New XR650L Adventure Rider Questions

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Dranrab Luap, Jun 1, 2004.

  1. Dranrab Luap

    Dranrab Luap E-Tarded Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Oddometer:
    35,297
    Location:
    Louisissippi Coast
    Hi folks. I'm new to the forum and am interested in a little adventure riding. I just bought a 2002 Honda XR650L with 1300 miles on it (I know it is not the ideal adventure machine but for $2900.00 in great shape I couldn't resist). Before I hit the readership with a barrage of questions, is there any reading in book or web form that anyone would recommend? In late July I would like to take a week off work to do some "light" adventure touring in the Smokies. I have never tried anything like this in the past, so I want to get my feet wet slowly. I don't want to do a lot of hard offroading (seems like most XRL owners favor dirt over street), just some nice quiet rural highways and dirt roads. Any advice or suggestions as to how I should approach this kind of adventure biking would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Paul
    #1
  2. Burren Rider

    Burren Rider Aussie Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,819
    Location:
    Northern NSW
    G'Day Paul,

    Sounds like you are going to enjoy yourself on the trip, nothing like a bit of free time on a bike to wander wherever you please. I can't think of any web based resources off hand (apart from Advrider of course) but I am sure others will know of some. A couple of the basics that I can think of that might help are as follows :

    1) Get your bike serviced before you go. Depending on your mechanical abilities, getting the bike serviced before you go will hopefully prevent any mechanical drama's along the way. If you are getting it done by a mechanic let them know what you plan on doing so they can take a look at things like tyres and the like and let you know if they will last the distance.

    2) Pick the right tyres. Have a chat to the other riders and the local shop and see what they reccomend based on your planned riding. Putting knobbies on for a road ride, or street tyres on for the dirt will definately make the trip more difficult. If you are planning on doing a bit of both without too much technical dirt then the Pirelli MT21's or Dunlop D606's are probably worth a look.

    3) Make sure you carry the right tools. There is nothing worse than being stuck on a lonely track somewhere with no tools. The standard tol kit on the bike is a good start but it would pay to add a few extra's like zip ties, duct tape, spare bolts etc. If funds allow a Leatherman or similar is a worthy addition as it will do a lot of things and can be easily accessed if you wear it on your belt.

    4) Don't carry too much stuff. A lot of people cart too much crap when they first start out. This makes things akward not only when you are riding but also when manouvering the bike around at servo's and the like. Have a look at the gear you plan on taking and work out whether it can be lightened or left behind. If you plan on camping a good one man tent, sleeping bag and bedroll are worth carrying, along with some basic cooking gear. If you enjoy reading, a book and a small light of some sort (a decent torch is always handy) is good to whittle away a couple of hours in the tent at night.

    5) First Aid. A basic first aid kit, together with some ibuprofen or similar is well worth carrying. Lip balm and sun tan lotion are handy additions to the kit too.

    6) Try and avoid night riding. Riding a dirt bike on country roads at night adds new challenges (wildlife in particular). On top of this setting up camp is always easier when you can see where you are pitching your tent. Nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night because you have put your tent up next to bull ants nest.

    7) Get some decent gear. Try and get some boots, helmet, jacket and gloves (at the very least) that offer protection and comfort. If you plan on wearing a dirtbike helmet and goggles it might pay to adjust the peak as low as possible to reduce wind drag, this will make life a lot easier on your neck. When using goggles a half mask is a worthy investment to stop your nose getting stung by the rain.

    8) Carry some warm clothing. Thermals (long johns and the like) are light and compact and are amazingly warm when used under your regular riding gear. Even though it is the middle of summer over there it is still worth considering warm clothing if you are heading to the high country where the weather can change very quickly.

    9) Set your bike up for the trip. A small lexen screen on the headlight surround can deflect quite a bit of wind and make life easy on the road (there are a few sets of intructions floating around if you search for lexen). A small alloy rack on the back will also make it easier to strap items like a tent to. Generally I try to not burden the bike with too much weight. Dirt bike subframes can be a bit touchy and dirt handling goes out the window if you carry too much stuff high on the bike. My advice would be to get a decent backpack and carry the essentials in it (things can fall off the back despite you best efforts at securing them). Carrying a back pack can be made a lot easier by strapping your tent or bedroll to the seat behind you so the backpack can rest on it while you are on the road. If you do plan on carrying gear on the bike a set of throwover bags keeps the weight low and slightly further forward, improving handling and reliability.

    Well that's about all I can think of for now. Good luck with the trip and be sure to post a ride report when you get back. :thumb
    #2
  3. Burren Rider

    Burren Rider Aussie Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,819
    Location:
    Northern NSW
    One other thing I just thought of (and probably one of the most important) - Always carry plenty of water (more than you think you will need. Some basic food supplies are handy to but water could save your life if you really get stuck. A bladder in your back pack and a second container are ideal. That way you can drink as you ride and you also have two sources in case on leaks.
    #3
  4. HighwayChile

    HighwayChile greetings from Wa state

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,710
    Location:
    Bow, WA USA
    XR's are a fine bike! Hey I've done several 3-4000mile rides on a honda SL100, the best bike is the one you are riding on a day off!

    pretty good list to get ya going there. one thing else, running lower tire pressure in the dirt will make a huge diff in handling, again ask around but a loose guide, muddy 12-13lbs, rocky 18lbs, regular dirt somewhere in between, dont forget to bring 'em up when you hit pavement, you can find a comprimise when it changes from hard dirt to gravel to chip seal. a small bicycle pump is a good thing to pack, some tire irons, patches etc.

    I like to run heavy duty tubes, a real bitch to install but flats are a thing of the past with them. you can put some tire goo in them in the mean time, also remove the hold down nut on the valve stem to keep it from ripping out as the tire spins.
    I hate to have a pack on ( some people dont mind) , i like to strap stuff onto the bike. some people like bicycle shorts to prevent monkeybutt.

    Bring a camera and share your rides!
    #4
  5. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,186
    Location:
    Ft. Collins, CO
    A 2002 XR650L for $2900 is a steal. Why can't I find such a deal? Anyway...

    All of Burren Rider's suggestions are great. A few more bike-specific mods you might consider:
    - Change the front sprocket from a 15 to a 14 tooth one. It really helps in the dirt, and even on the street it makes takeup from a stop much smoother. Renthal makes a steel gear that looks indestructable for about $26.
    - The stock gas tank has a range of about 120 miles. Consider a larger, plastic tank to get another 50+ miles of range. There are downsides; they are smelly, they discolor, and it's hard to get the gas from one side to another, but worth considering, for peace of mind at least. A new 4.3 gal. Clarke tank is $170, others are more.
    - I bought a small JC Whitney Maier windscreen for $63. It reduces wind, but will increase headshake over 65 mph. A co-worker's XR650L also has this problem.
    - Tires. I run DOT knobbies Dunlop D606's. Great tires, they even are OK on pavement but not very good on the highway. They give a headshake at 65 mph, made worse by a windscreen. Raising pressures to 28 front (maybe even 30), 26 rear on the highway helps, it will do 70, but it feels really uncomfortable at that speed. I've heard that someone with balanced, street-oriented tires can go 105 mph on the bike; but you won't do that with agressive DOT knobbies. Follow HighwayChile's suggestions for pressures on other surfaces.
    - I replaced the shifter with a much stronger one from XRs only for about $25. Beware, they sent me the wrong shifter TWICE before sending the right one. How could they get it wrong? :confused
    - Put a small, in-line filter between the petcock and the input to the carb. One-inch long disposable filters cost $3 each from my local Yamaha (?!) dealer.
    - Take the MSF dirt bike course if this is your first dirtbike. The XR650L is a pig to handle in tight turns, but learning the "tricks" will make riding much easier and enjoyable. The course will alter your future timeline by eliminating crashes that were in your future. Well worth $100.
    - I have a reusable UNI air filter, cost about $28. I have heard K&N filters for this bike fall apart, and will suck dirt into the engine.
    - The stock toolbag doesn't hold much. A Wolfman toolbag has about the same footprint, but holds twice as much, including room for tire irons, pressure gauge, a bicycle air pump, owners manual and insurance papers. It has a velcro base, so it can be removed quickly. Worth $45.
    - The bike hasn't changed since 1993. Lots of spare parts can be obtained through eBay. For example, I bought a set of Renthal bars for $30, and another carb with cables for $90.
    - The Clymer's repair manual ($20) is worthless, but the Honda one is great ($48 from Helm).
    - The XR650L feels very large in the dirt, but very small on the highway. It's just about perfect. :thumb

    Enjoy it!!
    #5
  6. Gventure

    Gventure Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2004
    Oddometer:
    212
    Location:
    Raleigh NC
    Hi Paul - where are you from? I'm from Raleigh and get to SW NC pretty often. The Smokies are full of relatively easy fire roads - most of which offer good camping (however bears are a problem so watch your food prep if you camp). Pick up a NC Gazateer from a local fishing or backpacking shop and just look for the fire roads - link them up with stretches of civilization for gas - and you're good to go.


    Have fun.
    #6
  7. Dranrab Luap

    Dranrab Luap E-Tarded Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Oddometer:
    35,297
    Location:
    Louisissippi Coast
    Thanks for all the informative responses. That is just what I was looking for. GVenture, I'm from the Mississippi coast. I have family scattered through the foothills of the Smokies and Southern Appalachians (aunts, uncles, cousins etc. I havn't seen in years). I thought I'd drop in on a few of them then go poking around some of the off the beaten path roads in the east TN and SW NC mountains.

    Murgatroid, I will probably leave my bike stock with the exception of the seat and some kind of rack installation for this first trip. I'm almost afraid to get started with the standard XRL mods. I have that obsessive kind of personality and I know if I get started I won't quit until I'm broke!

    Being new to the forum, in what area should I post a thread about Smokies specific stuff.

    I've used the search feature and will quite a bit more, but at some point I'm going to start getting down to the details (stuff like what kind of sleeping rolls, sleeping bags, tents etc.) of how to pull off my first adventure on a tight budget.

    Since I was a teen I have dreamed of doing something like this. Highway Chile, interestingly enough it was an SL100 that got me interested in dual sporting.

    Thanks again for your time and info everyone.

    Paul
    #7
  8. Gventure

    Gventure Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2004
    Oddometer:
    212
    Location:
    Raleigh NC
    Paul - I've camped, backpacked and mountaineered for the past 25 years - most of it in the NC mountains - I can give you some pointers on general camping etc - feel free to email me at gavin.foltz@duke.edu

    Take care
    #8
  9. HighwayChile

    HighwayChile greetings from Wa state

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,710
    Location:
    Bow, WA USA
    get a dry bag for your clothes, sleeping bag, kayak shops have them. pack towel too, since you are in a hot region, look into vented clothing, I use a first gear jacket but joe rocket makes a good one too, $100-125, spend $ first on safety gear, XR's run hot so stay up on oil changes, IRC and Kenda and make good cheap tires

    I still have my SL100, MX & rode it enduros, hillclimbed too.
    Greg minor here on this board has an immaculate SL100, green though not the hot red. restored they get around 3K on ebay, paid $300 new for mine, in 71' working .35c an hour

    post photos in ride reports, have some fun !
    #9
  10. Boojum

    Boojum I Miss the PartyBoss

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2004
    Oddometer:
    6,002
    Location:
    Ringgold, Ga.....Saaalute!
    Hi Paul,
    I also have a 95 XRL, and LOVE IT! :thumb Yep, I've put a few $$ in it too. If I had to put only a hand full of things on my bike, here is what I would do.
    First, a Corbin Seat! The BEST thing you will ever do for an XRL. :nod I took mine on a 1200 mile trip through the mtns. through Bryson City, NC, up the Parkway, to Va. and back, and had a BLAST! The Corbin made it all worth while. Remove the Pump and hoses (a kit is real cheap) put a pipe on it, K&N filter, and a jet kit. It will run better :wink: (stock they are soooo lean) Pro moto Billet makes a nice rack for the rear-$150, and the Ortlieb "Dry Bags" are excellent saddle bags for the XR. You will however need to get someone to make you a brace to fit "under the side cover" so it does not lay the cover on the pipe, and melt the cover. A weld shop can help you with this. I have a pattern made out of coat hanger that matches up very well. I'll mail it to you, and you can take it to a shop as a pattern. The shop will thank you for it! :nod
    As far as tires. I do about 75% road, and about 25% trails, and I like the Dunlop Trail Max tires. You can really rail on these tires on the road, and they are OK on the Forest Service Roads as well. I get good mileage out of them (4,500 - 5,000) on the rear, and 8-10,000 on the front (with proper pressure in them). You'll not get 105 mph in a stock trim, it's just way too lean, but with stock gears, you can blow 70-80 mph all day long! Hell, It's a Honda 4 stroke!!!! Anyway, remember, Corbin Seat, Orlieb Bags (with a brace) Pro Moto Billet rear rack. Those things right there will make your trip(s) alot of fun.
    You can go Anywhere on an XRL! Maybe I'll see you up there! I hit the Cherohala Skyway, Tellico, and Nantahalah area alot!

    Boojum!
    :freaky
    #10
  11. Dranrab Luap

    Dranrab Luap E-Tarded Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2004
    Oddometer:
    35,297
    Location:
    Louisissippi Coast
    Boojum, I have heard some negatives about that Corbin seat. Did you get the "stock" one or did you have some custom things done to it. Some have complained that it lowered the seat height and made them slide toward the tank. Details please!!! I have eyed that pro-moto rack and it is #1 right now. I am interested in the gear bags. Can you give me details like what exactly you carry in them, cost, websites etc? I have been looking for ways to fabricate saddle bag supports and may take you up on your coat hanger offer. I can't tell you how excited I am about the new bike, planning my adventure (entry level adventure mind you) and especially the thoughtful responses my post has generated. You guys are great.

    I am going to go over to the east coast forum to post some area specific questions. Those who now the Smokies please run down the thread and let me in on your knowledge.

    Paul
    #11
  12. jim stanley

    jim stanley Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2004
    Oddometer:
    94
    Location:
    on the road or better yet offroad
    I rode a XRL all around South America. ALL my adventure trips will be on XR's (until I build my own bike).
    See my webpage for setup- it concentrates mainly on getting some more power from it, other stuff as well. One ommission on the site is that you MUST reinforce the subframe if you carry a lot of weight and pound the off-road. Mine broke in Bolivia and again in Peru, before I finally got enough reinforcement.

    The site is www.sopgear.com
    #12
  13. xr400r

    xr400r Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,455
    Location:
    riding usa
    #13
  14. XRsLug

    XRsLug Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2003
    Oddometer:
    129
    Location:
    LA
    Re: changing the gearing on the XR. If you want to go down in front to a 14, I'd recommend not using a Renthal or other aftermarket super-hard sprocket. If you use an aftermarket sprocket, the mating teeth on the shaft will eventually get chewed up, which means at some point down the road you'll end up having to weld the sprocket on (or replace the shaft). Granted, we're talking lots of miles here, but if you're planning on keeping the bike for a few years, it's worth it. Just use the OEM Honda sprockets -- softer metal that doesn't destroy the shaft. The stock XR600 sprocket is a 14 tooth.
    If you want to spend some money, the Mikuni flatslide kit from White Brothers is nice.
    #14
  15. spagthorpe

    spagthorpe Long timer

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Oddometer:
    15,227
    Location:
    San Diego
    On a related topic. When I got my last package from Rider Warehouse, they gave me a little book called "Aerostich Lightweight Touring Book." The author seems to tour around on a 650L, and it has detailed descriptions of what gear he uses and why, how to pack, etc. Nice little book that also has assorted phone numbers, websites, good roads, etc.

    The whole thing is a bit of an ad for Aerostich gear, but at the same time, it has good info for lightweight touring, and is only $5.
    #15
  16. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,186
    Location:
    Ft. Collins, CO
    Thanks for the advice. I bought a Renthal sprocket because it was indestructable, but didn't think it would destroy the shaft. :bluduh Now I'll replace it. Do you know what year XR600 sprocket fits the XR650L?

    Also, someone on Advrider mentioned that the XR650L top cams do not get oiled very well, and that it can be fixed by putting a different external oil line on them. Do you know more about this, and what pieces have to be installed?
    #16
  17. XRsLug

    XRsLug Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2003
    Oddometer:
    129
    Location:
    LA
    AFAIK, any year of the XR600R where it shares an engine with the XR650L should be fine in terms of sprocket compatibility and again AFAIK they're all 14-tooth in the front. I'm not an XR trainspotter but I believe the XR600R was out '93-'99 or '00 before they brought out the XR650R. Anyway, if you need a year to give the parts guy to look it up on the fiche, go for a '96 600R -- that for sure has a 14-tooth stock.
    As far as the countershaft getting chewed up: this may just be a model liability -- or at least for ealier models (mine's a '96). The Honda sprockets lessen the wear, but I've got a lot of miles on mine (for a dualsport anyway: 28,000) and there's play between the sprocket and shaft. My mechanic guessed another 10,000 or so before I'd have to weld one on there. Now when you weld, that's when you break out the indestructible aftermarket sprocket :rofl
    I don't know about the oil lines. I have heard that when Ray Roy and his crew from the Bay Area were riding XR-L's on their Baja raids, doing lots of high speed riding in deep sand and so on, they were blowing the engines up. I'm not in that league skill wise and do most of my riding with the bike on the street, so I've never had a problem.
    Guys who pump their engines up sometimes throw on an oilcooler. Scott Summers has a kit for it:
    www.srcinc.net
    #17