Prairie Dog: Honda XL600 Desert Sled

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

Marmisto’s take on the classic Desert Sled – the Prairie Dog

There are custom bikes with build sheets that read like expensive shopping lists, outfitting the machine in a dizzying array of high-spec bling, and others that read more like a hodgepodge of several different bikes, machines, and implements found lying about the shed, shop, or garage. Chris Daniels of Marmisto is a staunch believer in the latter.

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

The author, bike-builder, and professional stonemason is one of the most creative builders we know, a man who prefers to take an organic approach to each build, adapting and reworking used parts:

“My approach to building is adaption first, so rather than buy new I’ll always see what’s available in the huge used parts world that will fit in with the design…. A more satisfying organic approach that works when one understands how bikes work and what looks good. It’s also a lot cheaper!”

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

The bike you see here started life as a Honda XL600LM Paris Dakar enduro, but it was already in pieces when Chris bought it as a basket case deal at an autojumble (swap meet). Soon all he had left was the frame and swingarm, having sold or traded most of the other pieces for other parts he needed.

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

Starting from there, he set out to build his own take on a classic desert sled, converting the bike to a twin-shock setup using the original frame and swingarm. The rest of the build is what you’d call a “bitsa,” assembled from bits and pieces of all kinds of bikes:  Yamaha Trailway 200 front hub, 43mm XR600 forks, R6 yokes, CL360 mudguard, 70s Suzuki controls, jackhammer grips, Harley downpipe, Betor shocks, Yamaha MX250 tank, and much more. Says Chris:

“There is a treasure trove of used parts available thanks to the internet and apart from the shocks, seat, handlebar grips, and brake components (never skimp on safety), this bike was built using second-hand components or altered in the shed…”

Below, we get the full details from Chris on the build, as well as more photos of the bike and Marmisto’s sweet mascot, Splodge the dog.

Farm-Built Desert Sled: In the Builder’s Words

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

The original bike for this custom was a Honda XL600LM Paris Dakar enduro that was bought as a basket case deal at an autojumble and sat in the workshop for a year or so, during which time everything apart from the frame and swingarm was sold off or used in a deal for other needed parts.

Starting at the sharp end, the front wheel was built using a Yamaha Trailway 200 wide hub with a one-off stainless disc, laced with stainless spokes to an 18inch/2.50 alloy rim. Caliper was rebuilt with stainless pins and bolts, 43mm XR600 forks in R6 bottom yokes used for top and bottom with a custom spindle and a collet nut from an industrial router was found to have the correct thread for the top nut. The lovely alloy mudguard is off a Honda CL360, bars are Easton FatBars with 70’s Suzuki controls and handmade starter. Speedo is GPS in homemade housing fashioned from scrap alloy. Jackhammer grips and homemade cables and brake line.

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

The frame was stripped of all brackets, a new loop on the seat, new tank and other brackets added, and converted to twin-shock using the original alloy swingarm, then powdercoated grey. Stainless MX pegs on custom hangers with alloy brake lever, bearing pivot, made from scrap.

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

The engine, in the pictures, is an XL600R that was checked over, soda-blasted, rattle-can painted and fins shaved. This has been swapped out for an electric start NX650 engine from a donor bike and cleaned, painted etc, as my knee won’t do big single kicking anymore. This is a stopgap motor and another 650 engine modified for kick and electric start is being built from the ground up to be the final addition.

Usual stuff here is vapour-blasted cases, custom braided stainless oil lines, all stainless fasteners, stainless exhaust studs — an absolute essential for all bikes — tough coat paint and shaved fins.

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

Exhaust consists of oversize stainless downpipes, with alloy clamps, running into a single collector made from an old Harley downpipe and a silencer fashioned from an old stainless reverse megaphone and reducing collar, with all welds polished out.

At the back is a Suzuki hub with same rim as the front, Betor Enduro shocks and recovered alloy mudguard with number plate fitting neatly on a mudflap found on the farm. One essential that is seen on very few custom bikes is the chain tensioner — easy enough to make and vital for performance and looking after the chain.

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

The tank is a 70’s alloy Yamaha 250MX, which looked good when painted, but after removing said paint and the filler, had obviously been in a fight that it lost. The tank was cut open, all the big dents worked out — leaving some evidence of a long life, welded up and buffed.

Seat is handmade charcoal grey leather on a GRP base and side [and front] panels were formed from aluminium sheets removed from a horse box, decorated with stick-on carbon fibre and some left over pinstripe.

Honda XL600 Desert Sled

Cheapo Chinese LED light strip at the rear and projector LED at the front provide driving and brake illumination.

The reason for so much detail about the detail is to make the point that there is a treasure trove of used parts available thanks to the internet and apart from the shocks, seat, handlebar grips, and brake components (never skimp on safety), this bike was built using second-hand components or altered in the shed…

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2 Comments

  1. Good looks I love the bike
    Can I get some knowledge video to make custom bikes

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