89 XR600 gearing

I've been puting more time on my XR600 since I finished restoring it. I have about 100 miles total on it now. I have been on the freeway a couple of times, and it was a pretty bad experience. I could barely keep up with traffic. It sounded like the motor was peaking out and I had no more power. Don't know how fast I was going since I don't have a speedo, but it felt like maybe 50-55mph max.

Anyway, after searching around, I noticed that almost all the XR600's have 14/48 gearing stock. But my 89 came stock with 14/50 gearing. This is exactly what I am running now.

Does anyone know why Honda put this gearing on the 89? It has tons of low end power. I can do any reasonable hill climb in the dirt from alomst a dead stop in 3rd gear. 1st gear us pretty much useless since it winds out so quickly. For example, riding on the street in a 45mph area, I am always in 5th gear if I don't want the bike to be winding out.

Just wondering if I should change the gearing, or if their was a special reason on this year bike they had the 50 tooth rear sprocket. Could the transmission be different than the other XR's?

Thanks for any info.

Yes change out the rear or the counter sproket or both. If you're planning to ride on the street much at all you could probably use a 15 front and a 47 rear. That would get you some nice speed and still plenty low end.

Since I just bought the chain and sprockets, maybe I'll try a 15 front sprocket first.

I'm still curious as to why Honda went with 14-48 on the 85 to 87, then 14-50 on the 88 to 90, and back to 14-48 on the 91 to 2000 XR600 bikes.

Is the 88-90 motor different in any way than the new 91-2000 bikes which would require it to have lower gearing?

I guess my only concern is that I really like the low end torque the bike has now, and I wouldn't want to loose that. Maybe I wouldn't loose that by only going with a few teeth taller gearing (1 tooth larger on the front).

Any one else with an '89 stock motor that is running different gearing than stock, and is happy with it on the trails and street? And what top speeds are capable with the 89 motor with a particular gearing combination.


I have a 89 also , and I got mine back out after not riding it for years , and have been riding it to work. It has the stock gearing also , but I ride it what ever speed I want ( allot of the time pinned ) and I don't worry about how much the engine is revving up.

I figure if that bike could handle the Baja wide open it can haul me back and forth to work ,without breaking a sweat.

I am not a expert on xr600 but 55-60mph sounds very slow on that bike even for the gearing. I own a xr650r with 14/48 gears. It can go 100mph++. Going two teeth smaller on the back don't give you 40mph extra. maye 5-10mph. Do all xr600 go that fast with 14/50 gears? Are you sure the sprokets are stock?

I've got an 89 XR600 also. It runs great and is a great bike. It is a great street bike... as long as you don't go faster than 50mph. I sometimes ride mine to work in the summer on Fridays. You may find a sprocket combo that works ok on the street, but then it will be geared too high for the rocky technical stuff. I have two sets of wheels and sprockets, one for street and one for dirt. I don't much use the street wheels. The bottom line is that it is just not much fun to ride it on the street. Its a blast to ride on dual sports and trail ride though.


I believe that Honda went to the 14/50 in '88 because this was they year that they went from a 17" to a 18" rear wheel and were afraid of being geared to high with the larger rear wheel. I believe the internal trans ratios were unchanged. Took them a couple of years to figure out that the bike was geared a bit to low, and went back to the 48T. My '87 with 14/48 will do about 80mph (GPS & trailtech confirmed), but the motor is really screaming!

Hope this helps.

I've got a 90 with the same gearing. I've also run 15/48, 13/50, and other combinations. I just put it on the street and the 15/50 is still a bit to short for comfortable Highway running (60-65). I've swaped out the primary gearing with an L. It takes the stock 32/70 gearing to 34/68. Much better on the highway. I believe this is the same gearing that comes with the HRC 628 kit. I do have a 628 big bore 10.5:1 piston and a Hotcam in as well so the low end power is not a problem at all.

I think even with a stock engine you can run 14/47 or 15/47 with out loosing too much bottom. These bikes are tractors and shouldn't have much problem climbing anything in first gear with the taller gearing.

Thanks for all the info. It's good to hear that my bike sounds like it is in the ballpark with other 89's with the stock gearing.

I can see why Honda might have gone with the lower gearing switching to the 18" rear tire. So it looks as if the transmission ratios are the same as the newer bikes. Come to think of it, my honda service manual goes from 1988 to 2000, so I could probably double check the part numbers etc. for the different years.

I'll just play around with the gearing until I am happy with it. I'll start with a 15 tooth on the front, and work my way down in the back. I ride the bike on the street, but just around town. If I go on the freeway it would only be for a couple of miles or so. And when I ride in the dirt, I don't want to loose any of that great low end power.

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