Brtp4's XR250R Build
Back in early 2010, after following some friends (more later) I decided in the absolute that I needed a light bike. I have had a slew of bikes in the past, currently have a modded XR650L, and I like it a lot. Not love, but strong like. I have had some more modern bikes, but recently started to think focusing on th absolute best-mostest-fastest-currentest technology detracts from the overall moto experience, and began to tilt toward lower tech bikes. Cheaper to buy, easier to maintain, easier to mod, less to break, etc. But anyway, I went on a ride, got my ass handed to me, got thoroughly worked, and decided the solution was another bike.
Let's get one thing out in the sunlight: XR250Rs have a rep among some as a beginners, or even a girl's bike. Why I chose a XR250R I will explain later, first, this bike.
I was telling a friend, Phil Ammendolia that I wanted a blown-up XR250. They rarely break, BTW. "I know of a blown up XR250R". Yea, sure. "A 2003". A newer one....riiight. He passed me the phone # of the seller, and sure enough, it did not run. Bike was in Sacramento, quite a ways away but driveable. The seller wanted to cut a deal over the phone. He explained that it seemed like it broke the cam or something, as it turned over, but did not run. wanted $850, I told him that if I had to commit sight unseen, I would go to $650. He agreed. I had my friend pay the guy, and drove down from Bend to get it.
I did get a speeding ticket on the way (F#*! K-Falls..), but when I got there it looked really good. Had a lot of Norcal Carnegie clay on it, so I power washed it on the way home. It cleaned up really well:
First thing I did was drop it off at my friend Matt Worbes shop, M-Tech Motorcycles to diagnose. I did not even screw with it, just asked him to take a look. After a day he calls me. BTW, Matt is a man of very few words.
"Your bike is ready."
"What do you mean "ready"?"
"I mean it's running."
"Yea, running. Pilot jet fell out. Put it back in and it fired right up."
$650 for a running 2003 on the original tires. I was pretty happy.
It's nice when things work in your favor. Much better than hearing an unexpected list of parts that are needed ($$$$).:D
My build is decent, but nothing like the masterpieces that Gaspipe, Colebatch, Wattner, and a lot of others detail here. I'll do my best to make it worth your time, and hope the reasons behind choosing an air cooled old-tech 250 are worth some words.
Back in January of 2010, we had a break in the weather and I went on a ride with Brad21 and the BendDualsport crew. I was riding a bike that started as an XR650L, and is now fairly modded. It's old, but surprisingly competent. On this ride, it was unusually warm, and a mix of mud, melting snow, and maybe a little ice. Trails were easy, but greasy. Looked like this:
Nothing that technical, but slicker than the pics look. I was getting smoked. It's obvious that a lighter, more modern bike would have been faster...but even guys on better bikes were having a hard time. Watching their entries and exits, changing direction and getting the power down was taking a lot of effort. Once either the front or the rear started getting away, you would lose all momentum. But one guy there, Rog, who is not the best rider in the group (sorry Rog, I'll buy you a beer..), was having an easy go of things. He was not flying, but he was going a good pace and working half as much. And it was not because he was on a better bike, it was because he was on a slower bike. I have been on a lot of rides, and gotten smoked often, but this was a cool thing to watch.
Disassembly Part 1: The Achilles Heel
Back when I was talking to the PO, I asked my friend in Sac to check one thing on the bike for me. The swingarm pivot bolt. He didn't do it properly, but was already doing me several favors, so I did not push it. This did worry me a lot because I had seen horror stories like this and photos like this. On XR250s and 400s, for whatever reason, the swingarm bushings freeze on the bolt, and make it difficult or impossible to remove. My feeling is that using the engine cases as support for the swingarm cooks the lube out and is at least partially responsible. In any case, it is the achilles heel of these bikes.
I really did not think I would have an issue, since my bike was fairly new, had not been submerged that much, and not even washed that often. I was kinda wrong:
I squirted things up, waited a day, and started by tapping on the nut with a plastic hammer, then a ball peen, then a mini sledge. Holy smokes, it would not budge. I then took an old extension and started wailing on it. STILL nothing. So I tipped it 45 degrees, lubed the heck outta it, and went at it the next day. This time I had my wife (bless her) turn the other side with a ratchet while I pounded. It finally came out:
Pretty surprising how dry and rusty it is, for a bike in that condition. Even left a pile of dust on the floor:
After a lot of wire wheeling. Bolt was fairly pitted:
(sorry, cell phone pic)
Just to be sure, I replaced the bolt and bushing because of the pitting. I probably could have reused them, but bought a new OE bolt ($65....f me.....) from Honda along with new bushings. I saved the old one, just in case. Bearings were fine, only the bushing-to-bolt interface was fouled. Greased everything back up and put the bolt in.
BTW, the extension I used is now too mushroomed to fit into a socket.
Bike Choice Part 2
I have a decent amount of riding experience from over the years, but seat time is sporadic for me nowadays. It is hard to stay in "riding shape", and my reactions become less automatic. What I figured out on my January ride was that, because of the bike's weight, riding above 8/10ths sucked up a lot of my bandwidth. Add in my sporadic seat time, I was sloppy. Sloppy lead to tired. Tired lead to slow. Funny thing, my CRFs, which were much better bikes, had the same effect. Particularly on the 250, and particularly when I did not know the trail. It was a great chassis, but the revvy motor and not knowing the terrain would put me behind the bike, and I would end up working twice as hard, and making mistakes. If I was a better or more consistent rider, or dialed the bike in, I probably would have liked it. Maybe if it were an X model I would have liked it. Maybe if I was better looking I could be in the film industry. But I digress. The point is, I needed a bike that I could ride more aggressively, more easily, and with less fatigue.
My first thing was to fix the stupid OE riding position. I hate it. Perhaps I am not the target XR250R buyer, maybe they aim it at beginners. Don't know. Anyway, Honda mounts the bars quite rearward, and gives them a lot of sweep, putting the rider back more.
This is done to slow the steering down, and presumably park riders back so they don't get pitched. I feel they need ergo changes that can be summed up by saying "get over the front end". Anyway, the stock XR layout sucks for aggressive riding.
I pay stupid attention to this on these dated-design Honda XRs. They have these huge air cooled top ends, that push the tanks up high, and subsequently push the rider back. Look at side pics of a modern 4T bike, flat tank, seat extends forward, footpegs near the middle of the bike. They have far better weight distribution, and more weight on the front wheel, which is why they turn. Then, look at side pics of these old XRs- especially with a rider on the bike - the rider is back over the seat, footpegs are back, and weight bias is on the rear suspension. It makes the stable, but makes it difficult to quickly pivot the bike. I feel it is critical to get the bars low and forward (as much as you are comfortable with) to change the weight distribution to the front more.
I usually use CR Low or Carmichael bend bars, which are low and have little sweep. I'm not a fan of the Pastrana or ATV bends, which have little sweep, I feel they are too high. In this case I chose a CR High bend. Additionally, I got a new upper triple, that places the bars much more forward:
The clamps move things about 1.25" forward, and the bars place your hands another 4.5" fwd:
I know I am going on about what seems to be a small thing. But so much of riding is changing direction, and so much of changing direction is planting the front wheel.
Anyone who has ever read a Gaspipe build has seen how much emphasis he (a great setup / build guy) places on basics like grease, torque, and Loctite. I don't have his mechanical talents, but try to follow that philosophy. When I pulled the triple off, things were dirty:
That is not rust on the star nut, it is this Norcal clay, more on it later. Anyway, I pulled everything apart, greased all the bearings, and put the controls back on:
MSR (Works Connection) Lever:
I skipped the handguards at the time, will add them later.
Bike Choice Part 3 - GoPro Videos
While I was thinking about different bikes, people started posting up their GoPro videos everywhere. One day, I was watching a helmet cam video of Brad21 - a much better rider than I - riding a KX 250 in the woods. The thing that jumped out at me was how much time he spent off the throttle. This is NOT because he is slow or timid, he isn't. Watching it again and again, it was because the bike was fast, and the trail not memorized. Holy smokes. Watching other videos, it came up again and again. Pin it, coast, change direction, wait, pin it. Very seldom is the rider on the throttle in mid or even late corner.
By now I knew I wanted a slower, smaller bike. With kids, house, dogs, college fund, etc. my, ahem, CFO is not really hip on popping for something newer, and I have modders disease (bad) anyway. I like to set bikes up my way, and can't leave them alone. The newer the bike, the more foolish that becomes. I wanted a project but not one of the newer 250 4T small-oil, high rev bikes. I also had to stay under $2k, and was shooting for $1000, so it would probably be hammered. I narrowed it down to this list:
There were a few 2Ts that I like, but I was hoping to plate whatever I ended up with. I know a lot of people that have plated 2Ts, but I am a low-profile guy and a 2T is too conspicuous on the street for me.
A $2000 KTM400 was clearly a pipe dream. I like XRs, but I really liked the idea of a WR400. They are not really small or slow, but they have a great basic chassis and a bulletproof motor. For a 12 year old design, they are a great starting point. I found one in a mill town nearby, but the duuuude was a flake and I could never get hold of him. Pass.
As I was researching the WR, I bought a bunch of old DIRT BIKE magazines from 1999. The January 1999 issue had an article, a comparison test of 4 XRs done at Scott Summers ranch. Summers and 6 other riders compared a stock XR250R, stock XR400R, a modified XR280R, and a modded XR440R at his ranch, a 4.5 mile loop, riders with mixed experience. Reprint of their lap times:
This does not prove that a 250 is fast, but it does prove that it does not suck. An XR400 is not fast, but I would have guessed the 440 would have smoked them all. Nope. If I had to guess, I figure the 250 kept up for two reasons, first, because it has a tiny wheelbase (a full 3" shorter than a CRF, which is huge) and because it was slower, people were able to over-ride it, whereas the other bikes were more demanding. I still preferred a WR or XR400, but started looking at XR250Rs harder. When I called my friend from the beginning of the thread, and could not pass it up. XR250R it is.
Excuse me sir but do you think I could get a written report mailed to me on this in the form of a book report. I'm very interested in the epifany thing you talked about in one of your earlier posts. To be honest with you that thing looks like a rat trap. I'd part it out before you have another epifany or something. :wings
I will overlook your omission of silent consonants (it's p-h..) and get straight to the point: I am concerned for your well-being. If you are becoming envious and depressed because of that green.....bike.....you have, there are state programs that can help.
Just remember what the judge told you. 100 yards.
come on keep postin' :1drink
I agree with the less being more, I"m a slacker when it comes to riding and although big HP is fun in the right area its a hand full in others. I started on a '65 honda trail 55 ( thats an early Advbike, probably where BMW got the GS idea ) 43 years ago, I'll probably end up on a 50 ( hot rod Derbi, maybe) if I make it long enough.
the rougher it is the more fun you will have, the fast sections well that when to bring big red.
thought of a new front end, USD? rear shock swap?
The project is way ahead of what I posted so far, and I plan to resume this weekend. I did finish an FCR install, and am almost jetted correctly. Once I am it gets a 280 kit, once that is done a CRF-X front end goes on. Have yet to start those two phases but I have all the parts.
After finding the swingarm bolt partially frozen, I figured I would do some maintenance and respringing on the rear suspension. Though the swingarm bolts often dry out and seize, the linkage usually remains in good condition. Anyway, I pulled the rear linkage and the shock off the bike:
I am a little big for this bike at 215. Additionally, XR250Rs give up about 2" of suspension travel, having about 10" or so total. These two things make it more important to spring the rear for your weight, as you have less travel to work with. Stock rate is 11.0 kg. Talking to Ryan at Eibach Springs (a great resource) it seemed I probably needed a 12.5 or 13.0 spring. I like the rear suspension to be a little on the stiff side, it lets me be a hack and hang off the back and slam into stuff. But the stiffest they made was a 12.0, so that was what I got.
While I was researching XR250Rs as a bike choice, I found a guy named Les Tinius who has a suspension business, LT Racing (www.lt-racing.com). Les and his bud Jeff are ahem, "mild" XR250R gurus/evangelists/freaks like Charlie Sheen is mildly into Ladies of the Evening. Les has a couple XRs, one that is really trick and one that is absurdly so. He has links to them on his website, but they are sorta hidden...go to the site, click on "about us", then click on the black + white photo of Les in 1972, and then "My XR 250s". Or you can just click here.
A few people recommended him, most importantly Woodschick. I sent the shock to him to revalve for my weight and more aggressive damping than stock. I have yet to try it, and suspension always has some trial and error. But I am always stoked to work with people that are meticulous with their work and motorcycles, looking at his stuff...Les is super meticulous. I know it will be awesome. I had him revalve the shock and put the spring on:
Cleaned up a bit, and of course always, always, always pack things up with grease:
Swingarm back on:
And suspension linkage:
Rear end: done.
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