Honda XR’s aren’t known for being high-performance dirt bikes. That’s a given… In stock trim. If you read Part 1 on XR200 Mods, you will know that there are a lot of parts that you can replace for better performance, such as: suspension, intake, and exhaust. Part two we’ll look at the parts that can be removed or replaced for the purpose of reducing the bike’s overall weight. One of the reasons why the Honda XR200R is so popular for trail riding is its simplicity and low weight compared to other bigger four-stroke trail bikes.
Wait, hold on! Why in the world would I spend all this time, effort, and hard-earned money to put this ‘outdated’ dirt bike on a diet? That is a good question, but I will answer that with another question… Have you ridden one that is properly set-up? It won’t win you many bets in a drag race, but if the race is up and through the gnarliest of terrain, this bike will putt to the top with less effort, all the while having a grin on your face (not that riding any dirt bike shouldn’t do that anyway). It’s just a complete package of being a mid-sized bike that is easy to ride, requires little maintenance, and having engine characteristics that make it desirable while still being big enough for many larger riders with some simple mods. Not to mention the fair amount of weight that you can subtract off of the XR200 that just makes it even more fun to blaze through single track trails. As long as there’s oil in the engine and gas in the tank, there’s very little chance of these bikes breaking down. But enough praise of this simplistic and less than eye-pleasing dirt bike; let’s get to the point!
Depending on the year XR200, the curb weight (meaning wet with fluids and ready to ride) is about 230 pounds, or just under 220 without gas. Many people have tried to get that number below 200. While it is possible, it starts getting expensive the closer you get. Getting under 210 without gas is pretty easy if you have some mechanical abilities and motivation. The difference that 20 pounds makes will be like riding a new bike. If you think it’s flickable in stock form, wait till you start removing some major weight, especially the un-sprung mass! More on this later…
The XR200 engine is close to 60 pounds, which is almost one third of the total weight. There’s not much you can remove from it other than a few ounces from the flywheel while staying on a budget and keeping it reliable. Instead, we will have to look at all of the chassis and suspension components to shed the weight. In reality, you can remove weight off of or replace almost any part with something lighter, depending on how creative you can get and how much cash you want to spend. Lightweight parts comes at a price. If you want a completely aftermarket chassis and titanium nuts/bolts for your XR200, you could probably get under 190 pounds, but the cost per ounce saved will be much higher than the first 15 pounds.
Sprung weight or mass is anything that is supported by the suspension. This includes the frame, engine, plastics, etc… These parts aren’t quite as critical as un-sprung parts when it comes to handling performance, but everything adds up (or subtracts if you’re taking weight off). Having a low center of gravity is also very important, and lowering the CG will make the handling characteristics feel like the bike is lighter. So, even if you can’t necessarily remove weight from a certain part, re-locating it to a lower spot (without being obtrusive, of course) on the bike can improve handling by making it “feel” like you removed weight because the bike doesn’t feel as top-heavy.
Yes, now it’s time for some numbers. Below is a list of parts that can be removed or replaced with lighter components along with their weight estimates in pounds and ounces…
- Handlebars – Swapping to aluminum bars alone will save about 1 pound. It’s the highest part on the bike, so this is a very easy weight reduction mod. If you don’t like the stock bars anyway, this is a great time to pick out a handlebar with the right bend, sweep and width to suit you. Every rider is a little bit different, which is why there are so many bars available.
- Snorkel cover – The top snorkel cover on the airbox is not needed unless you are riding through waterholes or in very sandy conditions. This is worth almost half a pound.
- Muffler – The stock muffler is fairly heavy. An aftermarket silencer can save 1 to 2 pounds. Otherwise you can pull the stock baffle out of the muffler for close to the same reduction.
- Case guards – The stock engine case guards aren’t very effective. If you don’t ride in rocky terrain, you can take them off for a 1.5 lb savings.
- Kickstand – I don’t know of any aftermarket aluminum kickstands, but if you can weld one up, that could shave another 1 pound or so. Otherwise just take it off.
- Steering stem – A mid 80s XR250R aluminum steering stem can be made to fit in addition to the inverted forks (see below) to replace the stock steel stem. This is worth about half of a pound.
- Seat – Drilling out some holes in the seat base will take off some ounces. Everything adds up in the end…
- Plastics – Trimming plastics can save a few ounces here and there. Besides, if you do it right, they can make the bike look better too.
- Shifter – Switching to an aluminum shift lever can save several ounces. If you ride in rough terrain or tend to hit your shift lever on objects, you might want to consider sticking with a stock steel lever. This won’t make much difference as far as handling goes because it’s relatively low on the bike anyway.
- Pegs – The stock steel pegs are heavy compared to aluminum ones. If you can find some cheap aluminum pegs off a Honda MX bike and adapt them, that can drop another pound or so.
- Tabs – If you really want to get crazy, grinding off any unneeded tabs from the frame will save a few ounces here and there. Just remember that it will start to rust if you leave the metal bare. This is a good excuse to strip the whole frame down and get it re-painted or powder-coated to make it look like new.
Total Sprung Weight: 6 pounds
Removing any kind of weight is good, but if you can shed un-sprung weight, the results will yield significant results as far as handling and performance goes. Un-sprung mass is all of the suspension components, such as the forks, wheel assemblies, shock, swing-arm, linkage, etc. Removing weight from these parts is more effective than if you were to remove the same amount of weight from sprung mass because it is the rotating and moving with the ground surface and suspension.
Lightweight aluminum rims are highly sought after compared to steel rims because they can reduce a great percentage of rotating mass. A lighter wheel will be a light more responsive when going over obstacles and bumpy terrain because it doesn’t take as much force to move it. This allows for greater traction and improved handling. I don’t want to go too in-depth on this subject or else you’ll be sitting here all day. There’s no set equation that determines how much un-sprung weight removed that would equal the amount sprung weight. Just know that un-sprung mass has a greater effect on handling performance.
Now we’ll look at the key parts for removing weight from the suspension and wheels to make the XR200 the bike that Honda should have made…
- Swing-arm – The stock swing-arm on XR200R’s are steel and can be swapped out for a XR250R aluminum swing-arm (’86-’89) with little modification. It’s about 3.3 lbs lighter and can be found on eBay for under $100. Look for one that still has everything on it if possible, such as the chain guide, slider, and axle adjusters.
- Linkage – Another fairly easy weight savings is switching to an aluminum swing-arm linkage (1984-’85 XR250R). It’s just over 2 lbs lighter, but is debatable on being sprung or un-sprung mass. For less than 50 bucks, this is another good mod. However, the grease fittings may be broken off, and new bushings may be required.
- Forks – The biggest fork mod for weight savings is switching to a CRF150R or CR85R front end (depending on what size front wheel you use). It’s about 6 lbs lighter, but is a little more work and costs several hundred depending on how hard you look. This is by far the most expensive mod on this list, but yields good results on both the weight and performance side of things. A servicing and re-valving will make this bike handle any trail you throw at it, especially if the rear suspension is dialed in as well.
- Wheels – A late 80s RM125 rear wheel is a good 4.5 lbs lighter than the stock XR200 wheel. It can be modified with new spacers and some bearings that match the XR axle size. A complete wheel can be had for 100 bucks or less on eBay. Late 80s RM125 rear wheels are 18″, which is easier to find tires for. Many people swap over to 18″ XR250 rear wheels for the better traction you get from a bigger diameter tire. However, this will have some effect on gearing.
- Sprocket – The rear sprocket is one of the easiest weight saving mods. The stock steel sprocket is about 1.7 lbs heavier than an aluminum sprocket. You can buy an aftermarket rear sprocket or certain bikes that have the same bolt pattern will work. Some examples are: mid to late 1980’s XR250, ’99 and newer YZ125, ’01+ WR/YZ250F, or ’01+ WR/YZ400/426/450F.
- Tires – This depends on what size wheel you have and what kind of tire you want. The size that a tire shows may not be exact. Trials tires give good traction, but weigh more than standard off-road tires. If you want the lightest tire, go with something that’s narrow.
Total Un-Sprung Weight – 18 pounds
If you put all of these savings together (assuming you haven’t added any weight), you should meet the goal of having a sub-200 pound XR200R trail bike without gas! I could go on about every little part that you can replace or make a custom lightweight replacement for, but that’s when a simple and budget-minded project turns into a full-fledged hobby and pocket burner. Other than the CR/CRF front-end on the lists above, all of these parts or mods are relatively cheap and easy for a DIY person to do.
I can’t take all of the credit, as some of this information was from founded from members on ThumperTalk. If you have personally done additional modifications to make your XR200 lighter, please feel free to post your results or email me so I can add it to this article. This information, like all of the articles on Motocross Hideout, are for the benefit of other riders that want to learn more about their dirt bike and be able to work on it themselves.