There’s always a time when a manufacturer raids the parts bin and takes a stab at building a middleweight motorcycle that’s a no thrills machine. In the mid-90s, Yamaha tooled up and gave the world the Diversion 600 but, strangely, for a new model that was aimed fairly and squarely at the budget conscious biker, most of the parts were new. There wasn’t much in the way of cutting edge technology to be seen, the frame was steel tube and even the swinging arm was steel too. The suspension was basic and up front there was a solitary brake disc fitted. The less is more approach didn’t stop there, at the heart of the bike was an air cooled four cylinder four stroke engine. The top end of the engine was slanted forward to allow the use of semi downdraft carbs. The engine could trace its lineage to the XJ600 of 1984 (and the even earlier XJ550) and was quoted to have 60 bhp, though it doesn’t feel that powerful when you’re riding it. The build quality wasn’t too terrible but neglected bikes will quickly turn to rust. The Divvy had plenty of competition, its biggest rival being the Suzuki Bandit 600. Sadly the Diversion was always the David in this battle with Goliath. One area where the Divvy did score a few points was the colours that it came in. From the purplish red to a confident yellow, you couldn’t ever say they looked dull. Like the Bandit, the frame is colour coded to match the bodywork. This makes any badly repaired bikes easy to spot. The Diversion 600 had a short shelf life and other than an upgrade to twin discs in 1997, the formula remained the same. The only choice a potential Diversion 600 owner had to make was if to go faired or naked? The faired bikes (officially called the XJ600S) are the most common, more so the early model over the reworked model from 1997. The unfaired model is also referred to as the XJ600N.
There isn’t too much that goes wrong with these workhorses. Some will have led a tough life working as courier bikes and many will have now slid down into the hack territory, although pampered bikes can still be found. Weak spots are mainly consumable items, shock absorbers and exhausts are the obvious contenders for needing replacing on bikes with OE kit still fitted.
What’s it ride like?
The Diversion 600 is greater than the sum of its parts, that’s how it feels once you’ve stopped looking at it and jump onboard. There’s plenty of comfort on offer and the low pegs and wide upright positioned bars mean it’s a comfy fit. The engine won’t give you any nasty surprises; power is delivered in a soft and manageable way. It’s never going to feel exciting but it’s not boring either. Ridden sensibly it will give you just over 50 miles for every gallon of unleaded consumed. Both the faired and unfaired models have user friendly clock sets; they are basic but do the job. Brakes are an area where the Diversion lets itself down. The poorly sprung forks do a great job of taking a bad situation and making things worse. Although the unfaired bikes have the edge in the looks department, only a fool would opt for it over the faired version if you plan to do regular miles.
What to look for?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles. We asked him what he’d look for if a Diversion 600 rolled their way in a part exchange deal. “I’ve not been offered a Diversion for a very long time, years ago they were everywhere though. I would take a good look at the fins on the engine; whenever a Diversion goes over it will land on the engine and the fins snap off quite easily. Many of these bikes would be written off but some owners would attempt repairs. Exhausts were a weak spot, especially around the collector area. Engine wise, they are pretty solid. Owners tend to ride them more than polish them. Paint was never that thick and the sun will fade the tanks and plastics on the red ones.”
What parts would a bike breaker expect to get asked for? We called up Chris Tombleson from Grumpy1260 to find out. “Over the years we’ve handled a few of these for parts. They are a poor breaker, strange when you remind yourself that they’re owned by those doing it on a budget. Beyond selling an exhaust system and any presentable bodywork, the rest of the parts aren’t in demand. I think people just buy a donor bike to raid for parts if they need them. One word of warning, always check that it’s a 600, there are quite a few Japanese 400cc models out there!”
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