The S in the Honda XL trail range in the early 1980’s could well have stood for “sweet spot” with a wide variety of machines available across global markets and a particular emphasis on the lower capacity end of the scale; while not forgetting those with the desire to take to the hills with the most cc’s they could muster.
Across the early part of the decade the road-based trail-bike XL-S range included such machines as the XL100-S and XL125-S as well as the XL185-S (all based around the same basic tried, trusted and rugged single cylinder SOHC power unit architecture that Honda had utilised in a huge range of machines for many years).
Styling-wise, the smaller machines – and their larger siblings – all boasted lay down style twin rear shock absorbers and really well thought out instrument binnacles that had a purposeful chunky (almost Lego-like) look for the smaller bikes and a
distinctive asymmetric design for the 250 and 500. Seats were actually pretty comfortable on all XL-S bikes even for passengers - despite swingarm mounted rear foot-pegs.
As popular as the smaller bikes were, the 250 and 500 took things to the next level – especially the XL250-S that many rate as the star of the show. Idiosyncratic with its 23-inch front wheel, the 250 (and 500) featured a single-cylinder engine with twin exhaust ports meaning a conventional central frame downtube could be used and creating useful low down torque via twin exhausts merging into a single silencer.
Although many judge the proportions and performance of the XL250-S to be ideal for both road and trail, for some biggest is always best and the 32 horsepower XL500-S with its class leading front fork travel and over 10 inches of ground clearance could pretty much conquer any obstacle.
CMS have arguably the world’s largest stock of NOS Honda single parts all available off the shelf. So, if you want to hit the restoration sweet spot, log in and take a trail through our parts today!
issued: Saturday, March 11, 2023
updated: Monday, March 13, 2023
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