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April 2011 Club News

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The Case of the Cross-dressing XL 350 Honda

Story: By Arthur Barrot

Honda XL350 cafe-styleI’ve found some photos of the Honda XL 350 I bought new in 1976. The ‘cafe’ version had a 19in SL350 front wheel, ‘ace’ bars, a 32 tooth nylon rear sprocket, lowered seat, shorter Koni rear shocks and a Triumph headlight running a 12 volt globe.

The twin leading shoe brake was an easy fit and gave the bike much improved braking and handling. The gearing was very high – fourth gear was higher than the original fifth! It still pulled away in first easily and was fabulously smooth at 110-120kph in top. It’s probably the smoothest tourer I’ve had. The nylon sprocket might have helped there. Quick overtaking needed careful planning and several gear changes. It was extremely economical, so the 8.5 litre tank wasn’t a problem.

The seat had very little padding but the metal base was exactly the shape my bum needed. With the Koni shocks I was quite comfortable for as long as I liked. Friends who rode it weren’t so pleased.

The headlight worked quite well without the resistor that was in the headlight wiring. It was a bit dim at idle, but worked better than the 6v original once the revs got up. However, a missed shift would blow the globe. I managed to blow the globe in Midland when returning to Northam from a run to the Claremont speedway one Friday night. Keeping up with the others that night was interesting.

XL350 in enduro guise
The ‘Bulonda’ or ‘Hontaco’ was a lot of work but a worthwhile exercise. It’s an example of what some of us were doing in the late 70’s. The XL motor was a very tight but straight-forward fit in the MK7 Bultaco Pursang frame. The short bracing tube below the frame top-tube just needed a little dent so that it would clear the inlet tappet cover. The early XL motor had the inlet port to the side so there was clearance for the carburettor. Moving the rear shock mount forward gave it plenty of suspension and ground clearance. Unlike with some of these project bikes, the Bultaco frame didn’t have to be cut up. it just needed a few bits added.

I never weighed it but it felt half the weight of the original XL. It handled really well and was perfectly suited to the rugged enduros we ran in the hills around Northam. The really good thing was that I could take the motor out and put it back in the original frame in less than an hour. That was less time than it would take to clean and fit the lights and indicators etc back on to the standard XL.

The XL was the only bike I had at the time so I had the best of both worlds.

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