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Kind of off topic, really need help with friends honda

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Hey guys, I asked this question in the honda forum but they get no traffic there and thus no responses. I know there are some good mechanics here who have helped me tons with my DRZ and can probably give me some advise so I figure I'll give it a shot and ask you guys.

Hi all, I need some advice. I'm trying to help out a friend who's bike suddenly started making a terrible noise while in my possesion. It is a 1997 XR650L. We were driving along a dirt road fairly slowly and came to a stop, the bike died at idle which is very unusual for this bike. Started it back up and went a little further then it died again. This time when it started back up it was making a loud knocking noise, it is there at idle and when you pick up the revs, seems to be louder on the right side. We shut it down immediatly but I don't know what is wrong. I checked the oil right then and it was all over the dipstick so I figured it had some, I checked it again when I got it home and it was about 1/2 to 3/4 quart low. It is blowing a small amount of smoke when cold. I took off the valve covers and checked the clearance, it seemed to be ok *see below for my question on that. I was curious if oil was getting up there so I turned over the engine while taking each of the covers off one at a time. The two on the left sprayed all over and made a terrible mess, the two on the right I couldn't really see if any oil was there at all. Is this normal or should all 4 make a big mess? Anyone have any ideas what is wrong and what I should look for first if I start to take it apart?

*about the clearance. On my bike I have always kept sticking feelers in until one didn't fit and the one below that I declared was the clearance. The manual for the XR says to use the one that drags a little. That seems so ambiguous, there are about 4 different feelers I could say that about. How do you all go about checking the clearance?

Thanks guys!

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