The Honda Transalp is a dual-sport line of motorcycles manufactured by Honda, designed for both on-road and off-road use.
The line includes the XL400V, the XL600V, the XL650V, and the XL700V, all featuring a liquid-cooled, four-stroke v-twin motor of the cubic centimeter size specified with the number in each name.
Honda only exported the Transalp to the States in 1989 and 1990, making it a collector’s item of sorts, and you can get them for a pretty reasonable price, but wait—before you cut the check, don’t you want to know the most common problems with the Honda Transalp?
Motor and Wheels is here to help!
Table of Contents
1. Rattling or Squeaking Engine Noise
One of the frequent complaints we’ve heard aired in the forums is that the head unit of the Transalp motor squeaks or rattles.
Some riders say they notice it after they’ve ripped up some off-road trails and attribute the noises to dust or dirt rubbing between the hard plastic in the head unit.
Other Transalp owners notice the rattle happens when they pull in the clutch lever, effectively disengaging their clutch. They say that the rattle comes from the crankcase, even after adding free play to the clutch cable, regardless of how soft they make their clutch lever’s action.
Here’s the good news: this engine noise isn’t a problem, just an aspect of the Transalp’s motor. One rider I encountered claimed that they had their Transalp for 15 years and rode 60,000 miles onto the odometer and counting, engine rattling the whole time; their Transalp’s engine performance has remained stable.
However, the fact remains that the squeaking issue is such an annoyance for some riders that they don’t care whether the rattle is an initiative of failure; they consider it a problem.
As far as we’re concerned, motorcycles are noisy machines, and the variations in each moto-monster’s signature roar are one of the joys of riding.
2. Head Shake Happens When Rider Removes Hands
It’s common for Transalp riders to complain about a frequent headshake on their motorcycle, but only if they take both of their hands off the handlebars.
What is a motorcycle head shake?
A head shake is a swinging sensation the rider feels when struggling to keep their hands on the handlebars while the bars shake back and forth. It happens most frequently when riding on dirt trails and unpaved roads and thus is a term most commonly used in the motocross.
On the Transalp, the complaint is that the motorcycle head shakes when the rider takes both hands off the handlebars, most noticeably at slow speeds—most Transalp owners don’t consider this a relevant issue since it’s advisable to keep both hands on the bike’s bars while riding, especially off-road.
The riders that complain about it tend to be stunt or sporty riders, and the Transalp is a dual-sport bike and not intended to be a motocross stunt machine.
The culprit is up for debate among Transalp owners. Some say that it only happens when you carry a loaded top box; others say it’s a matter of balancing their wheels or replacing worn tires.
That said, the problem can be easily solved by simply leaving even one hand on the bars while you ride your powerful dual-sport bike on the lump dirt, whizzing between trees. We’re inclined to agree that keeping your hands in place is a fundamental part of skilled riding, regardless of a head shake.
You should also be reading our article which talks about 5 Most-Common Problems With Honda Nighthawk
3. Exhaust Heat Shield Screw Vibrates Loose
One of the most common complaints we hear when we stumble across Transalp owners is the loosening of the screw that secures the heat shield by the rear exhaust, behind where the pipe and the cylinder head meet.
Some riders were fortunate enough to discover the loosening screw before it came out completely. Other riders found the fallen screw resting between the engine casting and the swingarm; I’m not sure who’s luckier.
Of course, more than a few riders were unlucky enough not to notice the screw had popped out until it was missing completely.
If your missing screw is lodged between the engine casting and the swingarm, use a magnetic Allen wrench or mechanic’s wand to get it out and screw it back in place.
Some claim that the screws on the heat shield rust and sheer off, so they replace them with aluminum screws. Aluminum screws won’t rust, but they also don’t screw down as tight, which may lead to the loosening of heat shield screws.
That said, other Transalp riders claim it happens with the stock screws just the same. They notice a metallic vibration sound reverberating from the rear exhaust at particular engine revs, the sound of the heat shield screw unwinding from the bike’s vibration.
A Few Solutions for a Heat Shield Screw Vibrating Loose on a Honda Transalp:
- Carry an Allen key set and check and tighten your Transalp’s Exhaust Heat Shield Screw before and after every ride.
- Fit the Heat Shield Screw with a shake-proof washer.
- Apply Locktite to the Heat Shield Screw and reinstall it, giving the Locktite the appropriate amount of time to dry (NOTE: excessive heat can corrode Locktite; we have yet to test for ourselves whether the resonating exhaust heat on the shield is enough to dampen the Locktite’s effectiveness in stopping the screw from vibrating loose on a Honda Transalp).
- One rider claims that the screw loosens because it’s long enough to touch the exhaust, and the heat cycle works the screw loose. They claim they used a shorter screw, and it solved the problem.
4. Rusting Mirror Stems and Rusting Spokes
We’ve heard from several Transalp riders who live in areas with salty climates that their mirror stems and the spokes tend to rust.
In some of the cases reported, Honda replaced the rusty mirror stems and spokes under warranty.
To our American Transalp riders, we’re aware that Honda stopped importing the Transalp into the U.S. as far back as 1990, so Transalps here in the States probably aren’t covered by insurance anymore.
The best offense is a good defense; we love to say; spray your spokes and mirrors down with some anti-rusting corrosion protection spray and get ahead of the issue.
If you’re here because it’s too late, your spokes are rusted, and your old-school Transalp isn’t covered by warranty, don’t fret; keep reading—we’ve got you covered.
How to Remove Rust from the Spokes of a Honda Transalp:
- Use a lift or a jack to elevate your motorcycle so you can spin the wheel freely. You’re working on one wheel at a time; you can make lifting one wheel at a time work just fine if that’s your only option.
- With a brass-wire brush, scrub at the surface rust, dirt, and corrosion with light pressure, rubbing up and down the length of the spokes.
- With compressed air, blow the rust particles off each spoke before moving on to the next spoke.
- Once you’ve surface-scrubbed each spoke, squirt a good amount of penetrating oil onto a fine-grit, steel wool scouring pad. Scrub the rusted spokes with the penetrating-oil-doused pad in the same up-and-down fashion as before. Reapply the oil as often as you need to until the rust spots are gone. Note: We’re still hitting the light rust and pitting—not the heavy stuff, not yet,
- Brush a somewhat light layer of a rust-converting cleaner onto the hardcore rust spots with a paintbrush. Use enough to coat each spoke entirely without having excess product dripping from the spokes.
- Let the product sit for about 10 minutes or as specified in the more specific instructions on the particular product’s labeling.
- Once the rust-converting cleaner product sets in, rinse the spokes with water.
- Examine the spokes for any residual rust survivors, and with a second coat of rust-converting cleaning product on your brush, seek and destroy.
- Once you’re down to a few smaller spots, use the steel wool and penetrating oil to buff out the last remaining rust.
- With water and some mild soap, wash and rinse the whole wheel to thoroughly remove the rust flakes and dirt particles, oil, and cleaner that may be chilling on the rim and the tires.
- Blow-dry the wheel to get ahead of any flash rusting that might develop from the wash.
- Repeat the above method on the other wheel. On particularly rust-ridden Transalps, repeat these steps as many times as needed to get that rust off your motorcycle’s rims.
5. Radiator Leaks Coolant
This is a less frequent concern than some of the other items on the list, but we’ve found multiple cases of it, so we figured it’s worth mentioning.
The radiator on a few of the older Honda Transalps sometimes leaks fluid from around the head of the lower radiator screw.
The few cases we found all said that the leak began after they clocked at least 15,000 miles on the Transalp’s odometer.
In all applicable cases, Honda replaced the leaking part with an upgraded radiator under warranty.
If you’re an unlucky Transalp owner who’s got a leaking radiator on a Transalp that isn’t covered under warranty, the bad news is that you might have to pay out of pocket, but the good news is that Honda has an upgraded radiator available that won’t leak.
General Pros and Cons of a Honda Transalp
Here are some pros and cons of the Honda Transalp:
The Honda Transalp runs a simple and straightforward V-twin engine, as reliable as they come. The more modern Transalps are equipped with dual 40mm fuel-injector bodies.
It boasts stellar off-road reliability via its engine being a stressed member of its steel frame, rolling on a long-distance-oriented dual-sport suspension system, stylish and sporty off-road aesthetic, and a comfortable seat that keeps you saddled for street and trail ripping alike.
A Transalp motor will outlast its rider and has enough power and speed to take you wherever your dual-sport passions want to go. Its versatility is made functional via high-grade handling—the Honda Transalp is fun and easy to ride.
- Rattling or Squeaking Engine Noise
- Head Shake Happens when Rider Removes Hands
- Exhaust Heat Shield Screw Vibrates Loose
- Rusting Mirror Stems and Rusting Spokes
- Radiator Leaks Coolant
What Do the Reviews Say?
The new Honda Transalp’s engine (derived from that of the Deauville) will still be going strong when you’re six feet under, their reliability is that legendary. The motorcycle feels robust and well put together (although it was actually made in Spain, not Japan). It has a nice finish and looks good.Source: https://www.motorcyclenews.com/bike-reviews/honda/xl700v-transalp/2008/
What’s the Resale Value on a Honda Transalp?
ⓘ The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.