Honda Transalp XL600V

Best bets on tomorrow's classics: 1989-1991 Honda Transalp XL600V is a fun and versatile touring bike

| May/June 2006

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)
MPG: 39-58
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.

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