4Strokes.com Honda technical: XR200 Hop-Ups and Mods by Stuart Watson

Stuart's XR200 Hop-Ups and Mods | Updates 1/98 Rear Shock and 11/98 Sidewinder Enduro

Purchased a New 1983 Honda XR200

I bought an XR200 new in 1983 to play around on as a second bike. This was the last good year before the weird engine in 1984-1985. Before I even rode it, I had the dealer install White Brothers' engine performance package for the 200, most of which is still available from them today. It included a racing cam, bigger Mikuni carb, aluminum airbox, and oversize header pipe. This mod gave the bike enough power to lift the front wheel in second gear pretty much whenever desired. I raced it in a hare scrambles in this form in 1985 and trophied in 4th or 5th place. The suspension was the bike's weakness, but pumping the air-assist forks to 10 or 12 pounds helped a great deal, and putting the shock on the firm setting with extra preload on the spring made the rear almost tolerable over most bumps, but if I got more than a couple of feet of air over jumps, I paid for it on the landing!

High Compression Piston and SuperTrapp Muffler

In 1988 I installed a high-compression piston (12:1, race gas only) and a better aluminum SuperTrapp muffler. This added a little more power, to lift the front wheel in third gear over slight bumps, but I was expecting more and was disappointed. However, I rode trails a lot with a friend on a 1987 Kawasaki KDX 200 with a FMF pipe, and had no trouble keeping up with him. When we tested the bikes in a rolling drag race, down a road, I only fell behind about two bike lengths from second gear to fifth gear.

Houston Hare Scrambles, 3rd Place

Last year (1996) when my 1995 KTM 440 was out of action, I raced the trusty old XR200 in a hare scrambles near Houston in the Over 40 C class against a field of about 20 other bikes, most of them 250 two-strokes and about 10 years newer. I thought I would be buried in their roost on the starting line. But in the dead-engine start, my sweet-starting baby XR roared to life with half a kick and I nailed them all with a terrific hole-shot! Then, I led the entire first 9-mile lap. At the end of the lap, a guy on a WR250 I had been dicing with all year for second place passed me. At the end of the second lap, the guy who had been winning all year on a YZ250 passed me. At the end of the third lap I got the checkered flag in third place, beating a whole flock of fancy new two-strokes.

Sidewinder Enduro, 4th Place

Also last year, I rode the baby XR in the Sidewinder Enduro just for fun in the cross-country class (no timekeeping, just gas it). The XR handles so well in the woods, I was keeping up with B class riders on 250 two-strokes, and even passed a couple. When following these hot-shots through tight woods, I observed their technique. Typically, to get through a turn fast, a two-stroke has to lock up the rear brake and slide partially through the turn before getting on the gas coming out of it, again causing sliding through excess wheel spin. This looks and feels very impressive, but it's really just wasted energy. While harassing these guys on the XR, I rarely had to use the rear brake at all. When I saw their rear wheel lock up and slide going into a turn, that was my cue to simply down-shift one gear and let my engine compression slow me down enough to motor smoothly through the turn, with minimum wheel spin and maximum acceleration. Granted, I was having to flog my engine, staying in the upper part of the rev range, but I was smoother than the two-strokes and giving them fits. At the next checkpoint, a guy I passed on a new KTM 250 eyeballed my ancient red-orange XR200 and said "Damn! That little bike is quick! What have you done to the engine?" I leaned over conspiratorially and said quietly "Everything that CAN be done to it". Nodding his head, he said in relief, "Yeah, I just knew it had to have a killer motor!" I was grinning inside my helmet, and my 200 was idling like a purring kitten. That really made the little XR's day! We went on to trophy in fourth place.

220cc Big Bore Kit Plans

This year I plan to bore the XR out to 220. Powroll has a bore and stroke kit that takes the 200 all the way to 240cc, but I don' t want to stress the engine that much. However, there is a guy in my club who put the 240 kit in a XR200 engine and custom fit it into a CR125. I can't even come close to keeping up with him. He races hare scrambles in the A class with it and trophies regularly. But I rode his bike and it has less low-end power than mine, though it really scoots at high revs. It must be the difference in the cams. I got the White Brothers "all-around" cam.

Progressive Suspension Fork Springs

I have just put new fork springs in the XR, from Progressive Suspension. They should improve the fork action. Later I will get the shock spring from the same company. If anyone is interested, I will post the results from these mods later.

All of this is to say -- you guys with XR200's out there, take heart! It is possible to breathe enough fire into the little bike to race it and even kick a little two-stroke butt! Thumpers rule, two-strokes drool!

Stuart's XR200 Hop-Ups and Mods | Updates 1/98 Rear Shock and 11/98 Sidewinder Enduro

Return to Honda Technical

Copyright © 2015 4Strokes.com | All Rights Reserved | Terms of Use | Sitemap | Link to 4Strokes.com