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Dear Mr. Moses Ludel!

First of all, thank you for making these awesome videos, I really liked them!  In the one, where you one-kick start the xr, if only there would have been some explanation too, I hear lots of people are strugling with that.  Yesterday I subscribed to some of you videos on vimeo, because I would like to learn to be my own mechanic.

I am about to buy a Honda xr650r bike on this monday, for this I am traveling 1300 kilometers to Italy and back home.  I wish if only I have found your videos on Vimeo and these forums earlier! I am very excited about the trip.

I do not want to bore (all of) you with personal details, it is enough that I fell in love with this bike and I cant wait to have my own.  I have very little knowledge about what should I pay attention to, when selecting the bike, so because of this, I kindly ask your guidance.

There are two brp models that I am going to choose from. One of them (Bike A) costs 2500, the other (Bike B) costs 3400 euros.  Bike A is close to factory state - as far as I can tell - with 11000 km only. Bike B is around 25000 km but spoiled with lots of supermoto extras. No blue smoke, no cylinder jingle that I noticed by neither of them. (I asked the sellers to send me high res pictures and video with the engine running.)e


Because at first I am planning to use the bike as a supermoto, I consider the two of them equals, because I will buy the extras either way. Both of them are street legal, and documents are fine. However I prefer Bike A, I would like the adventure of building my own supermoto. Either I use it at first as an SM or as an enduro, I am sure I will learn to ride a bike really well. (I only had naked and speed bikes earlier.)

So may I ask your advice, Please, what should I really pay attention to when checking them? What noise or rusty-ness should I give special attention, and basically how should I compare the bikes of totally different cost ranges?  Tomorrow, I have an opportunity to take a peek on two other xr650r in my home country, so the ones I will see in Italy should not be the first time I ever see a BRP in life :) Blind love, it is what it is :)

Thank you very much!

Kind regards,

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Welcome to the forums, Sandor!  Glad to offer some tips on inspecting your XR650R prospects.  Always pleased to discuss anything related to the Honda XR650R! 


I've seen Super Moto XR650R racing motorcycles in action (infield at Laguna Seca and also at Reno on asphalt and dirt).  The XR650R is both popular and highly competitive.  I ride enduro and "dual-sport" style, so I get a piece of both dirt and asphalt.  I originally thought my XR650R would be mainly for enduro riding with a license plate for asphalt access to the dirt.  As soon as I rode on pavement, asphalt became the predominant mileage I put on the bike.  Riding ratio is likely 80-20 in favor of asphalt although I do plan for many off-road miles on moderate single-track and mostly two-track graded dirt...It's unavoidable to ride asphalt, this bike is just too fun—I like to ride any time and any place!  At northern Nevada we have dirt roads that can extend for over a hundred miles at a stretch.


So, let's get you through the inspection of your next bike!  The XR650R engine is difficult to check accurately for compression.  At 10:1 ratio, even with auto-decompressor, the kick through always seems strong.  As you know from my videos at Vimeo and the magazine site, my pre-owned motorcycle came unexpectedly with valve and valve seat wear, plus some upper cylinder and ring wear.  The previous owner was honest and forthright, he simply did not know much about motorcycle needs, especially a properly sealing air filter.  Dirt had squeezed past the air cleaner, and this led to abrasive damage to the intake valves and valve seats, the upper cylinder wall (Nikasil) and loss of compression. 


The engine would not start when I looked at the bike for the first time.  I had driven 75 miles to pick it up, and we negotiated a price based upon my speculation that the problem was tune.  Unfortunately, the problem turned out to be low compression.  I could not tell from attempting to crank the engine over, as the decompressor masks the "feel" of compression loss.  The engine mustered what felt like sufficient compression.  The claimed total mileage on the motorcycle was only 1,000 miles, with lots of dirt/enduro riding.


Once home, I attempted to start the engine and did some preliminary checks.  A compression check is virtually impossible with auto-decompressor unless you can loosen the valves enough to prevent valve lift-off from the decompressor.  (Otherwise, with valves adjusted normally, expect a low cranking compression reading.)   I opted for a cylinder leakdown test, which I share at these forums in the general repairs section.  This is a failsafe test and can be run once the valves have been loosened enough to make sure valves are seated completely.  The piston is at TDC on the compression stroke.  When testing, I discovered the loss of compression.  Fortunately, the previous owner and I re-negotiated the purchase price.  He was honest and simply did not understand that 1000 miles of riding with abrasive dirt leaking past the edges of the air cleaner could cause this degree of damage.


If this is already sounding complicated, let me suggest that you push the bike a short distance in 1st or 2nd gear with the clutch lever disengaged and the ignition shut off.  Release the clutch lever.  The rear tire should lock up if compression is reasonable.  Your only other confidence builder would be service records and confirmation of both the actual mileage on the engine and whether or not there were unusual circumstances like I discovered with the leaking air filter.  


Pull the plastic side cover where the air cleaner seats, and look for dirt and seepage between the filter and air box.  In my bike's case, there was a popular aftermarket air cleaner installed, and its seal was terrible.  As part of my restorative work,  I purchased and installed the genuine Honda air filter pieces, including the fire trap screen.  So much for "low restriction" aftermarket air filtration and dirt!  I'm happy with the stock air filter's protection when I'm riding on dirt.   


There are many other signs of poor maintenance and abuse.  A loose chain and worn sprockets can be an issue.  The rear sprocket can be replaced readily.  Be sure, however, that the front sprocket on the countershaft is not loose at the splines.  Damaged splines on the countershaft are not unusual with the torque these engines produce, and it is complicated and involved to replaced the countershaft.  A loose chain and worn sprocket teeth can be remedied but there is cost in labor and parts.  In your case, be cautious with any motorcycle that has been ridden hard.  I always look for a bike with limited wear and originality.  You can make your own modifications if you buy the bike for the right price.  If the bike was ridden excessively hard, damage can be costly.


Obvious things to inspect would be brake rotors for wear, under seat wiring if the owner is willing to lift the seat, and signs of transmission shifter wear or looseness.  The expensive items to repair or replace are those that require engine removal and "splitting the cases".  The bike should have a clutch that engages without shudder and does not slip under hard acceleration.  No jumping out of gear or difficulty shifting into or through the gears.  The kick starter should not feel loose and needs to push through smoothly.  Notchy, jamming or a grabby feel suggests starter mechanism trouble.  The engine should turn over smoothly with the compression release lever pulled in.


The engine should start easily.  This may require the owner to start it, as he would be more likely to know the "technique" that works.  Inspect the tailpipe for oily or sooty scale.  Oily is especially bad, that would indicate leaky piston rings or worn valve guides.  Rich or dark exhaust is not likely a jetting problem if the bike is ridden at lower elevations—the problem is more apt to be low compression.


I would likely be drawn to the bike with 11K kilometers and stock in most respects—the closer to stock, the better.  If you consider the modified Super Moto, be clear how long the bike has been ridden in this form.  Builders of Super Moto bikes seldom "baby" them.  That bike has likely been ridden hard.


Check for leaks and oil seepage.  The location of leaks is very telling.  At the valve cover can be a simple matter of poor sealing when serviced.  Seepage at the head gasket area can be from stress or a leaking head gasket.  If you ride the bike, be sure to test compression by accelerating and decelerating, watching for blue smoke after decelerating and accelerating again.  This is valve seals and guides or ring wear.  Oil smoke (blue) under hard acceleration is piston ring wear. 


Noises are an issue.  Gear and slack in the geartrain will create clunks and lurching under deceleration and abrupt acceleration.  A subtle concern is damaged spark plug threads which will show up as a loose or wiggly spark plug.  Hissing around the plug area is another symptom.


I could go on, but this is enough for a start.  If you have questions while looking at the bikes, ask here.  I'll respond...


This is a very exciting venture.  If you've ridden sport bikes, you'll appreciate the massive torque and nimbleness of this "lighter" bike with its ample engine.  I've ridden BSA, Triumph, Norton, Kawasaki, Yamaha, BMW and Honda motorcycles over the years.  My freshly built XR650R engine has the best roll-on throttle response of any single or twin-cylinder bike I've owned in this engine size.  The British bikes were quite impressive in the day.  So are today's four-cylinder sport bikes.  The XR650R with its massive torque, however, has clearly earned its undisputed claim as a purpose-built Baja 1000 race winner.  Uncorked, this is one badass bike!  The Euro version comes "uncorked".  You should know within a test ride whether this is the kind of performance you want.


Keep us posted...We'll compare notes on riding venues and kick starting techniques.  Happy to share my experiences.  As for starting, I have the Hot Cams Stage I camshaft and have eliminated factory auto-decompressor.  I use the manual decompressor lever and kick through a few times with the ignition off.  With the choke on full, I bring the piston slightly past TDC with the manual decompressor (handlebar lever) partially disengaged.  Piston just slightly over the top on the compression stroke, decompressor lever released completely and ignition on, I kick through with intent.  This engine will start on the 1st kick (most often) or 2nd kick after setting for weeks.  Will outline in detail when you get your BRP.  Tuning properly is everything!



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  • 1 month later...

Dear Moses,


I am sorry for the late update, the past time was pretty hectic.

Thank you very much for all of your great and detailed advices on what to check when examining an XR650R for sale!


As I wrote earlier, I went to Italy to buy one of the two. I have bought the more expensive one with the Supermoto extras, but the other

was in better overall shape, and would have been a wiser choice. Unfortunately I went to see the Supermoto too and

I felt like I am in love right away! My rational thinking vanished, my mind shut down and all I saw was the dream forming a physical shape.


I did not regret it, however there is not one day for me without thinking about the other one I left there, so It seems like

eventually I will buy that one as well. Not because I can afford it, but because I cannot live with the thought that I left it here.

I might sell it afterwards, but I definitely bring that baby home too :)


Anyways, with my new XR650R (Dall’ara) I spent a few weeks to make it as close to street legal shape as possible and get its

license plate and documents straight, make myself the owner. It might not seem a biggie but here in Hungary it is a bureaucratic


I had the chance to ride it for a few times, but - even if I want to learn to do all the maintenance on it - I prefer a qualified and

experienced professional examining it first for safety reasons and tuning the bike properly. I have a great guy, but he lives pretty far

from where I live and I am pretty busy with work and family so it is a slow process. Hopefully during the winter I will be able to do all the

 modifications I intended and will be riding all next season. Currently I am gathering information on all the tools I will need to purchase for the job and

preparing the garage.


I just wanted to let you, and the Forum readers know about it and post you a picture of my babies, one on top of the other :)


ps: This post ended up to be kinda offtopic, I am sorry for that.


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Fantastic, Sandor!  Congratulations...


The incredible XR650R becomes a motivator for wanting every one that comes along in "special" condition!  I've had the urge to pursue at least two more Craigslist BRPs since purchasing my 2000 model.  (My wife had a few things to say about that idea!)  You may end up with the pair...A 2003 model makes good sense, the earliest bikes had a few quirks that were updated by 2003.  Each of the upgrades has been put in place on my machine.


I'm looking forward to hearing more about your riding experiences at Hungary.  I have Hungarian ancestry on my mother's side, the source of red-haired children that pop up in each generation.  (Showed up in my beard and our youngest son's hair and beard.)  The red haired thing is so prevalent that when babies were born in the family, the question was always, "What color eyes, blue or brown?"  Hair was red...I would like to visit Hungary at some point, it would be incredible to experience your country on a motorcycle.  The other side of the family is Dutch (Holland/The Netherlands) heritage, that would be another place to ride...


I just received a press release stating that Dana Brown is producing a new "Dust2Glory" documentary based on the 2016 Baja 1000 to be released in 2017.  This is a sequel to the 2005 original "Dust to Glory".  I've viewed the 2005 documentary at least a dozen times just to watch the footage on the XR650Rs dominating the motorcycle classes.  Johnny Campbell, Mouse McCoy, Jimmy and J.N. Roberts, Steve Hengeveld and Andy Grider immortalized our bikes in that classic film.  If you have access, watch the documentary!  There are a number of YouTube excerpts on Andy Grider's race against Johnny Campbell...I also like "Long Way Round" and "Long Way Down" with Ewan McGregor/Charley Boorman, but when I watch scenes of the sand traps at Africa and remote Mongolia, the XR650R would be my choice over the BMWs!  On the other hand, our cargo capacity is far less than these big bikes.


So ride safely and enjoy that "new" XR650R.  Set a good example, your son is likely to follow your approach...Post photos and video clips of your riding venues and travels!



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