In recent years the XR650L has garnered a bit of a cult following, and I think this is for a couple reasons. One, since the bike has been unchanged for over two decades, which means the aftermarket and DYIers have had PLENTY of time to come up with a million different mods and parts. Second, this bike was available at a time when capable off-road bikes with license plates were hard to come by. In the pre-EXC (and other like models) era, a 644cc air-cooled SOHC single didn’t look as heavy and outdated as it does today.
The XR650L in stock form has retro overall ride, which is very familiar and comfortable, even though I was six when the first 650L rolled off the assembly line. The cold-blooded thumper likes you to use the choke (conveniently mounted on the bar) when first starting it up in the morning. Given the racier XR650R’s proclivity to be a nightmare to kickstart, I imagined the 650L would share some of this reluctance to light, yet the street-legal bike started immediately after a quick stab to the e-starter nearly every time, in gear or neutral. In fact, it started better than some modern electric-start off-road only machines I’ve ridden lately.