ZZ Moto restores a limited-edition Honda thumper…
By the mid-1980s, the Paris Dakar Rally had become an immensely popular event on the world stage, and the big factories were competing hard to develop the next two-wheeled Trans-Saharan victory machine. At the same time, their marketing departments had gotten savvy to Dakar fever. After Yamaha launched the Ténéré 600, Honda responded with a Paris Dakar special edition of their own: the XL600LM.
Also known as the 600 XLM, this limited-edition big-bore trailie combined the company’s 45-hp RFVC radial-valve single-cylinder engine with a number of special features: a mammoth 7.4-gallon fuel tank, iconic twin-lamp headlight unit, and one gorgeous red/white/blue/gold HRC livery.
The rest of the bike was well-built for the rugged individualist looking to explore the far reaches of the map:
“This Honda was a proto-adventure-bike of sorts. 10.8 inches of ground clearance, 33.8 inch seat height, 9″/8″ front/rear wheel travel – this thing was designed to go wherever the rider wanted. And with a 7.4 gallon tank, you wouldn’t have to stop for fuel very often, either. The main advantage that the XL had over the Tenere was an electric starter, though the latter was much more of a commercial success.” —Bike-urious
“Once again, my passion for classic motorcycles led me to come across this 1987 Honda XL600 LM. I was very excited about the idea of working on this mythical trail model that gave the Japanese brand so much satisfaction in the 80s.”
Unfortunately, this particular XLM was in rough shape: worn tranny, poor brakes, broken rear shock, and plenty of missing, cracked, or deteriorated parts. However, the engine ran, didn’t burn oil, and didn’t make any alarming knocks — so Claudio decided to move forward.
Claudio had originally planned a customization, but once he had most of the mechanical issues worked out, he changed his mind:
“As had happened to me on other occasions, I once again considered that my best contribution was to rescue this mythical model in its original form as much as possible.”
We’re so happy he did. These bikes are incredibly rare here in the States, and we’ve always loved them in stock form. Below, Claudio gives us the full story on the restoration of this Dakar-inspired dual-sport, along with more photos from Pablo Bustos.
Honda XL600LM: In the Builder’s Words
Once again, my passion for classic motorcycles led me to come across this 1987 Honda XL600 LM. I was very excited about the idea of working on this mythical trail model that gave the Japanese brand so much satisfaction in the 80s.
Its participation in various competitions of the time demonstrated its high reliability, making it for years the model chosen by motorcyclists from all over the world who embarked on the adventure of traveling long distances on varied terrain. Its 28-litre tank gives it enormous autonomy, adding to other advantages such as its spoked rims adapted to carry tubeless tires and its electric starter which, combined with the kick start, always guaranteed its start-up.
I could think of many things to do on this bike. The one that stood out the most was turning it into a replica of the participants in the rallies of those years, but it was still early to decide — I had to evaluate the bike first.
The general condition was not very encouraging at first glance. Its aesthetics were very deteriorated over the years and there were also some missing parts. The good thing about the bike was that it had no knocks and it worked — quite poorly, but it worked. It had a very unstable gear, which added to the worn transmission, bad brakes, and broken rear shock absorber, gave a very bad driving experience.
The decisive point to motivate me to work on it was the state of its engine. It did not seem to consume oil and did not emit strange noises that would indicate mechanical failures.
With great enthusiasm I began to work. I disassembled and cleaned its double carburetor. I did the valve adjustment. I changed brakes, air filter, oil and spark plug along with a new transmission kit. As I was working on it, the simplicity of its mechanics was noted in each task, perhaps in that detail lies the secret of its reliability.
With the feeling of having done very little work, nothing very deep, I set out to test the bike again. Now yes, its operation was almost perfect. Although the rear shock absorber still needed to be changed and the front suspension revised, the change was important.
It had recovered the essence of the XL600. It was a pleasure to drive again and enjoy its 44hp. Its engine sounded serene and the power delivery was smooth without losing its firmness. Its soul was intact despite the passing of the years.
Through the rebuilding process my intentions changed. I didn’t want to change it anymore. Now my idea was to return it to its original state. As had happened to me on other occasions, I once again considered that my best contribution was to rescue this mythical model in its original form as much as possible.
With the mechanical part resolved, the remaining task was only aesthetic, which we know is a simple task — it only depends on a lot of patience and good judgment. The nobility of its materials allowed me to recover them with paint in some parts and polishing others. Almost without realizing it, I had recovered a large part of the bike.
What surprised me the most was that I managed to get the few missing parts through the Internet, mainly the double headlight that makes it so special.
Only two details remained that distance it from the series model. One of them is the front fender, I placed a quite similar one from the Acerbis brand. The other point is the Sebring brand silencer that this bike had — I kept it because it provided very good performance and a very pleasant sound.
A mountain road near Barcelona was the chosen place for the final test and the XL600LM did not disappoint. It was very firm and comfortable both on the road and in the mountains.