My First Dirt Bike To The Last - Honda All The Way!

by Mike
(Botwood Newfoundland, Canada)

I have always loved Honda dirt bikes. I had my first one when I was 12 years old. It was a 1984 XL100. I can still remember that day when my father and I went to look at it.. it was restored to showroom condition with new paint and a brand-new OEM exhaust. The engine purred away when the man who restored and sold the bike first started it up for me. I left that day with the bike, $375 was the price we paid for it, and well worth every penny.

I did a lot of riding on that old Honda in the two years I had it, and it never failed me - not even once. When I was 14 and grew out of the little XL100 I sold it to a very good friend of mine for $300. It was his first dirt bike as well.

The same week I sold my old XL100, I saw a 1985 XL250R for sale for $800. It was the perfect size bike for me at the time and it was love at first sight. I loved the look of it, the way the front fender was shaped, the square headlight and the number plate/headlight fairing, and the way the tank was shaped. It sure was a step up from the old XL100.

Me and my father talked about it in the car after we had both looked at it, he knew how bad I wanted the XL250R. He had to give me the extra $500 to go with the $300 I had received for the XL100 I sold that same week.

We talked to the guy selling the XL250R, he said the engine had just been rebuilt and needed to be broken in. He told me to take it easy on it for a tank or two of gas before I rode it hard. When he started it up I can still remember the sweet humming sound of the RFVC engine. He let me take it for a ride up and down the old gravel road near his place. I was smiling from ear to ear, the difference in this bike and my old one were night and day. When I got back, my father already had the deal made and the bike was mine.

I had the XL250R for that summer and it ended up getting a crack in the base one day from a rock that must of flicked up from the front tire as I never struck it on anything. When we purchased the bike we didn't notice that it didn't have a skidplate under the engine. When this happened it went un-noticed until I stopped on the side of the trail to have a stretch. Well, I was alone that day and was around 15km from town and had no way of reaching anybody. I checked the oil level and it wasn't even showing on the dipstick. It sure was a long walk home, and being young and dumb as I was I started the bike and drove it home. By the time I got there the bike was knocking, ticking and smoke was coming out the pipe. I shut it off and that was the last time that bike ever ran. Yeah I know, I was a dummie and it was gonna happen if I rode it home. Oh well, that was a lesson learned the hard way, lol.

The following summer a friend of mine had a 1985 XL350R for sale for $1200, and it was licensed for the road. I was 15 years old then and was soon going to be 16 and able to get my motorcycle learners permit. I had enough money to buy the bike saved up over the past year and I bought it. It was a nice bike, excellent shape, no oil leaks, no smoke, no ticks or knocking whatsoever. The engine was RFVC and sounded sweet with that nice humming the RFVC's are known for. It had a noticeable power difference over the XL250R, and about 20-25km/h speed gain as well.

I had the 350R for a year and the connecting rod failed, the valves snapped, piston was beat up, timing chain snapped and the cylinder walls were torn up. Later talking to the guy who rebuilt the engine a year before I bought the bike, he told me the connecting rod was original and wasn't replaced when the engine was rebuilt. Apparently money was an issue and he couldn't afford to replace the connecting rod.

Another XL350R was up for grabs around the same time this happened, it was a 1984 model in excellent shape and ran well for $1000. I bought it and had it for a month or so and my uncle moved back to Newfoundland from Ontario. He had in the back of his truck a 1987 XL250R, it was in mint condition with not a scratch on it. It was used in the city summertime as a cheap source of transportation back and forth to work, it had never seen dirt. It was beautiful, same as the day it came from the dealership. I sold both my 1984 XL350R and my 1985 XL350R to go with it for spare parts for $1400 to a guy who was bugging me to sell him the 1985 since I first got it. I then bought the 1987 XL250R from my uncle for an awesome deal, $700!

I couldn't believe this bike was in the showroom condition it was in. It sounded awesome with the RFVC engine humming and was by far the best bike I ever had. I licensed it for the road right away. When I drove it to my friend's house he couldn't believe the shape it was in for a 1987. We always rode together and we went for a good ride that day, he had the same bike only not in as good condition.

It was about a month and a half later I had an accident on the bike I had just recently bought from my uncle. I came out around the corner of a building and another one of my friends was coming up towards the corner and t-boned me. It was pretty bad, my shin was broken in two places, my foot, and my femur was broken and was sticking out of my pants. A major artery was severed completely and blood was squirting out of my leg the same as a water gun. My friend had blood coming out his ears and we both were very lucky to have survived that accident thanks to some fast acting people who administered first aid until the ambulances arrived.

Well that bike was sold after I got out of the hospital for the same price I bought it, $700. All it needed was a new tank and headlight assembly.

I now have a 2003 XR650R, bought brand-new in June 2005. It was still on the showroom floor that summer and I got it for a good deal as they were trying to clear out their old models to make room for the new arrivals.

I had my eye on the XR650R since I first saw one in 2000. I got it for $6800+ tx, and was as happy as when I bought my first bike - the XL100 when I was 12yrs old. I rode the big XR 40km home on the old rail bed. In Newfoundland the use of trains stopped 20yrs ago or more, now the rail bed is used for ATV's, dirt bikes and snowmobiles province-wide.

I loved it when I took my first ride on the way home, trying hard not to open the throttle as it had to be broken-in. All I could say to myself was 'wow what a powerhouse' as I rode it home. And a 'Powerhouse it is! It makes tons of power from idle through the midrange all the way to the rev-limiter. After I had the big XR broken-in and changed the oil I decided to un-cork it and put in a 175 main jet, 68s pilot jet, B53E needle and seat, replace the restrictive intake manifold with the un-restricted HRC manifold, and take the restrictors off of the airbox intake and drilled out the exhaust tip.

When I took it for the first ride after un-corking it I scared the sh#* out of myself - what a difference! I was caught totally off-guard with the power the bike had hidden inside! I came pretty close to flipping the bike back over when I gave the throttle a little whack, lol.

I loved every second I rode my XR650R, wherever I went, I went on it. It never ever let me down. Now 6yrs later, my 650R still runs awesome and is as reliable as ever. This year I installed a Stage 1 Hotcam, FMF Powerbomb Headers, FMF Powercore 4 silencer and a K&N air filter and drilled holes in my left side panel for more airflow. Now with these few mods and the mods already done, the 650R is one powerful bike. It puts the XR650L to shame power-wise.

The 650L is a nice bike - don't get me wrong, and would be my choice if the 650R wasn't around, but I love my 650R. It’s 'bulletproof' and sure can take whatever you can give it, and then some. It’s slim and lightweight and very powerful when set-up this way, and in stock form it’s no slouch either. It has no oil or coolant leaks, burns no oil and the engine still sounds as good or better than the day I took it home from the dealership in June 2005. I change my oil and filter religiously and check the valve clearances every 2nd oil change or so.

My XR650R has taken me many miles and many places, and it still has lots of miles and places left to go. It’s a shame Honda discontinued production of the XR650R in 2008, I'm sure a lot of you would agree.

Long-live the XR650R!

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Oct 04, 2011
by: kevin

I grew up with xr's too, and I'm from Newfoundland!

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