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Old Tin – 1986 Honda XR350R | Back End

When the Honda XR350R came onto the scene it had the ADB boys thinking, "How can 250 less be so good?"

The mid-‘80s was a time of change for ADB staff, who’d always been strongly pro two-stroke for serious dirt machinery. Four-strokes were regarded as “nice” trail or play bikes.

Then the Japanese started releasing more serious dirtbikes with four-stroke powerplants and ADB’s opinions started to shift. The XR350R was one of the bikes integral to that shift in editorial thinking.

The big catch in selling a 350 in NSW was that the cost of registration rose dramatically at the 300cc mark so most people would opt for a big bore like the XR600 but the 350 was good enough in ADB’s book to make it a viable choice due to a 9kg advantage and cheaper purchase price.

Price was $3149 plus on-road costs and that bought you an air-cooled single with an RFVC head, a six-speed gearbox, dry sump, 35mm Keihin carb and 32.8hp at 7500rpm. Weight was 112kg, 9.5 litres of fuel was carried and the suspension was 280mm at both ends, with a front disc and rear drum handling the stops.


The Pro-Link rear suspension struts had grease nipples and offered 14 compression and four rebound damping adjustments on the Showa shock.  The 41mm fork was the normal telescopic type. The rear wheels was a 17inch but tyres were available from Dunlop, Trelleborg, Bridgestone and Metzeler.

Power delivery impressed the test riders with its flexibility and displayed none of the lurching or snatching that was common with older, big-bore thumpers. One tester described it as like “turning on a tap, the more you turn the more you get”. Later he remarked that it had enough power to pull money out of a Scotsman.

It was regarded as well mannered on the tar, ideal as a trailbike or fun bike and almost on the money as a serious enduro mount. The final summary was that it was a bike that could hold its own in enduro competition but would not be an outright place getter unless everything swung its way on the day. This was due to the shortish wheelbase of 1400mm being a little less than confidence-inspiring at speed especially on fast whoops, although it made for very precise steering in tight going. The weight was also of some concern and the suspension was judged to be a bit soft for the serious racer.

Warren Jack