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XR280R... tough to beat in the woods / harescrambles !

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some of you guys may know me from Venom Performance ... primarily ATV based performance .... closed shop a while back and am back to my career in medical physics/radiation ... but have been building and off roading for over 35 years... so just my day job has changed...

 

anyways... just wanted to put out a tribute of sorts to one of the most underrated off road bikes in history... the Honda XR250R...

 

many moons ago , 1996 to be exact... i had bought both an XR400 for me and an XR250 for my wife... both ended up with lots of modifications...and since then were sold and many other bikes have come in the meantime.... crf450's...  some quads... and my latest was a crazy good setup 2007 CRF270R....

 

majority of my riding is in the michigan woods... occasionally dunes...occasionally mx or hare scramble type riding with friends....

 

years back i had finished up the 96 xr250 as an xr280 for my wife.... and i am here to tell everyone straight up that the XR250 responds like crazy to modification and is a supreme endurance machine that is tough to beat in the woods....

 

i , and many of my friends, would drop our own rides and want to use the xr280 every time that my wife opted out on riding....

 

now... the crf270 i had setup as a R/X hybrid with worlds more power than stock over the entire powerband.... excellent bike in every way.... but my deal is that i am sick of the maintenance schedule and difficulty of working on the latest crop of high tech liquid cooled thumpers.... dont get me wrong... there is nothing i cant do .... i have just grown sick of it all...lol... 53 years old and i want to play more and wrench less....

 

so.... 2 weeks ago i traded the crf270 for 2 2002 xr250's.... last weekend i sold one of the xr's to the first person to see it.... seems like there are others that long for the discontinued xr models.... i had 17 calls before i pulled the craigslist ad and the 3rd person i talked to was the first one to see and buy it....

 

the xr i did keep has been torn down and is in the process of being built as my own next woods machine....  very happy about the project!!

 

XR's are reliable as a brick... easy to maintain...air cooled simple... easy valve adjustments... easy air filter maintenance...easy chain adjust.... simple/easy/reliable...

 

based on the success of the 96 model last time... the list of engine mods will go:

 

1) Uni Air Filter..airbox snorkel removed... (K&N = Dirt Injection)

2) stock carb with 48 pilot / 3rd clip stock needle /125 main jet (the modded engine pulls WAY more fuel through the smaller jet... bigger jets are too rich and will create a false rev limiter)

3)porting that makes use of smooth radiused SSR's and multi angle valve seats... NO stem shortening on rocker radial valved heads!!

4) Wiseco +4mm 77mm 10.5:1 big bore piston for 277cc

5) middle layer removed from 3 layer cometic 77mm gasket

6) Kibblewhite valve springs for peace of mind

7) Hotcams Camshaft

8) grind welds at oem head pipe flange / DO NOT buy big diameter head pipes unless you hate midrange and bottom end power/response!!

9)FMF slip on silencer (lots of decent ones available, this is just the one i bought)

 

later on i will go over some of the other mods to the machine in general....

 

but i have to tell everyone straight up.... unless you have tried this set of mods on an XR250... you have NO idea how strong this machine can actually perform... add a tooth to the cs sprocket and drop one from the back.... 3rd gear power only wheelies no problem at all.... power and response from idle to rev limit....

 

i may buy other bikes.... but i'm NEVER selling this one!!

Edited by mixxer
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What about suspension? I've asked a couple tuners about my XR4 suspension and they don't seem to be interested in the old school stuff.

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Tech Care in michigan and Race Tech in california have been my 2 fav places for suspension:

 

link to Tech Care :http://www.tech-care.com/

 

i also run the DeVol lowering link on my own setups.... i'm only 5'8" and dropping an inch or so is nice... also the lower CG works well in the woods and for cornering...

Scotts Suspension were also great guys to deal with... for some reason i havent used them for a while...

Edited by mixxer

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What about suspension? I've asked a couple tuners about my XR4 suspension and they don't seem to be interested in the old school stuff.

X 2

I just picked up a 1996 XR250 last weekend & the suspension on this thing is shot. Don't know if I should just stick with the stock suspension & rebuild it, there doesn't seem to be any aftermarket springs for it anymore.

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you guys know the XR's  suspensions are meant to be soft/reactive/compliant for logs / tree roots / rocks in the woods...   dialing in the damping with stock spring rates works well for that situation with 180~190 pound riders....

 

for bigger riders that want to do mx style jumping, you will much better suited to a new CRF model.....  maybe someone could start an "everything XR suspension " thread and get a comprehensive list of what shop offers what for the XR's

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IMO: a well suspended 250cc CRF230f cannot be beat in the really tight single track trails. Lighter and electric start as well.

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you guys know the XR's  suspensions are meant to be soft/reactive/compliant for logs / tree roots / rocks in the woods...   dialing in the damping with stock spring rates works well for that situation with 180~190 pound riders....

 

for bigger riders that want to do mx style jumping, you will much better suited to a new CRF model.....  maybe someone could start an "everything XR suspension " thread and get a comprehensive list of what shop offers what for the XR's

 

 

Spot on. Expecting the XR suspension to handle MX style jumps and whoops will just result in frustration and an empty wallet. Set the sag and oil height on the stock units (front and back) and they handle woods stuff pretty good. Even with heavy ass springs in them, XR forks are still soft and mushy compared to CRF or other MX bike forks, plus the heavy springs (4 or 5 rates over stock) overpower the rebound damping waaay to much and won't let the bike settle properly in corners so your handling gets weird (what I experienced anyway). There is no 1 magic set up either, you have to dial in your suspension for your weight, terrain and riding style.

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IMO: a well suspended 250cc CRF230f cannot be beat in the really tight single track trails. Lighter and electric start as well.

excellent bikes for sure... i have built several of them and love them ... still want one for myself.... not that it's useful... but the XR250R will has the power advantage, mod for mod.... nature of the beast with 4 valves vs 2

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excellent bikes for sure... i have built several of them and love them ... still want one for myself.... not that it's useful... but the XR250R will has the power advantage, mod for mod.... nature of the beast with 4 valves vs 2

I wouldn't mind riding a nicely set up XR 250, the closest I that I have ridden was an 83 XR 350 that I purchased new.

From what I remember, it was heavy and not as powerful as the 250cc two strokes of that period that I was use to riding.

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I also feel the xr250r is an excellent bike and highly capable.  I have a 2001 and I felt the suspension needed some help for the north east roots and rocks.  I had WER works enduro rider do the suspension front and rear and the improvement was dramatic.  Drew Smith has done literally hundreds of xr 250s and he knows how to make the stock suspension work.  The overall height of the bike is raised by about an inch that really helps in the ruts.  plus you get air bleeder fork caps.I have a stock engine with an fmf q stealth, Gordon mode and uni filter.  I am planning on doing a 280kit as well in the near future.  mine is street plated, so this bike will remain in my fleet for a long time.

250s

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I also feel the xr250r is an excellent bike and highly capable.  I have a 2001 and I felt the suspension needed some help for the north east roots and rocks.  I had WER works enduro rider do the suspension front and rear and the improvement was dramatic.  Drew Smith has done literally hundreds of xr 250s and he knows how to make the stock suspension work.  The overall height of the bike is raised by about an inch that really helps in the ruts.  plus you get air bleeder fork caps.I have a stock engine with an fmf q stealth, Gordon mode and uni filter.  I am planning on doing a 280kit as well in the near future.  mine is street plated, so this bike will remain in my fleet for a long time.

250s

excellent to know about WER suspension service...

 

I cant tell you enough how much of a difference the 280cc and hotcam together in combination make for the XR.... it is actually impossible to believe without riding it.... still a nice tractable little thumper... but boy oh boy do you have a lot of mean on tap... everybody is flat out astounded/humbled by that setup... nobody expects what it will put out

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+1 on WER. He did Scott Summers suspension for his factory Honda XR's back in the day, so no-one else touches my XR suspension.

Love the 250. Raced one when I lived back east, but had to step up to the XR400 when I moved to the Rockies. The combination of elevation, more open terrain, and my 250lb. girth showed it's limits. I miss the nimbleness of the 250, but it was a good trade off for my modified 460cc stump puller in the high Northern Rockies.

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nobody better than Les.  Give him a call...he has the bike you are trying to build as his personal machine.  Magic carpet ride :thumbsup:

I'm glad les likes his... there is no trying to build here, I built my first one in 1996... and then les copied me ;)

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Could be on the xr280 about big tube header,but not on our xr300s.They now rev to the moon with big tube header.Also using Hotcam in the xr250,Never. about crf 250 great woods bike.Not so in Baja.The harder the trail,the farther back,the crf250 is behind the Xr300. BTR  Ohh forgot to add any Crf 250 rider,that thinks he can out hill climb the xr300.I will give you a 4 day tour for free if you can do it.

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Thanks for the write up!  Sounds like just what mine needs ... I always worried about having to get a pumper carb - sounds like no real need.

 

By the end of a long ride all the 450 guys want to ride the xr250 power house and enjoy the ride.

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Could be on the xr280 about big tube header,but not on our xr300s.They now rev to the moon with big tube header.Also using Hotcam in the xr250,Never. about crf 250 great woods bike.Not so in Baja.The harder the trail,the farther back,the crf250 is behind the Xr300. BTR  Ohh forgot to add any Crf 250 rider,that thinks he can out hill climb the xr300.I will give you a 4 day tour for free if you can do it.

don't knock the hotcam until you try it.... the oem cam in the xr250 has lift and duration that would be a downgrade for most lawn tractors.....  the 236 degrees of duration of the hotcam still puts the valve open time below the stock cams of the liquid cooled 250's.... the crf250 cams would be considered torque cams with 246 degrees duration...and they only go up close to 260 egrees duration for the top end models.... the hotcam is more in line with what Honda should have put in the xr from the factory...and hotcams themselves labels it a "stage 1" style cam... which is more bottom to mid biased for broad range power increase with more emphasis on torque and throttle response.... any place you think the stock cam does good, the hotcam slays it...

 

the stock cam doesn't feed a 250 well enough... it seriously only gets more anemic as the size of the engine it needs to feed gets bigger...and it is positively anemic on a 300cc setup....  I guarantee your 300 doesn't "rev to the moon" with any authority with the big tube headers and the stock cam....  the big tube headers kill exhaust velocity...which in turn kills scavenging efficiency.... which in turn delays the intake charge during cam overlap on this radial 4 valve head design....which helps kill bottom and midrange cylinder filling even more.....  you need to try and rev to the moon like a 125cc 2-stroke because you have killed power everywhere else.... and yet the top end is crippled by the stock lawnmower cam....and stock valve sizes I'm going to guess....

 

do yourself the biggest favor you have ever done and install the hotcam

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Thanks for the write up!  Sounds like just what mine needs ... I always worried about having to get a pumper carb - sounds like no real need.

 

By the end of a long ride all the 450 guys want to ride the xr250 power house and enjoy the ride.

glad to share info .... the stock carb is one of Honda's designs (Honda owns keihin) that was specifically made to increase throttle response without needing to go to an accelerator pump style carb.... the bore is oval as opposed to round and the slide exposes less volume compared to round as it is opened....then when fully open it is tall enough to provide good top end flow....

 

now.... the carb is a vacuum sensitive metering device.... the more vacuum signal, the more efficient the carbs metering circuits are.... the big bore kit increases the engine displacement and ups the vacuum signal.... and the hotcam adds valve open time which also increases the carbs vacuum signal in the xr.... all of the added vacuum signal to the stock carb is why it will jet in with a smaller main jet than stock... it is still flowing a lot more fuel than the stock jet did on the stock engine... but the big power level on a smaller main jet is testament to a much stronger vacuum signal being seen by the carbs metering circuits....

 

at that point the oval bore oem carb on the xr is VERY sharply responsive to throttle movement.... pumper carb absolutely NOT necessary for throttle response.....

 

if you wanted to go for only top end power instead of broad range torque... a bigger carb and bigger valves (bigger cam too) would be the way you would get there....and as carb size vs engine size goes up, so does the need for an accelerator pump.... the bigger bore of the carb would mean that until the engine rpm came up enough to have a strong vacuum signal, you would need to spray/pump a shot of fuel in to prevent going lean on sharp throttle openings due to lack of enough low rpm vacuum to operate the circuits of a big carb.... not really the design purpose of the xr series enduro engines

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My buddy and I both had 1984 Al Baker XR265s and they were unbelievable.  The suspension was incredible and the engines were unbelievable.  They revved to what seemed to be infinity and were scary fast.  The sound was like nothing I have ever heard from a 4T engine.  They had very little low-end grunt but the midrange and top end was insane.  The engines were a lot more like a 2T than a 4T and they required a lot of clutch work.  If you thrashed them like a 2T they were amazingly fast.  We used to really surprise the guys riding KDX bikes.  They would look at use funny and ask why we were riding such "obsolete" bikes.  We used to get a lot of questions when we stopped and they could finally catch up with us.

 

We were both so impressed by our 265s we flew from NY out to CA to to meet the guys that built our bikes.  At that time they said their very best XR280s could not run with their 265s.  Rob said his XL265R  attained over 100 MPH on the desert flats.  For those of you who don't know the difference the 84-85 engines had a bigger bore and shorter stroke and had two 24mm carbs as opposed to one 30mm carb.  The 265s actually used the huge Mugen cam that was used in Al Baker's first 280s.  I'm sure a lot of improvements have been made since that time and the 280s are far stronger now.

 

We changed the oil and adjusted the valves every 200 miles and mine is still in service to this very day.

Anyhow...  My point is I couldn't agree more.  A well-built XR280 is an incredibly versatile machine.

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