The Honda XR650R is a legendary dirt bike that’s worthy of any dual-sport or dirt bike enthusiast consideration.
After all, it lends itself to dirt bike riding as it does to adventure riding. I mean – just look at that headlight!
Firstly – this bike rips along! These are bikes which are damn hard to source in the used market given the reputation that they built for themselves. It makes us wonder why Honda ever stopped the production of the XR650.
This bike is known as a Mexican superhero due to its association with the Baja 1000 having won the 1999 race despite Kawasaki holding the title for 9 years. The invention of the XR650 was all because of one person in Honda’s new bike development team called Bruce Ogilvie. For years he was pitching this concept to his bosses until they eventually listened. It didn’t go easy as there was already a big bore XR in the lineup, but it was nowhere near what Bruce had foreseen.
The bike has earned not only a reputation as a powerful beast but one that is very reliable. They almost never broke down and even today, you’ll find them on Craigslist and Gumtree. It’s truly a legacy bike and often held by those who just don’t want to give up the keys to this mastercraft.
This is closer to a dakar-inspired race bike rather than MX super hero. You’ll find it on enduro tracks with a lot of top-end power as opposed to a twichy throttle in low gears. The bike appears to go…and go…and go!
Yet it appears to be more of an adventure or dual sport bike as opposed to a bike that you can throw around on the local trails. Set up some panniers and see the world behind the handlebars of this reliable demon.
Why Did It Stop Production?
For 7 years the XR650R was produced by Honda with massive fan-fare. After all, seeing it win the Baja 1000 after all those years held by Kawasaki was refreshing for the Honda fans. They wanted the bike for that element alone.
Given the rise in technology of the big bores, the XR650R became super-seeded by more powerful and robust engines of the same capacity, or often less. The Honda CRF450 Rally for instance for Ricky Brabec’s bike of choice to win the 2020 Dakar Rally.
While 20 years ago it would take a great capacity bike to accomplish such records, now the same can be done with 450cc dirt bikes which are merely tuned up. The same can be said with KTM as both Alex Doringer and Toby Price ride 450s which have come a long way.
Still Worth It?
Given that these bikes are more than 15 years now, their parts availability is becoming more limited. Instead, we see more potential in lighter and more powerful 450’s or even a 250.
If we had all the space in the garage to fill and simply wanted a bike to ‘see what it could do’, then the XR650R would be at the top of our list. Otherwise, we can expect many bikes on the market to be running original parts which are in need of replacement. This is both an expensive and time-consuming process, and we’d rather be out there riding!