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New XT600 ('85, 49L) - Rebuild, Suspension, and Brakes (upgrade questions)!

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Hey all,
Last week, I finally picked up my 1985 XT600 (49L, manufacturing date of 12/'84) - I bought it from a fellow mid-20's rider. The bike had been in his family for well over 10 years, and he actually learned on the bike. I had some hiccups registering this expired/out-of-state bike, but I'm happy to say that it's finally registered in California! bier
With 15.5k miles or so on the odometer, she's in surprisingly decent shape for a 30 year old motorcycle; the seat is the only area that looks terrible.
I am surprisingly excited about my XT600, especially having just sold my street bike ('09 Monster 696) - I am loving this bike on San Francisco's bumpy roads. However, due to a wrist injury and not being able to ride for the next 5-6 weeks, I have decided to work on rebuilding the motor as well as improving areas that could use them. 
Please provide your advice on the following areas that I want to improve, I've spent at least 10-15 hours reading but I still have much to learn, since most of the mods apply to the later XT's:
  • Rebuilding motor to "freshen" things up
  • Front-end swap (w/ different bike) VS stock fork rebuild + springs, oil, emulators. The front-end conversion to a more modern bike will give me more options, in case I want to run Supermoto wheels (eventually?). Mainly, it would let me run better brakes and improve adjustability and stiffness. I want to consider the swap vs overhauling and replacing parts on my current fork, if I'll end up spending the same amount.
  • Rear shock upgrades? Seems a bit soft, even for me 170lb/77kg rider. I read about Ohlins, Wilbers, and Works shocks - but it seems that my model might not be compatible with all.
  • Front brake upgrade - San Francisco is a dangerous place to ride, need to be able to stop QUICK. The newer XT can take the larger rotors and caliper adapter, but my 49L has no upgrade options besides new sintered pads, SS lines, and good fluid. Before dumping money into improving my current fork and brakes - I want to consider the front-end swap; since I have a feeling the costs might be similar and I might potentially end up being unhappy with the current system.
Having and sharing some tools with friends, I also bought:
  • K&N Oil Filters (x4)
  • Yamaha OEM Cam Timing Chain
  • Full stainless steel bolt replacement set
  • Full gasket set (made by "Athena")
  • Adjustable "shorty" levers (somewhat small hands)
Here are things I would like to add, but it's not a priority:


  • Replace or fix speedo/tach
  • Reupholster or replace seat cover
  • Newer handlebars + controls (the old controls feel cheap)
  • New exhaust, or custom setup (will avoid if it actually makes less power)
Finally, thanks so much for reading. For most of the repairs and mods, my friend(s) and I will be tackling ourselves. We have most of the tools and have access to a friend's shop after-hours. I'm not necessarily too worried about "labor" since we'll be doing the work, it's more about getting the results I need out of my suspension and brakes and the money I'll be spending on those components (whether it's a new front-end, or parts for my stock suspension).

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Having a herd of XT's , there are a few things, first throw that Clymer away , get an actual service manual, the fake one is full of wrong specs and poor descriptions, I won't take one if given for free. Clark is the only company that make a tank for these bikes, their quality is always questionable. Get other brand of filter, K &N is a poor filter, there's only one way to "out flow" everyone else, that's less filtration plain and simple.


Shorty and/or adjustable levers are nice but not readily available , I use MX bike stuff.  Suzuki DR400 (also some KTM's IIRC) springs fit on the rear shock so those are what has options for rates.

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leicaboss, Its a shame you live so far away (from Florida) I have a 85 XT600 (L model I believe) that a lady pulled out in front of me in California (when I lived there many moons ago) and bent the frame on, I have had it in my storage shed (in Florida) for YEARS! It only had 800 miles on it at the time................. If you have a hard time finding something let know.

I know I will never use any of the parts (its been 30 years now) but it sounds like you about got it together. 

Ride On!

Edited by EarthCruzn
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What would you want for it ?  Is the title " salvaged " or something like that ?

Not sure probrably "salvaged" in 86 a lady hit me and the insurance company simply let me have it, I was making payments. I told them I wanted it fixed, they paid off the loan and told me to go get it and pay for the fix myself. I have no idea what the title situation is.............. Thats California for ya. I took the bike apart...(streering head is tweeked) complete intack bottom end, head is intack but I pulled the piston out of the cylinder so it would not freeze up. (I was layed up for a year) I just never got around to doing anything with it.

Now I have a garage with "red" bikes in it, and have no need for the parts or to start the old project...........XR650 replaced it.

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