“Maxxis Tires” – Basic Ink #48 “1986 XL250R and XL600R” – PulpMX

For this version of Basic Ink, we’re going to have a look again at Honda’s dual-sport lineup for 1986. 

Twin-sports just like the 1986 XL250R and XL600R promised go-anywhere functionality and do-anything practicality to riders on the lookout for somewhat journey to go along with their each day commute. Picture Credit score: Honda 

Immediately, dual-sport bikes are all the craze. A bike fanatic can discover every thing from sixties-style “scramblers” to hard-core off-roaders to scratch that two-wheeled itch. On the high-performance finish, you’ve got machines like Honda’s CRF450RL, KTM’s 500 EXC-F, Husqvarna’s FE 450, and Beta’s 430 RR-S that are little greater than filth bikes with flip indicators. Within the center floor, you discover machines like Suzuki’s venerable DR-400S and Honda’s timeless XR650L. These dual-sport stalwarts provide dirt-worthy functionality with a very good deal extra on a regular basis consolation than the European exotics. Stepping down yet one more notch in off-road functionality finds machines like Kawasaki’s legendary KLR650, Suzuki’s DR650S, Honda’s CRF300L, and Kawasaki’s KLX300. These machines provide off-road styling, however personalities greatest suited to fire-road exploring and each day commuting. At the exact opposite excessive from the filth bikes with lights, you discover large and costly “Journey” bikes like Honda’s Africa Twin, BMW’s R1200GS, and KTM’s 1290 Tremendous Journey. These machines are notable for his or her unimaginable versatility, shocking functionality, and expansive characteristic units. 

Whereas the XLs featured the same single shock Professional-Hyperlink association to those discovered on the CRs, smooth settings and less-sophisticated internals meant they provided rather more restricted efficiency.

With such all kinds of machines obtainable, it may be simple to search out the suitable machine for you. Trying to trip to work all week and do some filth street exploring on Sunday? Decide up a CRF300L or KLX300 and your commute simply received much more entertaining. Trying to trip from Montana to Alaska for a summer time trip? Decide up a KLR650 and hit the freeway certain for the northern lights. Desirous about conquering a Baja journey? Honda’s XR650L has the ability and pedigree to get you from La Paz to Ensenada with out breaking a sweat. 

Each the XL fashions for 1986 provided radically up to date appearances that set them other than their CR and XR siblings. 

Within the mid-eighties, nonetheless, the dual-sport (or dual-purpose because it was recognized then) market was very totally different. Honda XLs, Suzuki SPs, Yamaha XTs, and Kawasaki KLRs had been the twin sports activities of their time and none of them provided efficiency to rival their off-road counterparts. Delicate and underdamped suspension, big-time weight, and a wholesome dose of DOT froof meant these machines could possibly be a little bit of a handful off the overwhelmed path. All of them made good commuters they usually could possibly be enjoyable for somewhat hearth roading however throw in some deep sand whoops and a wholesome dose of mud and their limitations turned shortly obvious. 

Whereas surprisingly succesful off-road with some modest upgrades, the XL’s inventory street-focused tires made journeys to the dunes and runs by the mud inadvisable. 

Whereas not one of the Japanese twin sports activities of the mid-eighties had been significantly nice filth bikes in inventory situation, that didn’t cease them from growing a faithful following. Rugged, dependable, reasonably priced, and comparatively mild, bikes just like the Honda XLs made an ideal selection for first-time riders, metropolis commuters, and fanatics on the lookout for a street-legal machine that would do some off-road adventuring every so often. So long as you saved their limitations in thoughts, these do-it-all machines of the Eighties could possibly be enjoyable and prepared off-road companions.

In 1985, Honda had probably the most expansive dual-sport lineup within the enterprise. That season, they provided the XL80S, XL100S, and XL125S for campers and freshmen, the XL250R for commuters, and the big-bore XL350R and XL600R for canyon carvers and hearth street bandits. All three of the full-sized XLs featured Honda’s patented RFVC motor design, Professional-Hyperlink single-shock rear suspension, and styling straight off the CR motocrossers. With their added weight and energy, the XL350R and XL600R additionally received the good thing about a entrance disc to assist carry them down from velocity. 

Launched in 1983, Honda’s four-valve 599cc RFVC mill has confirmed to be one of the crucial long-lived and profitable engine designs in off-road historical past. With a pedigree that features numerous desert and cross-country victories, this rugged, easy, and highly effective engine design has been a mainstay in Honda’s off-road lineup for 4 a long time. 

For 1986, Honda paired down their dual-sport choices considerably, dropping the XL80S, XL100S, XL125S, and XL350R from the lineup. This left the XL250R and XL600R as the one conventional dual-sport machines within the Honda steady. An all-new machine, the Honda Reflex 200, was added in 1986, however its trials-based design appeared to reply a query nobody was asking. It was too sluggish for freeway use and too uncomfortable for commuting. Maybe its function was to supply a alternative machine to campers lamenting the demise of the smaller XLs. Whatever the reasoning behind its design, it failed to search out a lot of an viewers in Honda’s showrooms.

With the XL250R and XL600R, you had two machines that appeared a lot totally different than the yr earlier than, however almost the entire adjustments for ‘86 had been beauty. Each XLs adopted an all-new colour scheme that harkened again to the white and crimson Mugen machines ridden by Johnny O’Mara in 1981. White plastic, daring new graphics, and a thick coat of fireplace engine crimson paint for the motors gave the ’86 XLs a really distinctive look that set them other than their understated predecessors. Even by Eighties requirements, the crimson, white, and blue graphics, “have a look at me” motor paint, and gold accents on the XL600R had been a daring aesthetic selection. 

For 1986, Honda dropped all their small-bore XL choices and launched a novel off-roader aimed toward trials fanatics. 

Whereas each machines seemed fairly totally different than the yr earlier than, mechanically they had been largely unchanged. Except for the colour swap, all of the bodywork was equivalent to 1985 other than an upgraded seat cowl on the 600 that was designed to forestall water from seeping into the froth. Each bikes received upgrades to the handlebar switches and tweaks to the twin carburetors, cam profile, and ignition to assist beginning. Each machines as soon as once more featured Honda’s single shock Professional-Hyperlink rear suspension, however the dampers discovered on each had been much less refined than these discovered on the off-road solely XRs. The shock on the XL600R did provide 4 adjustable settings for rebound however neither the 600 nor 250 featured any changes for compression. Each units of forks had been equally rudimentary with the one obtainable adjustment being air stress utilizing Shrader valves within the fork caps. The fork diameter was considerably smaller than what was provided on the XRs as properly with the XL600R making do with flexy 39mm legs and the XL250R providing mini-class-sized 37mm stanchions. As soon as once more, it was essential to maintain the XL’s meant use in thoughts earlier than airing out any street jumps or pinning it by any sand washes. When you saved it chill and loved the surroundings, the XLs could possibly be plenty of enjoyable, however should you tried to do your greatest Bruce Ogilvie impression throughout the desert you had been prone to end up choosing cactus thorns out of your bottom.

Marketed as a lightweight entry-level off-roader, the Reflex’s lack of consolation on-road and modest functionality off-road made it a tricky promote to many. 

Whereas the Reflex shortly made its approach into obscurity, the spirit of the XL250R and XL600R nonetheless very a lot stay on within the type of the trendy CRF300L and XR650L. A lot of the present XR650L’s DNA might be traced proper again to this XL600R with each machines sharing the identical primary motor design. The present CRF300L is rather more of a contemporary creation with its inverted forks and gas injection, however its mission just isn’t all that dissimilar to this XL from a bygone period. Enjoyable, reasonably priced, and dependable transportation won’t ever exit of fashion, and Honda is aware of that each bit as a lot at present because it did in 1986. 

Whereas actually larger in efficiency, a lot of the 1986 XL600R’s DNA can nonetheless be seen in Honda’s 2023 XR650L.