Comparison test Honda XL 600 V Transalp against Kawasaki KLE 500


Comparison test Honda XL 600 V Transalp against Kawasaki KLE 500

Silent stars

Never made it big. Others collect prices, they are cheap. Now the late breakthrough: MOTORRAD proudly presents Honda XL 600 V and Kawasaki KLE 500.

The sky is in charge because it sometimes wears blue and then gray, forsythia and daffodils flaunt their applause with a yellow dress of flowers, the human children sway between covered and skin-free: Spring is breaking through, and there are actually more important things to do than about motorbikes chat. However, that would be contrary to the purpose of this magazine, and therefore it fits well when two gifted extras take the test here and now. Two who have served the most beautiful minor matter in the world in the long term because they don’t always have to push themselves into the main role.
Honda’s Transalp honors the Kawasaki KLE. An unequal duel? Again apples with pears …? Where from? Both have studs, both weigh around 200 kilograms, both have around 50 hp and rely on a water-cooled two-cylinder. The price differs, certainly, by a whopping 2000 marks, but the increasing use of the Kawa, which costs only 10820 marks as a travel vehicle, suggests this comparison. It was launched in 1991 as a moderate fun bike, but the sturdy twin inherited from the GPZ 500 and the neat design of the whole soon ensured that many owners now appreciate their transalpine facilities more than their show effects.
So it happened that it now has to compete with the ever more moderate and almost equally priced single-cylinder enduros such as an Aprilia Pegaso or Suzuki XF 650 and – just – with the Transalp. Incidentally, the same is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and because the old woman is still so vigorous, this test is considered a loving compliment. Congratulations in any case, and many thanks to Honda, because the second disc brake in the front wheel was a really useful birthday present. With that – and now it’s finally going into spring – even lively pass descents when fully loaded are no longer frightening. When the lonely disc of the fully loaded KLE, which demands a lot of strength, already noticeably softly whimpers for grace after the fourth forced braking, then the double Nissins can easily lock the Honda front wheel. Which would indicate that these stoppers are among the few enduro brakes that want to be carefully dosed on asphalt.
Otherwise, the Transalp, which has recently been manufactured at the Honda plant in Italy, entered the new sales year unchanged, so it has retained its high quality and functionality. Two spring seekers could hardly ask for a better bench. The rider is now alienated from the high pegs even on an enduro; he gets used to the fact that he has to spread his legs more than on the slim Kawasaki. Smaller contemporaries can hide behind the fairing, while larger ones shake a little at speeds above 130 km / h.
The tight-fitting shell of the KLE creates astonishing comfort, but not even an aerodynamic miracle could make you forget the insolence known as the bench: after an hour at the latest, the driver’s seat is seated, tall pilots also have too little space and constantly slide around on the strap. A shame, because the pegs and the rather narrow handlebar are good, the fittings are even ahead of those of the Honda. The passenger feels more comfortable, at best complains that the Givi suitcases supplied by Kawasaki for this test are restricting the space on the pegs.
Suitcases have to be natural. After all, this is primarily about travel qualities. Due to the high exhaust systems, one of the containers protrudes quite a distance, and they hang high on both machines. That doesn’t necessarily promote maneuverability, in fact the Transalp, which is not particularly agile anyway, requires even more emphasis if it is to throw itself from one bend into the next. Even the fully loaded suitcases tempt their spring strut, which cannot be adjusted in the rebound damping, to bounce gently, on the other hand, this bad habit hardly gets worse when a passenger gets on too. The rubber-mounted handlebar gives a somewhat indifferent feeling to the road, which of course does not change the fact that even the fully loaded Honda – once on course – steers precisely where it should be. Anyone who rushes into the spring will notice that the frame is twisting as you rush through undulating curves. Do not panic.
The former fun bike is even less impressed: the Kawa’s double-loop frame cannot bend even under full load, and its suspension elements, which are all too sensitive on their own, even provide a bit of calm. Only then do the springs work in their ideal progression range. Only undulating, fast corners cause unrest, because the KLE fork does not guide properly there due to insufficient damping and the whole load moves gently to the outside. When the direction correction is due, it becomes clear once again that the Kawa is much more handy than Honda’s Transalp, but does not react as precisely to steering commands. The KLE hardly suffers from its economy shock absorber, adjustable rebound damping is only missing when the vehicle is fully loaded. And then only when driving wildly.
But it’s springtime, time to enjoy. To enjoy the fact that Kawasaki’s agile 500 series compensates for its small mistakes in sporty use with unexpectedly high suspension comfort. Let the engine purr gently. To ignore that he is already playing the little fighter while idling. If you want, you can already elicit performance of under 2000 tours, very well behaved in sixth gear through towns. When it comes to spring awakening – just downshift three times at the exit sign, let the easy-revving four-valve engine cheer beyond 5500 rpm. Up to almost 9000 rpm it blows forward cheerfully, everything else would be wasted. This performance characteristic may be considered untypical in enduro circles, but after two days on small and very small roads and two hours on mild gravel the question is allowed: why actually? There are truly more uncivilized single-cylinder units that jerk at the bottom and become tough at the top, so a little manual work can’t be that bad. so what.
Incidentally, this is easy to do, but with very fast gear changes a gear slips out again. Can the Honda never happen. Or almost never. With short distances it can engage its five well-sorted gears, and thanks to the significantly more torque-stronger motor it always finds connection. The 52-degree V three-valve engine has long been considered unbreakable, but it also has a reputation for being unspectacular. Well, if you think the power and torque curves, which are almost perfect for a 600 series, are unspectacular, you can stick to this judgment. Those who can enjoy good solutions will like the three-valve engine. From 2000 revolutions it pushes, already 1000 revolutions later develops gentle emphasis in order to kindle a little fire between 5500 and 7000 rpm. In short: Neither the KLE nor common singles can hang out on the Transalp.
It has long been known that it does its job with great smoothness and produces even less vibrations than the KLE. Your V-Twin transports two people extremely calmly, and while the Kawasaki driver should then stay in the engine speed range above 5000, or better still 6000 tours, the shift work on the Honda increases only minimally. With this engine characteristic, it makes it easier for even the inexperienced to enter easy off-road sections, and requires much less attention to the engine than most single-cylinder units. With minor cutbacks, the KLE can also earn this praise. The two-cylinder engine is not responsible for the fact that the sand splashes up between the fairing and the frame; on the other hand, the slim tank / bench combination makes it easier to drive while standing and to slide forward in front of tight bends. In any case, the bottom line is that both are an alternative to the hardly lighter singles. Well, the old British knew more than 30 years ago why they put their twins in scrambler undercarriages.
B.Both test persons stood on moderate stud profiles, good all-rounders, as it should be, from Bridgestone for the Honda and from Dunlop for the Kawasaki. Because the latter has a very light effect around the front axle on its own, it was not surprising that it moves easily with panniers at high speed on the motorway. Not worrying, just like the old Enduro custom, and less a different tire than a strut between the two pannier racks could help. On the other hand, high speeds are not recommended because the KLE then empties the 15 liter tank with insubordinate thirst. It covers 230 kilometers on the country road, 300 the Transalp, then it goes to the reserves. Spring is a little longer on the Honda.

2nd place – Kawasaki

You just have to drag them into the spotlight, the silent stars. Then such a KLE easily turns out to be a serious offer: With a stable frame, comfortable spring elements and cheeky motor, it particularly inspires soloists. The worse the bad ban on sitting. It is narrower for two than on the Transalp, but compared to similarly expensive singles, there is always enough space. The engine experiences its great moments on brisk country roads, tourist strolls are more like a compulsory exercise. After all.

1st place – Honda

The Honda is more solid and has better brakes. That makes the difference. Because it offers two people more space, even large suitcases hardly restrict their freedom of movement and a larger backpack fits on the tank – despite the stupid, attached tank cap – it also combines the better touring properties. This goes well with the wonderfully smooth running V-engine, whose power is particularly appreciated by those who are often on the road in pairs. All that remains to be desired is an adjustable spring strut.

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