1987 Honda XL250R from Canada


A street bike styled to look like a dirt bike


Engine's valve gear broke and required a rebuild.

General Comments:

I bought this motorcycle cheap, in non-working condition. The machine was in excellent condition with low mileage. The 250cc 4-stroke engine has a complicated 4-valve arrangement with 8 rocker arms! The concept was to get the 4 valves at an optimum angle for maximum flow for best power.

This was complemented by 2 carburetors (in a progressive arrangement) and 2 exhaust pipes, again to maximize power.

Unfortunately this arrangement was excessively complex, fragile and does not produce any power benefits. One of the rocker arms had broken for the previous owner. He partially disassembled the engine in an attempt to fix it, then sold it to me in frustration.

I removed the engine and rebuilt the valve gear with some new parts from Honda. It was quite the change from my simple XR200 engine; far more complex and far more moving parts.

Once reassembled the engine ran well, but the power output isn't worth the complexity and expense of the technology. It actually produces less power (20.4 hp) per cc than my simple 2-valve XR200 (18 hp). Even with 20% more displacement, more valves, more carburetors and more technology, it only produces 12% more power. Definitely not worth the effort.

The XL250 is styled like a dirt bike but is intended more for street use, and smooth trails. I found the steering to be heavy and slow off road, especially at slow speeds, which is tiring and annoying for trail use. The gearing is too tall, especially for first gear. Trail use requires more clutch-slipping than is normal for low-speed power.

But the on-road performance is better. The gearing is fine for city and slower-highway use. The heavy, slow steering produces reassuring stability on the road at higher speed.

The suspension travel is relatively firm, again for road stability at the expense of trail use. The single-shock Pro-link arrangement is great for dirt bikes, but the firm springs and shorter travel defeats the benefits of this suspension design for rough terrain.

Otherwise, the bike was well built and well finished. High quality materials and components were used throughout and the machine had a solid, high-quality look and feel as is typical of Honda.

I used this bike mostly for off road use, for which it was not well suited. The handling, the gear ratios and suspension all are compromised towards street use at the expense of off-road function. A genuine dirt bike like my XR200 performs and feels better off road. I simply did not drive on-road enough to warrant the poor off road performance, since the machine was more biased to on-road use.

This isn't a fault of the bike, it's just the reality of the design. Overall, the only fault this bike has is engine. The fussy, delicate and complex engineering does not produce any benefit over existing more simple, robust designs.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 20th September, 2019

1984 Honda XL250R from United States of America


Reliable, fun, and excellent value for money


I bought the 32 year old motorcycle at a dealership in San Diego, California.

Nothing went wrong during my ownership.

I had problems starting it in the beginning, until I found a technique that worked; no twist of the throttle, no choke, followed by up to 3 kicks. If it had not started by the 3 kicks, I would do the same up to 3 times, but this time with 1/2 - 3/4 of full throttle. Should it be necessary, go back to no throttle again, and continue as above...

Anyway, it mostly started on 1st or 2nd kick when cold. I used the same procedure when the engine was warm, inspired by the procedure mentioned in an XL250R review from an issue of Cycle World from 1984, 1985 or 1986 (think it was probably 1985).

General Comments:

The bike was very easy to handle, the engine felt strong from low RPM, and was a joy to own.

It did not give me any problems. During my almost 3000 miles it never stopped or caused problems. Unfortunately I sold it when moving out of the country.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th July, 2016

1983 Honda XL250R from United States of America


A joy to own and ride


Fork seals leaked.

Exhaust muffler baffle rotted out. easy fix by welding in an ATC 250r baffle.

High/lo head light switch not working. Hi beam only.

Trip-meter gear is striped.

General Comments:

Always liked this red motorcycle. Fit and finish were very good, and it is made to a higher level than other Japanese bikes during its time.

The exhaust sound is healthy and much deeper than most other 250cc motorcycles.

The 6 speed transmission is very good, and the .94 top gear is just about right for flat highway work.

While going through the gears, you really need to hold on. My bike has a very power surge about 3/4 up the rpm band. The power really kicks in.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 3rd October, 2008