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Old 07-08-2014, 03:28 PM   #1
socalchef OP
Joined: May 2008
Location: The OC
Oddometer: 29
83 Honda XL600R desert sled sorta thing

It was pointed out that this may be a better home for this project than the thumper forum.

As a wee tot, I remember sitting on my dad's BSA in the garage. It never went anywhere, but the story was that it was his dad's when they used to go out to the desert, and he rebuilt it and was eventually gifted the bike. They would ride in the 60's and 70's and I'd seen some shots of my dad doing a little motocross and maybe a little flat trackin'. We lost touch, and I don't know what model the BSA was, but that's the bike I picture when I close my eyes. Best I can figure is it was a Victor 441, but who knows really I just remember the center tube, and the aluminum tank and fenders. This will become a theme, I should have just bought a BSA...

I started off riding a TX500 cafe, then went to a KLR, then to an 05 Bonneville. I love(d) that bike, and should have just modified it, but it was so clean and perfect that it felt wrong to do anything to it. Stupid. When I started seeing the Jack Pine and similar builds pop up I started pining (get it?) for something similar. Instead of just modifying the Bonnie, I sold it and bought the first old dual sport I came across. It was an 83 XL600 sitting outside a smog and repair shop on my route into work. When I finally road it home (which was immediately following riding my wife's Lambretta to the shop, in order to pick up the Honda, but having to push it the last 3 miles {it sure seemed like I was closer when i started pushing} after I fudged the oil mixture and melted the piston) I pulled off the freeway and the engine was surging, with a fine oily mist here and there. That ~14 miles was all I road on the bike.

It sat for awhile, but recently I've finally started tearing into it. After shooting a friends sub $1k build ( my plan was to do a quick and inexpensive series of modifications to make it a pseudo desert sled. Then it sat longer. We flew up to Portland for The One Moto this February and I started making plans and buying parts. The plans were a little half cocked though, I bought a 19" rim for the front, but I wanted tires of similar widths and this was a 1.85. So then I bought another rear wheel with the intention of lacing that to the front hub. Buuut that size tire would be too wide for the forks. So then I bought a 19x2.15, but then couldn't find a matching brand/color rim for the rear. I had purchased TKC-80's even, because they're great and I've been wanting to use them on a build for years and years. I even bought an oven with plans of modifying the circuits in my shop a bit, just a bit, to do my own powder coating.

Eventually, after being inspired by a few bikes at The One Moto, I decided to do this right. To build my "One" bike. I also have this friend that's a pretty incredible fabricator, sheet metal, tube work, motos, cars, land speed cars... And his advice that rattles around in my head was to build it the way I wanted to. So there haven't been a whole lot of compromises since I really got going on this.

I stopped trying to save a couple of bucks by making more work for myself, which I've yet to completely do, but have taken to having pro's do a few bits of work for me. I picked up a set of CRF forks, and a front wheel. Then sourced an XR650L swing arm, and because the XL600 is a dual carb engine, a shock from a ~90 XR600 that has a remote mount reservoir (but not after pretending I knew better and buying an XR650L piggyback shock). Bought an XR650R rear wheel, though I didn't realize that until the bearings I bought for an L hub didn't fit... I cut the hubs out and sent them off to a real powder coat shop, Olympic, then dropped those off at Wheel Works in Garden Grove where they drilled and laced to a set of Excel rims. Beautiful wheels, really. The brushed finish on the rims is just perfect for this bike. I'd debated heavily on doing the hubs/rims black, but didn't want this to turn too dude-bro, I wanted it to look sort of like it came from a factory at some point, from somewhere. So I went with silver hubs and silver rims and was pleasantly surprised at the finish of the rims after expecting silver powder coat.

I bought this Husky aluminum tank, but it's just too neat to widen the tunnel to fit over the Honda OiF top tube. I did find another tank that should have dropped right on, but the guy I bought it from doesn't know how to read a tape measure, so that's been cut up now. Capacity will be dreadfully low, so I intend to build a tank of my own at some point in the distant future.

Aluminum fenders came from Vintage Speed & Sport, I think. I have a few other fenders I bought early on while trying to save a buck too, that are now collecting shop dust. Almost have enough parts to build another bike now! I wanted to roll my own out, but also wanted to just get back on two wheels so I just ordered them up and figured if I get bored later on, I can make my own.

I love the TKC-80's, but they have a habit of appearing on every other new custom now, so after reading a number of threads here and debating between these and Dunlop K70's, I went with a set of Pirelli MT43's. They're stiffer than a competition trials tire, I've read, and they have the right old time look.

I had enough parts that I started doing some mockups, to get the juices flowing

Now, I've built a rock buggy, I've done a number of engine swaps and builds in Honda cars way back when, and have done some mild wrenching on my bikes in the past (the doohickey on the KLR for example) but have never really been all that deep into one. I ran into some fun and excitement trying to figure out how to mount the fork. I bought the All Balls conversion bearings, but it took me awhile to figure out how to use the spacers they include. The rear suspension has been a test of patience as well.

But this is about where it's at now. The rear suspension in this pic is one or two attempts old actually. The subframe is kicked up about 2-3" now and level with the bottom of the tank, and the swing arm sits at 8 degrees when on it's tires. There's a heck of a story with this now... I started with an XR's Only lowering link for the xl600, from when I intended to just do a quick and cheap build. Turns out though that it's not exactly compatible with the XL mid link. The dust caps are too large. Around that time I was starting to look into the CRF forks, and wasn't thrilled with the idea of the newer forks and the original drum brake rear, so that's where the aluminum XR swing arm came into play. Now, the shock (and link) on that is offset since it's a single carb engine, which meant I'd need to modify my frame. I was fine with that, but I just could not seem to nail it, the linkage was either so far to one side of the cycle that it bound before the tire would hit the subframe, or so far to the other that off the stand the subframe sat on the tire. Now it's like porridge, juuuust right. Race Tech has lowered, valved and sprung the fork, and now has the bike to either do the same for the shock or build a GS-3 shock for me. Pricing works out about the same either way, I'd almost prefer to use all OEM parts, but full custom shock sounds groovy too. They sent the tubes out for hard anodizing as well. I didn't care for the Showa gold on this build. I wanted dark grey to keep the sort of potentially from a factory look, but they wouldn't do that color and there was a certain amount of risk and a lot of pain in the ass in picking up the empty tubes, taking them elsewhere, and bringing them back, so I did finally compromise on black for the suspension.

I started the front fender mount this weekend, but will resume in ~2 weeks when I get the bike back from Race Tech. I'm interpreting a design off a Deus bike, Seven7sh. It's solid bar that spaces the fender down from the lower triple clamp a few inches. I don't want it riding on the clamp, and I don't want it (can't easily anyways with the USD forks) on top of the tire, so it's spaced about 7" over the tire, which is the amount of travel available. The fender mount and the pedals and all the little bits will be powder coated fresh once I get the bike assembled and running. The engine needs to be gone through. I suspect that surging was a bad gasket in a carb, and the oil likely overfilled by the unfamiliar with a dry sump smog shop guy, but the compression is suuuuper low. Like, no difference when I open the decompression valve. I don't want to do that either. I prefer to do the fabrication now, and pass that off to someone with all of the tools and more patience than I, and a cleaner bench than mine.

•Looking at either a 7" HID headlight, or the 7" Truck-Lite LED or a 4" square Rigid LED in a ~5" bucket
•NOS Honda Monkey switch housings for the bars came in today from Thailand, along with some old stock old style wing logo decals.
•Still need to look at an XR650R to see what fills up the empty space on the drive side of the hub, the bearing location is about twice as wide as the actual bearing
•Engine work
•Once it's all functioning and I've ridden it a bit, I'll strip it down and paint the frame red again.
•Seat won't be Brat thin, but it won't be super pillow style either. Around 3" thick. Maybe interchangeable with a Bates single and a pillion pad. If I were painting the bike black, I'd go with brown leather on the seat, because I love that, but with the red frame the seat'll be black.
•Aluminum skid plate
•Possible complete rewire?

I think that's about most of it. The bike is pretty much just roughed in right now. No final welding.

I'd love for a friend to buy a similar bike and use up my unused parts, build something a little quicker and dirtier, but like I said, this is "The One" bike for me. I intend to do a little desert cruisin', a little commutin', a little fire road flyin' and a little campin' with it. Then, it's back on the Model T that's been collecting dust, followed by maybe a supermoto build? Or one of these Ninja adventure bikes i'm seeing in here Or maybe just a 250 flat track bike... Or.....
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Old 07-28-2014, 07:41 PM   #2
Studly Adventurer
JagLite's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Anchorage Alaska
Oddometer: 934
Cool2 Great idea!

Looks great so far
Attitude ~
The difference between
Ordeal and Adventure
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Old 07-29-2014, 09:39 PM   #3
louder, louder, louder!
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Joined: Aug 2007
Location: Oakland, CA
Oddometer: 1,407
Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow
New Rider Training in the San Francisco Bay Area at Motorcycle University". Learn to Ride...Better!
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