Honda Motorcycle XR650R
By Moses Ludel, 10/04/2013
  • Color Honda Red
  • Price 0.00
  • Year 2000
  • Odometer 700
  • Odometer Unit Miles
  • Description This is the latest off-road vehicle in the 4WD Mechanix Magazine stable, a 2000 Honda XR650R—better known to Honda dirt motorcycle buffs and "Dust to Glory" fans, affectionately, as the "Big Red Pig"! Expect a string of details as this cycle becomes our plated dual-sport conversion and HD video filming platform!


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Thanks to these forums, it's no secret that I have motor-driven interests beyond the 4x4 Jeep and truck subjects featured in my books and career journalism! Motorcycles, both dirt and road bikes, have been a passion since I took my first "Scooter Operator's License" exam at Nevada on my 14th birthday in 1963...

So, why this Honda XR650R motorcycle? Let's begin with a brief history of my motorcycle life, which began with a Cushman scooter. Nevada's "Basic Speed Law" and the muscle car era kept 6-1/2 horsepower scooters hunkered in the emergency lane!

Enjoying dirt access with Jeep 4x4s and otherwise, I stepped up for a well maintained '69 BSA 441 Victor Special (B44) in 1971. (Bikes like this were popularized in the Barstow to Vegas race depicted in the original “On Any Sunday”.) Nevada had just adopted the motorcycle license endorsement program, and the Victor quickly had company with a BSA 650 Lightning (A65L), intended strictly for the highway.

The BSA Lightning encouraged my purchase of a succession of road bikes, including a BSA Rocket III 750 (A75R) prior to the 55 mph speed limit at Nevada, and much later, a BMW R80GS for the highway, then a BMW K1100LT followed by a Gold Wing GL1500*. For the dirt, I began my enduring relationship with Honda dirt bikes first with an '83 XR200R then the '84 XR350R, followed by an '84 XR500R. Each of these four-valve singles featured ProLink rear suspension, much at home for desert dirt riding.

*Footnote: The Honda Gold Wing was a behemoth. My weight preference was the Rocket III triple (534 pounds)...I could consider the new liquid cooled BMW 1250GS at 524 pounds!

The '84 four-valve XR500R thumper is very original and a candidate for restoration. My time constraints made a low hour/mileage, liquid-cooled Honda XR650R much more appealing! I have a passion for asphalt as well as dirt, and coverage of the Moab Jeep Safari and other on- and off-highway travel make it sensible to take the dual-sport route.

From a magazine vantage, the XR650R is very much the machine that matches the travel filming venues and chasing four-wheelers around. This motorcycle can provide a video filming platform for documentary work on single- and two-track routes.

Most Honda XR650R dual-sport conversions end up in the 80-90% dirt riding ratio, with short use of asphalt. Few are masochistic enough to want a long distance highway ride on knobby tires—even the DOT approved variety!

Am I up for the Honda XR650R, the iconic big-displacement enduro bike that won the Baja 1000 handily and dominated every other kind of desert race? Well, though I'm certainly not Johnny Campbell, Steve Hengeveld, Andy Grider, Mouse McCoy or the other XR650R stars in "Dust to Glory", I think so...

My most memorable desert dirt experience was a white knuckle day in the winter of 1987-1988, riding the lower end of the Mojave Desert on a fresh Husqvarna test model with host Rick Sieman on a similar KTM. Many will recall that Rick served as founding and Senior Editor at Dirt Bike, he was then editor at OFF-ROAD, and he ran the AMA Veteran #1 plate at the time.

For whatever reason, Rick had every confidence I could keep up with him. For a whole day and scores of miles, I followed Rick’s every fast move, in every kind of desert terrain—mostly to stay on the cycle! Though on the edge the entire time, I never went down, doing a variety of maneuvers well over my head! My survival strategy: Do everything Rick Sieman does—or else! At that pace, there was no middle ground.

Moving to Oregon for four years (1990-94), then returning to Nevada (February will make 20 years this time around), I've had single-track and enduro riding terrain at my ready reach—and took advantage...XR Hondas, from the four-valve 200, 350 and 500 to the XR650R, are great machines for my kind of riding.

If I were to characterize optimal riding terrain, it would be fast desert type (think hare-and-hound or the Vegas to Reno Race), outback exploration venues (think ghost towns, Moab and the Black Rock Desert/High Rock Canyon regions) or Six-Days Trials terrain (think rocky, mountainous terrain like Nevada ghost town access).

Nevada offers all of that plus paved routes like U.S. Highway 50, the "Loneliest Highway in America". U.S. 50 Alternate is on my walking route to the local Starbucks at Fernley! Then there's the Pyramid Lake and Gerlach route to the Black Rock...

So, what's the strongest desert motorcycle for a GoPro Hero3 Black Edition cam and overnight camp gear? For me, it's this Honda XR650R—with a street legal dual-sport conversion! Stay tuned...


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Hi Moses,

Fell across this website recently researching some pieces of aftermarket hardware that are on the 2002 plated BRP I purchased here in Bend, OR recently. Saw the bike on Craigslist and thought it looked like fun on the road! I also have a 2001 BRP that I purchased in 2002 which has been lovingly flogged for 14 years now. Reading your blog and many others, It appears the XR650R is a cult classis...guess I was not aware how good of a bike I had!

I too am a graduate from the Univ. of Oregon, 1985. In 1983 I bought a new XR500R for commuting Eugene to home in Florence on the weekends. I had this brilliant idea to take a dirt bike and convert it to some highway fun. Found a motorcycle wrecking yard in Springfield and put all the necessary used parts on the bike to make it street legal and get it through DMV for a license plate. Ran everything off the magneto and used my rear brake as a way to dim the head light for oncoming cars at night. Crude but it worked! I was the terror of campus and nothing was off limits...the girls loved it! 3rd floor dorm (Tingle)I used for parking when it was time for maintenance. Had fun for almost 2 years until "the terror of campus" was stolen.

Since then I have had numerous bikes (including a new '87 XR600R owned until the 2001 XR650R), but always wanted more fun with a road worthy XR. So when I saw this converted 2002 BRP, I knew I had to have it. And what fun to re-live old college memories and make new ones. This bike HAULS BUTT on the road and satisfies this mid-life crises. Absolutely the most fun OTR (on the road!) I have ever had.

Thanks for the XR650R review for racks, rebuild, and tires. I will be following your BRP experiences. BTW, cold start procedures are a one-kick affair, and if I lift my rear off the seat to do this than I'm trying too hard!


S. Ellson

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