It’s The "I Wanna Have Fun" Bike You’ll Hang On To.

Honda carries its venerable XR650L line into 2018, but to be honest, it’s almost completely unchanged from the original version unleashed on the world back in 1993. Before you scoff, I would point out that sharks haven’t changed in millions of years, having evolved long ago into creatures perfectly suited to their environments, and apparently, so it is with the XR650L. The Red Riders got it right out of the gate with this one, and popular support keeps the bike on Honda’s showroom floors even after nearly a quarter-century. I want to see what Honda has going on over there that gives this bike such longevity.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda XR650L.

  • 2015 - 2018 Honda XR650L
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Air-cooled dry-sump single-cylinder four-stroke
  • Displacement:
    644 cc
  • Top Speed:
    110 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    6899
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Honda XR650L
- image 697915
We have proper lighting to include turn signal, headlight and taillight for the street, but much like its predecessor the Enduro, everything else from the suspension to the body panels and the tires screams “off-road.”

The terms “adventure bike” and “ dual sport” get thrown around a lot, and while some of the categorizations are a little ambiguous and the edges a little blurry, there is no question that this bike prefers the brown over the black. Sure, we have proper lighting to include turn signal, headlight and taillight, but much like its predecessor the Enduro, everything else from the suspension to the body panels and the tires screams “off-road.”

A tripletree-mounted front fender leaves plenty of room for almost a foot of front suspension travel. Cheek fairings shroud the engine and direct the cooling air, and a stubby fuel tank and bench seat finish out the flylines in a decidedly dirt-tastic fashion. Seat height falls out in the nosebleed section at 37-inches tall; tiptoe zone for many riders, but necessary to accommodate the generous suspension travel.

Flank panels below the two-up bench seat enclose the subframe area and guard the central-mount muffler. Honda may be right about this being an all-road bike, but at the end of the day it comes off looking like pure dirt. One thing is for sure; I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable cornering on the streets with those tires; but then, if this bike suited your intended purpose, you wouldn’t be worrying about cornering on the streets, huh. Still, it’s plenty street-legal to get you to the trailhead.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Honda XR650L
- image 697911
Steering geometry measures out at 4 inches of trail with 27 degrees of steering-head rake, numbers that provide a certain amount of stability while retaining some agility.

Tubular-steel members serve as the foundation for this ride in a weight-saving, single-downtube / double-cradle assembly. Steering geometry measures out at 4 inches of trail with 27 degrees of steering-head rake, numbers that provide a certain amount of stability while retaining some agility.

Showa provides the suspension components with a set of 43 mm forks up front and monoshock in back. The forks come with air-adjustable preload and 16-position compression damping while the Pro-Link rear shock sports adjustable spring preload and 20-position, compression- and rebound-damping adjustment. At 11.6-inches up front and 11-inches even in back, the suspension travel alone is enough to tackle some pretty rough terrain, and it serves to strengthen the off-road vibe.

Laced wheels drive that point home even further with a single disc on both ends to manage braking duties with a twin-pot caliper to bite the front disc and a single-piston caliper pinching the rear. At 21-inches, the front wheel is capable of negotiating some pretty rough stuff, as is the 18-incher that brings up the rear, and the street-knobbies do provide decent traction on the hard, but you had better respect them or you will find yourself in a lowsider one day, and probably sooner rather than later. If there are any remaining questions about the intended use of this ride, the 13 inches of ground clearance should remove all ambiguities. This bike is built for the bumpy stuff, no doubt about it.

Front Suspension: 43mm air-adjustable axle Showa® cartridge fork with 16-position compression-damping adjustability; 11.6-inches of travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link® Showa single-shock with spring-preload, 20-position compression- and 20-position rebound-damping adjustability; 11.0-inches travel
Front Brake: Single 256 mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 220 mm disc with single-piston caiper
Front Tire: 3.00-21
Rear Tire: 4.60-18

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Honda XR650L Exterior
- image 568832
Attention fuel-injected haters! The powerplant still uses a 42.5 mm, constant-velocity carburetor to manage the induction.

An air-cooled thumper drives the ride with a 100 mm bore and 82 mm stroke that gives us a total displacement of 644 cc. A single over-head cam times the four-valve head, and a mild, 8.3-to-1 compression ratio allows for the use of cheap, low-octane gas while extending the life of the engine by keeping the power pulses from beating the bearings out of the bottom end.

Oh, and carburetor fans rejoice! The powerplant still uses a 42.5 mm, constant-velocity carburetor to manage the induction, and the mill manages to meet CARB and EPA off-road emissions standards and milk 52 miles from every gallon. Power output is around 40 ponies, and top speed is around 105 mph, way faster than you should ever go on knobbies, says I.

A standard clutch couples engine power to the five-speed transmission, and I’m not really surprised at the lack of a slipper clutch in this case, or any sort of traction control or other electronic gadgetry for that matter. I find this simplicity to be refreshing, and feel like this ride will be easy for the lay-mechanic to maintain; a huge selling point in my book, especially on a bike that may see service well off the beaten path.

Engine: 644cc air-cooled dry-sump single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore And Stroke: 100mm x 82mm
Compression Ratio: 8.3:1
Transmission: Five-speed

Price

2015 - 2018 Honda XR650L
- image 697907
MSRP for 2018 should come in about the same as last year: just a skosh under $7k.

The XR could be had for $6,899 plus the $350 destination charge for 2017. I haven’t seen a price for 2018 yet, but I expect it to be about the same. Honda doesn’t give you many chances to inflate that at the genuine accessories catalog; seems the only accessory available is a cover. Oh, well, there’s always the aftermarket.

Competitor

2015 - 2019 Suzuki DR650S
- image 666582
2015 - 2018 Kawasaki KLR 650
- image 666578
The XR and the DR both run with carbs, so with all else being equal, it might come down to price.

The lines between dual-sport and adventure bike vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and at first I was tempted to draw the KLR 650 from Kawasaki. It’s definitely an all-road bike but with a bit more of a street-centric bent. A small fairing and windshield give it too much of an adventure-bike look that makes it look like more bike than it really is, so in spite of the similarities, I have to cast it aside for the difference in looks if nothing else. Suzuki saves the day with its DR650S, an almost identical twin to the XR with the same clamp-mount front mudguard and similar flylines all the way back.

The two mills measure out exactly the same at 644 cc but where Honda claims around 40 ponies, Suzuki claims 46. Close, but enough of a difference to mention. Seat height on the DR is over two-inches lower at 34.8-inches tall, but the trade off is a reduced ground clearance at 10.4-inches, well short of the XR’s 13-inch gap. Both mills run with carbs, in case you were wondering. Suzuki picks up a win at the till with a $6,499 sticker, but it’s a minor win at just $191 cheaper.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says,"What can I say, it’s another bloody dual-sport that looks like a damned enduro to me. Do dual-sports really exist, or are they just cleverly marketed surplus enduros? Whatever the case, I have to acknowledge the staying power this Honda XR exhibits. Bike fans are notoriously fickle, and models don’t get to be this old without that they have some special quality that endears them to the masses. Kudos, Honda. Kudos.”

She Said

"My husband never has been a fan of dual sport or adventure, so I know what he’s going to say before I ask him. That said, I am feeling it. As a mechanic, I like the simplicity. Being able to work on a bike without needing expensive diagnostic tools is old-school and that’s my genre. It’s light and scrappy and might even make a decent commuter or an all-around ’I-wanna-have-fun’ bike that you’ll hang on to even after you park something newer/bigger/shinier next to it in the garage.”

Specifications

ENGINE:
Engine Type: 644cc air-cooled dry-sump single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore And Stroke: 100mm x 82mm
Compression Ratio: 8.3:1
Valve Train: SOHC; four-valve RFVC™
Induction: 42.5mm diaphragm-type CV carburetor
Ignition: Solid-state CD with electronic advance
DRIVE TRAIN:
Transmission: Five-speed
Final Drive: #520 O-ring-sealed chain; 15T/45T
CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES:
Front Suspension: 43mm air-adjustable axle Showa® cartridge fork with 16-position compression-damping adjustability; 11.6-inches of travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link® Showa single-shock with spring-preload, 20-position compression- and 20-position rebound-damping adjustability; 11.0-inches travel
Front Brake: Single 256 mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: Single 220 mm disc with single-piston caliper
Front Tire: 3.00-21
Rear Tire: 4.60-18
DIMENSIONS:
Rake: 27.0 degrees
Trail: 102mm (4.0 inches)
Wheelbase: 57.3 inches
Seat Height: 37.0 inches
Curb Weight: 346 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 2.8 gallons, including 0.6-gallon reserve
Ground Clearance: 13.0 inches
Miles Per Gallon: 52 MPG
OTHER:
Model ID: XR650L
Warranty: One Year, Transferable limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan
Available Colors: Red
Price:
2016: $6,690
2017: $6,899
2018: TBA

References

Kawasaki KLR650

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki KLR 650
- image 666578

See our review of the Kawasaki KLR650.

Suzuki DR650S

2015 - 2019 Suzuki DR650S
- image 666582

See our review of the Suzuki DR650S.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, kawasaki.com, suzukicycles.com

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