Few motorcycles can tackle the Australian outback as well as a Honda XR600. This is the machine that kick-started Honda’s 18-year Baja 1000 winning streak, and the reliability and raw power of the mighty XR have made it a desert racing legend.
The 1996 model we’re looking at here was originally set up for the brutal Australasian Safari. And it was pretty tired by the time Sixty-Six Motorcycles of Perth got their hands on it.
“It’d had a hard life smashing through the outback, and was showing its age,” says Sixty-Six’s Peter Ellery. “We decided to create a thumper which had attitude, but with a clean aesthetic.”
Peter’s first port of call was finding the right fuel tank—but the frame’s awkward backbone complicated matters. Eventually the team settled on a Honda CB250 unit. “It had the right proportions and a period look—so the tunnel was modified and on she went!”
Next, they lopped off the XR600’s subframe and fabricated a new, slimmer one to complement the tank’s lines. Resting on top is a custom-made tan leather seat.
Thanks to a pair of 17” SM Pro rims, the stance of this XR600 is now more motard than desert racer. The rims are laced to Talon hubs, and wrapped in Shinko 705 rubber. The front forks have been rebuilt and lowered to suit the smaller wheels.
Sixty-Six redid all the XR’s wiring too—in the process moving the ignition to under the seat in a neat little aluminum box. They also installed and rejetted a Mikuni TM40 flat-slide carb. The new exhaust muffler is an off-the-shelf item. (According to Peter, it took a few mandrel bends to make it fit the header pipe.)
There’s a 7” headlight up front, and the turn signals, tail light, mini-switches, grips and mirrors are from Posh Japan. But the heat shields, chain guard and single-sided front fender bracket were all made in-house.
Sixty-Six opted to finish the XR600 (now dubbed “X ON”) in subtle hues. Dave Williams handled the tank, while the frame was powder-coated black and the engine painted in a black wrinkle.
It’s the perfect retirement for a bruised old racer. We reckon it’ll be just as much fun on the street as it was in the sand.