This is a personal site dedicated to the various Honda XR500 and XR500R trail and enduro motorbikes built from 1979 to 1984. It is not an encyclopedia but a simple compilation of my own motorbikes and some information I have gathered along this 30+ year journey. I am fortunate enough to have acquired and built some unusual XR500 and I would like to share some of what I have learned. Enjoy, don't hesitate to comment and share your own experience, in particular if you have owned or own one of these machines or if you have first hand experience and knowledge of the history of their forefathers, I'd love to hear from you.
It has been a long time. Unfortunate personal matters kept me busy this past year and will possibly continue to do so for many months to come. I do not have much to report really, except I finally opened a box received last year from the famous Engine Dynamics Company (EdCo) in Petaluma. More on the XR500 big bore 591cc project.
All 3 bikes bikes currently in service.
- Baja one needs new fork seals (again) and tuning of the Lectron carb (too rich, so much for the Lectron factory setting up on the bench and charging me for it). Also needs stiffer springs on the Ohlins. Lining in the tank coming off.
- HPF needs softer spring. Found a period air box, an amazing piece of welded aluminum art, that needs some straightening up. The 44mm Fox Forx is really something: a rail. Some more testing and adjusting here and there before taking it all apart and opening the motor, for final stuff before the cosmetics.
- The stock 83 remains stock. Amazing machine. Seeping oil behind the sprocket. WB swingarm and WP shock patiently awaiting on the box.
- The 4th frame was powdercoated. Building a superduper motor: 591cc, balanced crank with Carillo rod, no vibration balancers, billet alu clutch basket, Barnett clutch, a whole box of NOS parts in there, and the EdCo/megacycle/TD treatment on a NOS head.
Second track ride for the HPF. All was going well until it did not. Something wrong with the ignition. I parked the bike. Several weeks later it will turn out that it was simply a loose earth bolt on the coil... duh...
Getting there, first ride.
The spring at the rear feels way too hard, the front fork is too soft, engine is back firing, valves need adjustment, gears sometimes don't go in easily, but it is good to go for a ride. :)
After some adjusting of the front fork, I could take it to the track at Metcalf, with my neighbor Steve on the 84 XR500. A lot of fun but yes the rear shock is way too hard, good only on the big jumps, horrible on the mini-whoops. The Factory Fox Fork lives up to the legend: the bike is on a rail, going where I want it to go. Yet not sure it is better than the 43mm Showa on the Commander. Back firing has disappeared, the clutch is slipping on full throttle (sounds familiar...). But it is a glorious bike, for tall riders only (at last!!).
That is a LOT of travel. But spring is too hard still.
Only little progress overall. Only on the HPF:. Rear wheel rim is being re-anodized, got new stainless spokes and rim pins from Buchanan's. Got a whole bunch of new parts from Thor Lawson's for the Fox Twin-Clicker. Getting a new suspension crank lever cut from 6061 aluminum. Hub ready for paint.
Finally got the new rear brake cable from Motion Pro for the Baja Commander. They must have a starnge way of measuring. When I ask for 3mm extra on the cable, first round they add a whole 30mm, second round they add 12mm, go figure. The cable fits, just about, so went ridin'. Damn that motor pulls like a train: every outing it gets better, it is hardly run-in really. But today, a full throttle in 1st gear at the top of nasty climb stalled the engine, sent me and the bike tumbling, snapped the front brake lever. Lucky nothing else was damaged. Went on a few more laps in the hills. Back at the trailer I thought I would re-tighten the timing chain. Followed the well known procedure and some strange rattling noise appeared... cut off immediately... sounds like its time to take the motor apart. Just as well, I have still to fit the trick crankshaft and the billet aluminum clutch basket.
Now tackling the rear end of the HPF-mono. Swingarm has new pivot, balancer is at machine shop to get a copy made, new bearings and pins and swivels are on the workbench, rear wheel is now in bits: rim needs re-anodizing, hub needs new paint and bearings, and of course new spokes are de-rigueur, Fox Twinclicker is disassembled, perts are ordered from Thor Lawson.
It has been a rather slow summer with only a little bit of tinkering on the HPF-mono. I got the front end sorted properly with a nice 44mm Fox Forx.
Also got the front end sorted on XR500R no.1 and XR500R no.2 is now fully functional.
A little bit of practice also with the Baja Commander but I broke the rear brake cable. Will order a professionally made custom one this time from Motion Pro (they are just down the road I discovered).
The Baja Commander project is complete. And to prove it I took the bike to the Baja 250 in San Felipe, entered the race and ran 110 miles up until the second pit stop. I was clearly not prepared for the race, but the bike did great! More about the Baja San Felipe 250 2012.
On the starting line, last checks and Sal Fish standing on the left.
On the way back from Mexico, we stopped by Jeff Cole's to show the Baja Commander and pick up a frame.
Jeff Cole on the right, with the Baja Commander XR500 after the Baja 250
1- I had my second super enjoyable ride at Metcalf. Rear tire is now about to disintegrate. Lets play it safe
2- and... a new addition (the last one!) to the collection. Now, yet again an exceptional machine... more to follow on this one. The experts will know... :)
Just a short ride, the first one after .... 20 years for me. How exciting that was. I am very impressed with the bike. Fantastic all around: motor, suspension, brakes, only troubles were the gear selector (does not fit well with my boot) and the air box got broken from rubbing against the plastic protector on the swing arm (strange). Also the upper guide chain has vaporized. Nothing serious.
Fortunately I had taken my old bones into some training for a few days before this .... The start of my conditioning for the Tecate 250 in March... Crazy I know... :)
A Craigslist find almost around the corner in San José on a Saturday, cash exchanged on a Sunday (thank Wells Fargo being open on Sundays).
From a distance, the bike looked very tidy with some dirt on the engine. The right side panel of course was sun faded, but the seat was supple and very clean. What really convinced me that this was an unusual bike was the tires: original Volcanduro both front and rear with 3/4 of the thread left at the rear and still showing the dimples on the knobs at the front. Pretty much a new bike.
The Wells Fargo envelope promptly exchanged hands, some paperwork and Eric (college student with dental bills to pay) even took the bike back to my garage in the back of his truck. He has a bumper sticker that reads "No fat chicks". I personally find that fat ads flavor to the chicken...
Eric got the bike from his uncle who had bought it new in 84, never registered it and gave it to Eric when he cleared his garage earlier this year. Eric serviced it and did a few rides at Metcalfe.