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Yamaha XT 600 1984

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Here's an old review I found:


'You can't help but feel sorry for dual-purpose motorcycles. They've become trapped in a world they never built, saddled with a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none role in an era of ever-increasing specialization.

It wasn't always this way. Back in the old days, there were no such things as specialized motorcycles, or even dual-purpose motorcycles. In effect, every bike was an a//-purpose machine. You took the lights off of your street bike and stripped some weight if you wanted a cowtrailing machine. If you took off even more weight, hopped-up the engine and put on the appropriate tires and handlebars, you had either a road racer or a scrambler. And a touring bike? Well, that was the same basic street machine with a duffel bag strapped to the rear and some sort of aftermarket, handlebar-mount windshield up front.

Just like those bikes of yesteryear, today's dual-purpose motorcycles can do just about anything. It's just that they suffer anytime they're compared, one category at a time, to any of the specialized bikes. Yes, some dual-purpose machines can be used for long-distance touring, but compared to gliding along the highway on one of the big touring bikes, doing so is an ordeal. Off-road, a good rider can take a dual-purpose bike almost anywhere, but an equally skilled rider on a proper dirt bike will get there sooner with less effort—and fewer crashes. On twisty backroads, dual-purpose bikes account for themselves amazingly well, but a good sport bike remains a far better choice for doing Kenny Roberts imitations.

Still, dual-purpose motorcycles seem to maintain a small but loyal following of riders who believe in the one-bike-for-all-uses concept. And the prestige class for dual-purpose machinery is the big-bore division, bikes that displace from 500 to 600cc. Yamaha's entry in that category is the XT600, a 595cc thumper that can trace its lineage back to 1976 and the TT/XT500 models, the first modern reincarnation of the classic large-displacement, single-cylinder four-stroke...

When warm, the XT will fire with just one kick .. . usually. There were times—two or three during the 1400-mi. test period—that the XT just refused to start. Kicks, curses and push-starting had little effect. After a few minutes rest and some more kicking on the part of the rider, the XT would spring happily into its 1500-rpm idle.

Once started, the engine is a joy. Around town, shifting at 3500 rpm (redline is 7000 rpm) and letting the bike lug its way around corners seems to work best. So with its generous suspension and torquey engine, the XT makes the ideal urban commuter. Potholes, cobblestones and all other normal road hazards don't bother the bike in the least.

Out on the open road, things change a little. Even with the XT's gear-driven counterbalancer and rubber-mounted handlebars, for instance, the rider can feel vibration; this is, after all, a big Single. The vibration doesn't really intrude until the bike is running along at 60 mph, but from that point on the XT shakes in earnest. Not bad for short blasts down the highway, but an Interstate tour at 70 mph will have the rider wishing for something smoother.

Better to stick to two-lane backroads with lots of dips and twists and places to stop and enjoy the scenery. But those stops are almost mandatory, thanks to the hard seat. Thin on top to allow for non-bow-legged standing on the pegs in the dirt, the seat just doesn't offer much support. Fifty miles has the rider shifting his weight around and 100 non-stop miles is a true accomplishment.

Handling-wise, the 600 is nimble in terms of street maneuverability but, naturally, not the most agile dirt bike on the market. But for a bike that can do both kinds of riding, the XT is quite competent. The only handling quirk we did notice was that the bike steers heavily and sluggishly at low speeds. And the culprit is the OEM front tire, a new-pattern Bridgestone Trail Wing. For a dual-purpose tire the Bridgestone has a really aggressive tread design; it would be fair to call the tire a semi-knobby rather than a typical trials-universal dual-purpose design. The tire worked nicely on the street and got surprising traction in the ment we fitted a more conventional Dunlop dual-purpose tire and effected an instant improvement. Even riders who thought that the XT hadn't handled all that heavily with the stock tire noticed a lighter front-end feel with the Dunlop.

Regardless of tire choice, however, the XT makes an excellent off-road explorer. It will splash through streams, climb impressively steep hills and slide around smooth turns at a good clip. On a fire road a talented rider can really hustle the XT along. But, at 318 lb., the bike can become a handful through

rough sections in a hurry. Pushed hard, sooner or later, the weight or lack of real off-road suspension and tires will catch up with the XT; and dumping a heavy bike at the speeds the 600 is capable of is a sobering (and slowing) thought.

Granted, as with any dual-purpose motorcycle, the XT has its limitations both on the street and in the dirt. But that assessment really isn't fair. If you're looking at what a dual-purpose bike won't do well, then you've missed the point. Better to look at what the bike will do; and in the XT600's case, that's just about everything.'


Cycle World 1984

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