The Honda XR series, 4 stroke torque monsters, are as reputable as they are heavy.
Baja bikes, woods racers, trail bikes, or street rippers, you might have a damn hard time finding another era-specific racer/dirt track/roadie as solid as the Honda XR600 and 650L.
We scoured reviews, videos, and message boards to bring you some examples of a series of bikes built so perfectly that they are basically unaltered in production since the late 80s.
Scroll down to find out how long the Honda 600XR and 650L will last!
Honda’s XR 600 & 650L Are Going to Last You a Good Long While
The Honda XR600R was designed originally in 1981 as a trail bike, but also versatile enough to slay competition in races like the Baja 1000 and rip it up comfortably on the blacktop. In 1993, Honda introduced the XR650L, a bike almost carbon copied from the XR600R. It was introduced with a couple more CCs, a little less weight, and a design good enough to exist up through this year. I hear the 2023 XR650L is going to be a ripper!
As long-term series production bikes go, the basic idea of these off-road 600s and dual sport 650s was built around the top-notch Honda 46HP, 96lb engine. Even trying to disintegrate these bikes on rugged trails or long distances is almost a moot point.
The XR600R was in production for 17 years, unchanged from 1988 to 2000. The next XR model, the 650L borrowed much from its older brother and has been on the market unchanged for 30 years. These road and trail-warriors are here to stay, and you’ll be hard-pressed to grind them down to the point of failure!
How Many Miles Do You Get on a Honda XR 600 & 650L?
There’s a varying range of mileage on dirt/street bikes depending on how much you use them for relatively flat street riding or ripping around hard in the dirt, punishing the brakes, shocks, and hitting high RPMs in low gears.
Fortunately for us, there are a wide variety of high mileage XR600s and 650Ls! The first couple XRs we had a chance to take a look at the specs on were running strong at 25,000-60,000 miles.
Take a look at these real deal examples of Honda XR600 and XR650 mileage:
- 1985 XR600R sold with 24,000 miles. An everyday rider, the owner of this XR600R racked up 24,000 miles, half on dirt and half off. He did it in only three years and reported that when he sold the bike, the engine was still quieter than a lot of competitors’ bikes.
- 1995 XR650L with 60,000 original miles. Purchased new in 1996, this bike was used as a long-distance commuter, rolling tire on an average of 400 miles a week.
- XR600R sold with 25,000 miles. No major complaints from this former owner. He even sold it to a guy who pushed it through the Baja 500 and finished!
- Honda XR with a rebuilt engine. Another XR with the average 25,000 miles had the engine rebuilt at 10,000 and 20,000 miles, due to hardcore usage (assuming higher usage on gnarly dirt). The current owner complained of head gasket malfunction, but due to improper gasket replacement by the former rider’s mechanic.
- 1995 XR600R with 75,000 miles! This bike was purchased in Greece the first year the model was released there. The current rider is also the original owner. He rebuilt the engine at 55,000 miles, but reports he still kicks around on the XR daily!
What Is Considered High Mileage for These Models?
If the Honda XR series bikes are like any other dirt/street bike, anything upwards of 20,000 miles is considered high mileage. The mean mileage on these babies is sitting around the 25,000-mile area, with lots of outliers in ranges from 30,000-60,000 miles. All bikes considered for our data set were in average or better condition, all of which are still running solid!
How Many Years Does a Honda XR 600 & 650L Typically Last?
The XR 600R was first envisioned by Honda in 1981-1983 for trail riding but gained ‘traction’ in dirt racing. A high torque monolith, the XR600R came to embody the prototype dirt bike for generations to come. Not put into mass production until ‘85, the 600R was coming hot off the line until 2000, being relatively unaltered after 1988.
Although you are very, very unlikely to come across the early dirt racers of 1983, you can still find incredible specimens from 1985. These 37-year-old hunks might be, on average, a little hard-ridden and haggard, but the metal core of this bike speaks volumes about the quality and longevity of Honda’s 4-stroke engine.
The XR650L went into the market in 1993, almost replicated from the XR600R. Several other features such as an electric starter system and blinkers were added, but the 650L is in production to this day, unaltered from the original form.
You can get 27-year-old 650Ls that are virtually the same bike you’d buy brand new off the lot in 2022! They might have a bit more wear and tear, but the prolific nature of this model means a glut of OEM and replacement parts.
It seems that these bad puppies are dependable enough to run through a hurricane, assuming proper maintenance and upkeep!
Is the Honda XR 600 & 650L Reliable?
In January 1988, Cycle World released a review of the bike that would hold to the same standard for the next 12 years. The article ends with the following quote:
“All told, the XR is one of the most comfortable, reliable, pleasant—and powerful—off-road motorcycles made. That counts for quite a lot, no matter which group you fall into.”
The same reliability that has pushed Honda’s impressive and steady sales for decades has been a testament to the immortal XR600R and XR650L. Surveyed XR series owners have this to say about their machines:
“No matter what I do, I always end up coming back to the faithful XR600R. You just can’t beat the reliability and simplicity.” -1996 XR600R owner
“One thing I love about XR’s is they are hard to kill.” -Honda Shop Employee
“I have been riding bikes for 40 years and this is the only time I’ve owned a motorcycle that is good on the street and in the dirt.” -2006 XR650L rider
As you can see, Honda XR600Rs and XR650Ls are highly prized for their reliability and versatility. But even the most important of bikes have some detractors, so here are a few of the things to look out for in the Honda XR Series:
- The motor. The engines on these bikes are easy to do regular maintenance on, but if you miss the train on a couple of tunings, you can have serious problems, specifically in the valve train. This can start as a slight tick and evolve into a full-blown disaster, so be sure to always maintain this component of the bike!
- Hard cold starts. These carbureted motorcycles have difficulty firing up on cold mornings, some saying 20-30 cranks to start ‘er up.
Does A Honda XR 600 & 650L Last Longer Than Other Motorcycles?
There are several notable competitors to the Honda XR series and we’ll compare each of them to the corresponding bike.
The Honda XR600R was put in direct competition with the Yamaha TT600 released in 1998, towards the end of the 600R’s production, and the Suzuki SP600 in the 80s only.
All these bikes are 4-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled engines that came into production in the 80s and 90s, and to be fair, their longevity is pretty uniform.
That being said, Honda models rank as some of the longest-running bikes in production to this day. The solid production quality of the Honda XR600R and the XR650 have both of them in longer production than their Yamaha or Suzuki counterparts in the 4-stroke off-road categories.
So, not only have they been in production longer, virtually unchanged, than their competitors, they have a chance to last longer because of the interchangeable parts available aftermarket, OEM, and in motorcycle boneyards worldwide!
The early Honda XR600R and 650L models may have outlasted their competitors by sheer years of production!
What Typically Breaks First on a Honda XR 600 & 650L?
This whole time I’ve been praising the XR series hard enough to make Machiavelli proud because I have a secret that might be obvious now. I’m stocked with a 2000 XR600R for dirt ripping in the off-road season! Now that I’m done drooling over dozens of stock photos of XRs, it’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses and face some of the XR facts.
- Oil quality and change rate. The unbeatable Honda 4-stroke engine requires the highest quality of engine oil and demands that it be changed out at the relatively quick rate of every 1,000 miles.
- 3rd gear slippage problems. Just like any off-roader that’s ridden hard and put away hot, maltreated Honda XR600R and 650L models can have a problem with wear on the 3rd gear. If 3rd gear is slipping, take a look at that bottom end mechanism and consider replacing that gear. If not, you’re going to be grinding every time you pass through 3rd.
- Stalling. Rich fuel/air ratio, malfunctioning hot coils, and electrical system problems are all culprits to look for if your XR600R or 650L is stalling out. Rejetting the carbs, replacing damaged coils, or electrical kits can solve any of these problems.
5 Great Tips to Make Sure Your Honda XR 600 & 650L Will Last Long
Here are five tips to help you prolong the life of your Honda XR 600 or 650L’s life:
- Change your engine oil and filter regularly. Honda’s indomitable engine is only bulletproof if you regularly upkeep the oil system-about every 1,000 miles.
- Do 6,000-mile interval maintenance checks. This is a commonly recurring timeline/mileage interval suggestion for keeping these bikes running. You’re going to want to dig into your top and bottom end as well as the electrical at these mileage intervals to keep these beasts running forever.
- At any sign of 3rd gear wear or grinding, replace it! The 3rd gear was the only issue commonly reported as being any problem in the gearbox, so keep an eye (and an ear) out for any signs of wear.
- Maintain your battery with a tender. You’d be amazed at how many problems can domino out of consistently drained batteries. Lots of people use these off-roaders only during specific seasons, so it’s important to keep that trickle charging the bike.
- Store correctly for the off-season. In many places, there is a riding season and an off-season also known as the dreaming-about-riding-again season. In colder or wetter months, store your off-road Hondas in a temperature-controlled, dry environment to ensure their life is long and ripping.
In summary, a Honda XR600R or XR650L is going to last you a long time, given proper mileage interval maintenance and replacement of faulty parts. These indestructible 4-stroke models might have been designed by a team of absolute geniuses, but you are responsible for the upkeep, so keep it up and keep your bike on the trail!