Rode the modded little XR quite a bit, and really liked it. It was a really forgiving bike, and the short wheelbase is good in tighter ST. However, it was being ridden harder than it's old-tech suspension was intended for. I finally gave up on it when I somehow jacked up my front wheel causing me to crash in some rocks.
I thought again about upgrading to a modern bike. I hated the suspension, but I really liked the basic package, mainly the simplicity and the turning. So, I decided to dump more cash into it and see if I could improve it.
I gathered the parts for a CRF fork swap. I did this on my other bike, and afterwards realized that I made a mistake on the triples I chose. Stock, early CRF triples have a 24mm offset. Stock XRs are 18mm. Putting the 24s on my other XR made turn crappy. I wanted to avoid that, so I got a set of 20mm clamps from Scotts performance, which are made by Billet Racing Products:
I had a set of 2006 CRF250X forks, but they needed to be shortened to get as close to proper geometry as possible. One of the best CRF suspension shops is Precision Concepts
in Riverside, CA. Precision Concepts is owned by Bob Bell, who has a long history with Honda's factory Baja team, and has assisted with suspension development for Honda. Additionally, at some point in the past he actually sponsored a team of XR250R's for the Baja 1000
PC shortened and revalved the forks, with a net increase in static height of 1".
To balance the suspension and the height, PC revalved the rear shock, and took out a shim that added 4mm of length to the shock. The shock leverage ratio starts at 4.0:1 which means the ride height is now 16mm higher. 1" = 25mm, so I made up the difference with a taller rear tire.
The fork swap is easy, it's chasing down the details that is the hard part. I had to get a new headlight, which meant adding a handlebar switch, which meant a new lever / comp release combination, new fender, few other things:
And the final result:
The XR styling is really dated, but the final result looks good.