1987 XL600 suspension upgrades

12 replies to this topic
  • cleonard

Posted March 21, 2008 - 09:37 AM


One of my friends has a 1987 XL600 and we were wondering what can be done to upgrade the suspension easily and cheaply. There are a lot of older XR600 parts for cheap on ebay.

For the front:

It looks like the fork diameter is the same as the XR600. Is it as easy as replacing the forks? I see two different ways. Go with the early non cartridge forks or the later cartridge units. Can the original XL600 brake and wheel be reused in either senario or does a XR600 wheel and brake need to be used? Are the axle diameters the same?

For the rear:

Since the XL is drum braked, it seems like keeping that will be a lot less work than upgrading to a disc rear end. Can just the XR600 shock be used, or is it best to use a XR swingarm too. What about the rear wheel. Reuse or is a XR600 one required. Which years of a XR600 rear parts fit?

  • cleonard

Posted March 22, 2008 - 10:06 AM


Somebody has to have some input. Help an undersuspended rider.

  • mrfixit54016

Posted March 22, 2008 - 04:55 PM


I did this on my 85 XL350R. I replaced the suspension with the same from an 85 XR350R. The forks were different diameter, so I had to swap the triple-tree as well. Direct fit and the front wheels were interchangeable. However, the XR triple-tree does not have the mounts for the gauge cluster, so I fabricated one. The Front brake line had to be replaced with a longer one as well. Also, the XL350 has rubber mounted handlebar clamps, and the XR is a solid mount, so I have more vibration now on the road.

The rear end has to be changed at the same time, otherwise the front will ride too high. The swingarm, linkage, shock, and rear wheel all had to be swapped. Almost a direct swap, but a very tight fit and I needed a large hammer and pry bar to "squeeze" some pieces in. And you have to find a home for the remote shock canister. The rear wheel hubs were slightly different widths, so I could not use the XL wheel. The 600's may be the same, I am not sure.

Now the kickstand will need to be lengthened because the bike has much longer legs on it.

Nicer feel offroad, not quite as smooth on road, and it looks cool. :confused:

I also own an 85 XL600R and I have opted to keep the suspension stock and set it up more as my commuter bike. Rack, oil cooler, windshield, wider seat, and tank bag and rear trunk bag.

  • zrxer

Posted March 23, 2008 - 08:49 AM


Cleonard, I swapped on a complete front end from a 650L on to my '84 XL600R. You can see a picture of the bike with the front installed in my XL600/XR650L hybrid thread. The 600 wheel and brake disk bolted on no problem. This is a true bolt on, tripple clamps and all. No mods were necessary.

As for the rear, I left mine stock. I do know that the shock mounting is different between the early dual carb XLs and the single carb XRs. The dual carb XLs mount in the center of the swingarm, the single carb XRs are offset to the left. I believe this was done for carburetor/filter boot clearance. Maybe a dual carb XR500/600R shock would work? Bruce

  • davek18

Posted March 28, 2008 - 04:35 AM


I swapped a late model XR400 front end onto my 87 XL600 with little trouble. It bolted pretty much right on, I used the XR400 triple clamps, they fit right on. I had to fabricate a mount for the gauges and ignition switch. I later found an XR650l upper clamp on ebay that is the right fork diameter with an ignition switch and gauge mount and bolts right on but, the gauge mount is different enough that I haven't put it on yet cause I have a working machine now. I am watching ebay for a 650L cluster which I think would make the swap a slam-dunk. I used the XL front wheel assembly, the brake caliper even bolted right on the XR forks. I had to have an axle made at the local machine shop to fit the forks and wheel. I used .46 springs . On the rear I used an 86 XR600 shock. It went on with a little fuss. I had to find a place for the reservour, reroute the breather, etc. I serviced the shock and installed an Eibach 11.5kg spring which seemed to help quite a bit. The XR swingarm is too narrow to fit the XL wheel so I haven't put it on yet. Back to ebay I guess.

  • Motosprtman

Posted March 28, 2008 - 05:49 AM


Keeping mine stock, it's nice and cushy on the road. thinking of replacing the CDI, coil and stator for just peace of mind / reliability.

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  • brantc

Posted March 29, 2008 - 07:46 PM


The shock on the 87 XR600 will fit on an XL600 as will the swingarm, but the linkage is different in that it is displaced sideways relative to the other bike.
So you cant swap swingarm/linkage but you can use an XR shock on your XL.

The XR swingarm is aluminum and nicer but something would require modification to work.

The XR wheel is a different width(wider) than the XL and will not bolt up. You would have to make new spacers and possibly cut some off of the brake backing plate.

The XL has rubber in the hub for street, the XR doesnt.

  • pwrpapa

Posted March 30, 2008 - 09:24 AM


Keeping mine stock, it's nice and cushy on the road. thinking of replacing the CDI, coil and stator for just peace of mind / reliability.

I like my all stock 83 XL600 too.
I'm gonna get a new stator like you for a peace of mind also.

  • davek18

Posted April 01, 2008 - 04:42 AM


I bolted the XR swingarm on my XL and had it hooked up and ready to go. It was a while back so details are fuzzy but I think I ended up using the XL linkage and spacing it to fit the XR swingarm which has a wider mount. I though all was good till I tried the wheel. The XL wheel is wider by 1/2 inch or so, there was no easy cure so I took it back off. I have since found an XR wheel on eBay and compared the two. The XR is Indeed narrower and the brakes are smaller and there is no cushion drive, the sprocket is larger too. I would love to have the lighter aluminum swingarm for weight and visual appeal put I don't like the idea of even smaller brakes so I think I may use it only for dirt riding.
I rode my bike stock for several years and enjoyed it immensely but I am enjoying it more each passing day and new mod. It is almost like a new bike and an old friend at the same time.
I see a lot of reference to Ricky stator replacement, apparently that is a weak point. Does anyone have any data on long range reliability of the replacement compared to Honda's? Mine has gone 14k with no problem, should I worry?

  • cleonard

Posted April 01, 2008 - 07:38 AM


I like my all stock 83 XL600 too.
I'm gonna get a new stator like you for a peace of mind also.

As far as I can tell most of the aftermarket stators are just rewound on the lighting coil. The CDI high voltage coil is the old stock one. So you are not really getting a new stator, just a used one.

A Honda one would be new and perhaps the Electrosport model is as well. I've never seen an Electrosport model, but the photos make it look new.

I just rewound my stator ignition coil a couple of weeks ago. It's not too technical, just very tedious.

  • davek18

Posted June 06, 2008 - 06:44 PM


I know I am bringing an old post back from the dead but I have some insight to share with fellow 600 owners. A couple of posts back I asked in passing if I should be worried about my stator at 14k. Well it died seemingly without notice. I thought that when I had hard starting issues I might think about replacing my stator since that was a common symptom in other threads. My bike always started within 2 kicks hot or cold once I learned the drill, wot 3 kicks if it didn't start within 2 then one more kick to life. I was sitting at a stoplight waiting for a light and it just shut off, never to spark again. I bought a Ricky stator and put it in, after condemning the old one due to failing testing. Started right up. I have noticed the following things since replacement. Easier starting, I had evolved a thorough full kick with follow through procedure that I now find not mandatory anymore. I am now no longer fighting what I though was dirt in the right carb that intermittently causing random power loss, I also detect less of a tendency to kickback than before too. I think my stator was dying and I failed to comprehend what was happening. I am rather embarrassed about that being an old Honda mechanic from way back, but life is about learning,huh?
The new stator fit great and has an extra ground wire that gets attached to the frame which I think is a nice touch and possible flaw in the original design. The ignition ignitor coil duty is now shared by two smaller coils, also a nod to reliability I think by reducing load and amperage on one solo coil.
So in answer to my own question a couple of posts back, worry about your stator. I am glad it died one block from the shop and not 50 miles out in the mountains all alone out of cell range, which is not at all uncommon for me to do that type of riding.

  • zrxer

Posted June 07, 2008 - 07:06 AM


Great information davek18. Thanks. :thumbsup: Bruce

  • pwrpapa

Posted June 07, 2008 - 07:40 AM


After reading that post I'm gonna get a new stator before I leave for mt TAT ride.

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