The XL HONDA
First used by Honda in 1972 to power a 250cc dual sport machine, the XL engine has appeared in a variety of models. With eleven displacement categories ranging from the miniscule 70 to the mighty 600, the XL models spanned an 18 year period, ending with the Transalp XL600V last produced in 1990.
Soon after introduction of the XL250, motorcyclists began modifying their bikes for competition use. With few design flaws, the XL 250 and 350cc versions were wildly popular and proved to be extremely reliable in a variety of racing venues.
Motocross and desert (Baja) racers became instant winners. Flat track racers soon found that with proper modifications to the 350cc engine they were regularly winning AMA sponsored events, against bikes with engines twice the size of the XL based racers.
XL engines were, and are still used in motocross, flattrack, enduros, observed trials, ice racing events and even in road racing competition.
But the biggest winner was the general motorcycling public.
With tens-of-thousands of units sold in the U.S. market, Honda may have done more for the dual-sport movement than any other motorcycle manufacturer. With the introduction of the 1972 XL250 K0, riders could purchase a machine that would serve as a commuter bike during the week and a trail blazing, off-the-road machine on the weekends.
As owners of XLs became more proficient in the dirt, their desire to modify their bikes spawned a whole cottage industry in performance modifications. Luminaries like Bill Bell of Long Beach Honda and the folks at Powroll, C&J, Trackmaster, Cheney, Champion, Redline, MegaCycle, and many more, all contributed to the growing XL movement.
The best measure of any product's success is its longevity in the marketplace. The XL engine lives on thru today, albeit a variation which was refined thru 29 years of manufacture. The XR versions are great modern day bikes; but, the XLs are the classics and that's why we are here.
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