Tough as nails—that’s the Honda XR650L. It’s not the fastest or most capable of off-road rigs, but it gets its reputation for being one of the hardest bikes to kill.
It’ll get you there, just not in a hurry. In its heyday, Honda’s big single-cylinder used to be popular with veterans and new riders alike for how easy and simple, they are to ride and maintain.
Over time, smaller, faster, or more capable single dual-sport machines entered the party, and over the years we’ve seen the XR650 start to disappear from dealer showrooms across the world. Tighter emissions requirements have also spelled the end for the XR.
However, there is still one big market still getting the mighty XR650—the United States. For 30 years the XR650 has been coming stateside and that trend doesn’t show signs of stopping.
At least not for 2022. If you’re expecting a major makeover though, think again. It’s coming back, but the old dog is just getting a fresh look for the new year as Honda keeps a sharp focus on its venerable Africa Twin.
What’s New on the XR650L?
The graphics. That’s about it. Let’s be real—for a motorcycle, even one as legendary as the XR650L, that’s on its last legs, there’s really no reason for Honda to give it a total makeover.
Giving it a fresh coat of paint, so to speak, was always the best we could hope for. It’s a simple makeover, but one that still looks handsome. Instead of the classic Honda red we’re used to seeing, now we’ve got white all over.
From the front fender to the headlight trim, the fuel tank, shrouds, number plates, and rear fender—all are white. The fuel tank sees a bold XR logo and red/black striping to give it some contrast. It’s offset with black rims to match the black seat.
What’s Not New on the 2022 XR650L?
Everything else, really. Especially the air-cooled, 644cc single-cylinder engine. It’s the model of simplicity and reliability, and the reason why it’s so revered amongst off-road riders who simply want to “get there” regardless of how long it takes.
Electric start means it’s a snap to get it up and running again should you tip it over in the dirt (or anywhere else, really). The steel frame is durable, and even though the long-travel suspension can hardly be considered cutting edge, like the rest of the bike, it gets the job done.
Lastly, don’t forget the subtle throwbacks on the XR650L that remind us of its 1980s origins. You’ve got the little toolkit pouch behind the seat. The thick, square seat itself might offer a lot of padding for both the rider and a passenger, but it looks classic even when new. Then there are the square headlight, brake light, and turn indicators.
Hondas of all kinds have been using those square turn indicators for so long it makes you think they bought them in bulk 30 years ago and are still trying to use up the container they came in.
Nonetheless, joking aside, Honda’s XR650L is carrying on (at least in the US). It may be dwindling across the world for adventure riders, but its reputation for being able to go anywhere and do anything with little fuss has an appeal to riders who don’t need the latest and greatest widgets and mega horsepower.
And you know what? Honda’s modest facelift really does give the bike a fresh look for 2022. Here’s hoping the mighty XR sticks around for a while longer.