Honda XL 600V Transalp


Make Model

Honda XL 600V Transalp




Four stroke, 52° V-Twin, SOHC, 3 valves per cylinder


583 cc / 35.5 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 75 x 66 mm
Cooling System Liquid cooled
Compression Ratio 9.2:1


2x 32 mm Keihin Carburettor CV


Electrical Electronical double CD-I ingnition, 12Vdc, 12V/12Ah battery, AC-generator, electrical starter, electronic safegard on side stand
Generator 0.310 kW / 5000 rpm
 Starting Electric

Max Power

55 hp / 41 kW @ 8000 rpm

Max Torque

52.6 Nm / 38.8 ft-lb @ 6000 rpm


5 Speed
Final Drive Chain
Gear Ratio 1st: 2.571  2nd: 1.777  3rd: 1.380  4th: 1.125  5th: 0.961
Frame Single downtube with double loop cradle of rectangular section

Front Suspension

41 mm Telescopic hydraulic forks
Front Wheel Travel 200 mm / 7.8 in

Rear Suspension

Pro-link monoshock
Rear Wheel Travel 187 mm / 7.4 in

Front Brakes

Single 276 mm disc 2 piston caliper

Rear Brakes

Single 240 mm disc 1 piston caliper

Front Tyre


Rear Tyre

Dimensions Length 2260 mm / 89.0 in
Width    865 mm / 34.0 in
Width    905 mm / 35.6 in
Wheelbase 1505 mm / 59.2 in
Seat Height 850 mm / 33.5 in
Ground Clearance  195 mm / 7.7 in

Dry Weight

183.0 kg / 404 lbs
Wet Weight 202.0 kg / 445 lbs

Fuel Capacity

18 Litres / 4.7 US gal

Consumption Average

18.3 km/lit

Braking 60 - 0 / 100 - 0

13.3 m / 42.1 m

Standing ¼ Mile  

13.4 sec / 152.8 km/h

Top Speed

172.5 km/h
Related Links

Technical  /  xrv.org.uk / blackbears.ru

Road Test

Motosprint Adventure Group Test


XL 600V vs KLE 500

WHERE THE TRANSALP rider swoops through roundabouts with a contented smile on his face, the KLE rider grins maniacally while trying to keep the footpegs scraping as long as possible. Where the Transalp rider uses the torque infested midrange to push out of corners, the KLE rider is propelled by a useful top end. Still grinning maniacally.

Attitude. That's the difference. In colour scheme, styling and exhaust note, Kawasaki's KLE is Guns'n'Roses to the Transalp's Toto. They are both a laugh to ride, but on the Transalp you chuckle at the ease with which 400lbs of tall motorcycle can sweep through bends; on the KLE you giggle and wonder if it's worth turning round to do it again.

Yet these bikes are aiming at the same goal — they want to be Britain's biggest-selling street trailie. In the subdued green and brown corner we have the Transalp; reigning champion since its introduction in 1987. In the hooligan purple and pink corner we have the KLE; the latest challenger, whose launch heralded a massive advertising campaign on London's Tube...


Kawasaki wants townies to cash-in their season ticket and get a KLE instead. It certainly weaves through traffic like a good'un, but then so does the Transalp and most other trailies. What Kawasaki seems to be banking on is that, besides being a very competent motorcycle, the KLE looks the part. Big K wants to attract anyone who likes the aggressive styling of their ZXR750, but has had enough of the agonising wrist ache they get every time they ride into town. And the agonising costs. And the number of points on their licence.

Virtually unchanged since 1987, the Transalp is a different kettle of porridge; it has long distance touring ability, reserved styling and a stompy engine. Yet the physical similarities between the contenders is striking. Both have tried and tested twin cylinder engines (Kawasaki implanted the GPZ500S motor, Honda originally bored out the VT500 engine to 600cc); both have a double cradle chassis, meaty 41 mm forks, 21 inch front wheel, 17 inch rear, half fairing, single front and rear disc brake, bash plate... suddenly they seem identical until you ride them.

Going from Transalp to KLE, the first thing I noticed was the weight difference. The Kawasaki felt like a tall 250 in comparison. During my brief excursion off road (a dusty track which I made sure was so dry it was effectively a brown road), the Transalp's bulk was always weighing heavily on my mind in an "if I drop this I'm done for" sort of way. The KLE was by no means a KMX200 beater, but at least I thought I'd be able to pick the bugger up on my own if gravity got the better of me.

As a Viz letter writer would say, imagine my surprise when I discovered that according to the manufacturers' figures the 500 is 3kg heavier, at 178kg (dry). Either the Transalp's in-line V-twin and sturdy nose fairing raise the centre of gravity enough to give the impression of bulk, or, as the man from Kawasaki suspected, the KLE's parallel-twin motor is heavy, but low enough to make the bike feel comparatively frisky.

The KLE's low centre of gravity shows in its handling. The Honda is not unwilling to be flopped into tight corners and power its way out, but the Kawasaki is positively enthusiastic, and feels safer because the rider knows a superhuman effort is not needed to get it upright again. Perhaps because of this, I found the KLE's ground clearance limitations much sooner and more often than on the Transalp. It was not a problem. Many a cracking evening was had trying to wear down the blobs on the bottom of the unsprung pegs  plus it's the ideal excuse to practice hanging off the side.

Both bikes have chassis capable of absorbing a lot of silliness round corners before they return the abuse in the form of weaves, understeer and the like. The Transalp tended to rock gently back and forwards round fast corners; the KLE was hard to fault, although both front ends wobbled disconcertingly when accelerating hard across raised white lines.

For relatively heavy bikes with single discs, braking is surprisingly sharp. The dive from the long travel forks (KLE - 220mm, Transalp - 200mm), and the squeal from the thin front tyres only add to the impresssion of stopping in a hurry. But both would benefit from twin discs and fatter front tyres.

The KLE is the keenest to dive, and the first 70mm of travel seem wasted — shut the throttle suddenly and there's a mere 150mm of wheel travel left. At the rear it's the other way round. The Transalp squats more under power or pillion, and under both it feels like it's bottoming out. Preload adjustment helps, but doesn't cure the problem.

Despite looking semi-trailie, both sets of tyres are fine on the road. The Kawasaki comes with Trailmaxcs which are superbly grippy in the dry, and OK in the wet. Dunlop K750's on the Honda have more fresh air between the knobbles, harder rubber and make the bike more unsure of the two in the wet. This of course gives you more of an excuse to stick your leg out and pretend Paul Malin rides a Transalp.

Coming from the sporty GPZ500S, the KLE's eight-valve engine was always likely to have a top-end capable of seeing off mid-range merchants like the Transalp. It has. At around 7000rpm the KLE starts pulling strongly, and will happily keep going to the 11,000 redline. But that is just what it does above 9000 — keeps going. There is no surge at the very top, and it seemed as pointless to take it that far in the gears as it did to force the Transalp to its 9000 redline.

On motorways the top-end poke of the 500 is useful. Cruising at 90 is possible on both bikes. But at that speed the 600 is running out of puff, whereas the KLE will easily give an extra 5mph to get you past the guy in the Cavalier who decides 90mph in the middle lane is the speed and the place to do a spot of map reading.

Kawasaki claim to have tuned the 500cc motor for extra low and mid-range power, and it will comfortably chug away in top from around 3000. Indeed, if I'd ridden the KLE first I doubt if I would have noticed any weakness in the mid-range. But the extra 100ccs of the Honda makes the Kawasaki mid-range seem inadequate — I missed being able to open the throttle at 4000 and get a useful surge of acceleration. On the KLE you have to wait another 2000 for the same response.

Once you've sussed it, this is not important. The KLE asks to be revved harder. The engine feels free, and despite a large silencer mounted under the pillion's right inner thigh, the exhaust note encourages engine abuse. It's not just that it's loud, it's raw too. It seems a waste to trundle along when waiting a few more degrees round the rev counter is such a pleasing row.

Despite sounding coarse in comparison to the dulcet tones of the 600, the 500 is almost as smooth. Smooth is a relative term, however. Jumping on the Transalp after riding a Zephyr 550, I thought the engine was going to shake itself to bits. After a three hour ride on the Honda the bike and I were still in working order, so perhaps I was being a tad sensitive. But if you want a silky ride a twin is not the option to go for.

Over the entire rev range the Transalp suffers less v ibration — the KLE engine has a continuous slappy feel in comparison — but the 600cc motor has greater peaks. At 90mph in top, the Transalp rider receives unsubtle messages through bars and pegs that the 7000rpm resonant frequency has arrived. It's bearable, but encourages your speed to become more legal - or to get your head on the tank and be seriously naughty.

Head-on-tank antics are tempting at high speeds because of the wind blast if you sit up. The KLE's fairing looks more of a fashion accessory than a wind deflector, and I suspected some forearm exercises wouldn't go amiss before my first motorway jaunt. The bulbous Honda fairing looked so ugly that I assumed it had to be useful. In fact there's not much of difference.

In a scientific test which involved riding at speed through a swarm of juicy flies with a clean jacket on, I discovered the Transalp fairing guided the little blighters to their deaths one and a half inches higher than the KLE, which left a splatter line about four inches below my shoulder. Long distances in the dry were not limited by inadequate fairings on either bike.

The rider's bot was the heart of the matter. Honda call the Transalp a "Rally Tourer", and the scat is where it shows. After three hours, with one brief petrol stop, my bum was still in a fit state to tour, if not to rally. The KLE is a "Street Enduro" according to Kawasaki. Arse endurance, more like. It is hard, and anything more than an hour and a half in the saddle is a pain.

The mirrors on the Kawasaki are another irritant. Above 6000rpm everything behind takes on a ghostly shimmer — white-trucks become clouds, white cars become white trucks, and KLE riders become annoyed. The Transalp mirrors work.

In other words, the 600 is an efficient tourer and the 500 isn't. And neither of them are tourers, or much fun, two-up — the Transalp's mid-range stomp disappears into raising the velocity of another body, and the KLE's agility vanishes because all that weight is perched on top.

Thanks to a short seat, KLE pillion are also faced with the troublesome dilemma of whether to slide cosily into the back of the rider, or shuffle unsociably back towards the rack/grabrail. The latter option is not recommended, as your body is so close to the rack that even moderate acceleration sends the pillion's feet into the air and their life flashing before their eyes.

After riding the Transalp for three weeks I was impressed. It was comfy, good at roundabouts, and who cares if the styling is naff? Quite a few people I reckon. An aura of efficient dullness surrounds the bike. It is undoubtedly the better built and finished of the two — even its sidestand has a solid, machined feel to it — but it docs not inspire enthusiasm. After riding the KLE for three minutes, I wanted one. After three hours I wanted a pillow under me bum, but I still wanted one. I still want one now. In the fight for sales, my money's on the one in the purple and pink corner.

Source Bike Magazine1991