The original classic SOHC Yamaha XT500 made its debut in 1976, marking one of the brand's initial forays into four-stroke motorcycles. At that time, the competition between manufacturers in Europe, the USA and Japan was very much focused on the big displacement superbike. The off-road market had been somewhat forgotten, except for a few two strokes from Europe and Japan.
Then along came the XT. Designed by Shiro Nakamura, in response to market research that suggested American ranchers and off-road enthusiasts were looking for a reliable replacement for the English scramblers they used to buy (BSA had filled this role but had gone out of business). Initially, the Yamaha sales department did not think the XT would sell very many units – and how wrong could they be! After the Yamaha TT500 (the dedicated off-road version of the XT) received 5 out of the 6 podium places in the first two Paris-Dakar rallies 1979 and 1980, the XT sales went through the roof and the model remained a best seller for over a decade.
An XT became the standard all-purpose motorcycle on every US ranch, Aussie station, and South African farm. Why? – it was easy to maintain as long as you fed it clean gas, air, and oil. Electrics were very simple, major exterior bearings could be repacked through grease nipples, and, well, these things just kept on going. The only pinch point was starting the 500cc single. There was a handlebar-mounted valve lifter, but the starting technique has to be relearned from the 1960’s. Tip; never try to start an XT with the handlebars on full right lock as your knee may never forgive you if the XT "spits back"!
The XT500 and its road-going sister the SR500 have a huge cult following but are still readily available for restoration or rebuilding into a custom motorcycle. The 1976 model is especially sought after due to its relative rarity, especially if it has the original exhaust system.
CMS has the largest inventory of vintage OEM Yamaha spare parts in the world, enabling you to keep your XT running forever.
issued: Wednesday, November 08, 2023
updated: Wednesday, November 08, 2023
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