Best first mods to XR650L

23 replies to this topic
  • nhdsrider

Posted April 18, 2005 - 08:05 PM


Well I've 99% made up my mind that it will be a new (or leftover) XR650L that I'll be buying in about 2-3 weeks. Since the best time to get parts through the dealer, I need a few suggestions about first mods, so i can dicker prices while I'm laying the cash out for the bike. Here is some info about me:

I'll be using this bike almost 50/50 on and off road. It will be riddon hard and fast on what the locals up here call log roads, which are more like wide, open, fairly smooth hard-packed dirt roads. it will also get a fair amount of hard playtime when I'm out with my stepson who has a Raptor. I'm also planning some longer trips with it, such as visiting friends who live where I grew up (almost 200 miles each way), and longer road trips. Keeping this in mind, I already know I want some more agressive tires (probably Dunlops), uncork the beast, the largest tank I can get, and some removable soft luggage such as rear panniers, a rack and mounting bracket so i can use the Givi top box off my ST1100, a tank bag for shorter rides and extra capacity on long trips (not sure how this will work with a large tank?), GPS mount (and more modern GPS than my old Lowrance), etc. Most of this will be bought within the first week of buying my bike. At some point I'll probably do something about streamlining it (making it less breakable) by installing smaller turn signals and tail light, and I would like to eventually wire up a set of decent fog lights/driving lights for night riding.

Any suggestions for brands for this stuff, web sites, etc? Anyone who uses a 650L to tour who could give me tips and advice? Thanks in advance!


  • thumper245

Posted April 18, 2005 - 08:55 PM


I would say at least get the tank. If you only have the dealer do one thing to the bike then that should be it. The stocker is only good for about 100 miles stock. I would also regear it. If you go with the stock 15 on the cs and a 48 on the rear you wont notice it untill you go down a steep hill. If you have smog on it have that removed also and you should be good. I hope that this helps. My mods so far are the gears (14/48), smog off and I love it other than the tank. I plan on getting a tank in a couple of weeks. Have fun and post a report when you get it. OOHH I forgot that the stock Bridgestone tires I thought sucked. I replaced with the D606 front and rear. The rear grips great and I have about 2400 miles on it but I do not like the front. Someone else that has more exp. with tires can help you out on the front.

  • nhdsrider

Posted April 18, 2005 - 09:21 PM


Well I'll be doing all the work myself (trained auto tech with home repair of bikes in the past) so the dealer won't actually be doing anything. For the dealer, I was mostly just wondering what parts would be best purchased through them. For anything that either the dealer wouldn't handle, or would just be best bought elsewhere, then I would want info about where to get them. Also suggestions whether I'm going in the right direction or if there are more suggestions. Thanks for the gearing tip...I'll probably run that stock for right now until I start getting into the more technical stuff, then gear down if I don't think I'll miss the highway speed.

I've seen a few posts about a Clarke tank...any web site suggestions for where to get them? Thanks...


  • justicedone

Posted April 18, 2005 - 10:24 PM


Look at my post of before and after mods..some good ideas for ya. I wouldnt go for a Teraflex tire for obvious touring reasons. And you may want a Corbin if your gonna straddle the saddle for 200mi..(OUCH).

Def ' get a temp. dipstick to keep an eye on overheating for traveling that far. You may even consider a Suzuki or Kaw for those long street rides because of water cooling....I am biting my tongue being a Honda guy !

  • nhdsrider

Posted April 18, 2005 - 11:18 PM


Well now I'm getting confused. My XR600 was bulletproof, and it would go anywhere as far and as long as I could stand to be on it (which was pretty hard and long). And they were used to kick major butt in the Baja races. The only thing I ever did to my 600 ('95) was put gas in it and oil the chain. Now I've been reading about top end rebuilds every couple years, watching for overheating, having to just about rebuild the brand new bike to grease everything that Honda missed, etc. I used to buy Honda because they were absolutely bulletproof. My XR75 went from the time I was 6 until I was 14 and the motor had never been touched, except to change the spark plug once or twice in that time.

I'm looking for a bike that I can ride for 20,000-30,000 miles without opening the engine. Am i looking ion the right spot? I had an '81 SP250 that I put over 25,000 miles on over one summer. that was 3 back tires, 2 chains, 1 front tire, 3 sets of brakes, and not once did I have to touch the motor. The guy I sold it to 15 years ago still has it, and it still runs well to this day. I already have an ST1100 for the really long (500+ mile one way) trips, but I have been working on tentative plans to possibly visit Alaska by bike, and do several trips to northeast maine to visit family on this bike.

My other option was a KLR, but its very poor off road manners, as well as gutless engine turned me off from that one. Now I'm almost back to where I started, and am trying to find a bike that will be rock solid reliable for long distance off and on road rides. Am I being overly cautious, and getting scared at nothing? Is a 650L a good bike for what I have planned? Or should I keep looking?

Maybe I should ask- is there ANY bike that will be ready for reliable riding without rebuilding it? Here are my options so far:

KLR650- Need to tear down the rear suspension when its new to grease it. Gutless engine, poor off road manners. Need to tear into the engine to fix the ballance shaft issue soon after buying it.

XR600R- Great off road, but need to install a rectifier/regulator to be able to power radar detector, GPS, etc. Needs a high output stator to handle any real lighting. Needs to be torn down and greased while new. Requires several parts to make it work well on the street (and legal). Has a long grocery list of bolts that need upgrading before they break. Several other minor things to make it reliable and a good all-around performer. Seriously uncomfortable seat. Needs the thermostat replaced to ensure there are no problems.

XR650L- Needs to be torn down for greasing while new (whats with bikes coming without enough grease???), has possible overheating issues, needs a larger tank for any real riding (expected of a 650R, but the L should be set up better), and a few other things I've read about that I can't remember.

I'm starting to think that there is no such thing as a true on/off road bike that can really be used for street use, and all the new ones seem to be just for getting from one trail to another. If this is the case, I'll just get an older, used XR600 (since I know those are bulletproof) for off road, local use, and put the rest of the money into my ST1100 to deck it out even more than it is. But I don't want to abuse that bike on the Alcan or across Canada, and it sure isn't for our northern N.H. roads with endless potholes in all directions. A real dualsport bike would be ideal for this terrain. I couold laugh at the cars that are stuck travelling at 30 mph in a 50 mph zone, just because the bumps are so large the car would fall apart if they went any faster.


  • justicedone

Posted April 18, 2005 - 11:27 PM


I think the XR650L is very solid and bulletproof. Just keep valves adjusted and change oil regularly.

It will keep you happy on and off road, and you dont have to uncork it like most of us do. Its just an obsession really... :naughty:

In stock trim it will cruise at 80-85mph and eat up trails. And I think your but needs a lil rest by the time the tanks running low.

Good luck in your descision.. I give the L model 2 snaps !

  • nhdsrider

Posted April 18, 2005 - 11:32 PM


Any idea how many street miles I should be able to expect out of it before it needs any real engine work? Just rough guess...I know too much depends on maintenance, riding style, etc., but just a rough idea based on average use. I was just about ready to order up a tank I found for sale (4.6 gallon), so I pretty much had my mind made up for the 650L until I started getting scared. Thanks for coming back and reinforcing my decision. This is the first off road bike I've bought in almost 10 years (last was the '95 600 as a spring leftover) so I'm having to learn a lot about bikes in a very short time.


  • justicedone

Posted April 18, 2005 - 11:46 PM


I know they are very well built machines, but I have only 1300mi on my 03 that I bought on Dec 31 with 600mi from original owner.

I am hoping to get at least 20k-25k mi without problems with proper scheduled care. It would be interesting to see what guys have put on a modern XR650L model without issues...4 shizzle

  • XR650L_Dave

Posted April 19, 2005 - 02:59 AM


I would say that the lean jetting means you def. want to do the standard mods- rejet, drill the slide, pull the snorkel, better air filter- all to help the longevity, of course.

If you don't do these changes, you'll wonder why your 600 felt so much more powerful. Stock, the L is jetted incredibly lean, and the vacuum slide is set for slow response.


  • ghoti

Posted April 19, 2005 - 05:01 AM


I've put 9000 miles on my 04 without any problems. I did the main mods, carb, air filter, de-smog. I did everything myself, i.e. made or ground out what I didn't need. I expect 20,000 without any hitches. Keep the oil fresh, 500 miles or so. I jet it by the plug. It is lean from the factory, so expect to richen it up. I sit in traffic with it and it does not get hot. It's basically your XR600 with a longer stroke. Same bottom end and head. First gear is much lower, so there is a big gap.

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  • ghoti

Posted April 19, 2005 - 07:06 AM


Oh, and my favorite thing about this bike is taking it out on Sunday and chasing the kids around the MX track, (be careful on the lands like the BRP it is), and the trails, bringing it home, washing off the mud, screw on the mirror switch back to the 15t sprocket, lube up the chain and ride it to work on Monday. :naughty:

  • nhdsrider

Posted April 19, 2005 - 07:38 AM


Well I think you guys gave me enough info to make me relax again and go for it. Since its air cooled, I might get one of the front fenders with the vent openings built in to allow air flow through it. Other than that, the mods I mentioned above, which did include uncorking it. I'm not one to leave something completely stock, I just don't want to go nuts with big mods, or get into internal engine stuff right off. I already know that I'm not going to worry about the warranty, because in my experience they are useless, and you just spend more time and effort fighting to get things covered than what it would take to fix them yourself anyway. I saw this both as a consumer and from my time working at an auto dealership, so I have some inside experience. Thats one reason I left the dealership for another auto tech job, because I got tired of seeing the customer get screwed. And right now my Yamaha snowmobile has been down since January for a problem I've been fighting with Yamaha about since Jan. '03. Now its taken them almost 3 months of fighting with the dealer & Yamaha Corp., and they STILL have my sled and haven't begun the work on it yet.

Oops...getting onto a rant...I just wanted to point out why I'm not afraid to do mods on a brand new bike. Since I plan to replace the tank, uncork it, and add accessories, most dealers up here will be voiding the warranty right off anyway. I know they aren't supposed to, but they do. Thats one of the things I fought with last year when I had warranty work done to my sled (replacing the seat because it soaked up water, and the brake light that didn't work since new), and the dealer tried to void the warranty because I installed a plug for a heated visor plug!


  • roadcam

Posted April 19, 2005 - 08:00 AM


as mentioned previously, your best mods would be un-corking, a bigger gas tank, and drop a tooth on the countershaft sprocket ... I'd like to add a fork brace to the list ... my Superbrace makes a major improvement in fork stability, and is a big help when encountering ruts, etc.. the Honda's stock forks aren't as flexible as some out there, but they do benefit from the brace .. :naughty:

  • justicedone

Posted April 19, 2005 - 08:29 AM


I am installing a Summers Racing fork brace this weekend and cant wait to feel the front end tightened up on freeway blasts over 80mph and through the ruts and rocks offroad.

I am sure it will be money well spent.

  • ghoti

Posted April 19, 2005 - 08:37 AM


Speaking of forks, I just changed my fork oil and replaced it with 10w instead of the recommeded 5w. The front end feels much better in the bumpy stuff and off of jumps. I am still full hard on the dampner so I guess the stiffer fork springs are in order.

  • nhdsrider

Posted April 19, 2005 - 09:03 AM


I would probably be beefing up my suspension in the future. I'm around 275 lbs. right now, but since I need to get back into shape, I sure won't be hammering the bike too hard for a while. I figure that will give me time to get used to off road riding again, get me used to the bike, lose some weight, and get back in shape. Hopefully by the end of the summer I'll have a better idea how well I'm doing, and whether I'll be ready to upgrade the springs.


  • thumper245

Posted April 19, 2005 - 08:08 PM


I've seen a few posts about a Clarke tank...any web site suggestions for where to get them? Thanks...

The best price that I have found was from Clarke. It is $170.

  • ghoti

Posted April 20, 2005 - 07:13 AM


I would probably be beefing up my suspension in the future. I'm around 275 lbs. right now, but since I need to get back into shape, I sure won't be hammering the bike too hard for a while. I figure that will give me time to get used to off road riding again, get me used to the bike, lose some weight, and get back in shape. Hopefully by the end of the summer I'll have a better idea how well I'm doing, and whether I'll be ready to upgrade the springs.


Not a personal remark in any way, but the biggest gain in XR650L performance is less weight. I can tell a big difference when my gas tank is empty. As you lose weight will be faster, that's incentive enough.

  • nhdsrider

Posted April 20, 2005 - 07:29 AM


No personal remark taken :naughty: and I fully realize how much better the performance will get as I lighten up. Its amazing how many people don't realize this simple idea. I see guys throwing on titaniam this and that, lightweight everything, and spending big bucks doing it to lose 5-10 lbs off the bike. Then the rider, who could easily stand to lose 20+ lbs, throws his leg over the seat. I might just be a cheap bastard, but I'd rather skip that second burger than shell out for parts made from unobtainium that cost more than I paid for the bike. At some point I know I'll be looking for a light weight exhaust and maybe a few other weight reducing items, but I don't need to spend big money removing 10 lbs. from the bike when I need to remove 60+ from myself first.

There was a time when I could go a year or so without riding off road and jump right back on where I left off and hammer the bike as hard as ever. Well with my increased age (I know at 33 I'm not old, but I'm no pup any more) it will take much longer to get used to doing something I haven't done in a while, and instead of it being a year or two since I've been on a dirt bike, its been almost 10 years. Then toss in the added hurdle of a fair amount of extra weight sitting down on the bike, and I know it will take a while before I'm up to the kinds of riding I used to do. But I'll be starting with onroad commuting and trips that will get me used to the bike again, and lots of high speed log road riding that will bring back some of my off road skills and build up my endurance level and strength. As I get better I'll spend more and more time pit riding and throwing the bike around in rough terrain. I just wish we had some tighter, technical trails around here. I used to love those, and they were a great way to build up strength and endurance.


  • ghoti

Posted April 20, 2005 - 08:48 AM


Welcome to TT Jim, I'm sure you'll find all kinds of information here, (just watch out for OT, the wiseguy forum :naughty: ) One side benefit of a heavy bike is as you're getting back into riding form, you get to dead lift for some added exersize :naughty:

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