Newb checking in with a big question...

I'm in the Navy and moving to San Diego toward the first of the year. I have a choice of 2 bikes. 2004 650R and 1994 650L. The R has very low miles (practically new) and a baja kit installed, and the L has ~600 miles and is also practically new. The L is ~$1500 less than the R. I want to use the bike primarily as a commuter to work and play on the weekend. I've never lived in Cali and am not at all familiar with the emissions stuff.

The question:

If you were in my situation, which would you go for. I've read that a lot of people kill the smog stuff, but I'll drive it on the road, so...

Any comments? Thanks in advance...


Not sure about this...but I looked into some stuff with sportbikes awhile back and it seems to me CA requires 7500 miles or more on a motorcycle brought into the state. Perhaps you can get around that being in the Navy. Better yet, register it somewhere else first, so you are not a CA resident buying a bike out of state.

Oh, and I say get the L. It's cheaper, meant for the road more and I just got mine and love it :thumbsup:

If the R has a plate on it already, get it... if you hate it you can sell it for 2k more then what its worth just because you cant get them plated anymore...

Thanks for the comments! I do like the price of the L, and I hadn't really thought about resale. Good points!

I was able to find a bunch of threads about the differences between the two bikes last night. What about emissions? Do bikes get smogged in Cali? Is it legal to do all the upgrades I read about last night?

Thanks again.


I want to use the bike primarily as a commuter to work and play on the weekend.

They'll both work about the same on the street but the R is simply a much better dirtbike. I think your decision should be based on how much offroading you really plan on doing.

Bikes do not get smogged in CA. Additionally, you can't plate the R's anymore, therefore resale is much better as there is considerable demand for plated 650Rs, as it opens up a considerable amount of offroad terrain as well.

Good luck :thumbsup:

Thanks again for the replies, guys. I looked at the R today, and will look at the L this weekend (hopefully). The R was awesome, but it may be a little out of my price range. I'm still thinking about it. Thanks for the reply about Cali smog, too. I need to find out what I have to do for a base sticker now.

Thanks again!

If you don't mind buying used, keep and eye out because the used market is real soft right now. I've seen several nice 650R's for sale under $3K and just bought another one in California for $2450 cash that still had the original tires on it. Here's one for sale on TT for $2,600, but it's in Seattle...

If you don't mind used and have cash ready to go, you may find a great deal if you bide your time :cry:

Thanks for the link! I saw that one the other day, and kind of filed it away as an "if I can't find one here" possibility. So, should I assume that you are recommending the R? I talked to a good friend of mine that I served with in Hawaii last night, and he said that the R can be squirrely on the road. Any comments to that end?


Well I got lost on some dirt road the other day on my 650R and ended up on the freeway with full Baja Michelin knobbies and got up to about 95+ and it was still good to go. A little shaky but not too bad. I don't have DS tires on mine so I would assume it would be even smoother with the right tires on... Bikes close to 300lbs so it holds the road pretty good.

oh btw. I also have a GPR stabalizer on mine and it was set to 6. Kind of helps keep things straight! :cry:

For off road use, I'd recommend the 'R'. I've only ridden mine up and down the street and a few other places for 'on-road' riding, so I can't really say how well the 'R' works while on-road. I'm currently trying to get one of my 650R's street licensed, but it's a very tough thing to do in in California right now since the laws changed earlier this year. I will likely have to license the bike out of state for street use. If you get an 'R' that's alreay street licensed (or dual registered), then you'll be fine, but street licensed 650R's get a premium price in California. You won't have much problem getting the 'L' model street licensed.

If you're mostly using it for on-road commuting with a little dirt thrown in, the "L" would be the way to go I think. It's made for the street, it has electric start, and you don't have to mess with getting it street legal. Besides, with a few mods, the XRL is a fine off-roader. A friend of mine took his stock XRL on our trip to Colorado and had no problems even on tight, rocky single-track trails at 11,000+ feet.

One other thing is what are you looking for power wise. BIG difference between the L and the R...

I have a second set of rims for my 650R that have street tires on them for when I'm riding on the road and with it set up like that the bikes tracks great on the street. Full nobbies on the road can be a little unnerving at times depending on speed.

Even if your not a screemer and looking to kill yourself the XR650R carries it's weight better. Even though it's only 47 pounds lighter (only ) it feels 60! but, the way the power comes on with the XR650R I wouldn't even think of using the "L". But, if I had a "L" it would be the best bike in the world because it would be mine. So, all you guy with "L's" have great bikes

Uncorked a "L" puts out 38hp, 42hp with after market stuff. Dry weight is 324pounds. 348~356 (depends on who you read it from) ready to ride.

Uncorked "R" puts out 46hp, 48hp with some after market stuff and 58+ if you put some money into it. Dry weight 277pounds. 302 ready to ride.

I put a plate on my "R" and it weighs 324 full of fuel with the bigger gas tank and all the extras. I have owned the XR500, XR600l, XR600R, and the XR650R and have put some good amount of time on the XR650L and it had less power then my XR600R (punched out with a 11.5:1 piston and hot cam) comfort felt the same as the older XR600L. There is nothing wrong with having a "L" and I would never think less of someone that showed up on one. But, when these talks start about which is better the "R" or the "L" the "L" can be beat by just about any duel sport bike that is on the market in one or more ways. DRZ400s with a Mikuni carburetor is in the same class as a "L". A XR400 has a better weight to Horse power ratio then the "L". If your just a street & fire road rider then it doesn't matter to much what you can make it as cumfy as you need it and off you go but, once someone says off road you are talking all kinds of different types of riding and most take that at meaning a bike that can take what ever you through at it. A good rider will make the "L" look like it can do it all but, the ride will be cut short from the extra work it will take and the fun is cut down from the fight compared to the same rider on a bike setup to do the job. It's the same when I take the BRP onto the MX track, what a work out! and the fear is way up there....much differemt story on a CR250.

Other things to think about; is the CV (constant velocity) carburetor on the 650L, what a pain in the butt! This is a bad setup off road but, great for the street! Steel frame & tank, air cooled,

XR650L does not have the same cartridge forks of the XR650R has a air adjustable fork setup of the XR600 but, softer! It isn't the same bike or close to it in any way. If you get right down to it; it goes on quite awhile; like 8.3:1 compression ratio on the XR650L and 10:1 compression ratio on the XR650R, different lift and duration on the cam. If you own a XR650L it's fun but, if you haven't ran a XR650R you don't know the difference! 25% more horse power and at 46 pounds lighter how can they be in the same leage? Next are we going to compare the CRF250 and the CRF230? The XR650L does a great job for what it was made for....if you ride any dirt it does better then the Kawasaki KLR650 but, not as good on the street. Compare the XR650L to the KLR 650, now you have a good argument.....Last time this hit the board; Someone said, "close to the same weight and power" NOT EVEN CLOSE! Someone said, "can go all the same places" NOT IN THE AIR! You'd brake the frame on the "L"!

The truth is that for the 650 class four stroke bikes, the XR650R is the best bet.

Other bikes

Husaberg FE 650 E 2003 This bike rocks! But, can you afford it?

KTM 525 MXC Desert Racing 2003 This is a nice bike (not in the 650 class but, will keep up) 265 pounds.

KTM 660 SMC 2003 Only 33hp @ 288 dry weight.

KTM 640 LC4 Enduro 2003 To heavy 328 pounds but, 54hp.

2004 ATK 700 Intimidator Are you crazy?

2004 ATK 620 Intimidator Way high strung.

2003 ATK 605 Enduro to heavy for the output.

Great eye candy, guys! Keep it coming! This type of info is ultimately what will help me in my decision. I'll add a more in depth reply concerning my thoughts on all this, but now I don't have time. We are training the Navy ROTC newbies this weekend. Thanks again to all who replied. I'm off to go look at a 650L...


Hey Man,

I lived in San Diego for 4 years while I was in the USN there. I worked at Miramar NAS, but lived about 10 miles off base. I owned an XR250L at the time and it was awesome! I wish it was bigger, but it did the trick. There are some great places to ride- one main one was down in Chula Vista down by the Mexican border. The USN also had a motorcycle safety course that may be required to get a base sticker. You need to put in a request through your command chain to take it, but its fun and is like 2 days off from work. You may also be able to use the course completion as a way to get a discount on your mc insurance. There are a lot of canyons on places to explore in San Diego with a dual sport bike- you will be in for a real treat.

Have fun,


I live close to china lake nas and if that is where you will be, if I was you I would go with the R. I have the xr650l and love it but the R would be a better choice. I was unaware of the diff. when I bought mine. The L does great and I love it but if I were to do it again I would buy the R.

Former Marine here...

:usa:renders salute :cry:

:thinking:Well, monetarily, any newer (not to mention plated) :worthy:"R" :cry: is worth every penny of $1500 more than any older "L", as long as both machines are in comparable condition. Naval officers work hard. :lol: My suggestion to you, sir, is play hard! We only live once. Just be :naughty:careful :lol: playing on your :worthy:"R" :cry: if you get it. Uncle Sam wants you! :cry:

:usa:drops salute :cry:

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