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HondaXL500R XR500

I bought a 1982 Honda XL500R on eBay for $1,175.  The seller had done a lot of restoration on it and claimed it needed nothing.  I took it home and started riding it.  I'll detail the kickstart routine below.  It ran great for 11 miles, then died, and would restart and go another 11 miles if I let it cool off for half an hour.  Frustrating.  It turned out to be a bad CDI box, which worked fine until it got really hot, then stopped making spark.  It took me 5 months to find a used one for the bike. Honda doesn't make the part anymore, so used is the only option.  I tried one from a 1981 model, but Honda changed the design in 1982, so it didn't work.  I looked on ebay and elsewhere and finally ended up getting one from a local junkyard who had one on the shelf.  They were really good and are good at answering emailed part inquiries.  Here's a link.  http://www.losangelesmotorcyclesalvage.com/  I'm trying to pay for the hosting of this motorcycle site with ads at the top and bottom of the page.  If you see an ad for something interesting, go ahead and click it. 

Click here to see big pictures of all angles of the Honda XL500R motorcycle.

Now that the bike is working properly, it's a real hoot to ride on a twisty paved road.  It has more power than I thought it would, and it corners great.  I haven't taken it off-road yet because I've never been off road before, and everything where I live is paved.  I bought this bike to learn how to ride in the dirt.  Living in a big city, I have to spend a fair amount of time on the freeway, which means I'm either going slowly between the cars in a traffic jam or flying along at 80 mph in the carpool lane.  In either situation my Honda XL500R works great.  I've gotten it up to 95 mph, and it felt like it could go faster, so I figure it won't blow up if I keep it under 80.  It would be nice to have a tachometer though.  The hardest thing to get used to with this bike, other than the 36-inch seat height, was figuring out how to get it started on the first or second kick without getting seriously injured.  Here's what I learned, along with a video of me kickstarting the motorcycle.

1)  Turn on the ignition, pull out the choke lever, and make sure the bike is in neutral.  Note:  Honda designed this bike to also be kick-start-able when in gear with the clutch pulled in.  If you stall it in traffic, this comes in handy.
2)  Gently and slowly press the kicker around a few times with your foot until you get to a point where it stops.  This is Top Dead Center.
3) Give the kicker a little nudge to get the motor past top dead center. Maybe 1/4 or 1/2 a stroke of the kicker.
4)  Kick it hard and the bike will start.

If you just jump on and kick it without positioning the kicker as outlined above, sometimes it will start, and other times you'll hit top dead center, and the lever won't budge.  This can be painful for the bottom of your foot and your knee.  

Here's a video of me kickstarting my Honda XL500R. I did it in flip-flops to prove it can be painless.


Here's what the eBay seller said about the bike.  It's a real Frankenstein job.  He didn't ride it much or very far, so he probably didn't know about the electrical problem I had.  It makes really good power, which may be attributable to the Wiseco high-compression piston.  The head of the bike has the words "White Bros" etched into it, so it's possible there was some head work as well.  It feels like it makes about 15 more horsepower than my Royal Enfield Bullet 500 which is also a 500cc single.

ENGINE: The original engine from this motorcycle has been replaced with one from a '79 XR500.  This engine is the same as the '82 XL500 engine, with the following exceptions: The carb on the XL is milder than the XR, the XR has no neutral indicator switch in the trans., and the XR engine is not painted black. The XR engine has a lighter flywheel so it can rev quicker.  The 79 engine has a gear-driven counterbalancer which never needs adjusting.  82 models have a chain, which requires regular adjustments. Other that that, they are the same engine, right down to the cam. This bike has the original '82 XL500R carburetor, and it works great. New Honda Motorcycle Parts include: Camshaft, Cam Chain Guide and Tensioner, 2 Intake Valves, Wiseco 10.5 to1 Piston(rings,wristpin,clips), and lots of gaskets, seals, and bolts. The Cylinder Head was professionally cleaned and tolerances checked OK. The cylinder bored to the new piston size. No leaks. Automatic compression release works beautifully - I kick-start this in tennis shoes.  (Note:  If you don't have the piston in the right position before you kick it in tennis shoes, you'll end up with a big bruise on your instep and will be walking funny for a week.  I found this out the hard way.)

TRANSMISSION: Shifts crisply and positively. No mis-shifts or popping out of gear. No leaks.

ELECTRICAL: Everything is functioning as it should: Horn, Lighing, Charging, and Ignition. Major electrical components(stator, rotor, ignition) are from an '82 XL500R, as the components from a XR500 would not support the lighting and charging required of a XL500R. As you can see from the pics, the original headlight has been replaced with a nice UFO High/Low beam headlight. The small turn signals that are part of the UFO headlight are not hooked up. Front turn signals are original. The rear turn signals are non-stock and are mounted so that they will deflect rather that break off.  As mentined above, the indicator for neutral does not work. New wet cell battery.

BRAKES : Work good and smooth. Plenty of thickness left on shoes.

SUSPENSION: Front and rear: Dis-assembled and relubed. nice and smooth, no leaks.

EXHAUST: Original. No leaks, no rust. Spark arrestor intact. Some small dents on side of muffler and one on header tube. 

BODY PLASTICS: Front headlight is an aftermarket part, made in Italy by U.F.O. Original red body plastics are mostly OK, but look their age, with scuff marks. Left side cover has crack at rear edge that doesn't affect mounting. The stock fender bent down and rubbed the front tire at freeway speeds, so I went with a more aerodynamic one. It is an Acerbis super motard fender. I had to melt a groove into the top of the fender for the wiring to go through. I used a hot screwdriver to melt a smooth groove in the fender. This worked well. Click here to see close-up pictures of the fender to see how it fits.

GENERAL: No Rust. No Cracks. Straight Frame. New seat cover. Rear cargo rack. New 14t front sprocket. New O-Ring Chain. Scott grips. New front brake/clutch levers. Original steel gas tank was pushed in on right side(sort of like an "oil-can" dent) has some nicks/small sctatches and outside rust at the bottom (see pic), but absolutley no rust inside the tank. No tank leaks. Tires are DOT dual purpose (on/off road) and have a decent amount of tread remaining. Wheels are straight and true. Rear wheel is missing one spoke, but stays straight OK. (I have the spoke to replace it.) Keyed ignition switch works, key to helmet lock on frame is missing. Missing rear/passenger foot pegs. Odometer works fine, but since I'm not the original owner, I'm not certain of the actual miles. Miles on rebuilt engine is less that 100 miles.