Honda introduced its XR line of off-road bikes more than 30 years ago and it remains a popular favorite to this date. At one point Honda produced 10 different models in the same year. With the addition of other dirt bike lines taking up assembly line time, by 2004 Honda had streamlined the models down to four. The main focus of these lines is completely on offroad driving and racing; in fact the 650L was the only street-legal XR produced in 2004.
All four XR models use four-stroke engines (not as common in dirt bikes as two-stroke engines due to the usual power difference), however these engines were designed well enough that they all provide plenty of kick with the added benefit of higher fuel efficiency over similar two-stroke engine models. These bikes are known for their excellent performance and handling. All models have low-maintenance, single disc braking systems with two-caliper front system gripping for the added stopping power these fast bikes need. They all have a state of the art suspension in both the front and rear, each having a minimum of 16-way adjustable dampening on them for maximum shock absorption and comfort. All models come in a standard red, the only the color associated with Honda racing motorbikes.
Alas this was the last year for the XR 250R and 400R which again had nothing to do with these bikes being inferior in any way. Honda had been working on similar models which came out the following year. Still for those looking for the original, lighter-weight XR models the 2004 models are the newest ones available and the representation of the culmination of decades of Honda XR technology and ingenuity. Both of these smaller models use an air-cooling system for a lighter cooling system with no liquid to keep refilling. Simplicity and durability are the key selling points of these two off-road bikes that have made them quite sought after in the secondhand market today.
There isn't a whole lot of difference between the Honda XR 650L and 650R as they are basically the same bike, except the 650L is the street legal version. The 650R features a lightweight model engine and the only one of the four bikes that is liquid-cooled verses air-cooled. The heavier engine and slightly larger fuel tank in the street legal version gives it about 60 pounds of added weight compared to the one designed for racing. Honda was able to keep the power to rate ratio the same for the two bikes as they both have a pretty impressive maximum torque of 47.2 lb-ft at the low revolution of 5500 rpm. Motorcyclists with access to a trail from their backyard or full-size pickup truck owners might opt for the lighter bike. Both do well on dirt trails but the 650R has better traction and speed over the legal version and is one of the few dirt bikes that can push past the 100 mph barrier other dirt bikes can't come near. Those with a need for dirt bike speed often end up with a Honda XR 650R in their garage. The XR 650L is again no slouch and makes total sense for those who want to have hours of dirt bike fun as well as touring around town and daily commutes to work. It's adaptability and flexibility make the 650L appealing to a broad base of motorcyclists, making it one of Honda's longest and best-selling motorbikes in its history.