Everybody has a story about an XR, whether it be one of the hundreds we hear from the old days or one from our own experience.
Most people have ridden one and my XR story happens to be me as a young fella jumping on my Dad’s XR, kicking it over with two feet and then starting off with one foot on a wooden bench.
Whatever your story may be, it’s hard to ignore how popular and dominate the mighty XRs were in their day. While only made for a few short years, the XR350 filled the gap between the 250cc and 600cc. The 600 was a big, heavy bike for trailriding while, in certain riding conditions, the 250 could be under-powered. For this reason, the 350 filled a gap for many riders, just like the KTM 350EXC-F does today.
The single-overhead camshaft, four-valve engine was reasonably bulletproof if maintained and feed fresh oil. I have even seen clapped-out versions running around with little to no oil and rattling like a Milo tin full of nuts and bolts.
The biggest problem I see with XR350Rs is poor workmanship. A lot of backyard mechanics seemed to get their hands on these engines and strip every thread in it.
The rocker cover has many 6mm bolts holding it down that only need to be nipped up but always seem to be over-tightened and stripped. The bolts clamping down the barrel and head also get over tightened and stripped. If you are working on one of these engines, buy yourself a torque wrench and follow the manufacturer’s settings. Well-worn engines can use oil and blow smoke from worn rings and can develop rattles from worn pistons as well as play in the little end and big end bearings.
If the engine has been revved excessively or run without oil, the rocker arms can be worn and cause ticking or rattling noises. It will sound like loose tappets but the noise won’t go away when you adjust the valve clearances. When buying an XR350R be sure to have a good listen for any noises or rattles that shouldn’t be there. A rebuild on a bike of this age will cost you more than the bike is worth.
Check for oil leaks and make sure the bike starts and idles easily with plenty of compression. Check the frame for any cracks or fresh welds. If these bikes have been regularly jumped, the frame can crack around the footpeg mounts.
Give all the bearings a look, checking for excessive play, and make sure they rotate freely. Check the front and rear suspension for leaks and make sure it moves freely. If you manage to find an XR350R in top shape, then hang on to it. One in top condition will be prized by enthusiasts.
SECOND HAND PRICE GUIDE (Redbook.com.au)
What to look for:
CHASSIS: The steel frame is notorious for cracking around the footpeg mounts.
BRAKES: The front stopper is a hydraulic disc while the rear is a single-leading shoe drum.
ENGINE: The XR runs a six-speed gearbox which was unusual for enduro bikes at the time.
SUSPENSION: Make sure the Showa fork and gas shock move freely and are not leaking.