The Honda Transalp debuted in Europe in 1987 and was sold in the United States from 1989-1991. The Transalp was a multi-purpose 600cc bike that had too much plastic for the American dual purpose bike aesthetic. Not that there was a huge dual purpose bike market at that time.
The bike met the same fate in Australia (sold there two years).
A friend of a friend convinced me to ride hers around a parking lot in late summer 2005. It was a giggle! My Ducati Monster was not a happy motorcycle, so I was riding my BMW R65. “I don’t need another bike!” But the following summer, a Transalp graced the garage, and it’s been my primary bike ever since.
The impetus/inspiration for its development was the Paris-Dakar Rally. The Honda Transalp was marketed initially as a dual-sport but today it more accurately reflects the adventurer class. Its sibling was the Honda Africa Twin (XRV750).
It’s not a dirt bike or an enduro, and despite being covered in plastic, its long suspension, deep-tread tires and sit-up-and-beg riding position make it very different from the common sportbike.
In fact, this type of bike is more common in today’s American market than it was 17 years ago when it was first offered here. Today, there are bikes like the Triumph Tiger, KTM’s Adventure models, Buell’s new Ulysses and a couple of mounts from BMW to choose from… While Transalps are loved by their owners and consequently aren’t the most common bike out there, they can be found [used] for a pittance compared to the cost of a new F650GS Beemer. – Motorcycle Classics, 2006 (emphasis added)
The bike sold well in Europe (look at the name: Trans-Alp!) and Honda continued to develop it. It grew from 600 to 650 to 700 cc. Then Honda retired the bike … only it is now poised for a comeback in 2016. Sorta. The come-back is for its larger sibling, the Africa Twin.
Learn more about the Honda Transalp
- Honda XL600V (Motorcycle Classics, 2006)
- Honda XL600V, 1989 (BikeZ)
- Honda XL600V, 1989, technical specs
- Retrospective: Honda XL600V Transalp 1989-1990 (Rider Magazine, 2011)
- Transalp.org (rider group)
- Transalp rally in red rock country (Roadrunner Travel, 2005)
Featured image: 1989 Honda Transalp