Honda Transalp XL600V
Best bets on tomorrow's classics: 1989-1991 Honda Transalp XL600V is a fun and versatile touring bike
One of the most unusual bikes Honda's ever offered, the Transalp was good at just about anything you threw at it and is still a great, practical, do-it-all motorcycle.
Honda Transalp XL600V
Years produced (U.S.): 1989-91
Total production: N/A
Claimed power: 52hp @ 8,000rpm
Top speed: 110mph
Engine type: 583cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke V-twin
Weight (wet): 204kg (450lb)
Price then: $4,498
Price now: $3,500-$4,500
If motorcycles were tools, the Honda Transalp XL600V would be one of those nifty Leatherman Multi Tool combos we seem to see hanging off the belt of every handyman we know.
Styled to look like it was made for cooking across the desert, dodging brush and flying over sand dunes, the Honda Transalp was built to capitalize on the company's Paris-to-Dakar rally victories in the mid-Eighties.
Offered in Europe for two years before coming Stateside in 1989, the bike is an unusual combination of parts and pieces that worked better for more kinds of riding than most anyone expected. Seventeen years later the bike is still a fun and versatile mount with a short list of limitations.
Defined at the time as a "new-concept touring bike" by Honda's PR department, the Transalp was a motorcycle that bridged the gap between different types of bikes without being exactly like any one of them.
It's not a dirt bike or an enduro, and despite being covered in plastic, its long suspension, deep-tread tires and sit-up-and-beg riding position make it very different from the common sportbike.
In fact, this type of bike is more common in today's American market than it was 17 years ago when it was first offered here. Today, there are bikes like the Triumph Tiger, KTM's Adventure models, Buell's new Ulysses and a couple of mounts from BMW to choose from, and yet the Honda Transalp still makes a perfect alternative to these newer (and obviously more expensive) motorcycles. While Transalps are loved by their owners and consequently aren't the most common bike out there, they can be found for a pittance compared to the cost of a new F650GS Beemer.
The engine hiding behind all that plastic is a 583cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke V-twin that's essentially a bored-and-stroked version of Honda's old VT500 Ascot engine.
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