Did this motorbike start the ‘Adventure’ bike revolution? Maybe but back in 1977 they were called trail bikes, aimed towards both on-road and off-road adventures. Either way the Yamaha XT500 soon generated a cult following, which still carries on today.
It all began in 1975 when the XT500 was released into the huge USA market, which was followed by the introduction into the European market in September 1976. The XT500 then remained in production until 1981 where the later four-valve engine arrived. Eventually it grew into 600cc that ceased production in 1989, a genuine retail success story on all counts.So what we have here is a pristine example of a 1977 XT500 in the splendid and original light brown colour, adding to its rarity. It has been restored after standing for many years, still has only 8,000km on the clocks, and it looks gorgeous, don’t you agree?
Yamaha basically ‘copied’ the design of a British BSA single-cylinder engine, but with a Japanese take on the design resulting in far less inherent oil leaks, and it worked!Yamaha wanted a short-wheelbase trail bike with big wheels, small tank (8.8 litre), very wide ‘bars and the XT500 was the result. 18-inch rear and 21-inch front were the wheels sizes in question, shod in trail- type tyres to add to the off-road style. The single-cylinder, air-cooled, two-valve engine (87mm x 84mm, bore and stroke), produced a claimed 33hp@6,500 rpm. Not a lot of power in today’s world but enough to get the XT500 to around 160km/h, which in 1977 was commendable for any off-road bike.We’ve been very lucky to have a ride on this museum piece and it was interesting to say the least, especially regarding the dreaded starting procedure. Having owned one back in the early Eighties I knew how to fire the big single into life. Push the kick start until it stops on TDI (top dead centre), then gently tease it past using the decompression lever under the left side of the ‘bars, kick as hard as a pregnant Zebra and hope it fires. There’s a small window on top of the cam cover that shows a white marker when it’s ready to kick into life, but I chose to use the method above. Get it wrong though and you’ll have a bruise on the back of your leg that a Springbok scrum half would be proud of.Once the engine is running it sounds, well, like something from the Seventies. An impressive surge of torque is there when you pull off but, once it’s revved hard to the 7,000rpm redline, the vibration is typical of a single ‘thumper’ from this era, generating fond memories when we didn’t know any better. In fact we had a club in Nottingham UK during these times called the XT Files where we even rode them to the South of France during summer. Would I attempt that now, **** that! I’ve been too spoiled by modern machinery with an electric start button, but it does enforce how reliable this engine was, and still is.Modern ‘trail bikes’ are heavy, giant monsters and the XT500 most certainly is not. It only weighs around 150kg with a full tank and this makes it very agile and surprisingly good fun to ride around town. It does make you feel very cool and nostalgic. The five–speed gearbox works fine with a little ‘stickiness’ from first to second but otherwise selects with typical Japanese precision.There is one thing you have to watch on the 500 Enduro and it’s the weedy front brake, still as bad as I remember in my younger days, but if you work it with the rear at the same time it’s not too bad, otherwise it’s a memorable ride for sure. Oh and lights, which run off a six-volt system, so no point in going there. It’s so nice to see bikes like this brought back to life and I’d undoubtedly like it sitting in my garage, wouldn’t you? Well you can if you have around 100k, as it’s currently up for sale. If you’re interested drop me a mail at
Images by Sudoku.