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250 XLS - 1978
Honda gets back on track
If Yamaha was the company responsible for introducing trail bikes into Europe, it was Honda who introduced four-strokes into this category with the superb 250 XL, launched in 1972. After this brilliant start, Honda made some major tactical errors. In 1974, it tried to shed its image as a company devoted to four-strokes to launch the two-stroke Elsinore range.
Return to Four-Strokes
The following year, Honda swung to the opposite extreme and returned to four-strokes with a new XL, a massive machine better suited to highways than off-reading and which, at over 325 lb, was some 46 lb heavier than the original XL. It was not until 1978 that Honda got back on track.
A Genuine Trail Bike
An entirely new design, the XLS was a genuine trail bike, a real all-purpose machine and not a bogus enduro racer. It was at home in the city and on the highway as well as off-road. The XLS was a relative featherweight, with a dry weight of 260 lb. It had inherited its large suspension movements from motocross and was distinguished by its extremely large diameter (23 inches) front wheel. Sadly: this was the bike's biggest fault. No tire choices were available in this diameter. High-speed highway stability was compromised by the gyroscopic effect of that oversized tire, which was replaced in 1982 by a conventional 21 inch wheel.
Engine: 749cc (74x57.8mm) air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke with twin balance shafts
Power Rating: 20.2 hp@ 7500 rpm
Valves: overhead-camshaft driven by Hy-Vo chain
Fuel System: 28mm carburetor
Transmission: 5-spccd, chain final drive
Suspension: telescopic forks, 8 inch travel (front); swing arm with twin spring/dampers, 7 inch travel (rear)
Brakes: drum (front & rear)
Wheels: 3.00x23 inch (front); 4.60x18 inch (rear)
Weight: 260 lb
Maximum Speed: 76 mph
In production until 1971, the XLS did much to revive Honda's image in the trail class.