After taking up the most amount of wrenching time in our MotoUSA garage, the XR’s Only 2006 XR650R was a far cry from the stock machine. All of the mods worked as well as they look.
As our Editorial Director, Ken Hutchison, loaded the MotoUSA GMC Baja chase vehicle for a week of pre-running the Baja 1000, the memories of our 2005 expedition came flooding back. Pre-running for this year’s 39th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 began mid-October and Kenny once again rode our XR’s Only 2006 XR650R throughout. All told we had five of the Red beasts in 2005 and each of them had received at least some form of Baja prepping. Our XR’s Only bike was a step ahead of the other pre-runners but fell shy of our full-blown race bike.
Obviously, our Precision Concepts-built 650R was the head honcho, but the rest of our stable went through the same terrain with even less armor. Three of the bikes had simple mods like desert terrain tires, oversized handlebars, ASV levers and large-capacity fuel tanks, but the final machine was somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.
This bike was the true workhorse of the group, getting put through a stock bike test before pulling race duty in the BITD Las Vegas-to-Reno event and then leading our Baja pre-run. After it was all said and done, we had extracted a lot of performance from this bike and yet it hardly received worthy mention in our tales of MotoUSA’s desert forays. With another long and lonely Baja 1000 just around the corner, let’s take a look back at one of our most under-rated rides of 2005.
While there were several companies who helped us out with parts, no one came up bigger than Al Baker’s XR’s Only. With all of our lofty goals and our minimal desert experience, we knew from the beginning that we were a little over our heads. No matter how good of a rider you are, any desert machine needs to be beefed up with protection. This form of riding is notoriously hard on equipment, and since our bike was to be a true workhorse, part of our plan was to minimize the damage as much as possible while still transforming the sleeping Red beast into a real racer. The bike was adorned with all the standard mods like ASV unbreakable levers and rotating brake master cylinder clamp, Maxxis Desert IT meats, an IMS 3.2 gallon dry-break fuel tank, Acerbis MultiPlo handguards, and Renthal chain and rear sprocket. In order to set this bike apart from our other pre-runners, we enlisted the knowledgeable and generous staff at XR’s Only.
These are the contents of the care package we received from the good fellows at Al Bakers’ XR’s Only.
Upon hearing our side of the story, the crew in Hesperia, CA passed judgment on our case, ruled in favor of helping out and jumped into action by throwing an assortment of gadgets into a care package destined for our Oregon headquarters. The cardboard box was helpless against our assault and spilled its contents across our barren floor like a cornucopia of desert moto hardware. The first thing that caught our eye was a full-system stainless-steel exhaust. American Honda requested a performance exhaust system from XR’s Only for the XR650R during the machine’s pre-production phase years ago. The result was the first of the gleaming header/muffler combo now listed in the company’s catalog as the Competition Exhaust System, which we bolted on with great relish.
Installation of the aftermarket system was as simple as the three-piece stock unit. The two-piece header bolted right on and mated to the uncorked muffler with ease. Though we didn’t get another chance to mount some street tires and make a run on the dyno, our seat-of-the-pants testing registered a boost in power. All told, the free-flowing exhaust and de-restrictions on the airbus and carb really opened the top-end.
One of those breather mods that found gains in our engine performance was the high-flow side panel that attaches to the left side. Still allowing for tool-less access to the airbox, this component also makes it easier for cool air to reach the engine. Not only was this the simplest piece to install but it gave increased performance as well as adding to the racer look. To complete our aesthetic makeover we smoothed on a set of XR’s Only’s wicked graphics kit and replaced the stock seat cover with a two-tone Al Baker version. The gripper-style top was good for keeping our ass from sliding backwards as we neared triple-digit speeds across dry lakebeds. It was even better at keeping us tied down when we plowed into the silt beds immediately following.
Because the XR’s Only machine had the smallest gas tank, we voted to make Ken carry two extra 2.5-gallon cans tucked away in a pair of saddlebags. Our workhorse steed was part racer, part pack animal over the course of its wide use.
We’ve yet to discover any form of competitive motorcycling more abusive than desert racing. One area that is notorious for suffering impacts, leaks, blowouts and detonations are the wheels. Not only do the tires and wheels take a serious pounding, but the high-speed and rough terrain shred meats like a veteran BBQ chef. Anticipating frequent rear wheel changes, we used a trick 4 Strokes Unlimited Shark Fin to protect our binder and to make swapping wheels and tires as Les Schwabish as possible. Believe it or not, we didn’t have any problem with our rear tire on the XR’s Only bike at any point in our multi-month testing and racing schedule.
Even though the quick-change benefits never became necessary, we did manage to hammer the red-anodized aluminum piece on some burly rocks. There were plenty of gouges left over as evidence. Our other piece of sweet-looking, red-anodized aluminum was the upper triple clamp. Stronger, more rigid, and cooler, the XR’s Only fork holder opened the riding position a bit by raising the bars and was perfect for accepting our oversized Renthal Fatbars. The stock bar mounts needed to be replaced for our 1.25-inch add-on anyway so the triple clamp was a perfect fit for our project.
On top of our handlebars was a GPR steering stabilizer which we found to be appropriate for our desert rides, but cumbersome for less high-speed and technical applications. The GPR piece certainly kept the bars from ripping out of our hands on a number of big, unexpected impacts. However, lacking a distinction between high- and low-speed damping made the bars resist a rider’s light input during slow sections. This was most apparent when climbing rocky hills where muscling a heavy bike was difficult enough without having resistance on the bars. The result made it hard to pick your way through the nasties. Even still, it was better than nothing when the speeds picked up again.
This kind of riding was where the GPR stabilizer came in handy. Fast, rough sections were much easier on our blistered hands with this particular addition.
Our primary ride for race applications was the factory-prepped, Precision Concepts-built 2006 Honda XR650R, which is the same bike we’ll be using this year for its second tour of Baja 1000 duty. One of the major advantages it held over our XR’s Only machine was the Bob Bell-tuned suspension. We could easily have competed on the XR’s Only machine and produced satisfactory results, but modification to the suspension was obviously the missing link.
Given the high-quality turnout of the products we received in our care package from Hesperia, XR’s Only would have been one of our top choices for delving into the suspenders with their wealth of know-how and a catalog of alternate fork springs, braces and the like. Even though our XR’s Only machine didn’t have the motor or suspension work that our factory-replica machine did, the level of advancement over the stock bike was enormous and yet managed to retain the bulletproof reliability known to Honda’s off-road stalwart.
XR’s Only Honda XR650R Parts List
(Items marked with an asterisk (*) were exclusive to this machine and not included on the rest of our Baja Project 650s):
*XR’s Only Stainless Competition Exhaust – $299.95
*XR’s Only Stainless Header – $229.95
*XR’s Only Graphics Kit – $46.95
*XR’s Only Seat Cover – $59.95
*XR’s Only Billet Shark Fin – $124.95
*XR’s Only Triple Clamp – $149.95
The IMS dry break tank and receiver get put to good use in the 500-mile BITD Las Vegas-to-Reno race. Even though it wasn’t as decked out as our factory replica, the XR’s Only machine was the only MotoUSA bike to cross the finish line in Nevada.
*XR’s Only Left Side Number Plate – $71.95
*XR’s Only Speedo Drive Replacement – $29.95
*Michelin Bib-Mousse Foam Front Tube – $165.95
*IMS 3.2 gal Dry Break Fuel Tank – $249.95
*IMS Dry Break Receiver – $199.95
*IMS Pro Series Footpegs – $95.95
*GPR Steering Stabilizer – $374.99
*Renthal 520 R32 Works O-Ring Chain – $98.99
Renthal Rear Sprocket – $64.95
Renthal Fat Bar – Honda Bend – $89.99
Renthal Diamond/Waffle Grips (Gray) – $12.99
ASV F3 Pro Clutch Lever w/ Pro Perch & Hot Start – $135.00
ASV F3 Front Brake Lever – $70.00
ASV Brake Rotator Clamp – $25.00
Maxxis Desert IT Front Tire – $63.99
Maxxis Desert IT Rear Tire – $77.43
Acerbis MultiPlo Handguards – $99.95
Talk about this do-all desert bike in the forum.