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Reader test: Yamaha XT500G

2009-12-07 10:08

Dave Coetzee, Port Elizabeth

For me, the Yamaha XT500 is a bike that brings back good, old memories of the ’79 Buffalo Rally in PE - my last year of high school and one of the most carefree years of my life.
After a long search, I bought my 1980 XT500G from a friend of a friend who had just undergone a heart bypass.

It wasn’t looking its best when acquired a few months ago, but being rather impatient and super-keen, I gave it a good two-week makeover.

Changes introduced for the 1980 model included an aluminium tank, leading-axle front forks and a longer front mudguard, although I prefer the shape of the earlier fuel tanks. In fact, many XT500 enthusiasts don’t realise that this '80 model's tank won’t even fit on the older model's frame.

Shortly after purchase

The beauty of this bike is that it doesn’t have to be ridden fast to be enjoyed, as the big single produces loads of torque from low down the rev range.

Whether it’s the original exhaust or a louder, aftermarket, stainless steel one like mine, its thump is music to my ears.

I’ve taken it out on a couple of breakfast runs along the coast, as well as a few off-road jaunts with my 10-year old son.

The soft-ish suspension is more suitable to tar and gravel than the rough stuff, but when used within its limitations, it provides a lot of pleasure on any terrain.

After initially being kicked-back by the kick-starter on a few painful occasions when starting it, I now always wear a reversed shin-guard.

Shiny and nearly-new after a two-week makeover


Unlike some of its competitors, this two-valve, four-stroke's camshaft and crankshaft spins in ball bearings.

Its engine produces 20 kW and makes use of a single 32 mm Mikuni carburettor. The 8.5-litre fuel tank provides a range of about 170 km at 20 km/l.

Its oil-in-frame design was quite innovative in its day. It has a wet weight of 155 kg and a top speed of about 132 km/h.

There are a lot more powerful and modern dual-purpose bikes out there, but I can’t see me replacing my XT500 for one of them. I believe there’ll still be quite a few of them around after another thirty years.

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