Anybody who desires a good dirt bike can make a choice from a big selection, and a street rider has an even greater variety. Why get one of these machines, these compromises intended for the dual purpose of riding both hard and soft surfaces? Dual-sporting is a different approach to riding, involving mostly pavement, but a goodly number of hours on dirt roads and trails. Anybody who lives near a national forest or any place that offers miles of dirt roads should become a dual-sport enthusiast.
There are probably a million miles of dirt roads in this country-most of which require a license plate to ride. They are quite similar, especially in the engines: The three cylinders all have a mm bore, while the Honda and Suzuki have an 82mm stroke, the Kawasaki, 83mm. All have single overhead camshafts and four valves per head, and good counterbalancing systems to ward off the vibes.
The most important similarity is that all three machines have the pound button-also known as an electric starter. This made all the difference, as the bikes became very user-friendly and could be used as weekend exploring devices or fuel-conscious commuters. They sold in profitable numbers, and since they were involved in neither competitive action nor the chrome and radio wars, they have been pretty much left alone.
Tooling costs have long since been amortized, and sales continue at a respectable rate. How to choose among these three? As one wag put it, the most obvious difference may be that the Suzuki has rectangular rearview mirrors, while the other two have round ones. None of these bikes would be my choice for a cross-country trip on Interstate 80, but to ride a hundred or more miles on a freeway, at 75 mph, is entirely doable.
According to the stone simple but precise Rider scale, the wet weights of the Honda and Suzuki are and respectively, while the KLR rides in at pounds. Its additional avordupois can be attributed to its liquid-cooling, requiring a pump and radiator as well as a skid plate to keep from harm the pump that is mounted low at the right front of the crankcase. The Honda is air-cooled, with a dry sump and oil-in-frame, and our California model came with small engine guards to protect the crankcase as well as a great quantity of vulnerable emission-regulating hoses and stuff on the left side of the cylinder.
I mention all this because most dual-purpose machines will find themselves laying on their sides at some point or other in their lives, a result of minor spills on sandy roads or rocky trails. Nobody wants a simple stupidity to ruin the entire day. Pick it up and keep on going.
Owners of dual-sports are generally rather benign riders, sensible enough not to push the traction issue, content to take to the dirt surfaces with caution. All the front wheels are inchers—the dirt-bike standard—and the XR also uses a dirt-worthy inch rear, while the DR and KLR have odd inch rears.
Every wheel has a single-disc brake, and braking power on the rear wheels comes from single-piston calipers, while on the front both Honda and Suzuki have twin-piston calipers but the KLR suffers along with its single piston. All three engines sit in cradle frames, with leading-axle front forks and single-shock rear suspensions. It is still a major lift to get a leg over any one of these. Suspension adjustability varies. The DR has a non-adjustable 43mm fork, with spring preload and compression damping adjustments on the shock, and over 10 inches of travel; if one opts for a lower seat height on the DR, suspension travel drops to 8.
On the frosting side all three come with suitably minimalist toolkits and helmet locks. The KLR also has a useful luggage rack. Its footpeg placement made it easy to stand up when charging into some rough stuff, though at 6 feet, 3 inches, I find myself a bit too tall to look graceful doing this on-the-pegs routine. The DR suffers from its soft suspension, and what seems to be less low-end torque from the engine, although it was quite content to poke along at a moderate pace.
Its street-oriented tires are not very useful in steep uphill scrabbles, and fortunately we did not have to traverse any deep sand. In the middle was the KLR, with its strong torque, decent tires and middling suspension travel.
XR650R vs XR650L
On the pavement the KLR was king, with its big gas tank, comfiest seat, a tachometer 7, redline and the biggest of wind deflectors. It would probably be the bike of choice for anybody heading from Alaska to Argentina.
The DR was second-best onroad, and had the least vibration, in part due to its bar-end weights. The XR could not have cared less about its status on the asphalt; it just wanted to get to the next dirt road.The Honda XRL is a staple in the dirt bike world. At one time it was considered the most dirt-worthy dual-sport bike you could buy. Now, it fulfills a different role as a cross-platform machine that serves adventurers, commuters and trail riders. Even if you think you know it, the XRL is worth another look.
To make it into a dual-sport bike, Honda added electric start, more displacement and stiffer suspension. The motor is in a milder state of tune than that of thebut the added displacement gives it a smoother, torquier power delivery.
It has top-level suspension. The fork and shock can hold their own in comparison to modern equipment. For motocross, the upside-down designs were clearly superior, but for off-road, the switch was made for marketing reasons and had little to do with what the test riders thought. The fork on the L is a 44mm Showa cartridge conventional fork that is essentially the same thing that many top off-road riders used back then.
That appeared on the liquid-cooled XRR. Regardless, the fork on the XR is excellent and can be made even better with some attention. Honda gave the L stiffer springs than the R to handle the added weight of the electric starter and all the street stuff. The XR is around pounds.
Lower gearing, dirt tires, new footpegs and a new handlebar will do wonders. If you want to ride in the dirt, the XR only needs those modifications. All dual-sport bikes benefit from knobbies; that much goes without saying. Most can use lower gearing. Adding four teeth to the rear sprocket helps in the dirt without making it terrible on the open road.
And, that steel handlebar belongs in a museum. Not only is the material wonky, but the bend is a throwback to another time.
And finally, those stock footpegs are like standing on pencils. Call IMS. It will squeak out miles on the street with the stock 2. Acerbis, IMS and Clarke all offer bigger tanks. The more they modified the XR, the less reliable it became. Even the stock muffler is surprisingly good considering how quiet it is. If you do decide to hunt for a little more power, there are affordable solutions.
An aftermarket exhaust should be teamed up with a few well-placed vents in the airbox and rejetting. Moose has a Stage 1 jetting kit that makes that last part easy. The price is amazing. The tooling for this bike has long since been paid for, and Honda is probably doing just fine with that price. You might also like More from author. Bike Tests. Home Page Carousel.
Ron's Wrap. Prev Next. Follow Us dirtbikemag. Close this module.I t was a fitting first ride. The Dominator had been assembled for about a week when it crossed the border at San Ysidro.
Two days later, they would return. The Dominator, a newly refurbished Honda XRR, was as strong as the day it rolled off the assembly line. The Junior Dominator, however, was on the other end of a tow rope. If motorcycles have egos, it was humiliated. It was a legalized XRR that had made the Mexico run perhaps one too many times, and maybe, just maybe, it knew it was scheduled to be replaced by its bigger companion. It may well have died from a broken heart. The XRR had been a good bike, but it was a placeholder.
That spot in the Mark K garage had long been reserved for an XRR, which, as anyone worth his salsa will tell you, is the gold standard of Baja bikes. There had been a sitting there years ago.
That one was the original Dominator, so named after it was gone. A passive search continued for years. Honda Rs appear in the for-sale ads on a regular basis. They tend to be ridden hard and want for attention. Nothing breaks, so nothing gets replaced. The bike was produced from toso even the newest R is going to be about 10 years old, and most will have every original part aside from tires and chain.
In order to take the name Dominator 2, it would have to have very low time and show no abuse. In springthe search turned up a candidate. In fact, it had been crashed and parked. So even though it was a little rusty and a little bent, it got the nod, and project Dominator was on. Back init was brought to the market through the sheer willpower of one man. The old XRR was a dated, air-cooled play bike that got a second lease on life when Scott Summers decided to take it racing on the East Coast.
The XRL was no solution; it was a street-legal version of the same outdated bike. Ogilvie wanted a more powerful machine with modern technology and, above all, unquestionable reliability. Even though the old beast could hold its own in tight woods, the XR was incapable of holding together in the brutal, mph conditions of Baja. For nine years in a row Kawasaki won the Mexican with the incredibly powerful KX, while the Honda team struggled to just finish.
It won easily with Johnny Campbell as rider of record. The bike was everything Bruce O dreamed it would be. As fate would have it, though, Kawasaki had pulled the plug on its Baja racing program by then, so there was never a head-to-head showdown between a factory-backed KX and the XRR. It would have been a battle of giants. It was very specialized, and everyone who wanted one got one in that seven-year run. They never broke, so virtually all the original XRRs remained in service with no need for replacement.While upgrades and improvements to current models are always exciting and welcomed news, the announcement of the all-new CRFL is something that really took us by surprise, and ought to make some big waves in the motorcycle world.
Honda has always been known as one of, if not the most conservative manufacturers, so for Big Red to step out and break the mold like this is pretty awesome. Having the ability to legally ride on- and off-road, as any dual-sport rider can attest to, is a big deal, and it truly opens up a world of opportunities. You can now go basically wherever you want. This essentially translates to higher performance capabilities. The meat and bones of all three bikes are essentially the same, but each is tweaked and tuned differently for its own purpose.
Off-roading not really your thing?
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Or, imagine the L with inch supermoto wheels and tires. Are we getting warmer yet? The CRFL is lighter than even the two smallest cc dual-sports mentioned above. I know I would, and maybe even plan to now… Who knows? The aforementioned dual-sports can tackle most light off-roading and fire roads with ease and more moderate terrain in stockish trim, too — sure, why not?
Before you say the other bikes can do what real dirtbikes can do, know that for the most part I agree with you, and yes, the XR has dominated Baja in the past. Any bike in the right hands is capable of just about anything. A few kicks later and it came back to life. Ride the CRFL on the road and right onto the trail.
So easy, even a caveman can do it. The world is your oyster. The amount of fun you can have on a supermoto should be illegal. So get after it while you can! With two sets of wheels and tires, you could have the ultimate motorcycle. R Spec Sheet Shootout One platform, endless possibilities Don't Miss Stories on Motorcycle.I am going to be using it for mostly street use back and forth to work but I will be taking it into the dunes once in a while and some trails.
Based on this information could I bolt on an aftermarket bigger gas tank for an xrr and the stock rear suspension for an xrr onto an xrl?
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The XRR is a very fast water-cooled, kickstart-only dirt bike, very competent in the desert. The XRL is street legal, air-cooled, with an electric start. It is a decent, dirt-worthy dual sport bike in the tradition of big Hondas, but compared to the XRR, it is dog slow. R model is water cooled. L model is air cooled. R model is not street legal as delivered L model is a street legal dual sport R model has better suspension R model was the bike to ride in the desert until the release of the XRX XRR won the Baja several years in a row.
Great movie. So if you are looking for an off road bike, the R is the one, L for street and some trail riding. Johnny B. Update: I am going to be using it for mostly street use back and forth to work but I will be taking it into the dunes once in a while and some trails. Answer Save. This Site Might Help You. How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer. Elizabeth Lv 4. Source s : I have owned L's since and have ridden several R's.
My best friend rides an R right now. Way better engine in R, better suspension, made for off road. The L is a enduro type[hiwayand off road] R straight dirt bike. Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.In addition, its proven powerplant requires very little maintenance. Adventure is just the push of a button away. Fully equipped for the street—including turn signals, license-plate light, mirrors, speedometer and more. No maintenance hassles here, even in case of an off-road tip over.
The sealed battery has plenty of cranking power for the electric starter, and is well protected from the vibrations of off-road riding. American Honda Motor Co. Thank you for visiting www. Legendary Toughness Look at the creatures that survive in the desert: The scorpion. The tarantula.
The Gila monster. Tough, simple, proven. A lot like our legendary XRL. This street-legal dual-sport has survived everything decades of riders have thrown its way. Its simple, air-cooled cc single-cylinder engine just keeps going, while an electric starter makes it easy to begin any adventure.
Long-travel suspension that can take on Baja makes easy work out of your commute, no matter how lousy the pavement. Previous Rotate Next.
2015 - 2020 Honda XR650L
Left Arrow Right Arrow. Premium Features. Standard Features. You are now leaving the Honda Powersports web site and entering an independent site.A tripletree-mounted front fender leaves plenty of room for almost a foot of front suspension travel.
Cheek fairings shroud the engine and direct the cooling air, and a stubby fuel tank and bench seat finish out the flylines in a decidedly dirt-tastic fashion. Seat height falls out in the nosebleed section at inches tall; tiptoe zone for many riders, but necessary to accommodate the generous suspension travel. Flank panels below the two-up bench seat enclose the subframe area and guard the central-mount muffler. Honda may be right about this being an all-road bike, but at the end of the day it comes off looking like pure dirt.
Steering geometry measures out at 4 inches of trail with 27 degrees of steering-head rake, numbers that provide a certain amount of stability while retaining some agility. Showa provides the suspension components with a set of 43 mm forks up front and monoshock in back. The forks come with air-adjustable preload and position compression damping while the Pro-Link rear shock sports adjustable spring preload and position, compression- and rebound-damping adjustment.
At Laced wheels drive that point home even further with a single disc on both ends to manage braking duties with a twin-pot caliper to bite the front disc and a single-piston caliper pinching the rear.
At 21 inches, the front wheel is capable of negotiating some pretty rough stuff, as is the 18 incher that brings up the rear. Street-knobbies do provide decent traction on the hard, but you had better respect them or you will find yourself in a lowsider one day, and probably sooner rather than later. If there are any remaining questions about the intended use of this ride, the 13 inches of ground clearance should remove all ambiguities. This bike is built for the bumpy stuff, no doubt about it.
An air-cooled thumper drives the ride with a mm bore and 82 mm stroke that gives us a total displacement of cc. A single over-head cam times the four-valve head, and a mild, 8. Oh, and carburetor fans rejoice! The powerplant still uses a Power output is around 40 ponies, and top speed is around mph, way faster than you should ever go on knobbies, says I.
I find this simplicity to be refreshing, and feel like this ride will be easy for the lay-mechanic to maintain; a huge selling point in my book, especially on a bike that may see service well off the beaten path.
The lines between dual-sport and adventure bike vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and at first I was tempted to draw the KLR from Kawasaki. A small fairing and windshield give it too much of an adventure-bike look that makes it seem like more bike than it really is, so in spite of the similarities, I have to cast it aside for the difference in looks if nothing else.
Suzuki saves the day with its DR S, an almost identical twin to the XR with the same clamp-mount front mudguard and similar flylines all the way back.