Let’s kick off the Aloop blog with everyone’s favorite large-displacement four-stroke: The legendary Honda XR650L! This proven machine has been revered in dual-sport, desert, and offroad riding circles since its release in 1993. Virtually unchanged since then, the XR650L has earned a cult following which praises the big red beast for its broad power, unflappable carburetion, solid suspension, and insane durability. Inside and out, this is an awesome motorcycle.
Here at Aloop, we’ve always been mega-huge fans of Honda’s air-cooled four-stroke lineup, yet the XR650L holds a special place in our hearts. That’s why we’ve secured a brand new 2020 XR650L project bike that we intend to tune, tweak, test, and modify in order to squeeze every available ounce of performance from the loveable thumper. In the process, we’ll be documenting each step we take, giving you an inside look at just how to take the XR650L to the next level.
Before we begin turning wrenches, however, we wanted to take a second to address some of the XR650L’s main areas of opportunity (read: weaknesses). Here’s where we intend to focus the majority of our efforts:
The stock, claimed weight of the XR650L is 346 pounds—not exactly light by our standards. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to diet this machine. We’ll start with the low-hanging fruit by removing everything we don’t need, and from there we’ll address some of the less-obvious opportunities to get the bike to fighting weight. Don’t expect anything under 300 pounds, but even ten less on a bike like this makes a huge difference.
To put it mildly, riding the stock XR650L fuel tank is like having a watermelon between your knees. If you’re reading this, you’re likely well aware of the flagship modification that Aloop sells: the 4SMX tank/seat kit (see more at here). This kit provides a whopping four-inch narrower point of contact at the tank, as well as putting the pilot four inches farther forward. These improvements allow the rider to put his or her weight much farther forward on the bike, which improves just about everything regarding the XR’s handling abilities, and it makes the XR650L feel lighter, more flickable, and easier to corner. Additionally, the new Aloop seat has a flatter shape found in Honda’s CR lineup, eliminating the odd humpback feel of the stock setup.
The XR650L’s suspension is pretty good—until it isn’t. What we mean by that is that both the fork and shock provide a good bit of initial comfort, as well as decent bottoming resistance on G-outs and landings where the shock moves slower. Where the suspension starts to come up short, however, is on rough terrain when ridden aggressively. Repeated hits can cause the rear end to pack, as the XR650L’s high-speed rebound just can’t keep the rear end up in the stroke. Out front, once you fix the back end of big red, the fork likewise needs a more progressive feel in order to keep it from packing under heavy braking.
Towering Seat Height
A lot of riders strive to lower the rear end of the 650L; fortunately, there are some suspension solutions out there that offer a more accessible seat height while fixing the packing/rebound issues. We’ll be tackling this issue in depth.
GPS mounts. LED headlights. Anodized bling. Oh, lordy, the bling! There are countless aftermarket options for the XR650L; some are great, some are horrible, and most are in between. We’ll be dipping into some of the more functional aftermarket offerings out there, and providing some recommendations for the Honda that we feel make the most sense.
Suggestions? Comments? Shoot us an email at XR400@aloop.com if you’ve got some input into the direction you want us to go with this build. In the meantime, we’ll keep you updated as the Aloop XR650L project bike unfolds!