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From XL125 to XR265 to CRF230

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This picture is from 1980.  My brother and I shared the old XL125 for many years until he went into the Marine Corps and I went off to college.  The deal and relationship was simple:  He'd break it and I'd fix it.  After college I got a good job and saved my money and had Al Baker build me my awesome 1984 XR265R.  I rode that bike until 1997 and then it sat in my parent's garage until I sold it in 2007.  I bought my current CRF230F in December of 2009.

 

What's the point?  How ironic that I went from an air-cooled two-valve Honda to an insane Al Baker bike and then right back to a bike not much different than that old XL125.  Sometimes simple is better.

 

The bike on the left is a 1972 Laverda 750 SF.  It has since been sold and fully restored.

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This picture is from 1980.  My brother and I shared the old XL125 for many years until he went into the Marine Corps and I went off to college.  The deal and relationship was simple:  He'd break it and I'd fix it.  After college I got a good job and saved my money and had Al Baker build me my awesome 1984 XR265R.  I rode that bike until 1997 and then it sat in my parent's garage until I sold it in 2007.  I bought my current CRF230F in December of 2009.

 

What's the point?  How ironic that I went from an air-cooled two-valve Honda to an insane Al Baker bike and then right back to a bike not much different than that old XL125.  Sometimes simple is better.

 

The bike on the left is a 1972 Laverda 750 SF.  It has since been sold and fully restored.

Even worse,but not in that order.From Rickman 820cc Triumph dirt bike to Crf230.That is at least giving up,how many CCs per ten years since 1970.At that rate I will be on Moped.

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It's funny how well these simple bikes work.  When my father got us the XL125 my brother was not happy because he wanted a 2T MX bike.  Our friends all laughed at us because we had a heavy street bike in the woods.  We stripped the lights and our father helped us find other ways to lighten it up.  He also helped us with the airbox, jetting, exhaust, suspension, and smaller counter sprocket.  In the end that little old XL125 did everything well and used to leave the 125 2T MX bikes far behind it on the trails in the woods.

 

We had a track on seven acres and we all used to leave side-by-side under a huge pine tree.  The old XL125 was just about always last to the first turn but a few turns later it was always out in front and stayed there.  It used to drive our riding friends nuts.  My buddy had an ATC200X with lots of Powroll parts and the old XL125 would run side-by-side with his ATC200X on our 400-foot dragstrip.  It drove him crazy.

 

We used to have a huge garbage dump down the road and the XL125 was the only bike that would always get to the top.  Where our friends had to get a long head start with their 125 MX bikes the old XL125 would go right to the top from a dead stop at the bottom.  It drove them crazy.

 

My brother and I installed new rings and timing chain and cam sprocket and sold it to our friend.  It was a great little bike.

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I love these kind of posts. They feel heart warming for some reason.

 

Why thank you.  I have very fond memories of that bike as well as of the old Al Baker XR265.  The little old XL125 was continuously rewarding because our father constantly helped us make it better and better and better.  I think he even helped us change the initial timing and total advance.  He was a millwright at GM for thirty years and a gear-head so we were very fortunate.

 

We used to have a 2-1/2 HP B&S mini bike with a thin head gasket.  That used to upset all of our friends with 3-1/2 HP mini bikes as well.  Getting more from less has always been very rewarding to me and the little CRF230 allows me to do that in a very big way.

 

Every time I begin to think I've spent too much on the CRF230 I look at the tally and it's a joke.  Compared to the cost of just one rebuild for a modern high-tech grenade bike I am way ahead with the little CRF230.

 

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been able to experience so much fun as a child.

 

Thanks dad!!!

66 Triumph.jpg

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This picture is from 1980.  My brother and I shared the old XL125 for many years until he went into the Marine Corps and I went off to college.  The deal and relationship was simple:  He'd break it and I'd fix it.  After college I got a good job and saved my money and had Al Baker build me my awesome 1984 XR265R.  I rode that bike until 1997 and then it sat in my parent's garage until I sold it in 2007.  I bought my current CRF230F in December of 2009.

 

What's the point?  How ironic that I went from an air-cooled two-valve Honda to an insane Al Baker bike and then right back to a bike not much different than that old XL125.  Sometimes simple is better.

 

The bike on the left is a 1972 Laverda 750 SF.  It has since been sold and fully restored.

Really nice your xr 265 i love the xr model of those years.Awsome!

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Really nice your xr 265 i love the xr model of those years.Awsome!

 

Thank you.  It really was an awesome machine and I am proud to have owned it.  Al Baker arguably built the best bikes on the planet back then.

 

The bike had to be disassembled in Buffalo, NY and shipped to Hesperia, CA via a combination of UPS and Greyhound Bus.  UPS had a lower weight limit back then and the engine was just a few pounds over the limit so Greyhound Bus was the only way to get it there.  All the bits and pieces were then inspected and rebuilt specifically for my riding weight and riding context.  Each assembly Al Baker touched received an engraved serial number for his records and for future reference.

 

The sound of the engine was quite amazing.  It sounded very much like my buddy's YZ250F in the sense it had a very aggressive idle and instant throttle response.  Al Baker's builders said the engine was good for just under 12,000 RPM and I can assure you it made power all the way there.  What it didn't have, however, was off-idle and low-speed torque.  It required a lot of clutch work and gear changes to keep the engine where it needed to be.  It was not forgiving in any sense of the word.

 

It was a mean machine with a tiny chassis.  It went through the woods like a scalded bobcat and was downright hair-raising and scary at times.

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Thank you.  It really was an awesome machine and I am proud to have owned it.  Al Baker arguably built the best bikes on the planet back then.

 

The bike had to be disassembled in Buffalo, NY and shipped to Hesperia, CA via a combination of UPS and Greyhound Bus.  UPS had a lower weight limit back then and the engine was just a few pounds over the limit so Greyhound Bus was the only way to get it there.  All the bits and pieces were then inspected and rebuilt specifically for my riding weight and riding context.  Each assembly Al Baker touched received an engraved serial number for his records and for future reference.

 

The sound of the engine was quite amazing.  It sounded very much like my buddy's YZ250F in the sense it had a very aggressive idle and instant throttle response.  Al Baker's builders said the engine was good for just under 12,000 RPM and I can assure you it made power all the way there.  What it didn't have, however, was off-idle and low-speed torque.  It required a lot of clutch work and gear changes to keep the engine where it needed to be.  It was not forgiving in any sense of the word.

 

It was a mean machine with a tiny chassis.  It went through the woods like a scalded bobcat and was downright hair-raising and scary at times.

What a story about this bike!!! the rev limit is under 12,000 rpm and do you know how much HP it's make now?

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What a story about this bike!!! the rev limit is under 12,000 rpm and do you know how much HP it's make now?

 

According to Al Baker's builders the 84/85 big-bore short-stroke twin-carb engines like ours were making RWHP in the low 30s.  A stock 84/85 XR250 makes RWHP in the low 20s (see below) so that is quite impressive.  Mike Coe's personal CRF230F makes 27.5 RWHP, which is a 55% increase over the stock CRF230F.  Al Baker's engines were seeing about a 50% increase in power as well.  To give you an idea that allowed us to use the top of fourth gear on the same track where we could only use a good bit of third gear.  The difference was scary.

 

We were both so impressed by our bikes we flew to CA to meet the builders. When we visited in 1991 all the new bikes were based upon the new 1986 engines and became XR280Rs.  The 1986+ engines had a smaller bore, longer stroke, and only one carb; not sure about valve size.  The bore of the XR265R and XR280R were identical.  According to Al Baker's builders the new XR280Rs could not keep the old XR265Rs in sight.  They were actually disappointed in the new 280s.  One of the builders (Rob?) had a big-bore short-stroke twin-carb XL265R and said his hit 110 MPH on the flat desert with proper gearing.  He didn't say how long it took to get there though.  I any case that's crazy fast for a 265cc bike.

 

We all know the 280s went on the become wonderful engines and likely made a heap more torque down low than the 265 did.  According to Al Baker's builders the big problem was the single carb.  To get enough carb to make power at the top required a 34mm carb, which, in turn, reduced low-speed throttle feel and response.  The two 24mm carbs on the XR265 were roughly the equivalent of one 34mm carb so you got the best of both worlds.  Our two XR265Rs would go about 50-55 MPH on flat ground on the first carb alone.  You could easily feel when the second carb started opening and you didn't feel it until after 50-55 MPH.  While many hated the twin-carb setup we loved it and so Al Baker's builders.

 

With all the modifications the engines would still start cold after just one or two kicks.  They also started just fine when they were very hot.  They ran on pump premium but Al Baker's builders said we should run higher octane during hard/hot events so we did.  The engines got a valve lash check/set and oil change every 200 miles or after every event.  We used Mobil 1 15w/50 auto oil in both of them and mine is still running strong to this very day.

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According to Al Baker's builders the 84/85 big-bore short-stroke twin-carb engines like ours were making RWHP in the low 30s.  A stock 84/85 XR250 makes RWHP in the low 20s (see below) so that is quite impressive.  Mike Coe's personal CRF230F makes 27.5 RWHP, which is a 55% increase over the stock CRF230F.  Al Baker's engines were seeing about a 50% increase in power as well.  To give you an idea that allowed us to use the top of fourth gear on the same track where we could only use a good bit of third gear.  The difference was scary.

 

We were both so impressed by our bikes we flew to CA to meet the builders. When we visited in 1991 all the new bikes were based upon the new 1986 engines and became XR280Rs.  The 1986+ engines had a smaller bore, longer stroke, and only one carb; not sure about valve size.  The bore of the XR265R and XR280R were identical.  According to Al Baker's builders the new XR280Rs could not keep the old XR265Rs in sight.  They were actually disappointed in the new 280s.  One of the builders (Rob?) had a big-bore short-stroke twin-carb XL265R and said his hit 110 MPH on the flat desert with proper gearing.  He didn't say how long it took to get there though.  I any case that's crazy fast for a 265cc bike.

 

We all know the 280s went on the become wonderful engines and likely made a heap more torque down low than the 265 did.  According to Al Baker's builders the big problem was the single carb.  To get enough carb to make power at the top required a 34mm carb, which, in turn, reduced low-speed throttle feel and response.  The two 24mm carbs on the XR265 were roughly the equivalent of one 34mm carb so you got the best of both worlds.  Our two XR265Rs would go about 50-55 MPH on flat ground on the first carb alone.  You could easily feel when the second carb started opening and you didn't feel it until after 50-55 MPH.  While many hated the twin-carb setup we loved it and so Al Baker's builders.

 

With all the modifications the engines would still start cold after just one or two kicks.  They also started just fine when they were very hot.  They ran on pump premium but Al Baker's builders said we should run higher octane during hard/hot events so we did.  The engines got a valve lash check/set and oil change every 200 miles or after every event.  We used Mobil 1 15w/50 auto oil in both of them and mine is still running strong to this very day.

Very impressive bike want to sell??? Lol thank for the info i'm jealous of your bike men!lol

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Very impressive bike want to sell??? Lol thank for the info i'm jealous of your bike men!lol

 

I think it can be had for under $1,000.  Unfortunately engine parts for the 84/85 are almost impossible to come by today.

 

My buddy moved on to a 1991 XR600 and then on to a 2003 XR250.  Every time we get together we still talk about how crazy those bikes were.  My XR265R would run side by side with his 1991 XR600 from a dead stop up until about 50-55 MPH.  His XR600 had opened airbox, Rob Muzzy exhaust, and appropriate jetting and was no joke.

 

Both the XR265s had a shudder/vibration at what we thought was the top end of the power band.  We always shifted when that started even though the engines were pulling like mad.  We called Al Baker's builders and they told us to wear ear plugs and simply go right through it and not to shift until the engines quit pulling.  We were wasting a lot of good power by shifting too early.  What?

 

One day we were loading the bikes up to go home and I did one last long run along a set of railroad tracks.  I decided to trust what I was told and let it rip.  Sure enough the engine pulled right through the shudder/vibration and continued to pull for what was likely another 2,000+ RPM.  It smoothed right out and ran like mad up there.  Crazy.  When I got back to the truck my buddy asked "...what the hell was that?  I never hear your bike sound like that before?".  I told him I did what I was told.  He fired up his bike and got on and did the same thing.  He was not kidding about the sound.  We both could not believe how much we left on the table by shifting too early.  That extra top end came in quite handy at times but it was also scary at times.

One time he came from behind me and did a 4-5 power shift way up there.  His front tire went sky high and carried for quite some time.  This was followed by a bad crash and a broken leg many miles from home.

 

If an XR280 is like and old GM LT-1 then the XR265 was like an old GM DZ302 with a cross-ram intake and Duntov 30-30 cam.

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