XL 500 R     von  John

                                                                         Oktober 2006©webmaster            




Hello fellow xl'ers,
I have just finished restoration of a 1982 Honda XL500R, and I thought I would like to share a couple of photos.
She runs very well, and I would soon like to be able to get her registered, so I can ride on the road (as well as in the bush).
Love the site.
Keep up the good work!!
ey Volker and all you XL'ers!
Many thanks for posting the pics of my XL-ent 500 R ('R' for "Rocket??).
Maybe I should have give you a little of the history of my XL-R.
I started off in about 1969, with a few road and dirt bikes (all Hondas) and followed these with my only brand new motorcycle, which was my XL500 (s) in 1981. See picture enclosed.
As with other XL'ers, some problems and complaints are absolutely universal!
The 23" front wheel would always track very well in the dirt, as well as giving excellent ground clearance for the skid plate.  But as it was to my memory, the ONLY wheel of this size on the road, it was, and always will be, a source of frustration when it comes time to fit new tyres.
Here in Australia, Bridgestone was the only manufacturer of the 23" (Trials Universal) tyre, which they conveniently dropped sometime in the late 1980's. Unless one seeks out the motorcycle wreckers to try and obtain a replacement, used example but, not many wreckers have parts for the 500s, either then, or now.
Second problem was the 6 volt electrics. Why Mr Honda still clung onto this antiquated system on such an otherwise good machine is still a source of mystery to me.......
The lack of a tachometer (engine rev counter) was a little inconvenient, but one soon got used to it.
On the other hand, the very good points of this motorcycle almost made the abovementioned not-so-good points worth it all.
The bloody thing was fast - VERY fast!!  It was also light, manoeverable, economical to run, a lot of fun to ride, and had a BANG BANG BANG sound that you immediately fell in love with, and the BIG SINGLE vibrations at any revs were enough to get your blood racing, and in the mood...............
All this ended abruptly in 1989, when some low-life scum stole the 500s from my locked garage.
No more problems with 6 volt electrics. No more worry about the lack of 23" front tyres. No more 500s......(insert sounds of sobbing......)
..........................SIXTEEN YEARS pass.........................
John, now getting grey, bald, portly, and approaching mid-50's, decides that the time has come to fill that vacant spot in the garage with another big single. The memories were still vivid.
Having learned a few tricks over the intervening years (and daily riding of my other love, a 1974 CB750 K2 - picture also enclosed) and not being able to locate a decent Yamaha (sorry for mentioning that forbidden word, guys) SRX-6, I fell over a newspaper ad for a very battered XL500s with a silver tank, which I assume was a later model to my stolen 1981 model. The price was right, and it was in the country, only about an hour's drive away.................... By the time I had endured a couple of sleepless nights, tossing and turning, and trying to imagine what it would be like to be 30-something again, I fell over another ad, in a magazine, for the XL500 R.
I rang the bloke and we had a chat about it, and he told me that it was not registered, but had only been used on weekends, and had done only 6000 km.  This sounded a little fanciful to me, and the price was somewhat inflated, but I decided to drive my truck down (a 3-hour drive this time) to check it out.
Needless to say, I bought it. (Just as well I had taken the truck, eh?) I haggled with him a bit, and knocked him down a few hundred, then loaded it onto the truck, tied it down with my 20-year old bike straps, and took it home.
A few quizzical looks from my (now ex-) wife summed up just how she felt about the whole thing, but, as I explained to her, it certainly WAS NOT my second childhood (well, maybe that was just a LITTLE white lie.......), and this one had a 12 volt system, the Pro-link suspension, a 21" front wheel, and a tachometer!
She just sniffed, and walked away.
It also had gearing that made it run out of steam at about 80km/h, although you got there quite quickly (!), was shod with full knobbly tyres, which were diabolical on the bitumen, a non-working back brake, a side stand that laid the bike over at 45 degrees, engine oil leaks, and........wait for it!...........a blue-faced speedometer that looked like it came off a CB250, with the odometer reading 6076 km.  YEAH, SURE!
My attempts at scoring a second hand speedo met with no success, so I was obliged to buy a new one from Honda. I'm not sure how many Dm or Euros there are in AU$395, but it must be quite a few, and it had to come out from Japan. I think I must have got the last one in stock at Honda, and they were probably glad to get rid of it!  This is why the photographs show only 6 km on the clock. Since then it has increased to over 200, but that's another story.
The rest of the restoration was fairly straight forward. The oil-leaks were stopped with the usual heli-coiling of the cylinder head studs, the front and rear brakes were re-lined (the rear one being non-existent) the knobblies were exchanged for a pair of good second hand Trials Universals, and the inappropriate gearing was changed back to standard ratio, with a new o'ring chain.  I replaced the aircleaner element, battery, and all cables. Some of the globes in the instrument cluster had been incorrectly fitted with 5w wedge type globes, which gave a good level of illumination at night, but caused the instrument cases to become red hot, so the correct 1.2w globes were purchased and fitted.
I obtained an after-market full set of new decals for the equivalent of about a week's wages, and I stripped everything down for a repaint.
There were a couple of things I didn't like about the original paint scheme, so I changed them as I went. I absolutely HATED the red frame, so it was cleaned up and covered with black enamel, likewise the Pro-link coil spring and strut. It had obviously been a first for Mr Honda at the time, so he had painted it red in order to make it more prominent, but with the passing of the years, it was no big deal any more, so it was up to me to hide the bloody thing!
Likewise, I didn't care too much for the headlamp shroud, so I omitted it, and tidied up the front wiring harness. I made a bikini nacelle for the lamp, and fitted a pair of after-market universal front flashers. I would really like to fit a pair from the 500s, and I will, if I ever find them at the right price.
The ignition lamp that you see in the pic was already fitted when I bought the bike, and although I had decided to get rid of it earlier in the piece, I just haven't got around to it. Besides, it's nice to see at night, when sitting on the freeway..........or, at least I THINK it would be nice to see it at night on the freeway, as I haven't actually ridden it, unregistered, on a public road.........
(Another LITTLE white lie?)
The only drama that I can lay on my new/old 500R, is that it's still a pig to start from cold. I use the choke, and give a few raps of the throttle to squirt some fuel into the cylinder, then bring it up to just after TDC, and KICK!  It sometimes starts, but more often than not, I have to have several attempts, and get hot and sweaty in order to get her running.
This is certainly not entirely the fault of the XL, for I injured my lower back some 20 years ago (too many falls on dirt bikes) and it hasn't been quite right since, so that is a contributing factor.
Another problem is that she just stalls when idling. No warning, no apparent reason for it, but usually happens at the most inconvenient times, like when sitting at the traffic lights, with a stream of cars behind.............er, I mean, when idling in the driveway of my place....
Apart from that, and the white beard that pokes out from underneath the crash helmet, it's GROOVY to be thirty-something again!!!
Thank you all, for your indulgence.
Ride safely, and all have an XL-ent time!!!
(PS. Hey Volker, I'm sorry this thing is so long. I only started out to say thanks..............)