Mileage 150,000 (240k kms)
Owned by Gabriel Grabowski Düsseldorf, Germany
Purchase price £2,560
The Honda XL600R is a single cylinder, air cooled, four stroke, dual sport motorcycle. Launched to a large fanfare in 1983. Nowadays they are scarce www.howmanyleft.com reports only 80 remain in the UK and of those in the summer of 2022 just 13 were taxed for the road. So Gabriel clearly has a rare bike, I doubt there will be another single owner example anywhere.
Honda's sales brochure
Gabriel's first "big" motorcycle was a used 1979 HONDA XL500S in 1980, he went on to own this bike for two years. His XL500S had a 23-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear. I cannot begin to imagine how that bike would handled on the road. After two years of hard use (a lot being off road), the engine of the XL500S was worn out and consumed a lot of oil.
So his thoughts turned to a replacement and maybe a move up to the next higher class. He bought a (used) YAMAHA XS750 with gimbals, three cylinders and 61 HP. The year was 1982. Unfortunately, his time with this bike was cut short because he fell twice and the second fall caused serious damage. The necessary spare parts were purchased, but the repair was never carried out.
It was 1983 and HONDA had just introduced the sensational XL600R and XLV750R. Gabriel was torn between the two. The first Honda dual purpose sport motorcycles with H4-light and disc brakes as standard!
He opted for a brand new XL600R at a cost of 5.900DM. However he was soon to be very disappointed with his new investment. Honda's promised performance in the colourful advertising brochures, did not match up with his experience when riding the bike.
When compared to his XL500S, the XL600R had both more displacement and 10hp more, with a quoted 100mph top speed. The weight was almost the same at 150kg. Yet his old XL500S was really fast. Despite its 34 hp motor, it was capable of 93mph the new 600R he found was as much as 15mph slower. So Gabriel felt disappointed as his performance expectations were not met.
The leggy XL500S
Pictured in 2021 with the "red" engine
So annoyed at this serious lack of performance, he complained several times to his dealer. Frustrated, it led him to make a warranty claim.
As a result, the engine was removed not once but twice during the warranty period. Diagnostics led to several parts being replaced. However the result of all this work made absolutely no difference, it was still just as slow afterwards as before.
Gabriel was so unhappy he decided to settle things in court and decided to sue the dealer for damages. Unfortunately for him he lost the case, but was awarded a token 750.-DM (£430) in compensation.
In 1987 Gabriel decided to leave his electricians post and he returned to full time education, leading to him studying at at the University of Düsseldorf. His change in personal circumstances curtailed his adventuring and he rode very little until 2005. Yet he never considered parting with his XL during this fallow period.
He believes if it wasn't for these years the odometer would read a further 100,000 miles
In 1988 he bought a replacement new engine at a cost of 2,400DM (£1,500) this way, he figured he should always have a functioning engine and be mobile. Strangely the engine was red rather than the original black. Over the course of his ownership the engine would be swapped not once but six times. First in 1994 black to red for an engine overall. Then back and forth another five times. Three swaps occurred during the years when he didn't ride the bike to the extent he had earlier. The last swap was in 2022 to re-install the original black following its complete engine re-build. The bike started on the forth kick.
Naturally, the majority of his riding has been in his homeland. But he's had plenty of continental tours around The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. But I'm delighted to say he's no stranger to The British Isles having toured England, Ireland and the IOM.
Gabriel takes up the story, "There is hardly anything more awesome than going on tour with my XL, the further the better.
With its large wheels, low weight and long spring travel, it is the ideal machine for this. I have to limit myself with luggage. The relatively low cruising speed of 56mls/h (90km/h) and the 12 litre tank are no problem. 160mls (250 km) range means several hours of driving and is a welcome opportunity to take a break. This is then used at the same time to refill fuel. Of course, one could - without technical problems - also drive a higher cruising speed permanently, but I have opted for 56mls/h. Cooler oil temperature and long service life".
In September 2022, Gabriel attended the Honda Owners Club National Rally, an event which tours the UK annually. This year it was to be held in Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland. Berwick is the furthest most English outpost from London. For Gabriel this required a 700 mile trip. Berwick though didn't disappoint. It and its surrounding area is brilliant for motorcycling. There is lots of places of interest, in particular castles. which is a pointer to the areas turbulent past. Berwick has changed hands no less than thirteen times between the English and the Scots, as its strategic point on the mouth of the river Tweed made it a prized asset. For the Honda Owners it was an inspired choice, the weekend proved to be a huge success with ride outs, food, live music and lots of friends coming together from all over Britain (and Germany).
On the Monday morning all the HOC members were packing up, wishing each other a safe journey before setting off for the long ride home. But this was to be no ordinary day, it was September 19th and this day was Queen Elizabeth's state funeral.
As we were leaving Berwick, on the other side of the Irish Sea, a 39 year old motorcyclist from Walsall, Dan James was making his way back to Dublin to catch the Holyhead ferry. He had been touring Ireland on his Honda Africa Twin AS. Dan works for Siemens rail Automation in Derby and his late arrival home that day led him to decide to ride directly to Derby and stay overnight in the city as he had an important meeting on the Tuesday morning.
Gabriel making his way south, also decided to stay in Derby overnight, breaking his long journey and by coincidence they had both reserved a room at the same Travelodge motel. Gabriel arrived first and checked in leaving his bike in an area to the rear of the motel building.
It was getting quite late when Dan finally approaches Derby. He pulls into the Travelodge car park exhausted from his long trip, he notices a young man at the rear of the building in a dark area struggling to hold up a bike. In the gloom he thinks it is a kid with his 125. He actually sees the bike drop to the floor, so he rode straight over to offer a "fellow biker" a hand. Inexplicably the youngster runs off leaving Dan holding the bike. He places it back on its side stand. He walks round to the motel entrance and finally checks in reporting the incident to the receptionist. Shattered, after dropping off his cases in his room, he walks downstairs for a relaxing pint in the bar. This is where Dan and Gabriel's lives come together. In the reception area was a distraught Gabriel who having been notified by staff of a potential problem, checked out his bike to discover considerable damage. Gabriel was to explain to Dan that he was a member of the HOC and was returning from Berwick. A Facebook search found the East Midlands branch homepage where Dan was ale to leave this message:-
Hi Everybody. A gentleman from Germany is with me in Derby, he has been part of a recent owners club rally, his XL600R has been the victim of an attempted theft. The bike has been dropped and the bars are bent, the bike is not in any state to be ridden.
Can anybody help? He is understandably quite upset. I plan to call a local shop in the morning but is there anybody that can help?
I can only think how upset Gabriel must have been as he retired that night. In a foreign country with few resources of his own to resolve a problem that should never have happened. It is a cause of embarrassment for us all. But for every bad person I hold the belief that there are fifty good ones.
Two amazing John's
No 1 John Perridge
Before Dan left for work on that Tuesday morning he made arrangements for Gabriel to wait at the Travelodge.
At work he was due to meet Richard Wheelhouse, a colleague who rides a Triumph Rocket. What Dan wasn't aware of is Richard is a member of The Widow's Sons. A charitable group run by The Masons, dedicated to helping motorcyclists in need. Richard was to place a call to John Perridge a founder member of the groups East Midlands chapter. Meanwhile the HOC were ramping up support via social media. John was able to collect the stricken bike on his trailer and arrangements made to take it to a local motorcycle workshop, Racing Lines of Derby.
John was amazing. He didn't stop at moving the bike, though that in itself was brilliant, through his organisation, he arranged financial assistance for Gabriel and organised an extra night for him in a local hotel.
No 2 John Goodwin
By now The Honda Owners Club had picked up the message on Facebook and East Midlands branch member John Goodwin offered to lend a hand. John met Gabriel at Racing Lines where the damage was being estimated. The culprit had broken the steering lock barrel, but worse, in dropping the bike he bent the forks and damaged the handlebars beyond repair. John has years of experience in restoring motorcycles and was able to straighten the bent forks with the help of Racing Lines at their premises. New handlebars were ordered. John No 1 (JP) then kindly moved the bike a second time. Now it would be in the garage/workshop of John Goodwin awaiting delivery of the bars.
The bars arrived late in the evening, but John made a 5am start the following day to start the work on Gabriel's bike. Later in the morning he joined John to help him complete the job. By 11am a very grateful Gabriel was back on the road and heading for the port.
Though a truly awful situation for Gabriel, we must all be extremely proud that amongst bikers here in the UK there is huge camaraderie amongst us. The moment Dan rode onto that car park nobody looked the other way. First Dan, then Richard, John No 1 and his wonderful organisation and finally John No 2 of The HOC.
Gabriel's further internet links:
Honda XL600 RD (PD03) 1983 (Pictures)
Long-term project: repair engine seizure XL600R 17.April 15 (Great motor project
Gabriel’s HONDA XL600R von 1983 auf p4-Meßanlage bei MHG 18.8.22 (YOUTUBE Video)