The Honda XL600LM was a tribute to the HRC Paris-Dakar Rally machines of the 1980s. In 1982, Cyril Neveu won the legendary trans-Saharan race on an XR550, and Honda was intent on repeating that victory, assembling ever more potent factory teams to tackle the world’s most challenging off-road race.
The regular XL600 featured a square-tube chassis and 45-hp twin-carb RFVC engine, to which the limited-edition XLM added a long-range 7.4 gallon tank, twin headlights, works livery, tubeless tires, and more. While it would take a twin-cylinder motorcycle for Honda to regain victory in the Paris-Dakar — an NXR750 in 1986 — the XLM remains one of the most iconic single-cylinder off-road motorcycles of that time, a rival of the original Yamaha 600 Ténéré.
One of our favorite builders, Matteo Gualandi of Italy’s GPgarage Moto, is a man who knows Honda’s single-cylinder off-roaders inside and out. He raced motocross for many years, his workshop runs a pair of Honda CRFs in the Italian Rally Championship, and he has an affinity for the brand’s more vintage hardware, having built an ’82 Honda XL500R and a ’95 Honda XR600 we’ve featured.
Now we’re thrilled to bring you the “Bulldog,” Matteo’s 1986 Honda XL600LM, which he built for longer tours and rallies — a vintage machine that could tackle the longer range off-road work of a modern adventure tourer:
“The idea was to produce a simple but reliable bike, to ‘endurize’ the XL600LM — it seemed interesting to me as an idea!”
The bike has been retrofitted with XR400 forks and custom-machined triple clamps, a wider brake disc, XR600 headlamp and rear fender, YSS rear suspension, 18-inch rear wheel, and more.
The result is a resto-modded Honda XL600 that Matteo rides hard and often on the dirt, as you can see from the photos. Below, we get the full story on the build!
Honda XL600 Restomod: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Honda XL600LM, 1986.
• Why was this bike built?
I built this bike because I wanted to make a bike for longer events such as adventure touring.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The idea was to produce a simple but reliable bike, to “endurize” the XL600LM — it seemed interesting to me as an idea!
• What custom work was done to the bike?
A lot of work. A total rebuild of the engine, because this bike had been standing still for 10 years. At the front, we have XR400 forks with a custom XL600LM brake disc but 15mm wider than stock. A CR80 front fender, XR600 USA headlamp, custom triple clamps made by us, YSS rear suspension, 18″ rear rim instead of 17″, custom exhaust, XR600 rear fender, custom billet gas tank cap, wide footpegs, and many other small parts.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Yes, BULLDOG! Because it has a similar shape to a bulldog, short but with a thick neck.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
You really have to ride this motorcycle standing up, because the big tank does not allow you to move forward while sitting, but it’s very fun to ride and you can do both bumpy and slow sections and very fast parts.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Yes, the color scheme — simple but different from the classic XL600 you see everywhere — no one seems to dare with these older bikes.
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Photo credits: @VS_image_studio_automotive.