For those who refuse to stop at the pavement’s end, the venerable electric-start XR650L can extend your motorcycle adventure to roads less traveled—be they dirt roads, trails or forgotten byways—in proven dual-sport style.
In 1979, Honda announced the first full-sized four-stroke enduros, the XR185, XR250 and XR500. In the same year appeared the superbike of superbikes, the in-line six CBX Super Sport along with a double overhead cam CB750. On the automotive side, the Prelude joined the lineup.
The Honda XR series motorcycle is gradually being replaced with similar CRF series motorcycles.
In its heyday, the XR series consisted of 10 models; however, currently only the baja-racer XR650R and dual-sport XR650L remain. The rest of the XR line has been transitioned into the CRF line. Those bikes remain mechanically unchanged, but have been aesthetically updated with new graphics and plastic.
2000 Honda XR250R
For many years, this bike was the standard small-bore off-road four stroke. It had a 249cc air-cooled motor with Honda’s famous Radial Four Valve Combustion Chamber (RFVC). In 1996, the bike entire was updated. The updated engine put out a useable 19 horsepower at 8100 rpm. Though the bike was new, it kept the antiquated air-cooling and conventional suspension fork. The XR250R was the king of entry level off road four strokes. It was simple, indestructible, and reliable. Modified XR250’s were even raced in the GNCC’s by Scott Summers. This bike was discontinued in 2004, replaced by the more modern CRF250X.
2003 Honda XR400R
Introduced in 1996, the XR400R was wildly popular. It was reasonably light (264 pounds) and made a pleasant 32 horsepower at 7600 rpm. It shared a frame, plastic and suspension components with the XR250R, and had a similar air-cooled engine with RFVC technology. XR400’s were heavily modified and raced. In 1998, however, Yamaha eclipsed the XR400R with its answer to the midsize off-road four stroke: the WR400F. The WRF was much more advanced in technology than the XR. In 2006, Honda replaced the XR400 with the CRF450X.
1983 Honda XR600R
The XR600R was king of the Baja races. It was introduced in 1982, and was updated again in 1992. The XR won many desert races at the hands of Johnny Cambell and Scott Summers. It’s air cooled engine was very similar to the XR400 and XR250 engines, with the same RFVC valvetrain. The XR600 only made 38 horsepower at its peak, but its torque was impressive. In 2000, Honda replaced this desert warrior with the XR650R.
2000 Honda XR650R
The XR650R was not just an update to the XR600—it was a totally new bike. An all-new 649cc, liquid cooled, SOHC engine was mated to an aluminum box frame. The large XR did carry substantial girth, however, at 287 pounds dry.
The XR650R is an incredible desert racer. It has won every professional desert race its entered. It remains one of the few stock dirt bikes that can touch 100 mph.
I love this thing. It’s a bike that can perform great on the street and in the dirt too. I believed that if it could do both it was no good at either. I was wrong. If there’s ever an emergency and traffic is terrible as usual, you could always go off road and take some short cuts.
This bike gets up on the highway 70 miles per hour easy and I was surprised at how smooth it is. You would think that a 650cc one piston thumper would vibrate your bones apart but it doesn’t. The tires work well in the dirt. I’ve ridden it in the rain, hail, high wind (yikes), off road in heavy mud, even dropped it going up a muddy hill in the hailing wind storm, it’s a tough bike. How many motorcycles can handle this kind of variety? Not many. This bike has good suspension, it’s well balanced and I like the high ground clearance. It’s the best of both worlds.
If you do your own maintenance beware that HONDA will not honor their warranty for your bike. Because it would be illegal for them to put it in writing or even tell you at the time you purchase your bike that they require you to have all service work performed by the HONDA dealer network or your warranty claim will not be honored.
Overall, it’s a great bike. It has lots of power and plenty of upgrades available to have fun with. This bike is worth every penny. If you buy one you won’t be disappointed.