A “rural supermoto” from an elite French firefighter…
The Yamaha XT500 is one of our favorite vintage Japanese motorcycles, and one of the greatest multipurpose bikes ever created. We’ve seen a varied assortment of customized versions over the years. One of our favorites is this XT500 supermoto from Yves Chassaignon of YC Design.
Yves, a firefighter by trade, served with the elite BRPP (Paris Fire Brigade) and later the Firemen de Clermont in his home region of Auvergne, all while customizing a wide stable of bikes: Suzuki GT380, Honda CB550, Honda GL1100 Goldwing, and a Suzuki DR800 scrambler we featured earlier this year.
Now we’re thrilled to feature his Yamaha XT500 supermotard, which he’s owned and modified for nearly a decade, taking on adventures such as his 2014 Corsican trip. Below, we get more details on the build from Yves himself.
Yamaha XT500 Supermotard: In the Builder’s Words
(Translated from French by BikeBound.)
Winter 2010, I decided to remake an XT500 — warm, deep in my cellar. I found one in the Auvergne countryside: it was from 1980, rotten but the mechanics seems in state.
In fact, I wanted to turn it into a supermoto, but in my way. I wished to equip it with mag rims with road tires, a sports fairing, a stainless steel exhaust line, better lines, and a nice livery, but keeping the original aesthetic signature.
Prior to this, proper disassembly and general restoration was required. Four months later, here is the first version.
Sandblasting, welding, bending, painting, stainless steel, aluminum, plastics, everything goes to achieve that.
Front: Kawa KLR650 fork, tapered steering bearings, Suzuki GSE500 wheel, Pirelli tire, GSX-R1100 brake disc, 6-piston Tokico caliper, Yamaha enduro headlamp, sm-fender, 28mm handlebars and MTB counter.
At the rear, aluminum XT600 swingarm from which I removed the shock absorber rods and welded inking lugs for the original dual shocks. 500 GSE wheel and Kawa caliper, Pirelli tire, new chain kit, Kawa 650 kz saddle backrest from 1978, LED light in 12 volts and Micron silencer under saddle.
Home-made stainless steel exhaust (thank you Christophe for welding).
Finally, the engine was very healthy, new engine gaskets, no leakage and good compression. I stuck a Triumph oil radiator in bypass of the greasing circuit. I replaced the air filter with a K & N element and I deleted its original case. I simplified the wiring harness and pass it at 12 volts (rewinding the main coil, removing the battery, 12 volt voltage regulator, H4 lamp in the headlight). I kept the original ignition by breaker and capacitor that are new.
While the saddler redid the seat cover (the previous one didn’t suit me), I renewed the livery by repainting the tank. I chose the blue Yamaha that I married with white, and I painted a big red border of separation. Plus some stickers well chosen and here is the result.
In use, the muffler under the saddle, it was beautiful but hot exhaust gases melted the plate plastics and indicators despite the deflector at the end of the muffler. I have to reconsider my design. I ended up placing the silencer laterally but tried to make it as discreet as possible.
Without the decibel-killer, the “poum-poum” is nice but too noisy.
Yamaha XT500 in Corsica
I had the opportunity almost 30 years ago to ride on the small Corsican roads with a Honda 1100 Goldwing (I had to change the 4 exhaust elbows), then with a Yamaha XT500 kitted to 540 but without effective brakes (drums). In August 2014, I had 15 days in Corsica on the side of Ile Rousse. But what moto would I take in traffic? I opted for the XT500 to deal with the problem of congestion.
On site, it’s just happiness. Rolled in trail-equipped with good brakes and road tires — on the Isle of Beauty it was jubilant. It also allowed me to appreciate the changes to the bike and find that the end of the rear brake pedal is too small — I should expand it for better touch.
The previously installed digital counter works well, but the liquid crystal display suffers from high heat. In the mountains, I climbed to the village of Sant’Antonino located on a rocky promontory for a visit and I am surprised to find in this lost place, two old Japanese bikes superbly prepared by their owners: a Yamaha XS650 dirt tracker and a Honda 750 Café-Racer.
I would have stayed a few more days in this beautiful setting!
Having changed the mirrors off my Suzuki 1100 GSX, I thought it would be good to install them on the XT.
Then, in order to try new tires, I replaced them with Continental TKC80, just to see the effect and test them on road and road.
With this type of tire, the 500 XT loses its city look for a more “rural” look that can be visually confusing: it’s the birth of a new motorcycle concept: Le Super-Moto Agricole.
On the question of road-holding, my impressions are mixed. On the asphalt, these tires are very manageable despite their generous sizes.
But big pavers cause some fuzziness that could affect accuracy (compared to road tires). I looked at the problem and after reflection, I decided to replace the Kawasaki fork with that of a Yamaha FZ750, which is straight and equipped with a fork brace. This geometry should reduce hunting and promote maneuverability.
The diameters of the fork tubes are 43 mm and the wheel axle, 13 mm — the same on both forks. After overhaul of the FZ fork (oil change, cleaning), I installed it into the trees of the XT, no problem. The wheel and brakes too. I also installed a new disc — diameter 320 mm — and a new Tokico six-piston caliper. I also replaced the front wheel’s magnetic sensor (unreliable) with a good old cable drive (from the FZ).
I also changed the rear braking because I considered it too soft. To give more “bite,” I change my master cylinder and moved it behind the kick-lever by making a 2-mm stainless steel plate. For better support on the brake pedal, I cut an aluminum plate, ribbed it, and fixed it to the original.
The test drive on our small Auvergne roads confirmed the validity of my changes. The handling is improved even if it still remains a slight fuzzy due to the tires with big knobbies. As for braking, it’s the best!
I’ll be able to go back to Corsica…
Follow the Builder Here: http://ychas.blogspot.com