A tinkerer's 40-year journey on a few XR500's

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New and improved clutch (December 2019)

Old springs (36.4 mm) vs. new Barnett ones

Billet basket fitted to OEM ring vs. original unit

New Barnett friction plates

Honda XR Family outing (November 2019)

Restoring more XR500R plastics (October 2019). More here.

38 years later, it is time for some rejuvenation

Removing the oxidized layer with a blade

And then, many, many hours of sanding

After polishing and new decals. Job done.

The modified 1981 XR500R needs an engine (Sep. 2019)

Some riding (August 2019 )

The beast at rest

Never going back to work

Boy getting some air time

Glorious mess (July 2019)

XR500 C&J HPF mono (May 2019). More here.

XR500R with CR480R forks, CR450R swing arm (Jan '19)

The good bits are coming together.

CR480R top triple hits the tank

84 XR500R triple fits much better

Some NOS Honda XR500 parts, why not? (December 2018)

Clutch basket


FT500 motor for electric start XR (Oct. 2018) More here

Beefy rotor

Beefy clutch

Starter gear, ouch.

A leak right?

Hollister, CA (September 2018)

It deserves a better pilot than me

May be this one, one day

Glamour shot

The reason bikes projects are now slow (Sep. 2018)

1975 Jaguar XJ6C

Awesome and heavy

A long road ahead...

Summer time in France, XR500R and friends (July 2018)



Fun distractions

Let's get some Honda parts pretty

Riding times, good times

The Honda XL500S "Special" is making progress. More here.

I love lacing wheels

Oh yes....

12V light works! No battery.

Ready to ride finally

Some eBay finds for Honda XR500 and XR500R

Case protector

Interesting DIY header

Inlet replacements galore

OEM 12 V bulb

Glass unit, later model

It fits almost perfect...

Certainly looking good

The ultimate weight gain

In front of the camera for once

NOS from the bottom of a box

New XR generation on the rise.

Jan. 2017

Honda XR Family outing.

Jan. 2017

Glorious XR500R ride at dusk in France. March 2017.

Project Honda XL500S "Special". More here.

It started, finally

October 2016

Wires everywhere...

September 2016

Getting there

November 2016

Cool non-OEM bits waiting for the right chassis (June 2016)

Thor for twin shock

Period C&J (straight)

HPF monoshock

July 2016

Two 1981 XR500R. Double the fun.

Mikuni VM38, the right settings (May 2016). More here.

The single most impactful modfication one can make to improve power without spending a fortune is to feed more fuel/air misture to the engine. I chose to standardise all bikes with Mikuni round slides 36mm and 38mm.

However, the devil is in the detail. The carburator has to be set up properly and this no easy task if you do not have guidance. The best is to have a template from a well running bike.

It just happened that I have a template, a Don Vesco tuned XR500 motor on the HPF monoshock that goes like a bullet.

So I dismantled that carb, noted all the references and ordered all new parts for 2 additional carbs (one is brand new but set up for a 2 stroke so had to be gutted) from SUDCO.

I learned that for a XR500, it is better to have a Mikuni carb body with the idle screw on the right.

Honda CR450R swing arm on a 81 XR500R (April 2016)

+7 cm wheel base!

Welding brackets


Some rare non-OEM period exhausts (Feb. 2016). More here.



Honda XR500R, from rags to riches (Dec 2015). More here.

That might come handy one day

After "some" hours...

November 2015

Raced the Honda XR500 HPF monoshock at a hare scramble in Hollister. After cleaning the air filter and the carburetor, this thing went like a bullet!! This bike deserves a much better rider than me.

October 2015

I have finally found an original Mugen Al Baker exhaust header to complete the Honda XR500 Baja Commander project. Woohoo! Here it is mounted temporarily on another current project.

September 2015

Slow progress on the current project. Husqvarna ITC shocks fit perfect and give the right height to match the 84 XR500R forks.

July 2015

Honda FT500 engine for a future Honda XR500 electric start project. Planning for my old days...

June 2015

An almost complete 1982 XR500R for $100, I could not resist...

April 2015

From 6 to 12 volts. An easy conversion to the lighting coil.

Update: that did not work. I eventually used a different technique, see here.

February 2015

I have started working on a 1982 XR500R engine whose previous owner committed the mistake of pulling the selector forks axle behind the oil pump... So I took it all apart, no bad surprise, a HC piston in it.. I will make this one strong and pretty.

January 2015

The motor on Honda XR500 monoshock (HPF) had been capricious lately.

Went riding at Hollister Park. I was anxious about the misfiring, that plagued me last month and sort of subsided earlier this month. I checked the spark plug cover connection cleaned and oiled the air filter. WHAM started first kick and the misfiring was ... gone.

Update: I had an absolute blast with that bike. It is like the faster I go the better it handles, the chassis is just amazing, the rear suspension is a dream, the front is still a little hard and knocks a tad on rebound. But that engine.... what did Don Vesco do to it back in the eighties? It just does not stop revving up, the response is immediate, not a hint of hesitation and it just propels the bike forward in an accelerating acceleration sort of way. The Mikuni 38mm must have been adjusted to perfection.

I experienced something new today, that ride was amazing.

November 2014

Tested the Fox Twinclicker , it works wonders!

Replaced the front forks seals on the 1984.

Got the girl (8 y old) to try riding and she loved it. So I got her a XR70 (with pink stickers...). Now I have two ponies on the track. Started to ride with them, wonderful.

October 2014

Not much this month, only the work on the Fox Twinclicker and still no time to go test it on the track.

September 2014

Sorry folks but there is nothing really new since April. I have done zero riding and zero tinkering:

I have moved houses and spent some time on the motorcycle track at Metcalf, south on San José with my boy, 6 years old and his XR50. We recently took the side wheels off, he is proud of being able to stand on the footpegs while moving at speed.

If all is well, this week I will get a the Fox TwinClicker on a dyno to get some numbers that will help me find a softer spring.

April 2014

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.

May 2013

All 3 bikes bikes currently in service.

- Honda XR500 Baja Commander 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.

- Honda XR500 HPF monoshock 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 Honda XR500R RFVC 1984 remains stock. Amazing machine. Seeping oil behind the sprocket. White Brothers swingarm and White Power shock patiently awaiting on the box.

- The 4th frame (C&J) 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.

April 2013

Second track ride for the Honda XR500 HPF monoshock. 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...

March 2013

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!!).

December 2012

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.

November 2012

Finally got the new rear brake cable from Motion Pro for the Honda XR500 Baja Commander. They must have a strange 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: the suspensions, front and rear are properly shot again, need a full rebuild after the Baja race obviously.

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, again.... Just as well, I have still to fit the trick crankshaft and the billet aluminum clutch basket.

October 2012

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, parts are ordered from Thor Lawson.

September 2012

It has been a rather slow summer with only a little bit of tinkering on the Honda XR500 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).

March 2012

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. More about the Baja San Felipe 250 2012.

On the way back from Mexico, we stopped by Jeff Cole's to show the Baja Commander and pick up a frame.

December 2011

Dec 31. Finishing the year with two bangs

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... :)

Dec 26: This beautiful 1984 XR500R was my ride back into dirty living. On the back of the newly acquired trailer and en route to the motocross track in Metcalf, half an hour away.

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.

Dec 15: The latest addition to the stable is a 1984 XR500R with allegedly less than a 1,000 miles in its boots.

A Craigslist find almost around the corner in San José on a Saturday, cash exchanged on a Sunday.

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 Metcalf.

The Craigslist ad read:

Selling my 1984 XR500 the bike was bought new ridden twice on private land and was stored for 26 years. The bike is in new condition and is all original down to the tires grips etc. When I received the bike from a family member I performed a full service (valves, oil/filter change, new unit filter to replace deteriorating stock unit, new plug, cleaned both carbs disassembled steering tube and re packed bearings with new grease, lubricated the swing arm pivots) after service the bike was treated as new and the break in procedure was performed.

Bike has 10 rides on it now. Bike starts first kick and has great power and has no issues what so ever.