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Want to add a kickstart to your XR650L? Here's how


To help out others who want to add a kickstart back up to the electric start on their xr650L I will lay out how I did my conversion and hopefully guide others who want to do the same. First off let me say that everything I did applies to a 1995 XR650L and may not apply to other years, however I don’t see why it wouldn’t.


I searched the Internet for an XR650L kickstart conversion and found a few people who said they had added a kickstart, but no one who was willing to share the details. I found a lot of great info on this forum and received tons of help from members, but no one had a list of parts or a guide on how to do it. I amassed as much info as I could and set out to add the kickstart to my XR650L. I found out that the XR600R engine is almost identical to the XR650L with the exception of the kickstart and some gearing. The XL600 is also very close and kickstart parts from both bikes can be used. The kickstart lever and the side cover I used were both from XL600s. I am not sure about the kickstart internals since I bought them from E-bay, but I believe they are the same between both bikes. Fortunately the XR650L required no major modification. The right side engine crankcase of the XR650L is already machined for the kickstart parts and they drop right in with no machining. I was worried that the kick stopper plate mounting holes were not machined & threaded, but as you can see here, they were and it bolted right up.




Other than the new parts, the only mod I had to make to my XR650L was removing the mounting tab for the rear brake switch from the rear brake pedal. I then hooked the existing spring to the same mounting hole on the brake lever that the return spring uses. In this picture you can see the broken off brake switch tab just behind the retaining bolt for the kickstart lever. Behind that you can see where I re-attached the spring from the brake light switch to the mounting hole for the brake pedal return spring. After adjusting the switch, it works perfectly and doesn’t interfere with the kickstart lever. I also had no interference with the bump out on the frame above the rear of the brake pedal.


Decompression options:


The original XR600R and the XL600 both had various decompression options over the years to make the bike easier to kick over. There was an auto-decompressor on the right side cover, which was connected by a cable to the head cover and was automatically actuated by the kickstart spindle and opened a valve on the head cover. There was also a manual decompressor lever mounted on the handlebars, which did the same thing, but you had to squeeze it when you kicked the bike. The XR650L and later XR600Rs have an auto-decompressor and an anti-kickback mechanism on the cam. Some aftermarket cams don’t have this so if you changed out your cam, you may need to add a decompressor. I was relieved to find out that the auto-decompressor on the XR650L cam was sufficient to allow the bike to kick over. I was actually surprised at how easily it kicked over. It even kicks over with no battery installed.


I bought all the parts that I needed on E-bay with the exception of the countershaft, which I bought from The part numbers and prices at the end of this are from DGY. You could have your existing countershaft and side cover machined, however it would probably cost the same as new parts and lets face it if your going to tear your engine down, why put a used part in there? The machining would be tricky as it is not a matter of simply drilling some holes. The side cover opening must be precisely machined to accept a bearing and seal and the countershaft would require a precision surface for the idler gear bushing.


I was very fortunate and got a great deal on most of the parts. The complete kickstart spindle usually sells for around $50.00. I got mine for $25 and it included a new idler gear and bushing along with a new bearing and seal for the side cover. (Score!)




I also picked up an XL600 right crankcase cover for $20.00. They also seem to sell for around $50.00. It had the decompression lever on it, however I didn’t install the cam on the kickstart spindle to actuate it, as it would have interfered with the rear brake switch. If you want a really clean look you could find a later XR600R right crankcase cover without the decompression lever but these are much harder to find than the mid eighties XL600 covers, which were abundant. The decompression lever is also hidden pretty well by the brake light switch.


Here is a picture of the right side crankcase cover with the auto-decompressor lever situated above the hole for the kickstarter spindle:




The only part I bought new was a countershaft for $100. I ordered a countershaft for a 1995 XR600R hoping that it would be a direct replacement for the one in my 1995 XR650L and I was not disappointed. It was identical except for the machined end for the idler gear. Gears & sprockets from an XR650L fit with no problem. The one in the top of the picture is the original from my XR650L and the one on the bottom is the replacement from DGY.




You can see the right ends are different and show the machining and oil hole on the replacement. I measured both and the shoulders on both are .40inch or 10mm back from the end. The diameter needs to be reduced from .743inch/18.8722mm to .628inch/15.9512mm. The oil hole is.080inch/2.032mm in diameter and located .140inch/30556mm from the shoulder to the center of the hole. All these measurements were taken with a dial caliper and may not be exactly accurate, but you get the drift. The XR600R shaft was also undercut where the reduced end met the shoulder. I couldn’t measure that along with the angle of the edges of the end of the shaft and the shoulder. None of those are critical and can be approximated to provide clearance for the idler gear. The critical dimensions are the reduced diameter and the fine finish for the idler gear to ride on. Initially I had hoped to have a custom bushing made and use the existing countershaft and preclude tearing down the entire engine, but there is no oil hole in it and the end is un-machined and way too rough to ever work. Replacing the countershaft is by far the most expensive and daunting part of this project, but is absolutely required. A shop will charge you several hundred dollars to replace it since it is very labor intensive. I called a local shop and they quoted $800-900 to replace the countershaft including the cost of the countershaft. I reluctantly did it myself and I must say that if you take your time and follow the manual, it is absolutely doable for an amateur. (Hey I did it!)


I used a Clymer manual and help from this forum to perform the kickstart conversion. I am not going to get into the removal of the various engine bits as you need a manual anyway, but you must remove the seat, tank, side covers, carb, exhaust, head cover, head, cylinder, right side case cover and engine crankcase from the frame. You then have to split the cases and change out the countershaft. You don’t need to remove the left crankcase cover but you do have to remove the starter. Disassembly took me about 5 ½ hours taking my time. A pro could probably do it in a couple hours. Putting it back together took about 4 ½ hours so figure a full day plus to do the conversion. I did it myself but a helper would cut the time down considerably. Big time consumers were separating the cases and carefully scraping off all the old gaskets. I separated the cases by supporting the edges of the right crankcase half with wooden blocks and rapping on the mainshaft and crankshaft until I could see light between them. I put a wooden block on the end of the shafts and used a relatively light hammer. I then used a soft brass punch to tap around the edges and get the cases apart.




One problem I ran into when replacing the side cover is that you need new copper washers for the oil line that connects to the side cover above the oil filter and runs up the cylinder to the head. I didn’t replace these initially and I didn’t get the hollow bolts lined up correctly and starved the engine of oil until I figured it out. You will want to mark the top of the bolts with a permanent marker showing where the hole is so that you can line it up with the oil line later. You also have to use Permatex spray hi-temp copper sealant on the head gasket or it will leak. I failed to use the sealant and had a nasty exhaust leak at the front of the head causing backfiring and rough idle.


Here is the finished product:




Was it worth it? To me, absolutely. It cost me $237 including shipping for everything including a new countershaft & gasket set. My time was free so that helped considerably. I will probably use it very seldom, but it is reassuring to know it is available. I will be happy to help out anybody who wants to do this conversion on their bike, either by phone, E-mail or locally if you live near Pittsburgh, Pa. I have pictures of the complete teardown and rebuild, but that has been covered in many other posts and would make this post really long. If anyone has any questions or requests for pictures let me know and I will edit the post to include them. Tools and parts list in the next post.

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Great job. I'd like to add a kick starter to my 2008 XR650L. I wonder if the inner casings on it are premachined for a kick starter. That be great if all I had to do is add the spindle assembly and swap out the putter casing. I may be in contact with you if I do decide to add a kick starter.

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