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Yamaha XT 600
Dike Bike Rider review 1984
On looks alone there appears to be a real battle shaping up. For some weird reason the big-bore street/trail class got a shot of adrenalin for 1984. Honda has been the unheralded king of this division with its XL500/600 series of bikes. Previously, Yamaha stuck its nose in with halfhearted attempts to break the XL stranglehold. No such luck.
This year both Yamaha and Kawasaki sprang forward
with all-new equipment. With the XT600 and the KLR600, both companies are
bidding to take over Honda's throne.
With the new chassis, suspension and motor aboard, the 600 makes the year-old 550 look like a Buick in comparison. So, as you can see, before we ever threw a leg over the 600, our thoughts were positive.
Starting a big single is usually risky business. Kickbacks, dead knees and buckets of sweat come to mind. With the XT, getting fire takes very little effort. An automatic compression release keeps the lever resistance to a minimum. It won't kick back, and unless it's been sitting for a long while, always starts within three or four kicks.
One quick trip through the gears showed us two things: One, it's much faster and more responsive than the 550; and two, it would give the XL600 a run for the money. The power delivery is sweet—smooth off the bottom into a strong mid-range and blending into a relatively mellow top end. Unlike the hard-hitting and high-rewing XL600, the Yamaha is silky smooth, with the bulk of the muscle packed in the mid-range.
We ran an '83 XL600 and the XT600 together for a day, just for comparison's sake. It was noted that the Honda hits sooner and out-revs the Yamaha. In a drag race the Honda would jump out slightly and carry the lead a couple of lengths up to a 70-mph shut-off point. This isn't to say that the Yamaha is slow. It's not. We got an even 100 mph on flat ground and pinned the needle to 115 mph on a slight downhill. That's plenty fast for us. During this comparison, it was also noted that the Yamaha vibrates much less than the Honda. On a long haul it'll be easier on your bod.
Off-road trailing brings out the street heritage of
the machine. It's geared way too high. We'd suggest dropping the counter one
tooth for any dirt work. As it stands, tight going is not the XT's strong point.
HANDLING, ON AND OFF
For such a hefty machine, the Yamaha is a quick
handler. A lightish 28-degree rake gives it off-road traits that are acceptable.
The new safety-type seat and tank combo aid in this area, too. Getting forward
on the bike is natural, giving it a nimbler feel in he corners. Still, always
use caution, as the stock semi-knobs barely hold traction, even when the dirt is
Any serious cow trailing will warrant heavier
springs, both front and rear. But, in stock trim we felt that the XT performed
better than last year's Honda XL. It's firmer, more progressive and will let you
hit gnarlies with some confidence. Considering the XT's pur-
Street riding beats to a different tune. The bike is
exhilarating, to say the least! The short wheelbase, combined with a power snap
in the middle, spells wheelies. In fact, simple power-shifting through the gears
will crank the front end sky-high. It's a rush. Playing Freddie Spencer in the
canyons makes you feel that the bike was designed with this in mind. On the
pavement it's light, steers quickly and has plenty of punch.
BITS AND PIECES
Last year's XT500 carried the oil in the frame
itself. The 600 is still a dry-sump motor but carries the oil in a tank located
between the left-side panel and the rear tire.
Trick tank-mounted cooling shrouds look great, but
what's the point? A meek horn is mounted behind the right-side shroud.
MORE TO COME.. .SOON
Yes, the Yamaha XT600 is an excellent machine. Plush, with a snappy motor and smart dirt-oriented styling that give it the got-to-have appeal. In the big-bore street/ trail class, this bike is definitely a contender for top honors. We haven't tested the new XL600 Honda or the KLR600 Kawasaki yet. Until we do, a winner cannot be declared. One thing's for sure: This has the makings of a hot shootout for the "King of the Duals" class. Stay tuned. □