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Well, I rode the Honda XR650R motorcycle this morning, not unusual in itself, as I've been trying to rack up miles on the top-end engine rebuild in time for Fall riding.  One thing was unusual, though.  At 204 miles since the rebuild that included L.A. Sleeve machine work, the bike has reached a whole new performance level!


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The magazine's Honda XR650R top-engine teardown and inspection.


My morning riding venue is typically rural highways, both two-way traffic two lanes and divided highway four-lane.  I've been on dirt with the Michelin T63 tire tests and have much more planned, this Fall will be extensive dual-sport riding both on- and off-highway.  Customarily, these cooler morning rides have been intended to run the engine up and down the light load and rpm scale, nothing stressful, just steady rpm stretches mixed with changes in speed and load.


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The beginning to present: Our XR650R evolves from a desert bike with a dual-sport conversion into a bona fide video filming platform and road/trail adventure profile bike! Take a ride with us.  Still in the break-in phase, this cycle is already "badass"!


I've continually added weight to the bike, though this was not my original plan.  Sleek and race-bred, these bikes look quite "cool" stripped to competition desert enduro form.  In our case, though, the dual-sport conversion and additional TCI Products racks with Nelson-Rigg bags have been a necessity for carrying our video filming equipment.  The motorcycle is highly versatile and can also serve as a "support" bike for backcountry group riding at remote areas like Moab or the Black Rock/High Rock Canyon.


All of that said, I should probably weigh the bike "wet" with the racks and bags (at least empty) to answer a fundamental question:  Why is this bike evolving into the most badass of any dirt bike I've ever owned and ridden?  Despite the add-on items, and my current dry weight of 178-180 pounds, the Honda XR650R just keeps getting stronger!  This motorcycle clearly has the best roll-on throttle, from idle to higher rpm, of any desert enduro cycle in its class.  This performance applies in any gear, at any throttle position opening and regardless of roll-on road speed!  No wonder these motorcycles dominated the long Baja races until Honda pulled them...


Note: Sprocket gearing is 14/48 (stock N.A. enduro form) with the tires described in the Michelin T63 tests.  Some XR650R models, like Australia export, have taller gearing.  This bike tops out at over 100 mph, and that's plenty, thanks!  Worth noting, with this gearing, that speed comes up remarkably fast.


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Collaboration with L.A. Sleeve reaped big results.  The cylinder head rework, iron/moly/chromium cylinder liner plus quality replacement parts help account for the bike's impressive performance! A Hot Cams Stage 1 camshaft adds to the impressive torque output.


Part of this is tune, which includes the official N.A. Power Up Kit ("uncorking") and use of a Hot Cams Stage 1 camshaft with L.A. Sleeve head and cylinder work.   I'm looking forward to comments from Greg and David about the performance of their Honda XR650R machines, as the acceleration and on-tap torque—idle speed up—of the magazine's machine is quite impressive.  The camshaft obviously plays a role, and we need to compare this machine with two XR650R models that are "uncorked" and without the camshaft upgrade.  Frankly, this Stage 1 camshaft that eliminates the auto-decompression mechanism on the camshaft has no downside.  I can start this engine cold or hot in one or two kicks, using the handlebar decompression lever for manual tick-over.


So, I'm waiting for others to jump into this discussion.  How does the Honda XR650R compare to the best contemporary 450cc and 500cc class four-stroke enduro bikes?  Is the XR650R new enough technology to excel over a field of later bikes with less displacement yet higher compression and EFI?  Would anyone with another make and model desert enduro bike care to comment?  I'd like to objectify my experience, as frankly, this bike really does act badass!



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Been racing and riding for 50 years now. The XR650R is one fine machine. If fact, I have two of them. One is a 2001, the other is a NOS 2005 with just over 300 miles on her. I liked the '01 so much, I kept my eye out for another. I have an CRF450x and a KTM 450xc. I use the "smaller" bikes for tight single track. For going fast, I like the 650 much better. The 650 is a little heavier, but, Oh, the Speed and torque! The newer 450's feel like a 250 compared to the XRR, weight and speed. The 450's wind out much sooner than the 650. The 650 just keeps going. At 90 plus MPH on a dirt road, that's as fast as I want to go.

You made a good choice for a work machine.

Thanks for the great write ups on your project XRR!

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You're very welcome, BRPRider!  My satisfaction with this machine is beyond all expectations.  When researching and comparing, I sensed the XR650R was right for my riding venues and style.  We have access to open desert, lots of it, and like you say, the XR650R clocks to 80-plus mph in a heartbeat.  Every one of my XR650R test videos includes the speedo needle straight up at 80 mph, often higher with the 14-48 stock sprockets.  If my speedo is accurate at the top, I'm exceeding 100 mph without effort.  Considering break-in and my fresh orientation to the machine, there's no burning desire to discover flat-out 4th gear yet...Under safe conditions, I briefly touched 105, and there was obviously more rpm and pull to go.


I just installed the Acerbis Sahara fuel tank and will share impressions plus an install how-to HD video at the magazine.  Though the bike is beefier than stock with TCI racks, Nelson-Rigg bags, a dual-sport conversion and now the 6.3 gallon fuel tank, it pulls so hard that along with the break-in, the added weight is, frankly, not that noticeable!


Realistically, the low speed single track, quasi-trials stuff, which we have at northern Nevada in the form of basaltic lava flows, shale and tight trails, does require finessing with the added pounds of fuel.  Like any sensible dirt rider, I always adjust my riding to the bike and conditions.  Changing from the XR350R to the BRP, or your crossing back and forth from the 2001 BRP to the CRF and KTM, always means altering your riding technique.  That's motorcycling!


Please share a topic about your riding locales and favorite venues for these great dirt machines!  Brilliant that you found a virtually new 2005 XR650R to provide another lifetime of riding the ultimate desert enduro bike!  (Doubt you'll wear out the 2001 any time soon, and if you need to build the top end, you know where there's a how-to video rental!)  Some pictures or video footage would be enjoyed...


As a footnote on building an XR650R top end, I'm really pleased with the Hot Cams Stage 1 camshaft and a fresh Enerpulse Pulstar spark plug that I just installed and am now testing.  Will share more about the spark plug shortly!



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