XR500R 1981 stock

It hit me one sunny day of November 1980. My friend Pascal, well aware of my obsession with the XR500 was running and screaming while I was trying to get some excitement out of my animal biology notes. His face was beaming as he shouted "Eric tu vas craquer, regarde" (Eric, you gonna explode, look). He opened the magazine wide and there it was, the new 1981 model XR500R Pro-Link! O-M-G !!

However it would not be sold in France! Eventually after much wrangling and saving and side jobs and selling pretty much everything I had, I managed to get the help of my then 60 year old great aunt living in Belgium to order from a Honda dealer in Brussels a brand new XR500R. I put my hands on the crated machine at the railway station in Nice in May 1981. I had spent 16,400 French Francs and did not even have money to put petrol in it. believe I was the first XR500R to touch French ground.

I was the king of the world!! Illegally (but only occasionally, I swear!) riding the bike on open roads for a few months until I managed to get it road registered in August 1981. However I never really became good at off road riding. Studies were taking all my time, including week ends.

I did a few enduros with my mates in the south of France. But I was not really good, let's be honest, with little training at all and the heavy XR500R was not really the ideal machine for those technical tracks through the mountains, with rocks to climb, ravines to conquer and trees everywhere. The bike and I took a bit of a beating. Here is a photo at Andon (06) in 1982.
I was dreaming of the vast expanses of North Africa, the Paris Dakar... 7890072100

Over the years this bike followed me at university in Lyon, where I rode it in the mountains of the Lyonnais and froze my butt at full speed on the roads between Marcy l'Etoile and Lyon to go pinch some bums in the city. I also took it with me to Zambia for a few months in 1990/92, where it got a bit too much sun. There I realized that barreling down dirt tracks solo in the middle of nowhere in a country with no communications, was a good way to get killed or worse, injured and eaten alive by wild animals...

Eventually, I shipped it back to Nice in 1992, only riding it once a year when I was coming back home from my overseas jobs. Over the years, It became harder and harder to start and when it did, was running like a pig, smoked like a cargo ship. I finally left it at the back of the garage, not wanting to sell and not really knowing what to do with it. My interests had shifted to classic cars anyway.

I toyed with the idea of bringing it back to its former glory but parts like the right side panel (damaged by the sun) were unavailable. In 2005, I discovered the wonders of eBay and realized that there were lots of parts for sale for this bike particularly in the US. One thing leading to another, in 2008/9, Patrick a friend and professional mechanic, showed me that the ignition wires were reversed...: this solved the hard starts and the poor running... I then took the motor apart to replace the valve seals and ... voilĂ !

I figure it has somewhere around 10,000 km of running. The rear shock is shot, it needs a rebuild. This bike will be slowly put back to original condition, reverting the half-hearted improvements I did in my earlier years (except may be for the exhaust header that I never liked, too skinny. The XR500 80 had a beefier one: it is the one on the photo. Also the reed valves will be fiber from Boyesen as the steel ones are no longer available and break (ask me why I know this :) ) . The mudguards also are aftermarket UFO as NOS ones popping on eBay every year or so reach ridiculous prices. The seat cover and the tools bag (from Bolivia!) are new.
One thing that Honda did wrong on this bike was the front forks: way too small, scary at high speed in the stones.