Since 1979, Honda has led the way in the realm of off-road dirt-bike-style motorcycles. The Honda XR 185, XR 250, and XR 500, along with other popular models, all provided power, durability, and style to dirt bike enthusiasts. In 1982 and 1992, Honda released the XR 600 series. These bikes proved extremely popular, especially after desert racers Johnny Campbell and Scott Summers won several Baja races on their XR 600s. In the year 2000, Honda released the XR 650 as a replacement in the line-up for the XR 600. However, Honda did more than simply update the 600 series. The Honda 650R was a completely redesigned motorcycle with a unique frame and a brand new, liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine. The Honda XR 650L, on the other hand, is quite different from the 650R. In fact, the 650L is more similar in style and function to the XR 600. Honda designed the 650R for racing, while the XR 600L is a dual-purpose machine that was made for off-road or city driving.
The Honda XR series is defined by the 2008 XR 650L. Many motorcycle enthusiasts are disappointed in bikes that are advertised as dual-purpose machines. In the attempt to make a bike fit into more than one category, dual-purpose motorcycles often disappoint all around. However, the Honda XR 650L is the exception to this rule. On dirt tracks, the knobby tires, high seat, and adjustable suspension make the Honda XR 650L an enjoyable bike to ride. On test rides, the motorcycle scored well, displaying great ground clearance that enabled riders to easily clear trail obstructions. The engine delivered excellent torque and power, especially on gravel and dirt tracks. However, off the beaten path, test drivers told a different story. Riders observed that the XR 650L seemed very top-heavy and difficult to balance at slow speeds. When dealing with tight turns and typical cross-country terrain, the XR 650L felt a bit awkward. Additionally, the 37-inch seat height made the XR 650L challenging for shorter riders. However, test riders said that overall, the XR 650L is a good motorcycle for weekend dirt biking.
On city streets, the Honda XR 650L did not disappoint either. Test drivers were pleasantly surprised to find that a bike that performed so well off-road was just as much fun in town. The suspension and frame handled the pavement well, and the geometry of the bike ensured that the motorcycle approached curves and turns with finesse. The XR 650L produced much less vibration than anticipated at highway speeds. The only negative noted was that the ergonomics of the seat and handlebars of the Honda XR 650L are very uncomfortable for long-distance driving. Additionally, the small gas tank guarantees that motorcyclists will not be taking this bike on cross-country interstate trips.