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1987 Honda XL600R rebuild and redesign


I bought my bike in mid 2013 at a very broke part of my life. I saw an opportunity to buy a nice old bike for cheap, rebuild it to look like new, then sell it for a good amount and improve my financial situation.

I bought my bike in mid 2013 during a very broke part of my life. I saw a nice old bike for cheap, and I got this idea in my mind to rebuild it to look like new, then sell it for a good amount and improve my financial situation.

The buying process took a while because I had challenges raising enough cash for this project, largely due to my already broke situation. So, in the interim, while it languished at the seller's, I had more than enough time to read up on it, and I read up on this bike A LOT. It's a 1987 Honda XL600RMG. There was the plain XL600R, dual sport twin to the legendary XR600R, then there was the top of the range XL600LMF that came with electric start, tubeless spoked rims, tachometer, gigantic fuel tank and dual headlights. The XL600RMG, looks like the plain R but comes with most of the extras on the LMF. From my research, the bike was a keeper.

I’m not the kind that names bikes, so the term I’ll stick to is my bike.


I quickly realised that before I can rebuild the bike, I needed to at least be able to maintain it

There was a lot of jumping from one mechanic to another, and a lot of growth on my DIY. Armed with the manual, I accumulated the necessary tools and got to bond with the bike. A significant amount of damage to the bike happened at this time.

One incident is when I used silicone to plug the air gaps around the carbs. During a trip to the bush in Laikipia, bits of the silicon kept breaking off and blocking the jets. I removed and cleaned the carbs about 5 times that day, went from 1.5 hours down to 45 minutes for the whole process. I wonder if Andrew will ever ride with me again.
In 2015 I got some guys to rebuild the bike for me but it didn’t go too well. I didn’t pay much but I got what I paid for, not much. From that point on, I dealt with one issue after another with the knowledge that a complete rebuild was imminent. So I began to prepare a list of all the things I would want to do on the bike..
I did put it up for sale a couple of times, deliberately over priced to put off serious buyers. My son took this photo.
As my DIY skills improved, my list of what I wanted the bike to do for me grew longer. I figured that before I move to another bike, I need to fully use this one, get the most out of it.
This is how the bike looked before. It had an aftermarket tank and seat that made the seating position awkward. The seat and rear end also did not fit in well and it made the bike look bad. I decided to combine 2 jobs in 1 for the rebuild. First was to overhaul the engine and second was to redesign the bike to look new and like in factory condition
After years of listing all the things I wanted to change on the bike, I rolled the bike into the shed and begun taking it apart.
Once the bike was bare and the engine out, I called Kim, the mechanic, to come and take over. I also left the suspension in place for Kim to undo.

The engine had a number of issues

  • Oil leak on top cover, needed a new gasket set
  • Rattling, which we came to discover was the bolt that had come off the camshaft gear and was getting tossed about. Lucky it didn’t jam somewhere!
  • Piston slap, the cylinder needed to be rebored
  • Output shaft splines were worn, a new one was needed
  • \Gear selector shaft teeth were worn, needed replacement
  • Side cover had a crack on it
  • Oil plug
Good news, there wasn’t metal bits in this sieve. It shows if engine parts are grinding each other to bits. .
Meanwhile, my next project landed, VW van restoration and conversion to electric
While waiting for the engine parts to arrive (they would take upto 2 months) I continued to thing about the redesign. See how that rear mudguard and seat are not in harmony?

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