OK, sounds like the XRL challenge is on!
As long as its not a speed or jumping contest, lets hear what an XR400 or XR650R will do that the XRL won't.
I love a challenge...
On a XR400 I can climb anything a XL650L can. I can ride longer and faster on tight single track. I can pull a wheelie in third and shift into 4th and 5th. (My XR400 has a stock bore but, it does not have stock carburetor or exhaust). To bad the challenge can't be completed because of distance, I would love to take this challenge. Sure if you change the rules enough and take out big hills also, a CRF230 can be in the mix (also NOT a serious off road bike). To bad someone didn't say DRZ400e. It can do everything a XL650L can and more!
XR650R is no contest because it is a serious off road bike. Not as serious as a KTM525 but, It can do a few things better then that bike and a lot not as good.
The rider might be a serious off road rider but, The XL650L is NOT. You might make it anywhere, any other bike can but, if you push a CRF50 (or carry it) it too will. The silly part about this talk is "a guy buys a bike and it's 'HIS' and he is proud of it" if you get into what it can and can't do compared to another bike, most get all bent out of shape. They haven't even spent years on other bikes, all they know is they have a bike that works and they are having a blast! Great but, what has that to do with comparing bikes?
If a XR650R can get there faster with less effort, it is better. If a XR400 can get there faster with less effort it is better. I have been on tight single track (with a XR400) that I can get through faster and with less effort then my XR650R. In that case (or on that trail) the XR400 is better. In the dirt in all ways, at all times the XR650R is better then the XR650L. The suspension on the XR650L is a joke. The carburetor is a joke. The weight is a joke, all can be fixed to a point but, that takes money. The XR650R has the suspension the XR650L needs but, would need lighter fluid to be ideal. The carburetor on the XR650R would be OK on the XL650L, there are a lot of things that can be done to loose some of the weight on the XL650L. This same story is gone through time and again between XR650R bikes, Stock carburetor, stock suspension, stock exhaust. There are those that these stock parts are "Good enough" but, there are bike that are much better with after market setups. If your riding off road I don't see the need for the "L", they cost about the same. I can get a New, XR650R (2004) OTD for $4,999.
My GMC Safari or Chevy Astro van can go almost every where that my lifted Chevy truck can but, it's not an off road vehicle. Just because someone likes to put around off road and go anywhere on there XL650L doesn't make it an equal to other off road bikes because, the rider is good enough to make the bike get there.
The XR650L was made at low cost for a certain "type of person". It's what a lot of guy's call a "Parts Bike". The bike is not made for a certain type of rider but, is targeted for a certain type of buyer. It's not about "YOUR" bike or how well "YOU" can ride it. But, what the bike can do (all things being the same) against other bikes.
It would have been better if you could have come up with anything that the XR650"L" can do the same as "GOOD" as the XR650R or XR400 off road.....nothing
But, Jayzonk got it right it can do these thing good,
It's good for going from A to B by the least direct route.
It's good for going on secondary highways and backroads, then finding a spot in a small town to kick your boots off, have a drink and eat a sandwich at a local diner.
It's good for going and closing the gate after all the cows are in the pasture.
It's good for following your kid when he's on his first motorbike so he feels secure, and so his dad feels like his buddy too.
It's good for guys that need to get out of the house and blow off some stress by hitting a trail.