Honda XLR-250 - Japan

Article Brett Hatfield / Photography and Production Beyond Streetview
                                                                                                  Port Tomakomai, Hokkaido Japan


 Honda 250XLRIntroduced in 1972, the Honda XL-250 was the street legal version of the XR-250. Intended to be a more usable motorcycle, and aimed at those who needed part-time on-road transportation with off-road capabilities, it was a hit with farmers, ranchers, property owners, adventurers, campers, and commuters. The XL continued to evolve, eventually benefitting from the four-valve RFVC cylinder head, the Pro-Link single shock rear suspension, cartridge-style front shocks, and full, fade-free front and rear disc brakes.

Resplendent in brilliant red and blue on white, the 1994 XLR-250R represents an evolution of the previous Honda XL line. Discontinued after the 1993 model year, Honda’s dual-sport XL was unavailable due to the advancement of the more street-oriented NX model. The NX’s off-road abilities pale in comparison to Kawasaki’s KLR-250, but neither could hold a candle to the now deceased XL. Fans of the XL model line were disappointed by the NX’s close front fender, upperhonda250xlr fairing, and more street oriented nature. With its’ more street-oriented tires, shorter front suspension, plastic fairings, and clunkier gearbox, the NX gave up a good bit of off-road capability to the XLR, whereas the XLR ceded little to the NX in on-road performance. Furthermore, the liquid-cooled NX would come with a certain amount of off-road paranoia, as the rider would not want to do any damage to the radiator, especially if he was far afield. Almost as an apology to fans of the discontinued XL, and to satisfy the market void, in 1994 Honda introduced a Japanese Domestic Market only XLR. This dual personality steed did more to fill the gap left by the XL’s absence.
The XLR-250 had the same powerplant as the XR-250R. The 10.2-to-1 compression, air-cooled, single cylinder four-stroke yielded a healthy 28-horsepower, proving more than adequate to move the dual-sport over any terrain, be it commuting over city streets or blazing fire roads. The radial four-valve head configuration, breathing through a single 30mm Keihin carb, combined with the six-speed transmission and direct chain drive ensured the XLR always had power on tap. The potent thumper exhaled through a two-into-one exhaust, while an external oil cooler kept things chilly. An automatic decompression system made certain starting would be a breeze. The Pro-Link suspension gives an impressive 8.7 inches of rear travel, while the traditional telescopic front forks offer 9.5. This is enough to provide a Cadillac ride over most any terrain. Front and rear disc brakes handle stopping duties, while the standard assortment of dual-beam headlight, tail light, streamlined turn signals, and warning lights adorn this street version of the venerable XR-250R. Curb weight checks in at a very reasonable 11 pounds heavier than its’ dirt-only brethren.
Because it is meant for street duty first, the XLR-250R has a higher gearing than the XR-250R. This means the XLR is slightly slower out of the gate, but has a more useful power range for city driving. This taller gearing equates to a 3-MPH top speed hondaxlr_1994
advantage over the NX’s best of 84-MPH. Lacking the water cooled mill of the NX, the XLR had a light, nimble ride, quickly assuring the rider of capabilities not inherent in a larger, heavier mount. The XLR’s tall seating position was a direct result of its’ fantastic rear suspension travel, giving it a compliant ride off-road, while still instilling confidence in on-road duties. The IRC tires perform equally well on pavement as on hard-packed earth, only lacking somewhat in sand and mud, a common failing of dual-purpose rubber. The light weight, excellent suspension, good tires, and proven engine all combine to provide a rewarding riding experience, as is evidenced by the following of the XL line. 

Make Honda
Model 250XLR
Engine Four stroke, single cylinder, SOHC, RFVC, 4 valve, 249 cc


Dry Weight 275lbs

While the Honda XL may have been removed from the Honda line, it was clear the demand for a fully-featured dual sport bike remained, and the XL had a vocal and loyal following. The return in the form of the XLR paved the way for what would become the XR-L line of enduro bikes, which are still in production today.

19 August 16


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