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Honda XL 600R
Make Model Year Engine Capacity Induction Ignition Max Power Max Torque Transmission Front Suspension Rear Suspension Front Brakes Rear Brakes Front Tyre Rear Tyre Wet Weight Fuel Capacity Consumption Average Standing
¼ Mile Top Speed
Standing ¼ Mile
Dirt Bike 1984
Yamaha XT600L vss Honda XL600R vs Kawasaki KL600A1
Dual-purpose bikes face a curious dilemma. On one hand, they must be comfortable for long freeway rides out to the country; on the other hand, they have to be nimble in the dirt without feeling too heavy. Yet when you're talking about the biggest engines available in dual-purpose bikes, "nimbleness and lightness" are words usually said in jest.
For this shootout, the Dirt Rider staff compared the Yamaha XT600L, Honda XL600R and Kawasaki KL600A1. They're the biggest, meanest and best dual-purpose bikes we've ever tested.
When Honda's first item on their list of "changes and improvements" for the 1984 bike is "new graphics," you know you'll have to look long and hard for any startling technical information. Actually, the '84 bike is virtually identical to last year's XL600R. The seat height, wheelbase, ground clearance, footpeg height and weight are all the same this year, and neither the suspension components nor the tires have changed.
Other than a new shift lever design that now allows for adjustment and a
piece of felt soaked in heavy grease above the fork seals to help prevent
stiction and lubricate the tube, the only changed items on the 1984 XL600R
relate to starting the bike and keeping it from stalling.
The carburetors (the same ones as on the XR500R) were also tweaked a bit to
help both starting and idling on the monster 600.
Tough choice here. Each of the three 600s is loads of fun and possesses characteristics that make it the best in one particular area. The Kawasaki probably has the most potential; its suspension and handling outshine those of its rivals by a fair margin on either street or dirt. However, our test bike was terminally slow and had a comparatively weak front brake, traits that were undoubtedly peculiar to our test bike in talking to some satisfied owners. Also, for a liquid-cooled bike, the engine seemed to get pretty hot, passing the heat back to our legs.
Our Honda was probably the best dirt bike of the bunch. It had a good, strong
front brake, handled fairly well and seemed to have the most horsepower, though
it was mostly on top. But I didn't like the way it died unpredictably in slow
traffic or trail work. It also leaked oil in my garage and the seat was too
It would chug down or idle practically all day without a cough and felt
stronger down low than the Honda. Its tires seemed better than the ones on the
XL or the skinny-feeling ones on the KL. However, it definitely needs stiffer
fork springs. Oh yes, the XT is the winner in the
After spending years as a serious racer, dual purpose bikes have won my
heart. They are extremely nimble on the street and they are, well ... a lot of
fun in the dirt.
I'd love to
be able to say that the Kawasaki is the best, but I can't since the engine
doesn't thrill me. A 600cc single-cylinder four-stroke should have so much
torque that you can hardly keep the front end down when leaving a stop light.
Wheelies on the KL600A1 are more work than they are fun; the engine just isn't
as powerful or torquey as the Yamaha and the Honda. feel the same way everybody
else on the staff does—put some horsepower in that kWacker and I'd ride it
We took these three bikes out on a head-to-head major trail ride, traveling
on freeway sections on the way there and back, and curvy canyon pavement in the
middle. We lived with them on a daily basis as commuters and trailsters as well.
They are all good for their intended purpose.
The Yamaha has a neat motor and good dirt tires, but the imbalance in the
suspension ruins the handling. Passengers were happiest on the rear of the
Yamaha. It started and carbureted the best. Honda has been building D-P bikes
you didn't get to ride them all, any one would make you happy. For me, a good
dealer would greatly influence my choice.
We took these three bikes out on a head-to-head major trail
ride, traveling on freeway sections on the way there and back, and curvy canyon
pavement in the middle. We lived with them on a daily basis as commuters and
trailsters as well. They are all good for their intended purpose.
Yamaha's offering in the big-bore department of the dual-purpose world is the XT600L. Compared to last year's XT550K, the 600's new engine displacement was achieved by increasing the bore from 92.0 to 95.0mm, though the same 84.0mm stroke is used on the 600. Yamaha did trim some weight off the piston, the piston pin and other related parts to keep the reciprocating mass equal to the weight of the 550. A larger, three-gallon gas tank is partially covered by the new extended seat. Yamaha says the "safety seat" is for better control in traffic; you know the real reason.
To shave the weight that rides
high on the XT600L, Yamaha changed the instrument panel on the new model. Yamaha
wanted to lower the amount of weight held up high on the bike. The passenger
footpegs are now frame mounted for a more comfortable ride and a new scoop
directs cooling air to the cylinder head.
The four-stroke engine uses four valves and a double overhead cam. A double rotating counterbalancer cuts down on vibration, and a "silent" cam chain with automatic tensioner helps keep engine noise down. The handlebar-mounted choke makes starting easier, as does the automatic compression release.
ON THE GAS
These dual-purpose bikes are three of the best Open class DP bikes ever built.
Each has some quality or personality trait that makes you want to say "Wow!"
Being the best dirt-handling bike doesn't come without sacrifice, though, and in this case, the payoff is substantial. The Honda is the worst street bike of the three. The short wheelbase (55.9 inches) makes the Honda uneasy on the freeway when compared to the Yamaha and the Kawasaki. The passenger pegs on the Honda are mounted on the swingarm, which means every time you hit a bump, your partner's pegs move. If you bottom out the rear suspension, your passenger is going to be very uncomfortable (that's if the pegs didn't already skyrocket your friend).
The engine on the Honda is very strong, but it performs best when
revved high. The clutch was never a problem, and all the controls—well, almost
all-were usable and durable. After an un-
signal ripped off the metal bolt to which it had been molded. But considering
the speed of the crash, it wasn't a significant loss.
In the dirt, the Kawasaki is very predictable and confidence-inspiring. At first glance, you would think the Kawasaki is a lot heavier than either the Honda or the Yamaha. It isn't. On the street or in the dirt, the Kawasaki felt no heavier than the other two bikes.
It was slower, though. Much slower. It could be that we got a
lemon for a test bike, but our KL600A1 was decidedly slower than the Honda and
the Yamaha, making it hard work staying up with the other two bikes—a pity since
the Kawasaki's suspension is much more balanced and of better quality.
The electrical system died abruptly, and we couldn't get the bike runnin§ again. Since we were in the middle of nowhere, we left the KL in some bushes with additional camouflaging and picked it up the next day. After drying out some, the bike started and ran fine.
The Yamaha XT600L found praise heaped on
its chugging motor. It had the best all-around tires, too. The XT was by far the
easiest to start. It kicked through easily and fired up after two or three
kicks. In comparison, the Honda didn't always want to go when you did, while the
Kawasaki needed even more kicks before it could be persuaded to start.
The way the Yamaha handled in the dirt was probably its weakest area. Either because of the unbalanced feel of the suspension or because of the extra weight up high, the XT600L was not exactly a treat to throw into a big, sweeping, fire road corner. You have to get way up over the front end to keep it from washing out, and you can't depend on the rear end to do the same thing every time. High-side swaps were a grim reality during our action photo session. Beyond these complaints, the Yamaha did everything else well. The brakes, the seating position, the controls and the riding comfort are all fine.
So all three bikes have some relatively minor problems, but they've also got some pretty impressive characteristics. They are all excellent dual-purpose bikes, capable of tackling just about any obstacle (speaking from experience), and they are all great on the highway. We'd almost like to call the Kawasaki KL600A1 the winner of our comparison since it handled the best under all conditions and has the best suspension, but it's just too darn slow for a 600cc motorcycle. The Honda could be the winner, too, because-it handles more like a dirt bike (and, after all, we are called Dirt Rider Magazine), but the Honda's seat is uncomfortably soft, and it is hard to start and periodically sputters and dies.
Perhaps the Yamaha should win by default. It doesn't do anything all that
exciting as far as performance goes, but it isn't a death trap, either. It
starts easily and didn't break down, but we can't seem to forget those high
sides and the fact that the engine occasionally coughed and sputtered under