July ’13 Dirt Bike of the Month – XR200R

Yep, another red riding machine. Why? Because the Honda XR line-up is a straight-up classic. They may not be the most high-tech bikes out there, but that’s why we love them so much; for their simplicity and ease of use, as well as fun factor! If you ask someone that’s owned an XR200, they will tell you that it’s one of the best trail bikes made if you want something easy to ride, a shorter seat height, but still has enough power for most anything you come across.

The XR200R changed a few times over the years before they discontinued making them, but most of the changes were done before 1992. The Pro-Link Suspension came out in the early 80s that made this bike ride nice with good handling for a four-stroke trail machine. However, the engine configuration didn’t get sorted until 1986. ’86-’91 are known to be the best years for Honda’s 200cc trail bike because of its good suspension and engine combination. It was also fairly light because there wasn’t much “added junk” on the bike compared to some newer dirt bikes. Dry weight was under 220lbs for those years.

1988 Honda XR200R
1988 Honda XR200R

In 1992, Honda took the different route and de-tuned the suspension, thus making it more of a plush kids dirt bike with a lower seat height. The forks and shock had less travel and didn’t perform as well. The rear shock was also not re-buildable like the previous generation was. That’s not to say they aren’t still great woods bikes, because they still had the same great 200cc powerplant. You can even swap suspension components onto the later models if you want to spend some cash to make it a better ‘woods weapon’.

What’s Hot?

  • Bullet-Proof XR engines
  • Simple and easy to maintain
  • Easy to kick-start
  • ’86-’91 has good suspension and headlight/capable
  • Cheap trail bikes
  • They hold their value
  • Simple mods to un-cork it (intake/exhaust)
  • Lightweight
  • Many parts interchange with other XR’s

What’s Not?

  • Harder to find because no one wants to sell them
  • 1992+ and 2000+ models got suspension downgrade
  • Not as fast as most modern trail bikes
  • No E-start
  • Drum Brakes

What To Look For?

A lot of these dirt bikes have been used and abused. However, if it was maintained at all, one with a lot of hours can still be a good buy. There really isn’t a whole lot you need to do with the XR engines, other than regular oil and filter changes, as well as keeping the bike clean.

The main things to check for are worn out parts, such as chain, sprockets, wheel bearings, and suspension components. Has the engine been modified? Many people put big-bore bore kits on them, so just be careful when looking at one. Is the engine making any noise (timing chain/piston/valves) or smoking? If so, it will need to be looked at and probably rebuilt. Always check to make sure there’s oil in the engine. Some people ride the wheels off of these dirt bikes and are too lazy to do simple maintenance. If you don’t see any oil, walk away or expect to do an overhaul and re-adjust what you’re willing to pay for it. A top-end rebuild is fairly cheap and easy to do with a manual, but expect the rest of the bike to be neglected as well.

Cost: 400-1500

If you get lucky, an 80s XR200R may only cost a few hundred bucks if it has been sitting in someone’s garage for years and needs some TLC. If you want a lower seat height for training people at the cost of a couple inches of suspension travel, the 90s XR200’s are an excellent choice. Same great engine, and the forks are still the same, but they have a couple different internal parts that lower it.

Any XR200R is a great choice if you want a lightweight, durable, easy to ride trail bike. There’s guys out there that race hare-scrambles and enduros and do really well with them. Some simple suspension changes can go a long way in making it ride better if you’re more experienced and want a fun little trail bike.

-Tom Stark

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