RIDER COMMENTS :
Ken Hutchison – Editorial Director
The motor has good and bad points. The good is that it runs so smooth under all conditions we threw at it, with the one exception being a bit of an overheating problem during slow technical goat trail riding. I like the bottom-end power and the midrange seems perfectly suited to the gearing in stock trim. However it does sign off abruptly up top. It feels like it is going to keep making power but suddenly there’s nothing there. Keep in mind you’ll be going pretty damn fast when you top it out, so take this with a grain of salt.
After a long discussion with American Honda they agreed to help us race a couple of their XR650R machines in two of the world’s gnarliest off-road races, just to see if we were right. Honda put in a good word for us at Precision Concepts and the next thing we knew we have a Johnny Campbell replica sitting in our garage.
We learned a few valuable lessons during the Best In The Desert 500-mile Las Vegas-to-Reno race as we head into the toughest test of all for the XR650R: The SCORE Baja 1000. If the XR650R can get us across the finish line, it can do it for anyone. We don’t race off-road very much and we don’t claim to be anything but mere mortals, but we are going to give it a go because we have faith in the big-daddy from Honda and we want to learn firsthand if it can stand up to the abuse of the Granddaddy of all off-road races.
The Baja Designs kit we installed on this bike adds some street flavor, but the stock 650R is one sharp looking trail bike.
Brian Chamberlain (BC) – Creative Director
I was pleasantly surprised during my first ride aboard the big XR. Getting the big single to fire was easier than anticipated, although starting it after a crash could get a little frustrating at times.
Big sweepers were especially fun and the XR felt very confident when pushing hard and stepping the rear out, both on corner entry and exit. The brake lever had good progressive feel but just didn’t have enough juice to get all 305 lbs slowed down as soon as I would have liked.
Overall, the big XR proved to be a very capable machine that was a blast to ride. It also proved to be bulletproof during both our 8-hour-a-day test sessions, as well as during its 13 continual hours of use during the Vegas to Reno race. Aggressive riders will want to look at suspension options as well a front brake improvement. Long distance riders will definitely want to opt for an oversize fuel tank. The average weekend warrior, though, will love the big 650R right out of the box.
Joe Wallace – Lead Software Engineer
JC, our own dirt specialist had a hard time lifting the hefty front end. Apparently he’s just a squid since everyone else had no problem popin’ wheelies.
It definitely feels like a motor that is waiting to be uncorked. Cruising backroads or even tighter trails is pretty fun, and as long as you are not into getting crazy this bike works very well. It’s also a good looking bike and one of the easier starting four-strokes around. One of the strongest parts of this bike is its ability to take a beating. No matter how much you abuse it, the thing holds together very well.
Adam Sabedra – Parts Manager
I rode the XR650R at the Prospect OHV park because it offered a vast array of terrain. The morning started with rain and a fast-paced trail ride through the woods. The only real concern was the front brakes. They had a hard time stopping the big XR, and once they got hot it forced me to change my lines and re-think how hard I could charge the trees. My riding buddies were also surprised to see how well the XR kept up with their modern, smaller thumpers and it made me look forward to the next ride.
Return to the 2006 Honda XR650R Bike Test.