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braindead0

Short review of Honda XR650L for exploring use..

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Saturday I got in about 30 miles, half off road on fairly nice gravel/dirt roads.. washed out and rocky in places, sandy in places...  etc..  The short of it, it's exactly what I expected.  Handles off road very well, to me feels very much like a dirt bike albeit heavier.  I was able to do 40mph + on rutty nasty roads without drama.  Eventually I'll get a set of DOT knobbies and 'tubeliss' and have move confidence flying through corners, likely change gearing further at that time if necessary.  Suspension feels about right, haven't made any adjustments..I'm sure I will eventually.  

Due to the bars being kinda low, or pegs high. or both combined.. standing while riding has me in a pretty substantial 'crouch' to keep my body upright and balance correct.  14 or so miles of off road with intermittent standing and holy cow I can still feel it in my thighs... the stabilizer muscles on the sides of the quad really took a beatin!  Feels good, I'll get back into it and also try to straighten up the ergos a bit with handle bar risers and maybe lowered pegs.

Now let the mods begin! 

  • Built a small rack for the rear, to hold tools/emergency supplies, etc
  • Gearing is tall, I've got a new front sprocket waiting to be installed (dropping one tooth, not a big change but may be enough  for now).
  • Mounted RAM ball mount for GPS, and USB power..
  • re-jetting in progress, I'm waiting for a special tool for the pilot screw and I've got a UNI foam filter coming which may require some tweaks. 
  • Handlebars a bit low, or pegs too high.. I've got a 40mm riser coming, may need new cables as well.. I'm going to wait and see.
  • Removed a bunch of EPA mandated stuff, things that could go wrong in the field..... 

 

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Awesome BD, when I start looking for a bike, I hope you won't mind if I ping you for some feedback. Also, any shops you can suggest for lifting the Armada?

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Don't mind at all.  As far as lifting, the only good shop I know of is Dr. Smash in Carson City and I only know about his work from other people.  My Jeep is nearly stock, and I've done all the mods it has.  If I wanted to get some work done, based on glowing reviews on Reno4x4.. I'd go there.  Might be pricey though, no clue on that.

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You know, I saw this odd little motorbike on the road today.  Looks like a miniature dual sport pit bike, almost, but more "streety" than "offroad".  Turns out it was a Honda Grom. 

So I got to looking around.  100cc's or so, and guys are turning them into full on scramblers.  They're not as capable as the larger bikes, but they're small and light, which means packing along a recon bike *in* the truck starts to become doable.  Then I started looking at some of the other intermediate dirt bikes in the 100-125 class, and some of the offerings are downright puny, but still sized right for my short self. 

I realize most would consider a 125 4-stroke to be a toy (and it is, really) unsuitable for anything by a small child.  But my goal isn't to log hop and get air - I just want to keep going when the road ends.  It's like a horse, but with different inputs (and outputs). 

Considering you can get a new bike in that class for not a whole bunch more than you'd pay for a nice condition CT90, it's a no-brainer. 

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I saw a couple of Grom's at the Honda shop, they are really small.  You might want to browse here: https://www.txpowersports.com/cheap_chinese_dirt_bikes_for_sale_s/2.htm

I've seen lots of adults ripping around in the desert on these 70cc pit bikes, looks hilarious but they'll get up and move well enough.  I would think that certain models have a following, so upgrades/modifications should be possible.  100# motorcycle sure does seem handy, toss it in the back and good to go. To me the Honda is way overpriced for what you're getting, however it's street legal so there is that.. if you need it.

It sure is nice having all these options.....

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The Honda has a pretty good aftermarket, too.  That's one consideration.  That, and it's unlikely to just shit itself mid-trail.  I dunno.  Might just be another one of my stupid ideas, too.  I have lots of those lately.

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11 minutes ago, desertdog said:

The Honda has a pretty good aftermarket, too.  That's one consideration.  That, and it's unlikely to just shit itself mid-trail.  I dunno.  Might just be another one of my stupid ideas, too.  I have lots of those lately.

I would expect the Grom to have a pretty good aftermarket, it hasn't been around as long as the pit bikes..  I would expect the honda to have better components as well, brakes, suspension, etc...  The chinese knock off are probably better for folks who want to tweak and mess around.. vs. just get on and ride.  That was one factor in my choosing a Honda.., I like tweaking/modding but want to ride mostly.

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1 hour ago, braindead0 said:

 

I would expect the Grom to have a pretty good aftermarket, it hasn't been around as long as the pit bikes..  I would expect the honda to have better components as well, brakes, suspension, etc...  The chinese knock off are probably better for folks who want to tweak and mess around.. vs. just get on and ride.  That was one factor in my choosing a Honda.., I like tweaking/modding but want to ride mostly.

That's the thing.  Sometimes, I don't mind "buying" a project.  Other times, I want turnkey.  This is a case where I'd prefer turnkey.

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8 hours ago, desertdog said:

That's the thing.  Sometimes, I don't mind "buying" a project.  Other times, I want turnkey.  This is a case where I'd prefer turnkey.

I think you'll find that it's a project anyway.  My main concern with the Grom would be the fuel injection, it'll be running pretty lean from the get go and FI may mean limited options to correct it.  In an air cooled engine running lean is very likely to shorten it's life.. and may leave you stranded if you're doing a lot of slow moving technical stuff.   I would expect there are some options, maybe a programmer available.  I'd make sure before buying one.

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1 hour ago, braindead0 said:

I think you'll find that it's a project anyway.  My main concern with the Grom would be the fuel injection, it'll be running pretty lean from the get go and FI may mean limited options to correct it.  In an air cooled engine running lean is very likely to shorten it's life.. and may leave you stranded if you're doing a lot of slow moving technical stuff.   I would expect there are some options, maybe a programmer available.  I'd make sure before buying one.

I would think EFI should be 'smart' enough, along with an O2 sensor, to get pretty close to a 14.7:1 ratio - that's sort of the whole point, or at least one of the points - to provide better control over fuel metering within a given range of fuel-air ratios. 

That said, if they tried to further lean it out, then they (Honda) would be doing something very wrong, in my opinion.  Higher flow injectors would probably compensate, though sloppily, for a more restricted injector, assuming the ECU did not try to compensate by shortening the pulsewidth proportionally.  Or if it's using an O2 sensor, a sensor simulator would be an option, too. 

But, then there I go, down the rathole I don't want to go down. 

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10 hours ago, desertdog said:

I would think EFI should be 'smart' enough, along with an O2 sensor, to get pretty close to a 14.7:1 ratio - that's sort of the whole point, or at least one of the points - to provide better control over fuel metering within a given range of fuel-air ratios. 

That said, if they tried to further lean it out, then they (Honda) would be doing something very wrong, in my opinion.  Higher flow injectors would probably compensate, though sloppily, for a more restricted injector, assuming the ECU did not try to compensate by shortening the pulsewidth proportionally.  Or if it's using an O2 sensor, a sensor simulator would be an option, too. 

But, then there I go, down the rathole I don't want to go down. 

You'll find that a lot of EFI systems on motorcycles, in particular at this price point.. do not have an O2 sensor, they use a throttle position sensor and engine RPM's to do the fuel mapping and that's it.  You'll also find 'enrichment knobs' or 'high idle knobs' which in essence function like a choke on a carb, because they don't have any temperature input for ambient or incoming air.  Even higher end sport bikes often do not have O2 sensors, relying on air temperature, intake vacuum/air flow and FI controlled throttle butterfly valves.   In essence motorcycle FI systems are often very low tech.

EPA emissions regulations on motorcycles have required lean running for decades, some bikes even come with catalytic converters buried in the exhaust.   FI bikes may have less symptoms than carbed bikes, but take of a spark plug and you'll find it's running a bit lean.. which means hotter.. which is not good for air cooled engines.. in general.

 

 

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Back to the original subject.  I cleaned up the jetting, removed the airbox snorkel (serious restriction). Just got a new UNI filter today, and adjusted the pilot circuit.  Pretty sure I got 5hp out of this, mid range is much stronger than stock and the jetting feels very clean.. no surging at light load/low throttle settings and responds instantly to throttle input.  Also installed 14tooth front sprocket (stock is a 15), and bar risers about 20mm or so seemed to be enough.  And changed the oil (looked pretty nasty for only 50 miles, no surprise there).

Future likely upgrades

  • 4+ gallon gas tank (Acerbis has a 5.8 gallon.. fill 'er up and drive all day).
  • gear down, swap out rear 45tooth sprocket.. 48/50/52 are all options.  I'll wait and see how I like the gearing now, may be good.
  • tubliss, these things are awesome and well proven, no more trailside tube repair. 
  • Aggressive DOT knobbies.

Saturday is looking nice, I'll get out somewhere and get it dirty.  Probably nothing really explorey..

At this point I'm mostly breaking in, making sure it's going to be ready for next season.  Likely first thing next season, spend a day in the nightingale mining district, explore the mountains between the valley and Nixon see what's up there.   I know there's an old shack and some foundations that we tried getting to once but the road petered out..

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The road up to this canyon was nearly single track, ATV/UTV wouldn't have had a problem but a tight squeeze for anything larger. 

Ride was mostly easy stuff, still shaking out things.  My idle jetting is too rich (hot starts require opening throttle a bit to let in more air.  Adjusted when I got home, might try to bring my 90degree driver and bit next time I take it out.

GPS occasionally losing power.  I think this is mostly because I used a USB cable, so I've got 12volt power to a 12v-USB power adapter (stripped and hard wired) and that to a USB - USB mini cord plugged into GPS.   I think I'm going to hard wire a 12-v to USB mini adapter, that will eliminate one connection.

I could use some more storage, there are small saddle bag options as well as bags that attach to front fender, and number plate above headlight.  I suspect that a hydration pack with enough storage for lunch will likely be the best option.

I'll likely lower gearing more.  Up on the highway 65mph with my non-aerodynamic profile sitting upright, going up hills there's not much power left.  

Off road this bike does does what I want without any drama.  Easy to maneuver when things get tight and plenty of power, my feet only touched ground twice on this ride.  Once when I stopped on a hill (large juniper blocking view, couldn't read the road) and another time when I took the harder line (on purpose ;-) and my rear wheel slid into a rut and I needed to steady.  I'm slowly getting my 'dirt legs' back, feels good.

redrock.JPG

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Just took it out for about 20 minutes, it's handy being so close to off road access.  Practiced hill climbing and descending, really rocky washed out stuff in the hills around here.  It's nice to get into some more challenging terrain.

Still haven't dropped it...  I'll just keep inching up the challenges ;-)

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Finally got into some terrain that would be very difficult in a 4x4 without a lot of lift.  The hills around my neighborhood (northwest Reno) are covered with trails on Forest land and BLM land.  Needless to say these trails get a LOT of use.  It's nice though that I have slippery rocky hills, sandy hills, rutty/hugely uneven terrain.  This one trail I was one was so ripped up that it had 3-4' tall whoops at points.. No problem for ATV, motorcycle, short wheelbase UTV.. but I know my Jeep would have high centered for sure.  A 6" lift on 35" with a short wheelbase wrangler/samurai or the like probably okay.  Long wheelbase vehicles not so much.

Also ended up on a hill that just kept getting steeper and was mostly small rocks, was pretty much slipping and sliding my way up the hill.  Fairly easy stuff, I was worried that I'd forget how to handle that kind of hill.. but I didn't (still have not dropped it!, when I do there will be pictures!)

Jetting still not quite right, I'm going to go one more up on the main which should be right about perfect.  Maybe a tad rich however being air cooled it's likely better, mileage may suffer a tad but I should still get 50+ per gallon.

I've got a tubliss setup on it's way, I'll be able to run low pressure safely (down to 0psi with stiff sidewall tires) as well as make trail patching easy.  That should help with the sandy hill climb.

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My new dual sport bike you mean ;-).  After spending a ton of time trying to find the right dirt bike (they are easy to plate for street here)..  I realized that dirt bikes are designed for dainty widdle girly men, often having load limits of a tad over 200#.  I could get down to 180/190 but that doesn't leave any room for anything and I lose a lot of muscle doing it (at least that's what I say ;-). 

Dual sport bikes are generally designed with passenger carry and luggage in mind so the weight limits are much higher.  The XR is really close to a dirt bike, sure feels like it.. once I get it geared where I want it'll be close enough.  It sucks on the freeway, but I don't intend to do that much.  Compared to the KLR650 this bike is super light, I've taken this places I would never have taken a KLR (at least not comfortably).  

I'll keep adding notes to this thread, hope to have tubliss installed by next week.  I'll go back to that hill and try it with 14PSI or so.. should have tons more traction compared to the 22psi I'm running now.

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You bring up a very good point about bikes in general and why I realize I would need a UTV over a bike. I have far too much gear that I carry to use anything other than a UTV or ATV (I am not sure an ATV would work). I already fill up the back of my Armada with 3 cameras, stabilizers, drone, explore gear, and so much more. Plus, I weigh in at about 230 lbs, so that pretty much limits me on what kind of bike I could get. I am going to have to drop the money on a nice UTV.

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For my purpose I just need a camera. 

IMO main issue with a UTV/ATV is width, even on a 2 track if it gets seriously off camber you may have a difficult time.  I suspect that the likelihood of roads being unpassable to a UTV should be extremely small.   UTV's is designed to handle pretty serious terrain, low center of gravity, short wheelbase.. and if it falls over, flip it upright and keep going you're very unlikely to break anything.. as far as I know they're pretty tough.  They also don't require developing any really specialized skills, I'm sure there are new skills to be learned but they shouldn't be all that different than driving a 4x4 off road.

For your purpose, and considering you often explore with others.. a UTV is likely a good option. I can't be much help on UTV's specifically, never had one.  You'll likely have to go through a lot of research to pick the right one, the market used to be pretty small but now it seems there are several classes from smaller Mule style UTV's to 4 door monsters that might as well be a Jeep Wrangler..  I'd think a UTV is better than an ATV in this case as well. 

I look forward to the thread on 'UTV For Exploring Purposes', you might as well get started researching... the market is HUGE and I suspect at least some folks here have experience with them...  You might be ready to buy in the spring ;-)

Also realized another advantage for you, no need to purchase a bunch of specialized tools/riding gear/etc. You'll likely want helmets and goggles, maybe gloves. I'm sure their are plenty of aftermarket goodies that'll be tempting though..

then there's the trailer, place to park trailer/UTV..  this stuff is complicated ;-)

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Kinda wished I did dual sport long ago or something similar way back when I started driving. I simply can not afford it these days, plus I have no means of getting a endorsement (afford it or not).

I know, excuses, excuses.

Places I could ride around here, even gas stations in between (paved roads in small towns, and one park), then back onto (dirt/gravel) backroads/trails.

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I learned to ride and drive off road first. When I got my driving permit (and eventually license) it was for motorcycle only, I couldn't legally drive a car until I was 19 or so when a job wanted me to do some driving so I went out and got that.  I'm pretty comfortable on 2 wheels needless to say ;-)

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