Yamaha XT 500 Impression

Yamaha XT 500 print

Like the very first time

An almost 40-year-old Yamaha XT 500 that looks fresh from the store, a day with a steel-blue sky, sun until you drop, and tiny streets with a thousand curves ahead of us: motorcycling couldn’t be more beautiful.

Once again there was quite a crowd in the MOTORRAD garage. And not because the latest super-didn’t-you-see-crossover thunder bolt has been unloaded. The object of curiosity was of slim stature, simple lines and only 27 hp: a really fantastic restored one Yamaha XT 500 of the first officially imported series sparkled with its spoked wheels in the glow of the neon lamps. "Man, is she small!", said a nice colleague who was born ten years after the year of construction stamped on the polished aluminum nameplate of the XT.

Yamaha XT 500 print

Like the very first time

Yamaha XT 500, which is roughly an essence of today’s scramblers. Even more reduced, even clearer, even simpler. Then he nodded.

Nice and simple and without any frills

Gert was hit even harder. Test boss Thole, whose lifetime was just sixty years old, stayed away. "I had it. That’s exactly what I bought back then! 77, cream-colored sticker. I don’t think so! It looks like new!" Anyone who knows the rather quiet Cloppenburger knows that the man is currently in the most emotional turmoil. Big speeches are not his thing, he likes to let the throttle do the talking. That’s enough for most. "Then you can write the story, who knows the Yamaha XT 500 better than you?" – "No, I can’t do that. I was studying there when I bought the car. And now we’re doing 40 years of XT?" Gert has finished. After all, he wants to bring a picture from back then. And write a small text in the box. But more? No way. The whole thing reminds him too much of his young years, which, as the worlds run, is longer than the nice colleague from above.

In its logical simplicity, the Yamaha XT 500 does without any bells and whistles. That was her absolute recipe for success. What is not there cannot break either. And what’s on it works in all situations. Reliability was still a real issue in the 1970s. The many two-stroke engines burned up in rows on German autobahns. Many tours ended after a short time with a hole in the piston, a jam or other general signs of disintegration. The XT exuded something reassuringly simple here. A good buddy for all days and journeys, also quite suitable for off-road use and thanks to rubber indicators, engine protection, wide handlebars and narrow tank, it can easily cope with falls.

Kick off in front of the audience

And now the big moment: kicking off, in front of an audience. Even the Wikipedia entry about the Yamaha XT 500 tells of broken shins and calves. It is very simple: Operate the choke lever on the carburetor, move the piston with the kick starter until it stops moving, then move it over this point using the valve lifter and then step on the kick starter with smack. If you brake, you lose, and what applies to racing also applies to XT kicking in a modified manner: if you hesitate, you lose. And has to keep kicking – or hobbling away drawn. Our XT takes the second step, which is good. The disappointed pack is slowly moving back towards the office. Roll up door, down through the middle, out into the country.

It helps that the Yamaha XT 500 is comparatively low today, weighs only 155 kilograms with a full tank of 8.5 liters of premium gasoline and, thanks to narrow tires and wide handlebars, circles around town as easily as a bicycle. And if it weren’t for the somewhat toxic clutch, you would start the first traffic light duels right away. Because the full 27 HP that the 499 single-knocker delivers are already available at what feels like 3000 rpm.

A single with running culture at the bottom

One can be surprised: There are single cylinders that run smoothly below 2000 rpm. We haven’t seen that in a long time. A single with running culture at the bottom. Flywheel is the magic word, and the XT engine has some of it. That makes him a puller at low speeds and a dynamic man at traffic lights. Engage the clutch with increased speed and the shaky front wheel strives for the sky. It used to be called Hochstart, today it was called a wheelie. But it is rather short, as the Yamaha XT 500 quickly runs out of breath – you would have expected a little more. Yamaha didn’t want it back then. The foreign version of the XT made at least 33 hp, for Germany it was throttled to 27 hp because of the insurance class classification and probably also because of the poor driving stability. A thinner intake manifold and a two-millimeter smaller carburetor cost the two-valve engine even more temperament.

But back to the subject of wheelies for a moment. Back then there were no machines that went on the rear wheel. Gaswheelies, like those made by every BMW today, certainly not. The steam hammer myth that the Yamaha XT 500 carries around to this day was also a consequence of the traffic light start wheelies that were first visible. With the beautiful photo machine, I leave the front wheel down today. Even if "Enduro 500" emblazoned on the side covers, I won’t drive a meter of terrain. The insides of the two fenders don’t have the smack of stone chips, so I don’t have to be the first to shoot them in.

Even then with ABS

Going for a walk is the order of the day. Turn the brawny motor up to barely 5000 revs and aim the bends with the sail pole. The chunky Bridgestone Trailwing 301s don’t really inspire confidence either. But the real sensation is: The Yamaha XT 500 already had ABS back then! You won’t be able to overbrake the front wheel on dry roads with the poor half-hub brake. And downhill there is even a lot of help from behind. After only four or five restrained braking maneuvers, enormous and frightening fading occurs.

Photographer Jacek, whose first name, but above all his sparing use of grammatical rules, suggests another mother tongue, says: "Smokes, front wheel." Break. One has to wonder how so many knew how to deal with so little brakes back then. For the stubble croissant or the leisurely Sunday tour, the two half-hubby wimps might be enough. But for two? With luggage? Couple with luggage? Downhill too? 54 Does the Stilfser Joch sweep? One would have to search the slopes there. From bend 20, counting down from the top, you should still be able to find parts of the Yamaha XT 500. We could still use a pillion seat belt. It’s missing from the photo machine. Or the chrome-plated mirrors. But they should be broken anyway.

Over 25,000 pieces were sold in Germany by 1989

Why was and is the Yamaha XT 500 so popular? Is it this unconditional will to drive something very simple, archaic? Something that demands the whole guy in one? Over 25,000 pieces were sold in Germany by 1989. And that despite the fact that Yamaha expanded the XT family fairly quickly and brought machines with more powerful four-valve engines, better brakes and much better chassis.

It must be something in that direction. Today’s topics such as “decelerating” or “rediscovering slowness” and similar blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blahhad as the end of the 1970s. No, the Yamaha XT 500 graced the man, it was a clear statement. If you can kick this beast, you will get quite a lot done. In any case, the girls were not averse to sitting down on the softly upholstered, but nice and short bench and diligently supporting the springs. Because the pillion footrests were – you have to follow your philosophy – attached to the rear swing arm. I drive back again, with a good 110 km / h on the expressway. I don’t want to expect much more from the good collector’s item. It would be a shame to overload the almost 40 year old engine. There is a smile on my face, after all, it was my very first XT ride. Honest.

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