My new old 2013 XR650L!
Like many others, I too can tend to get caught up in the endless race to have the latest and greatest techno gadget, bike, firearm or whatever. But, many years and dollars later, I have realized that the race is futile and the satisfaction of obtaining the object of our desire is ephemeral. The new wears off quick, but the payments seem to go on forever!
It was not that long ago, that I would have scoffed at the idea of not having modern inverted, fully adjustable cartridge forks, fuel injection, at least 50 HP and feather light weight on a motorcycle that goes off-road.
Also, I have pursued the elusive unicorn of a bike that can “do it all”. It does not exist. No bike can do everything well; so, unless you have the means to have a bike for every mission, you will be riding a bike that is a conglomeration of compromises.
My last, and recently sold, old tech bike was my 2013 KLR650. I took a lot of time to tweak it to my satisfaction, and I really hated to sell it. But, for most of the dual sport riding that I do locally, I am in deep sand, mud, occasional whoops, brush and tight spaces. The big girl weighed about 445 lbs. (as I had built her), and she just wasn’t built for that mission. So, I had to say goodbye. But, she found a new home with Barry, who purchased her to do the Trans America Trail. That is what I built her for!
I pondered many replacement choices, such as the modern KTM 690 Enduro R and Husqvarna 701 Enduro, as well as the KTM 500EXC and the new 2019 Honda CRF450L. I also thought hard about the old school Suzuki DR650S and DRZ400. I considered older KTM and Husqvarna big bore thumpers too. All of them could have worked for me, with each having its own strengths and weaknesses.
In the end, I decided to go old school and purchase a used bike to keep cost down. I also wanted to have a simple bike, that is easy to work on. I liked the idea of screw & locknut verses shim over bucket or shim under bucket valves. The ability to do a valve adjustment with just a wrench and screwdriver, in under 30 minutes, was very appealing to me. I also liked the idea of an air-cooled engine. I certainly know that these features don’t allow for the most precise tolerances and high performance, but that was not what this bike was to be about for me. I have other modern bikes that fill that niche. Also, OEM and aftermarket parts availability were a primary concern.
Other requirements were long travel suspension that could be made to work well off-road, a high ground clearance, 350 lbs. max weight, a torque rich motor and the ability to carry moderately loaded soft luggage for long trips. I required a bike that handles single track reasonably well, but also can comfortably run at 70 mph all day and be reasonably comfortable for 300 miles of pavement on out of state dual-sport rides. My local dual-sport rides are typically about 90 miles of pavement (round trip) and 20-30 miles of trails.
Lastly, one of the non-quantifiable and intangible requirements for this bike was to take me back to a simpler time, to my early teens. A time when I was in the garage tinkering with my 1973 Honda CT70H, or my Bultaco Pursang 175, while listening to Led Zeppelin or Heart. It was a time when the only news I got was delivered by Walter Cronkite and the only correspondence was via the US Mail. I would happily surrender my Android, computer, internet and 60” flat screen to go back to a time when people actually talked to each other. A time that we only had 3 TV channels to watch, but somehow it was more than enough.
I ultimately bought a 2013 Honda XR650L. It fit the above requirements better than anything else I could come up with. As a bonus, red is my favorite color!
Bryan Bosch standing next to the orange rocket and the BRP. This was the BRP's maiden voyage to Richloam. This photo is in front of the historic Richloam General Store. If you like to see cool, old things, go check this place out. One of the interesting things on display is an old 1902? Sears Roebuck catalog. In it, you can see listings for items such as a Marlin lever action rifle for $12.00. This ride is the typical mission that I wanted the BRP for. I am not in a hurry or trying to set the world's fastest pace. I want to slow down and travel back to a simpler time!
Today was a double bonus for me, as I got to ride my BRP for the first time, and I got to try out my new USWE Ranger 9 Hydration Pack. I love the pack for its innovative features and comfort. The biggest plus for the USWE is that it does not shift and bounce around on your back. See the @Bryan Bosch full review of it which will be forthcoming.
USWE Ranger 9 "No Dancing Monkey"
My new (to me) BRP is my current project. I am building it with the following objectives:
- Improve suspension performance to accommodate my weight (200lbs.) and riding style (aggressive).
- Improve engine performance without sacrificing reliability or the ability to run on regular, low octane gas.
- Reduce weight.
- Increase fuel range.
- Tailor ergonomics for me (6’2”, 34-inch inseam).
- Streamline and de-clutter unnecessary hardware.
- Reinforce rear subframe to handle heavier cargo loads.
- Upgrade lighting to high output LED’s.
- Upgrade handguards to something more trail-worthy than the OEM guards.
- Install Garmin Amps Rugged Mount with connection to battery.
- Install battery tender lead that also powers my Antigravity Batteries Micro-Start Mini Tire Inflator
- Replace OEM mirrors with mirrors that swing out of the way (without tools) for trail use.
Over twenty years ago, shortly after getting out of the military, I had an XR600R that I used for trail riding and hare scrambles. I raced it at a couple of MX races (for fun) even though I also had a YZ250 at the time. Thus, I had a general idea of what I would be getting into with the XR650L.
This photo of me on my XR600R was taken at the Reddick Hare Scrambles in 1996. Man, that Supertrapp was LOUD! It did make passing a little easier, because the noise usually scared the rider in front out of the way. I loved that bike (once I got it started).
@xmxvet racing a BRP
You meet the nicest people (or puppies) on a dual-sport! @Bryan Bosch with a sweet little dog that was either lost or abandoned deep in Richloam. She was hot and dehydrated. Bryan skillfully carried her on his KTM 690 Enduro R back to civilization where we were able to find a nice family to take her in.
BRP mods have commenced!
The first thing I am doing to the XR650L is to reduce weight by removing unnecessary parts and clutter. The first two pounds were simple. I removed the passenger foot pegs. The next item to go was the AIS (Air Injection System) or Smog Pump. This not only removes two pounds, but also cleans up the clutter on left side of the motor and gets rid of the lean deceleration pop. Some have reported that it can slightly improve throttle response as well. I haven't had a chance to evaluate the performance aspect yet. Removal of the AIS requires the use of an inexpensive smog block off kit.
Here's a before and after photo:
On the scale. 2 pounds gone!
Next, I removed the seat strap which was unnecessary for my purposes and uncomfortable. I also removed the front reflectors. This bike will rarely be ridden at night.
Today, I installed a set of Renthal 971-08 7/8" handlebars. These are the OEM bars on my 2017 KX450F. I like the bend of the bars a lot. Additionally, I prefer 7/8" bars over 1 1/8" bars for the slightly softer (more flex) feel. I have arthritis in all of my joints, and hard impacts like roots, square edged braking bumps or slap down landings off of jumps can take a toll on my wrists. Fat bars feel harsher to me. An additional benefit is the crossbar which I like because it is a place to mount my Giant Loop handlebar bag. I have also found that the crossbar is a very convenient and comfortable place to rest my hand while making inputs into my Garmin Montana 680T.
The Renthal 971-08 bars are about 7 oz. lighter than the OEM bars, and have a lot less sweep. The sweep on the OEM bars felt like it placed my hands in my lap, and my wrists were bent at an uncomfortable angle. The 971's are a huge improvement over the OEM bars!
Renthal 971-08 (top) vs OEM (bottom). The 971-08's have much less sweep, but have about the same rise. Even though I am tall, I prefer lower bars, as I feel more connected to the front of the bike with lower bars. Tall bars make a bike's steering feel sort of vague to me, instead of precise. Plus, the "attack" position feels more natural with lower bars, as it naturally pulls you more over the front wheel of the bike.
I got to try out these handlebars last weekend and they are a huge improvement over the stock bars. I had a minor "duel-sport" collision with @bryan bosch on his KTM 690 Enduro R. This leads me to my next mod which is my Doubletake "Enduro" Mirrors. Bryan has the Doubletake "Adventure" mirrors on his 690. In the collision, his right mirror pivoted around and was completely unscathed, performing as designed! The mirror design not only prevents the mirror itself from getting damaged, but also protects the front brake and clutch perches from breaking.
Here's some pics of the mirrors I just installed:
Retracted for trail riding
I love the mirrors! The optical clarity seems even better than the OEM Honda mirrors, as the rear view images seem sharper. And, they do not add any weight to the bike.
This is a quote from their website: "We will warranty the mirror body for the life of the product, but for obvious reasons cannot extend the same protection to the glass insert. We do sell the glass separately if you manage to break it. We also have a satisfaction guarantee—if you receive your mirror and aren't happy with it for any reason, you can return it for a refund."
All of the components are replaceable, and use Ram Mounts, which are also of very high quality.
The mirrors are made in the USA! FIVE BIG STARS!
Next on the list of upgrades was an IMS 4.0 Gallon Fuel Tank. But. before installing that, I figured it was a good time to remove the airbox snorkel and the welch plug that Honda installs to block access to the fuel mixture screw. The latter mod I had to do to my KLR650 as well.
For the airbox snorkel, I used a cable tie and masking tape to hold the wiring harness out of the way of the 3/64" bit used to drill out the rivets.
Note: It is not necessary to drill all the way through the rivet. As the pictures show, you only need to drill far enough for the head of the rivet to pop off. I left the body of the rivets in to plug the holes.
Next up was the carburetor fuel mixture screw access. It is blocked from the factory by a brass welch plug. I used a 3/32" bit to drill a hole through the plug, taking my time to drill slowly and just barely break through the plug. I then screwed a wood screw into the brass plug, and then used pliers to grab the screw and pull the welch plug out.
Now that I had access to the D-shaped mixture screw, I found that my Motion-Pro D-shaped bit was too short to reach the screw when attached to my driver. So, I used a Dremel with a cutting wheel to cut off only about 3mm of the housing to allow my bit to snap firmly onto the mixture screw.
I used a file to chamfer the sharp edges left by the cutting wheel.
Now that I could adjust the mixture, I determined that it was set at about 1 1/4 turns (counter-clockwise) out, which is too lean. I set it at 2 1/8 turns out. Another point worth mentioning is the jetting. My bike came from the previous owner with the Pro Circuit T4s installed. However, he did not change the OEM jetting, so the bike ran very lean. Before my first ride, I swapped the OEM 152 main and 50 pilot for a 160 main and 58 pilot. That was much better, but slightly rich for our hot, humid summers. I am leaving the jetting as is though, because cooler, drier weather is finally arriving! Next summer, I will try a 158 main and 55 pilot. With all of the carb work finished, I could put the carb back on the bike and start on the IMS Fuel Tank installation.
Installation of the IMS tank was a breeze, with no fitment issues. I have read comments by posters online, that they had to modify the L-Brackets to make the tank fit. I can't say for sure, but I suspect that perhaps the instructions weren't followed to the T. The instructions state what I learned over forty years ago when working at a Honda dealership assembling new bikes. When installing a component with multiple attachment points, simply get all the bolts or screws started loosely. Only after all the hardware is installed do you start to tighten everything down.
The tank is OEM quality, fits perfectly and allows plenty of clearance between the petcock and the engine cylinder.
In my normal brain fog from lack of sleep, I forgot to weigh the OEM and IMS tanks for comparison. I do however recall a detailed listing of XR650L parts weights that indicated the stock tank with shrouds weighs about nine pounds. I estimate the IMS tank weighs about five pounds for a savings of about four pounds. I like the new look of the BRP. I may have to change that to BWP!
I am very happy with the IMS 4.0 Gallon Fuel Tank. Great quality and a perfect fit. I remember IMS Products hitting the market back in 1976 with their high quality pegs, tanks and shift levers. I'm a big fan of their stuff. I also have their IMS Pro-Series Footpegs on my bike.
More to come.........................