the smog hardware. The difference was immediately noticeable, putting the bikes into the same realm of performance as our 49-state model.

Since their arrival, the entire MCUSA staff has been keeping their eyes on the big, red monsters. We like to run a tight ship around here, though, so we limited the number test riders to six. Over the course of the next two months, we all put in time on the stock units as well as some modified bikes. What we found out about the 2006 XR650R is really no surprise. Honda provides a powerful and relatively comfortable bike right out of the box. Like any bike, the XR can be ridden in a number of different terrains, but the bike shines when in its element: fast, smooth fire roads and mellow trails.

The 649cc SOHC motor of the XR pumps out plenty of usable power, as we found out with a quick trip to the local dyno. Our stock unit turned 20.6 hp right off idle and maxed at 45.2 hp once the motor reached 6600 rpm. The power is spread evenly across the powerband without any major glitches or hiccups, although power does tail off well before it hits the 8400-rpm rev limiter. All of our riders agreed on the user-friendliness of the big 4-stroke and were all pleasantly surprised at the performance of the engine.

“The motor provided plenty of power and did so in a very docile manner,” said graphics-guy Brian Chamberlain. “The XR motor lacked the hard hit of today’s modern 4- strokes, which to some might be a disappointment, but I actually found it easier to get the power to the ground in the tighter, steeper terrain.”

A 40mm piston-valve Keihin carb feeds the Nikasil-lined cylinder through 37mm intake valves, extracted by 32mm exhaust valves. These valve sizes are just 1mm larger than that fitted to the CRF450R, a bike 200cc smaller, demonstrating the XR’s motor to be designed for tractable power, not high-rpm screaming. Also, the 450’s carburetor is the same size as the 30% larger XR650’s. A portion of the linear power characteristics stem from a gear-driven counterbalancer designed to smooth vibration.

Power is delivered to the 18-inch wheel from a five-speed transmission and through the 520 O-ring chain. Both the stock chain and rear tire are decent, but Dunlop’s K695 meat lost its edge quickly. Shifting was simple on the XR and missed gears were fairly rare. One rider did mention that first- and second-gear ratios felt a little awkward for tight trails, but what bike are we talking about here? The XR definitely isn’t designed as a hardcore woods weapon, though nine-time national off-road champion Scott Summers has proved that big Hondas are capable of being more than competitive in the trees.

Once on the open road, clicking into the upper gears can be an adrenaline rush on the 650. Of course, when you do and things start to go wrong at speeds above half-throttle, it can give the old sphincter muscles a serious workout. Saving a massive loop-out or flying-W can be a challenge on this hefty machine. With a full 2.6 gallon fuel tank and fresh oil, our scales showed an operating weight of 305 pounds (289 lbs tank empty), which is a fair share more than what most of our test riders were used to dealing with on the trail.

“With this kind of weight, once it starts to get away you need to be on your game to get it back under control,” said MCUSA’s Joe Wallace. “Don’t get me wrong, you can push this thing a lot harder than you would think, but once you do be ready for it to bite you back.”

We did have a bit of a problem with the bikes overheating during some slow-going trails, but the problem never persisted once the speeds picked up. This is a 650 remember, so going slow really isn’t what the Honda engineers had in mind. Nor did we, for that matter, but whacking open the throttle opens up a whole new can of worms on the red beast. All of our riders complained of soft suspension action, especially on the front end. The 46mm Kayaba cartridge fork and 44mm rear shock were undersprung for even our lightest rider. Keep in mind, every one of us enjoyed the suspension when drifting the rear knobby around fast fire roads, but the rougher the terrain gets, the more those extra pounds start to show themselves by blowing the suspension through its stroke.

I have never bottomed a front end like I did on the XR. We were practicing for desert racing, so much of our time was spent on whooped-out powerline trails that simply punished the front end. I tested the bottoming resistance plenty of times on that road and it convinced me that modifications to the fork would be money well spent. Not only was the fork way too soft, but once the speed picked up, headshake was basically the name of the game. Steering stabilizers are a must for any XR rider. On slower, more technical trails, hitting a root or bump didn’t cause the front end to deflect too badly.

Up front, braking duties are held by a twin-piston caliper while the back sports a single-piston design. Both utilize a 240mm rotor, but every one of our test riders found that the brakes were simply too weak for the Honda’s considerable bulk.

“For such a heavy bike, this thing could use better brakes up front,” Joe commented. “The rear actually works fine. Basically once you get this beast up to speed it’s really hard to get it slowed down.”

Honda tried to address the issue by bolting on a CR250R master cylinder on the front, another machine that carries a pair of 240mm rotors. The problem is that the CR250 weighs a scant 213 pounds. Hell, even Honda’s 125 has the 240s on front and back, and that machine has the XR beat by full 100 pounds!

Soft suspension, smooth motor and 300 pounds of mass combine to create a riding position that drew mixed responses from our riders. For the most part we all agreed its bar position was too far back and the footpegs weren’t quite as comfortable as they could have been given the bar placement. Like I mentioned before, all of us are used to the flickable and aggressive characteristics of motocross machines. We felt the bike was heavy and cumbersome, especially through tight trails, with the exception of one rider.

At 5′5” Adam Sabedra is the shortest of our testers, but he differs from the rest of us in more than stature. You see, long before joining MCUSA’s e-commerce team, Sabedra lived a life few of us have, that of a professional racer. He obtained his pro AMA Flat Track card in 1983 and carries it to this day, though he gave up full-time racing in ‘97. What this adds up to is a short dude who loves pitching big, heavy 4-strokes completely sideways at stupidly fast speeds. Given the XR’s reputation as king of the fire roads and Adam’s insatiable appetite for ridiculous powerslides, he rejoiced testing the Honda like the coming of the flat track Messiah.

“I was amazed at how nimble the bike felt,” he said. “It was like a XR100 on steroids, and being a small guy, that says a lot. The XR was very comfy and encouraged me to move around. Sliding on the seat a few inches would translate into a nice rear-wheel spin or one hell of a wheelie depending on what you wanted to do. After a six-hour day of hard riding, I was left wanting more. Even with the suspension problems I felt great about the big XR and wish that I had one in my garage.”

Though he and another of our vertically challenged testers struggled a bit with the 36.8 inch seat height, Adam’s small frame fit well enough between the low, swept-back bars and ill-placed pegs. As for the rest of us, we couldn’t seem to find a comfortable, yet aggressive riding position.

“The bars feel really narrow and squatty, so when you stand up you are hunched over the front end of the bike,” Joe said. “You have to constantly fight to get comfortable while riding standing up.”

BC, our tallest rider at 6′0″, mirrored the statement saying, “Peg placement seemed slightly too far forward, making it a little uncomfortable when standing up for long periods of time at high speed.”

Turning to one of our more “seasoned” riders, MCUSA editorial director Ken Hutchison, chipped in with his two cents by complaining of recurring back pain while aboard the big thumper. “The forward placement of the pegs combined with the pulled-back location of the handlebars make me feel like I am riding a stand-up jet ski,” he whined. “This puts a bit of strain on my back unless I make an effort to stand tall and lean forward putting my thighs on the tank. During hill climbs or descents this is not so much a problem, but on level terrain it just feels awkward.”

I too was uncomfortable when standing. I found that the riding position and soft suspension practically forced me to ride either in the saddle or standing with my butt well over the rear tire. Since I preferred the shock action to that of the front end, riding with my weight back was the most effective way to bomb rough straights and whoop sections. However, it does pose a problem when trying to get aggressive in the tight stuff. Many of southern Oregon’s best riding areas are composed of single track or MC/ATV trails, both of which require good mobility in the saddle and the ability to sit forward on the tank. Moving around the stock tank was much easier than I first imagined and the seat/tank transition is relatively smooth.

The stock tank only allowed us to go 50 miles at a time before needing a refill, no matter how hard we tried to conserve fuel. BC, ever wary of increasing gas prices and fuel economy thanks to his V-8-powered truck, crunched the numbers for us noting that the 650 averaged around 19 mpg in our rough hands. In an effort to gain more range, we installed an IMS 3.2-gallon tank on one bike. The additional 0.6-gallon capacity allows for around 61 miles of riding, but we found that it significantly limits rider mobility. Whether or not your riding style requires additional gas is up to you to decide. But a word of caution, don’t overestimate the range on the XR because you do not want to be pushing this hog back to the truck.

Our XRs have a tall and heavy feel, but much to our collective delight, the weight is well balanced. Honda started an aluminum revolution in 1997 with the introduction of the painfully harsh twin-spar chassis on its CR250R. In the nine years since, that aluminum technology has been refined and spread throughout the Honda off-road lineup, including the big XR. The backbone style frame doubles as the engine oil reservoir for the dry-sump oiling system. A dipstick pokes out from the steering head where it is easy to reach, making oil level inspection a breeze.

Sticking with the aluminum motif, the subframe is also made of the lightweight material. Being the over-zealous journos and computer geeks that we are, we managed to test the rigidity of the subframe on many occasions. The removable piece held up surprisingly well considering the bulk of the machine, but we did relegate one to the scrap heap during our high-speed desert adventure in the BITD Las Vegas-to-Reno race. The tapered aluminum swingarm pivots at the rear engine mount, eliminating extra frame components and shortening wheelbase to 58.3 inches while lowering overall weight.

I’m sure that when it comes time to give all these bikes back to Honda, it’ll be my name that is magically chosen as delivery bitch once again. I’m not sure how enthusiastic I’ll be for the Hondas’ return trip to SoCal, but it won’t be the drive that’s deterring me. After having my first experience with the big, red open-class thumper, I’m not sure that I’m entirely ready for it all to end. Those Honda guys were pretty cool, and besides, what are they going to do with four slightly-used XRs? Maybe if I’m really nice…

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