Honda XR series
The Honda XR series motorcycles are a range of air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke off-road motorcycles that were designed in Japan but assembled all over the world, although later models such as the XR 650R and XRV 650R are water cooled and the XRV 650R is a twin cylinder engine.
Some of the XR series came in two versions, R and L. The R version bikes were not always street legal, but were designed for off-road riding, with knobby off-road tires fitted. The L version models were dual sport bikes, fitted with the lights, indicators, horn, mirrors and tyres needed for public roads though some R version models had these too.
In its heyday, the XR series comprised 10 models, but now only the dual-sport XR 650L remains. The other XR models were superseded by the CRF series. The Honda XR650L is one of the longest running unchanged production models in the history of motorcycling and is still available today exactly as the 1992 model specifications.
Small XR models
Small XR models include the XR50R, XR70R, XR75R, XR80R and XR100R. They are much smaller in size in comparison to the other bikes in the series, and are designed for children, smaller riders, as pit bikes, or for recreational fun. The XR 50 is a small four-stroke 50 cc child's entry level motorcycle, produced from 1968 until today. Originally it was called the Trail 50, then Z-50, the XR 50, CRF 50, and the street legal (mini motard) XR 50. This model is not sold in the United States due to the CPSIA.
The XR 125L was released the year 2003. The 125 engine generates 11.13 HP (8.1 kW) at 8,500 rpm, Only the 2012 XR125L has both an electric starter and a kick starter.
The XR200, a development of the XL185 trail bike, was produced from 1980 until 2002. Like XL185, the XR200 had twin rear shocks and an ohc 2-valve air-cooled engine with kick-start only. Although the XR200's power output was modest, the bike was much smaller and lighter than the XR250, and it suited club and girl riders. Due to its lightness and ground clearance it made an excellent backwoods bike. Drum brakes were fitted front and rear. Having neither battery nor electric start, the driving lights shone only when the engine was running. Some years had no headlights.
In 1981 Honda introduced the XR200R, with Pro-Link rear mono-shock suspension. In 1984 the XR200 received a twin carburetted, 4 valve, RFVC engine based on the XR/XL250 engine. This engine was completely different from earlier 2 valve engines and was basically an XR250 with a smaller bore and shorter stroke. After 1985, the engine reverted to the earlier two-valve unit. Most XR200Rs had a five-speed gearbox although a six-speed gearbox was fitted on some examples. The XR200 was replaced by the later Honda CRF230 Honda CRF series
In 1996 the XR 250R, the mainstay of the XR range, was updated with a new 249 cc air-cooled four-stroke Radial Four Valve Combustion Chamber (RFVC) motor that produced 19 hp (14 kW) at 8100 rpm. . Although it was quite heavy and both front and rear suspension were rather basic, the XR 250R proved reliable and was successful as an entry-level off-road machine. Discontinued in 2004, the XR250R was replaced by the later CRF250X.
This street version of the XR250R had road legal lights and tires, a metal fuel tank, keyed ignition/steering lock, plus other minor changes. Some 40 lbs heavier, it had reduced off-road ability. It shared the XR250R's RFVC 249 cc engine, but with a different carburetor and 3 mm smaller exhaust headers to meet emissions requirements. It was manufactured from 1992-2007.
The XR 350R was introduced in 1983, but discontinued in 1985. The 1983–84 models were wet sump engines with a bore and stroke of 84 mm x 61.3 mm and a displacement of 339 cc. For 1985, Honda changed the stroke to 63.8 mm and the displacement went up to 353 cc. Wrist pin size was also changed from 21 mm to 19 mm for the 1985 model year. The 1985 XR350R was also a dry sump engine like the XR600R which was introduced that same year.
The XR 400R was Introduced in 1996. It had a similar frame, plastics and suspension components with the XR 250R, and had a similar air-cooled engine with RFVC technology. The xr400 had more suspension travel and a longer wheelbase. XR 400s were heavily modified and raced. In 2004, Honda replaced the XR 400 with the CRF 450X.
XR 500 / XR 500R
Introduced in 1979, the twin-shock Honda XR 500 was the first "XR" model. The engine was a 4-stroke, 4-valve OHC, 497 cc (30.3 cu in) Pentroof engine. The bike had a conventional 18" rear wheel but an unusual 23" front wheel which was supposed to be better for riding over potholes and ruts. The 23" size proved unpopular and did not catch on as the wheel/tyre assembly was heavy, and there was little choice of replacement 23" tyres.
In 1981 Honda introduced 'Pro-Link’ models, with rising-rate single-shock rear suspension, a 17" rear wheel and a 21" front wheel. Unusual for a 4-stroke with it's typical intake and exhaust valves,the 1981 and 1982 XR-500 utilized a 6-pedal reed valve set-up. The 1982 XR 500RC was very similar to the 1981 RB apart from decal and trim changes.
For 1983, Honda introduced a new oil-in-frame dry sump engine with an "RFVC" (Radial Four Valve Combustion) cylinder-head which had two 28 mm slide-valve carburetors. The front brake was a twin-piston hydraulic disc brake. The suspension (front and rear) had an extra inch of travel, giving a total of 11". The headlight was amended with the headlight was on the bottom and the number plate on top, and the seat was redesigned for comfort and safety.
The 1984 Honda XR 500RE sported plastic ‘bark-buster’ hand protectors. The 1984 RE model was to be the last of the Honda XR 500 series as 1985 saw the move to the bigger, more powerful Honda XR 600RF.
The XR 600R was used in Baja races. It was introduced in 1985, and was updated again in 1992. The XR won many desert races in the hands of Johnny Campbell and GNCC races in the hands of Scott Summers. Its engine was very similar to the XR 400 and XR 250 engines, with the same RFVC valve train. In 2000, the XR 650R replaced the XR 600R.
Introduced in 2000, the XR 650R was not just an update to the XR 600—it was a totally new bike. An all-new 649 cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC engine was mated to an aluminum box frame. It weighed 280 lb (130 kg) dry. Team Honda and the XR650R posted many definitive Baja 1000 wins during its production cycle, and many other desert race wins with Scott Summers and Johnny Campbell at the helm. Cancelled for the 2008 production year, the 'Big Red Pig (BRP)' enjoys a loyal following amongst Honda fans today, and remains one of the most competitive, open class 4-stroke enduro motorcycles available.
The Honda XR650L is a street/trail bike that is more similar to the XR 600R than the XR 650R. It has a steel tube frame as opposed to an aluminum spar frame like in the XR 650R. It also has an air-cooled 644 cc SOHC dry-sump single-cylinder 4-stroke engine similar except for an increased displacement to the XR 600R, unlike the totally redesigned XR 650R that has a liquid-cooled 649 cc SOHC dry-sump single-cylinder 4-stroke engine. The 644cc engine first appeared in the NX650 Dominator in 1988 which makes it the longest produced RFVC engine made by Honda. With a headlight, taillight, turn signals, mirrors, smog system, revised exhaust system and a 2.8 gallon gas tank with 0.6 gal reserve, the 650L has a 349 lb (158 kg) wet weight.
The Honda XRV650 (produced from 1988 to 1989) was the second twin cylinder production trail bike by Honda, the first one being the Honda XLV750R produced from 1983 to 1986. It was the first twin cylinder model in the XR series and as such started the XRV series, but it was soon replaced by the Honda XRV750 in 1990. The 650cc model was built in Japan by Honda Racing Corporation and is arguably a better built bike than following versions of XRVs, which were standard production models. It came as both single and double headlight variations, and featured a slightly tuned 650cc engine similar to the Honda Transalp (XL600V and XL650V) and high specification chassis components, leading to its rather brief production run. With an aftermarket larger capacity tank and very few other modifications the bike was entered in the marathon class of the Paris Dakar rally, revealing its surprisingly good off-road abilities - despite its 200 kg weight, hence it belongs firmly to the XR range. It is the most sought after model of the Africa Twin XRV range and is fast becoming a collector's item, especially in Europe.
- Honda Off-Road Motorcycles - Review, Performance, Specs
- Honda Motorcycles Models
- 2004 XR 250 vs DR-Z 250 vs KLX 300R - MotorcycleUSA.com
- "Race Test: Honda XR650R." Dirt Bike Magazine. February, 2000. p. 40.
- "Performance Index '10", Motorcycle Consumer News (Bowtie Magazines), 2010, retrieved 2011-02-14
- "Einzeltest Fahrbericht Honda XRV 650 Africa Twin" motorradonline.de