Yamaha started producing its first 4-stroke enduro in 1976 and it was named XT500C.This bike started the rich heritage for the next generation of reliable enduros.
In 1977 the bike became brown and to mark its evolution, Yamaha added a “D” to the name of XT500. It had the same technical features, wheels and structure.
As you probably guest, in the following year, the bike was called XT500E. The U.S. model sported the first polished aluminum tank. I should also mention the addition of black fork gators in 1978.
The 1979 XT500F model added new rubber turn signals and a brand new kick start indicator.
In 1980, the bike was not improved and 1981 XT500H was the final production version of the XT500 in the United States.
At the European models we notice the new skid plate and head pipe. The European 1978 XT500E had a new red and white color scheme in stead of a polished tank and black fork gators that were also added that year.
1981-1985 XT500H had a new rear fender and headlight.
Again, there was little change for the XT from ’86-’89 but we should notice the newer style rims.
1978 Yamaha XT500
When it was introduced on the market, the XT500 had no competition because of its unique 4-stroke engine and reliability. Then, Kawasaki started producing the KX500 and Honda, the CR500. Suzuki also came with DR500 in 1981, and these are the bikes that created the first enduro generation.
The XT500 models mounting Yamaha’s first single-cylinder 4-stroke engine made its domestic debut at the 21st Tokyo Motor show in 1975. In one sense, this was the latest in a series of trail (off-road) models Yamaha had introduced at each of the Tokyo Motor Show since the DT-1’s model debut in 1968. But, at the same time it was a model born of a completely new concept.
The Yamaha DT-1 had introduced many riders to the world of trail riding, and this ground-breaking model was later followed by the introduction of many other trail bikes from other manufacturers. The new Yamaha XT500 was a natural extension of the growing trail bike category, and although it shared the same roots as its 2-stroke brother, the DT-1, it was an entirely different breed of motorcycle.
The engineers at Yamaha got under way with the clear design aims of building a big single that was lightweight, compact, highly durable and beautiful to look at. While the engine design was under way, work then began on an all-new chassis with the strength to take the vibration of the big single, and one that could handle the tough all-terrain riding that a big off-road machine would be subjected to.
The XT500 represented a whole new concept in trail bike design but many riders felt that the big single was a crude, uncomfortable and dated design.
Born in 1976, the XT500 was the first” big thumper” made in Japan, it was a daring bet for Yamaha, but the XT500 with his torque engine solid as a rock, began quickly to be a world seller. Nearly 30 years later, the XT500 hasn’t lost its sex appeal and is still one of the best singles in the history of motorcycles.
This model was developed as a desert race enduro machine. Released as a street legal version of the TT500 enduro machine launched the year before, this model became the pioneer of the big single off-road bikes. It was the focus of attention also for the bold adoption for the first time ever of a forward inclining upside-down rear suspension on a trail model.
The biggest monocylinder of its time had a huge compression and it could only be started with a kick.
The XT500 is a bike with great resources and it is very fun to ride. The bike handles very well and it also has a satisfying acceleration and great suspension. This is the kind of bike that you would encounter at the entering of a ranch and believe me: it belongs there. The bike was created to be exploited and it will give a very exciting off road experience.
The XT500 is a reliable bike but because of its age, it probably had a few owners through the years. So you would have to be very careful if you want to buy such machine. You would have to make sure that the bike was maintained and serviced at time. Also check if the gear box shifts properly and look for a non smoking engine.
A 1977 XT500 with 40.000 miles on board will cost around $2500 but only if the engine is running properly and the bike are in a very good shape.
The Yamaha XT500 is an icon and a very enjoyable bike to ride. Many people still put some real miles into their XT500’s and they have a big smile on their faces.