THE START OF THE LAST XT600
The Yamaha XT600e was the last of the XT600 range. Yamaha produced two distinct variants of the 600e, the “e” standing for electric start of course. (An XT600K kick only model was also made) The first variant, my model, was the 3TB. The second was the 4PT which received various cosmetic changes and a small reduction in power among a few other minor changes. The 600e differs from the previous XT installment (3AJ Tenere) as it has a smaller tank, 17 inch rear wheel and other changes pointing to a more road orientated dual sport bike. However, it does share a lot of parts with the XTZ660 Tenere.
I saw my 3TB on eBay during the early Covid lockdown. Having just returned from an evening run out with my XT225. I had come to the conclusion that I wanted a 600e as a nice medium between my 3AJ Tenere and my Serow. It would be more powerful than my Serow but easier to man-handle and less prone to damage than my Tenere. For a long time I had also considered a 600e as my backup choice in case anything catastrophic happened to my Serow during “It’s not a race to the end“. As it turned out, I eventually made the choice to use my 600e for that trip and retired my Serow for the immediate future.
Continue reading below to see the modifications I made to the 600e in order to prepare it for an extended period of classic overland travel.
KG - DRY
ADVENTURE BIKE TRANSFORMATION
A NEW PROJECT
I specifically bought this bike to be a bike I could just ride. I had enough projects as it was and certainly did not want another one. However… my Serow had some on-going carb related issues and I began to be won over by the idea of taking the 600e touring in 2021. When I was set on taking something other than my Serow on the trip I came very close to selling my 600e and purchasing a ~2010 XT660R, more modern = more reliable right? It’s never as simple as that is it. I then decided that my 600e would be just as good, I knew it well, I could fix the carb if needed. It’s air-cooled, plenty of parts available and I already had a number of contacts across Europe who knew everything there was to know about 600s. So, in Autumn/Winter 2020, I began collecting spares, new parts and upgraded items to prep my XT for an amazing long term adventure.
Below I will explain the modifications and upgrades I made to my 600e. I will also explain various parts of the bike that I left untouched, hopefully giving a good insight of what it takes to kit out this classic adventure bike. Ultimately, you could buy a 600e in the U.K for around £1500/2500, and you would be able to set of there and then on an adventure. The mods I made were just because I could and wanted to. They add small improvements to the bike. I feel that over a very long trip like mine, small improvements become more important.
This was one of the first modifications I made and a very common one at that. Having a 1st edition 600e comes with the complication of the fact that you cannot buy the aftermarket Acerbis 20l tank new anymore. The second edition (4PT) 23l Acerbis tank can still be bought new. It is interesting to note that the 23l tank can be made to fit the 3TB if really desired. However, I was searching Facebook Marketplace and I found the original 20l Acerbis tank for the 3TB at a very reasonable price of £50. I snapped it up.
This gives me 5 more litres of fuel which equates to an extra 50-80 miles. It also lightens my bike which is a nice extra bonus, although this is wiped out if the tank is filled of course. Another interesting note is that the tank scoops on the 3Tb are made from fairly delicate plastic. This makes scoops in good condition quite valuable. I could easily sell my scoops and make £100+. This was a good buy for the bike and my finances.
I had already made myself a DIY trail stand out of a shower chair leg (the same material that crutches are made from). This was a lightweight and simple solution to get the back wheel up off the ground. Having the wheel off the ground would be one of those simple improvements that would make life easier when checking spokes and lubing the chain. However it had the potential to be somewhat unstable, especially when it comes to removing the wheel wheel or doing any major work.
You never know what may come up on Ebay or the like, desirable XT parts are rare and snapped up fast, you have to be on it if you want the bargains. I found someone listing his 600e for sale / breaking. I enquired his prices for some of the parts I was looking for, he was a little expensive in my opinion. Suddenly I spotted a center stand just poking out of the shadows. Bingo, I wanted that. £60 later and it was mine. These cost £160+ new so it was well worth the purchase. It is one of those aftermarket items that when you take it off the bike in 5 years time, it will still be worth more than what I paid for it. I cleaned the stand up, galvanized it and painted it to keep it protected for the many miles to come. At the time of writing, I’m not entirely sure I will travel with it, I will see how easy it is to lift onto the stand. It will certainly make the bike more stable when removing the wheel wheel etc.
Yet again this was one of my Ebay bargain finds. A full pannier rack setup for the XT600e comes in at over £250. For £110 I found this near brand new pannier frame setup. These very rarely come up for sale so it was one of those items that I just had to buy. Even though I was not entirely sure I wanted a frame setup I thought it was best to buy now and decide later. (I planned on using rackless saddle panniers like the Enduristan Blizzard).
At the time of writing I think I will definitely fit them to support a small and simple pannier bag setup instead of the expensive Blizzards. Something like the LOMO medium pannier dry bag would do nicely. I really want to keep my luggage concise and organized. This will in turn, help keep my bike light, narrow and nimble as ever. Pannier frames are also quite useful in protecting the rear of the motorbike in the event of a minor crash or fall. They can also be used to help man-handle the bike when picking it up or lifting the backend.
When it came to fitting these, I soon realised that what I had bought were the later XT600e 4PT model pannier frames. I knew that there was a strong chance of this being the case but I thought they would be a closer fit than what they actually turned out to be. Fortunately, my Dad can weld and soon had the pannier frames adjusted to fit my 3TB XT600e. We noticed that the frames were actually very side. A good 5 inch or more away from the exhaust we which decided was excessive. So we made the frames narrower while we were at it.
I was born in 1997, and grew up with gadgets and electrics. I like to add various electronics to my bike such as SatNav, Heated grips, volt meters and charging ports. Normally on a dual sport bike with a small headlight cowl like the XT600e, these items are attached to the handlebars. This area quickly becomes a mass of wires and mounts. I’ve always loved the look of rally bikes with the tall and aggressive screen / fairing so I decided that I wanted to have a go at making one myself. I found a YouTube video where an Australian makes a really nice looking rally fairing for not a great deal of money. I decided to go with his design.
It included a clear screen, 2 LED spotlights wired to my original dipped/main beam, side lights and a small dashboard for the gadgets. This would include a fuse box for my items to be wired into. This project actually took a quite a number of hours to complete. I easily spent 30+ hours on it, mainly in the cold evenings after work and a couple of weekend days. I am pleased with the outcome of the project and have a lot more to say about it but I shall save it for it's own article.
Being a software developer by trade, I understand the importance of basing decisions on information before making conclusions and taking actions. Whenever we are faced with an issue in the software industry, we often turn to logs, recordings of what is happening in the system. Having this base information gives us an insight into what is happening within the system and any decisions we make can be based from this insight.
The same can be translated into my Yamaha. The oil is a critical part of the system. There may come a time when I need to work something out and having the information of what temperature the oil is running at, may come in useful. Adding the gauge is a simple addition that will give me the ability to make decisions that could be crucial to keeping my bike running in tip top condition in hot climates. With the Acerbis tank on, I can actually see the gauge when I’m riding. Even without noticing, you are likely to subconsciously see the reading and notice if there is a problem.
One of the classic modifications that many people make to their motorcycles is to add a chain oiler. Various branded versions of the same concept exist. However, some of these can be quite expensive when it is really easy and effective to produce your own DIY version. I make mine out of a simple 150ml hamster water bottle, a length of pipe and then cable tie it to drip onto the chain near the front sprocket. I also add an inline valve to open/close the flow.
This is a very inexpensive way of extending the life of your motorcycle chain. When I am travelling, I don’t want to be buying chains. I want to be spending money on drinks and fine dining. With that in mind, anytime I am riding on dusty, dirty roads, I open the valve and allow the jack oil to seep out of the pipe and onto my chain. This clears the dust and lubricates the links making the chain and sprockets last longer.
Hard or soft luggage is the question. I choose soft-luggage although I can appreciate hard luggage. I choose soft luggage for many reasons. Firstly, on these smaller trail bikes, weight matters. Soft luggage is a lot lighter and smaller than hard luggage. Secondly, it is usually less expensive than hard luggage. Finally, soft luggage is flexible, in that it can be re-arranged to how it fits to the bike.
For my Xt600e I have chosen to have a main rollpack across the passenger seat and rear. I originally desired an Enduristan Tornado roll pack. I then found a Lone Rider Overlander. This is basically a framed rollpack so it is more of a rectangular shape. I liked the idea of this very much and decided I would splash out the extra cost to purchase one of these. The framed design would make it easier to store, find and retrieve items from the pack.
I would store my camping equipment here and anything that I would not use when on the road. Mounted to my pannier frames I would take 2 Lomo adventure panniers. These are small (13l each) and achieve the light weight ethos I am going for. I would keep things I would be using at the side of the road in here. Finally, I would have a tool tube mounted to the sump-guard. Here I would keep my tools, repair items and maintenance kit.
PHASE 1 – PREPARE THE BASE:
When I decided that I was going to take my 600e on my long term overland trip, I knew that I only had around 6 months from the decision to the time of the trip. I then began to make a plan to ensure that the bike would be in it’s best possible shape to make the trip a success. The last thing I wanted was to be dealing with problems on the road that I could have fixed at home with a little forward thinking. The bike is over 25 years old, older than me, yet there are very few serious problems the XT600’s suffer from apart from general wear and tear. The previous year when I began to organise my Serow for this trip, I had it completely rebuilt. In hindsight, it was a bit of a mistake. I found that changing too many things at once created a lot of problems and each problem had to be worked out.
I split my bike preparation into two phases. Phase 1 would be to prepare a solid base for my bike. This would involve a good clean, fixing any issues, tidying the wiring and adding my own modifications, accessories and improvements. Phase 2 would come just before I set off. It would be replacing the wearable, cables, discs, tubes, tyres, chains and sprockets.
PHASE 1 PROCESS
I began Phase 1 by giving the bike a good clean and then started by adding a few accessories. Centre stand, Oil temp gauge, wider foot pegs and my DIY upgraded sump guard. I then started working on my sump guard tool tube. A cheap plastic, but heavy duty, tube from eBay that my Dad has bought and was going to throw out. Some stainless clamps and 2 bolts really secured it to the bike. After that, I began working on the main piece, my rally fairing and cockpit.
I won’t go into too much detail here, I’ll save it for it’s own article, but I put 30+ hours into the rally fairing. I made it myself from basic materials, a Kawasaki Z900 after-market screen, aluminium flat bar and some aluminium sheets. It was a good project that I wanted to do. It provided a nice dashboard area for my electrical outlets and satnav. As well as providing wind protection and much better lighting from my LED units. I was mildly concerned I’d be adding too much weight but in the end, the whole piece weighed only a few hundred grams more than the original setup, and I had a lot of benefits. Success.
Once I was happy with the front of the bike, I turned my attention to the rear. My XT600 had a broken rear mudguard ever since I bought it. I sourced a replacement, the cheapest I could find was £30, from a XTZ660 3YF and came from Sweden. I fitted that, painting the number plate bracket at the same time. I then removed the exhaust. My 600e still has it’s standard exhaust and it is in good condition. I could potentially replace my standard exhaust with a stainless setup. It would be lighter and improve the flow of exhaust fumes however it would also be loud and expensive. Standard was fine. There is something to be said for a quiet exhaust.
I wanted to protect my exhaust for the foreseeable future. I bought a new exhaust graphite gasket and a tin of heat proof PJ1 black. An afternoon spent cleaning and preparing the exhaust and it was ready to paint. After that, I replaced as many bolts as I could with stainless. I found that the regulator rectifier mounting screws had rusted but was able to remove them with an impact driver. This is definitely something to check on your XT. You don’t want to not be able to swap out the rectifier because of some stuck screws. I then addressed the small spots of surface rust on parts of the frame with a hammerite anti rust solution that stabilizes rust. Best to nip any rust in the bud before it takes hold. Finally, I made a rubber sheet that fits under the seat. This will protect any mud and water spraying up into the gap between the rear fender, potentially corroding the brake/indicator wires and even reaching the rectifier. A small modification but it may prevent an issue one day.
PHASE 2 BELOW
Stabilising any surface rust
My sump guard tool box (unfinished)
PHASE 2 PROCESS
I have not yet started phase 2. I will likely spend the first few months of 2021 collecting my parts: cables, discs, pads, bearings, filters, o-rings, tubes, tyres and chains and sprockets. I’ll do this gradually as to not annoy my postman more than I do already. Then in the final weeks before I depart, I will replace each piece with the new substitutes, perform a few final test rides and set off into the distance.
When purchasing these parts, I often buy 2 or more sets of each. Thing’s like cables, o-rigns, spare tube etc, I will take with me as a spare for when I am on the road. However I like to know that I have a small collection of spare parts waiting at home in case I need anything shipping out to me if I am truly stuck without a part. As I plan on spending the winter in Albania or Greece, I will also send a “service” package to my location, where I can refresh worn consumable parts like chains and sprockets etc.
THANKS FOR READING
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