Cult bike: Yamaha XS 500


Cult bike: Yamaha XS 500

Cult bike: Yamaha XS 500

Yamaha XS 500

There was neither internet nor mobile phone, there weren’t even any standard street four-valve engines. Until 1976, the Yamaha XS 500 came along – two overhead camshafts, full valves, light alloy wheels. Progress was assured.

Cult bike: Yamaha XS 500

Has admirable obstinacy Yamaha often tries to be different from the others. Above all, different from Honda, which is why Iwata produced engines of all kinds until 1977, just not four-cylinder. After all, the eternal second in the industry had designed a four-stroke engine in 1969, the XS 1 with a 650 parallel twin. But shortly thereafter, US legislation indicated a course that left two-stroke engines by the wayside, and so valves and their controls came back into focus.

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Cult bike: Yamaha XS 500

Cult bike: Yamaha XS 500
Yamaha XS 500

Yamaha XS 500 for riot. Honda’s 250cc Enduros had four-valve heads since 1972, but only had one camshaft and were trimmed for good pulling power. A high-revving dohc twin, however, had to go like hell with such an optimized gas throughput. The masses of the individual valves to be accelerated were much lower, it could turn higher. The free valve cross-section was much larger, he was allowed to breathe more freely. It was narrower than a row four, had to be lighter. And finally: In many successful four-stroke racing cars from Rudge to MV Agusta, four valves have long danced over the pistons.

In fact, the Yamaha XS 500 turns easily into its red zone, which only starts at 9000 rpm. That was an announcement back then. On the other hand, it offers little more than good propulsion below 6000 rpm and does not act really spontaneously – probably also because of its many waves and chains. One expected more. And was still enthusiastic: MOTORRAD called the chassis “exemplary“, applauded handling and stability. Later, the cylinder head was often damaged by heat, and Mitsui had to replace valve seats en masse. But that’s life: Most of the time, it’s not the pioneers who reap, but their successors. Yamaha returned ruefully to the two-valve engine for a long time, Honda brought the mega-hit CB 900 F, called Bol d’Or, in 1978. With four cylinders and four valves each.

Cult bike: Yamaha XS 500


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Data & Information about the Yamaha XS 500


This is what high technology looked like in the mid-1970s. Two overhead camshafts, four valves and a balance shaft made the otherwise conventionally designed twin the most modern and most discussed 500 of its year.

Data: Two-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, 498 cm³, 35.3 kW (48.5 PS) at 8500 / min, 43 Nm at 6500 / min, five-speed gearbox, double-loop frame made of tubular steel, weight with a full tank of 212 kg, front tires 3.25 H 19, rear 4.00 H 18, tank capacity 15.5 liters, top speed lying down 171 km / h, 0-100 km / h in 6.5 seconds.

Literature: There is no single representation of the XS 500 or the XS family. The standard work “Yamaha Motorcycles since 1955” by Joachim Kuch and Jurgen Gassebner (Motorbuch Verlag, unfortunately out of stock) contains a small section on the XS 500.

Specialists: Nobody has specialized in repairing and restoring this quite rare Yamaha, not even in the supply of spare parts. Good painted parts are rare, even more rare chain locks of the idiosyncratic duplex timing chain.

Market situation: Almost 3000 XS 500 were brought to customers between 1976 and the sales year 1980. Most of them have been scrapped, only a few have found lovers. Again and again, bargains under 500 euros go away, but be careful: The cylinder heads of the 76 models should have demonstrably been converted by Mitsui. Later XS 500 are already heat-resistant from the factory, and in principle they are also quite solid and easy to screw.

A detailed description was published in MOTORRAD CLASSIC 3/1994. Re-order items: Tel. 0711/32 06 88 99.

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