A Real Thumper: Yamaha XT500 Resto by 86 Gear Motorcycles

 Yamaha XT500 Restoration

“It is a real thumper. Lots of low end torque. Raw and real.”

If you’ve been following BikeBound for very long, you’ve probably heard us sing the praises of the Yamaha XT500. It’s hard to believe that the mighty XT was only Yamaha’s second four-stroke motorcycle after the XS650! Introduced in 1976, it was developed in response to Yamaha America’s interest in a bike that could tackle the country’s millions of miles of dirt roads and trails:

“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).” —Bike-urious

Yamaha XT500 Restoration

There were discussions of developing an oil-cooled, DOHC four-stroke engine, but simplicity won the day, and Yamaha engineers produced a rugged air-cooled engine that harked back to the British 500 singles of yesteryear. It was a dry-sump design — the oil stored in the backbone of the frame — with a two-valve head and chain-driven overhead cam, the cases vertically split but oil-tight. The engine made ~28 rear-wheel horsepower, enough to get the front wheel airborne as much as you like, and the forward-inclined upside-down Kayaba air/oil shocks were a bold step forward, offering about 5.5 inches of travel.

“This model became the pioneer of the big single off-road genre.” —Classic Motorbikes

Yamaha XT500 Restoration

If there any doubts about the XT500’s potential, they evaporated as soon as the bike began tackling the great African rallies:

“The Yamaha XT500 won the first two runnings of the Paris-Dakar Rally as well as the Paris-Abidjan-Nice, it also surprised everyone by winning the 1977 500cc Motocross World Championship (in significantly modified form) against the formerly dominant two-strokes.” —Silodrome

Yamaha XT500

Here at BikeBound, we’ve featured a whole stable of custom XT500’s over the years, and Motorelic’s XT500 restomod was one of our most popular builds of 2020. So we decided it was high time we feature one of these machines restored to factory trim — especially when we saw this gorgeous ’81 specimen from our friends at 86 Gear Motorcycles of Warsaw, Poland — builders of the XT600 supermoto we recently featured.

Yamaha XT500

Founder Christian Boosen, who grew up in Germany near the Dutch border, has a long and storied history with the XT500:

“During my first bike tour, I spent half of the time fixing my 1981 Yamaha XT500 on the side of the road. It took a long time and a lot of hurdles but I made it to my final destination: Istanbul. I guess that challenge became my defining moment. When I finally made it home I was inclined to do my first complete rebuild. Shortly afterward I started to restore and sell some of these bikes every year. After 10 years of hard work and commitment, my hobby became my main occupation.”

Yamaha XT500

When a customer saw this ’81 XT500 sitting in the workshop, he fell in love and asked Christian to restore the bike back to original. The frame was sandblasted and painted, the wheels re-laced, bearings replaced, and the engine completely overhauled and re-painted:

“Everything that showed a sign of wear was exchanged, new piston, camshaft, rockers, etc.”

The carbs were rebuilt and the bike received new tires. All in all, a very tidy restoration that’s sure to have lots of miles and smiles in its future. Says Christian of the riding experience:

“It is a real thumper. Lots of low end torque. Raw and real.”

Yamaha XT500

Below, we get the full details on the restoration and more photos from Bartek Zaranek Photography. Special thanks to Aleksander Ilcewicz of 86 Gear for his help as well.

Yamaha XT500: Builder Interview

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

Yamaha XT500, 1981.

Yamaha XT500

• Why was this bike built?

A client saw one of the old XT500’s in my shop and fell in love with it. So he asked me to get it back to original for him.

Yamaha XT500

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

Back to stock.

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Complete overhaul.

Frame: sandblasted and painted, wheels renovated with new spokes, all new bearings.

Engine: complete overhaul (everything that showed a sign of wear was exchanged, new piston, camshaft, rockers, etc.), engine painted. Carbs refurbished.

Tires: Continetal tkc80 3.00 / 21 front and 4.00 / 18 back.

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

It is a real thumper. Lots of low end torque. Raw and real.

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

I like that we got it back close to original.

Follow the Builder / Photographer


Photos: Bartek Zaranek Photography

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One Comment

  1. Randy pauley

    I would to have a restored one how much is a restored onr

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