1987 Honda XL250R from Canada
A street bike styled to look like a dirt bike
Engine's valve gear broke and required a rebuild.
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