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 Post subject: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V.
PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:22 pm 
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Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V.

Back in 1989, at the same time Honda was dipping the first white Pacific "Ghost" into a pot of hot white plastic, another misunderstood bike was keeping it company.

Imported into the USA only from 1989 to 1991,
the frequently never-heard-of Honda "Transalp" was ready to fill the dual sport adventure touring nitch.... only there wasn't one here, not really.... yet.

I think mostly the idea of bolting panniers onto a big twin cylinder dirt bike, tying on a bunch of stuff and heading off to explore all things dirt road was not yet appreciated by everyone.

Still, the little twin cylinder 600cc was indeed here. Like other bikes, the Transalp was imported here for only a short time. Other countries had them ever since, much like it's cousin the Honda Africa-Twin.

Some Specs:

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

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Like another bike we all know.... the misunderstood Pacific Coast, the Transalp was and still is a very reliable, capable bike. About the same weight as single cylinder dual sports of today, with much less vibration and more "trip-capable", or manageable on the highway for part of your cross country tour, yet eager to explore gravel roads and mild trails.

An "Alp, just like the PC-800 was, is on my eventual bucket list. They are still around.... and still some barn finds to be found. They are a sweet running wonderfully reliable little bike, and the aftermarkets are still there for it.... several windshields, seat options, crash bars/engine guards, pannier racks, panniers, Pelicans, and more. Still oddly supported as a contender.... as like our bikes.... they refuse to die.... or be forgotten.

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Some ramblings from someone else I was reading that I will share:

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.

The cylinders are arranged 52 degrees apart and breathe through 32mm constant-vacuum Mikuni carburetors. The engine features a compression ratio of 9.2:1, and two spark plugs per cylinder work to guarantee a quick and clean burn.

Weighing in at about 450lb fully fueled, the 'Alp was light for a street bike, but downright porky for serious dirt use.

That said, it was (and still is) a great bike for light touring and trips across town. It's fun on a curvy back road when ridden within the limits of its tires, and will handle gravel and good dirt roads with aplomb.

Single-track trails aren't impossible on this machine, but rider skill becomes more important off-road. And with a seat height of 35.3in, well, let's just say you don't want it getting the best of you. While an experienced trail rider may be able to keep the bike shiny-side-up going downhill through the trees, it wouldn't be a walk in the park.

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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:41 pm 
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Joined: Sat Aug 25, 2012 11:02 am
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Location: Foothills of The Smoky Mountains
I want one now. Thanks a lot!

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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:32 am 
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I found someone's "tribute" video to the Transalp.
One would one look good in the barn next to the "Coast... :P

It would be more like a set of Tupperware...

Many people unfamiliar with dual sports, or other "big dirt bikes with luggage" have some illusions that they "don't corner, are shaking with vibration, the knobby tires would not possibly work on pavement, the seats are horrible and they would make horrible trip bikes"

And that would all be MYTH.


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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:08 am 
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Ok, and here is 7 minutes of your life you might wish you had back after viewing it, but I will risk the flack and post it anyway.

A couple guys in Denmark as in North of Germany, I had to look it up myself- take a used Honda Transalp for a test drive. Like most "Go Pro" type helmet cam video, a bit of patience is required-- but try to look past the fact that it was not shot by "MTV".

LISTEN..... at idle, at stops and so forth, you will hear the staccato pop-pop-pop of a dual sport's higher placed rather constipated exhaust. Typically corked up like a riding lawn tractor, understand that many of the road worthy dual sports were fighting heat/spark and noise restrictions so they could be driven (where legal) through national parks or used on designated trail systems.

But wait for the guy to hit the straight-away, and open her up.

Listen to the wonderful purr and "whine" of that mill.
These little twin cylinders were buttery smooth, dang snappy quick on a 450 pound-ish bike and could get you up to Gold Wing speeds fast enough to compete on freeway ramps. These babies were smooth. OMG..... and yes, he's on BLACKTOP with a big dirt bike... and didn't tip over...

The guy goes through the gears..... it shifts so smooth it sounds like an "automatic" tranny firing.

Hmmm.... smooth running, sweet shifting.... snappy...... sounds like another bike we know.
When he slows down, you hear the pop-clack-chirp of the choked exhaust system again. Quietly luring some unsuspecting witness into thinking this bike was some sort of toy.

It's not. Many dual sports can squirt out a 1/4 mile in speeds on task with muscle cars of the 60s and 70s. Not fast by motorcycle standards, but even my old KLR 650 would reportedly do a 1/4 mile in the high 13 seconds... a stock 1969 Mustang Mach 1, with a 351 C 4 barrel, runs a 1/4 mile in 13.6 seconds. WHAT? a dual sport could keep up to one?? YES.

No surprise, in 1989 Honda was dialed-in, turning out the likes of the Pacific Coast and the little Transalp, they must have been quite proud to release two such bike models in the same year.

Hats off to Honda, but stop taking the BEST bikes away from us that you made.

Oh, they are not speaking English.... but I think you get the idea they liked the bike. :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:25 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:35 pm
Posts: 60
Location: Pacific Northwest-OR
Saw one for sale today on Portland's Craigslist. Pretty rare bird.


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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:47 pm 
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In flat black it would sell here today... in helloKitty pink it would sell in Japan...


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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:47 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:44 am
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In flat black it would sell here today... in helloKitty pink it would sell in Japan...


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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:51 pm 
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Maybe OD green a hit as well...

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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2014 9:56 pm 
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I saw this one at an Ohio BSA club rally this summer. It's really a rare bird around here.

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 Post subject: Re: Another plastic coated legend, the Honda Transalp XL600V
PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:44 am 
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Posts: 3
Had one of these for a couple years a while back. Absolutely loved it. Enough power for the street, but nimble enough that you could veer off on a firetrail and not worry about it coming out from under you.

I sold mine for the exact same amount I bought it for. Not uncommon for these types of "cult following" bikes... similar to the PC800, because of their very short production run (here in the U.S. at least). A couple guys were planning a trip down to the tip of South America, and the TransAlp was the bike that each of them were specifically looking for.

I used to take my son on the back (he was much younger then), now he's got a GSXR of his own, so I just bought a great used PC800 to ride along.


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