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The XT600E is a strange beast. A four stroke single cylinder on/off road bike which is greatly favoured in the likes of France and Germany but rarely seen over here (UK).
I bought a 1992 machine last year from a friend for the princely sum of £1400. I was suffering withdrawal symptoms having sold my year old ZX-6R a few months before. I sold the ZX-6R because every journey on that beautiful bike was "Engage warp speed Scotty" stuff. Totally mental, but for those of us with an enthusiastic right hand, a potential jail case.
So I thought something tamer but "different" (different in that every second bike in the UK is a sports bike) would satiate my lust while allowing me to keep my licence. In the end it was a love/hate relationship and it left me for one of dozens of clamouring buyers a few months later.
The bike would do 105 mph on the clock lying flat on the tank. But speed wasn't what this bike was about. It was really about hooning around town or short out-of-town journeys. I say short because to me the pegs and bars gave a bit too much of a tingle for my liking. The friend who had the bike before me took it to Italy from the north of Scotland. Kudos to the man. You need the neck muscles of a bull and the gritty determination of a marathon runner to go a tank's distance owing to the plank like seat.
However…if you read Bike magazine, Dan Walsh is taking the same bike around the world. So this brings me on to the merits of the bike. If you can accept 70 mph crusing speeds this bike is winner and I can shed some light on Dan's choice.
Robustness: On one darky, murky night some drunk medical students thought it would be a great idea to sit/push/fight over the bike. Result - one bike lying on its side 50 yards down the road in the morning. Damage? None. The mirrors folded in, the little plastic that is there was protected by the pillion footpeg mounting.
Off road ability: The bike is quite light given its size but it's no scrambler. In saying that it will tackle any beach or field no problem, even with road biased tyres. I reckon if I'd put knobbly tyres on it'd have been quite useful but it's not an option for small people. Something like a Suzuki DR350 would be more suitable for any off road work.
Running costs: What cost? I don't think I spent a penny on it. Except for oil which is cheap enough. Tyres last for ages and the brakes aren't severe enough to cause serious pad or disc wear. Insurance was £150 fully comp for a 28 yr old with no claims. Like I said, cheap.
Handling: Absolutely ace. Really. I went on a Police training course last summer on this bike. The traffic cop was on a Pan European and the other bikes were a P reg ZXR750 and a couple of other sports bikes. On the A class roads the bike was getting left on the straights but just managed to hold its own on the bends. On the B class roads I had the most exhilarating journey in my life. Flat out for a glorious fifteen minutes along a deserted single track road on a mid-summer's evening (I mean FLAT OUT) with the Pan Euro frantically scraping its panniers behind me and the other bikes miles behind. What an experience!
Pros: In town this bike should be made illegal it's that much fun. Easy to throw around, narrow and with the exhaust bafffle removed folk won't miss you but the Police won't pull you. Good for pillions too.
Cons: Possibly the lack of oomph. Overtaking cars on a fast A road required careful judgement and to me I don't think bikes should be about that. That's really why I sold it. I like the twist and go immediacy of bikes and a 600cc single isn't going to give you that - so think twice if you think it's a panacea to staying in bikes whilst keeping your licence. You could get frustrated. In the wet the back end could step out if you were too keen but this isn't really a problem more than with any other bike.
Conclusion: This review isn't as comprehensive as it could be but I think I hope I’ve got the message across. Basically, if you want a brilliant, cheap, fun bike to get around on you should consider this. But be warned, if you're used to sports bike be prepared to recalibrate your mind.
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