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Comparison test, Honda XR 600 R, Yamaha TT 600 R

Honda XR 600 R versus Yamaha TT 600 R

Does it really have to be state-of-the-art, water-cooled, high-tech machinery? Or even thoroughly honest single-cylinder enduro bikes, where air is still whistling through the cooling fins, can spread a good mood?

XR versus TT – this is a topic that has occupied the Stollenreiter since the early eighties. In 1981 Honda presented a sport version of the tame XL 500 S-Enduro, the XR 500 R with Pro-Link suspension. In 1983 Yamaha countered with the TT 600, which was always overshadowed by Honda in terms of sales. Because the XR was more extreme in many ways: higher, harder, handier, more durable – and that was particularly popular with the American off-road audience. No wonder that Yamaha treated the TT very negligently when it came to the necessary model maintenance measures, because outside of a small fan base nobody really took any notice of it. In the meantime, Honda managed to continue to build the XR as a 600 series undaunted and almost unchanged to this day, despite all technical developments in the enduro scene.
The second attack from Yamaha by the fabric softener-treated, stylish TT 600 S from 1993 never really hurt the XR, which is always rustic. With the SY model, Yamaha acquired new customers among the road enduro riders, but hardcore earthworkers turned up their noses. Honda continued to stick to the hard line. With success: to this day, the XR is a best seller, especially in the USA.
Now that the era of the air-cooled enduro singles is slowly drawing to a close, Yamaha is preparing for the final attack on the aging cult object. Everything new, back to the origins – that’s what they said at the presentation of the TT 600 R. But that is only partially correct: The design is new, as is the frame and lots of technology, just not the engine. The modified, but well-known, single-cylinder four-valve engine still serves as the drive, the basic design of which has set countless Yamaha enduros in motion since the late 1970s.
As long as the performance is right, discussions about water cooling, five-valve engines or injection are unnecessary. And Yamaha has worked consistently on their harmonious development. The test machine is impressive with 45 HP and a nice torque curve. At least where there are no water-cooled European Enduros nearby, because the slimmer kettles from KTM or Husqvarna can still pack a few more horsepower. Then 45 HP does not seem very advanced given the fact that it was standard more than ten years ago, but the problem lies less in the mechanical than in the environmental area.
The downright pathetic curve of the XR shows how something like this can work without any further technical development. What has happened to the legend? Already at 5800 revolutions and 37 HP the fun is over, the test XR from the importer Konemann works
like tied up. It is not consoling that it shows the old bite again without the throttling use in the silencer and, as in previous MOTORRAD tests, pushes a whopping 44 hp on the role, because openly the noise emission is not up to date and the environment is really not reasonable. When driving, the XR succeeds in largely making up for the performance deficit through lower weight. On winding streets with many acceleration phases, it can keep in the slipstream of the TT. The tied XR hardly spreads a good mood in this state.
For most of them, enduro riding does not mean speed orgies and constant full throttle, but leisurely hiking in the medium speed range. The problems of the test XR are also noticeable. The engine looks smooth in the lower area, especially since it is not as direct and agile on the gas as the TT drive. The long final translation makes things even more difficult. The XR acknowledges a hearty turn of the throttle with a violent hiccup, the mixture preparation seems overwhelmed. Even driving a wheelie, previously a specialty of the long-legged XR, is only possible with this set-up with a lot of concentration and little respect for unpleasant consequences. In contrast, the power transmission of the Honda collects plus points. The gear changes are more precise, and the clutch works considerably more smoothly than on the TT.
The Nissin brakes on the XR also deserve praise. They require less manual effort than the TT Brembo stoppers, and the feeling for the dosage is always a little better off-road and on-road. Nevertheless, the enduro rider does not have to be dissatisfied with the TT brakes. Japan against Europe is also the case with other ingredients. Yamaha installs an Ohlins shock absorber plus Paioli fork in the TT, which is produced in Italy. Honda, on the other hand, relies on the proven Showa combination, which dates back to the eighties. The multiple adjustable spring elements respond cleanly on both machines. The Honda with tighter damping looks a bit stubborn here and there on the road, the Yamaha ironing away bumps more elegantly. Due to its one-man approval, the XR is reserved for soloists, while the TT driver can also transport a friend from time to time, as long as they do not have any special demands on seating comfort.
In general, the requirements in asphalt operations should not be set too high. Because research on lean angles set limits on the rough tires early on. The Pirelli MT 21 of the TT in particular smear away quickly on slippery asphalt, but the limit area is indicated in good time and thus remains easily controllable. The cross-looking IRC tires from Honda offer better grip on the road.
The coarse studs on both motorcycles already indicate the preferred area of ​​use: road stages are welcome, but off-road use is preferred. Both enduros embody the original enduro idea. They are not disguised, highly specialized racing machines, but simple, robust all-round enduros, motorcycles for every day and every occasion. It is therefore obvious that the buyer must always live with a compromise. For tough escapades on cross-slopes or trial passages in high mountains, the two air vehicles are pretty heavy and bulky. The TT is particularly noticeable here, with a full tank that exceeds the dry weight declared at 131 kilograms by a full 22 kilograms. The long-legged Honda with its 143 kilograms is not as easy to handle as a DR 350, but it is noticeably easier to circle around cliffs and root passages.
Extreme tours are also made difficult for enduro riders for other reasons: The first gear of both enduros has a very long ratio, so you have to work a lot with the clutch. The TT in particular dies easily and only starts up again after several powerful kicks when hot. Anyone who is mainly off-road should convert to smaller pinions or larger sprockets. Both XR and TT lack the span of a six-speed gearbox.
Long spring deflections promise cross-like swallowing capacity. Technically, the TT 600 R is up to date, but the suspension properties of the comparatively antiquated XR are not bad at all. The elements respond with astonishing sensitivity. The 43 millimeter thick fork, which is no longer entirely fresh, looks a bit wobbly on bombed slopes, but works progressively and practically never goes hard on the block – your wrists thank you for it. The equally soft, appealing paioli fork of the new TT is also hardly a cause for complaint. Only on the roughest landings does it indicate with an ugly, metallic noise that it has reached the limit of its capacity. At the rear, the well-tuned Yamaha collects additional plus points with its Ohlins shock absorber. The XR’s Honda Pro-Link system is progressive, but has more problems with overcoming rough waves. In addition, the damping of the Showa shock absorber decreases with heavy use.
B.ilanz: The XR and TT are, as always, positioned between the real sports enduros à la KTM LC 4 and the heavier E-Start singles such as the Suzuki DR 650. The XR tends towards the sporty side, the TT offers better everyday properties . With the XR’s clogged engine, the fun largely falls by the wayside, while Yamaha has understood how to adapt the TT drive to the current regulations without compromising agility.

2nd place – Honda XR 600 R

Fall is gradually falling for the good old XR, who has served the enduro community well and reliably for more than a decade. But now their days seem numbered. As long as it is not possible to adapt the engine to current emission standards without sacrificing power and spontaneity, the customer base is likely to be drastically reduced. Although it is still convincing in some disciplines, a general overhaul is gradually due.

1st place – Yamaha TT 600 R

Ultimately, the TT 600 R clearly prevails. It would also be a shame if the more modern overall concept had to accept a defeat against the classic car. Yamaha has refined the new TT with high-quality ingredients, it is not a pure sports machine. As a universal enduro for road and medium-difficult ground, it will find its fans. Its strength is the hearty engine, for sporty ambitions it would have to be slimmed down a bit.

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