Junk to Jewel: Resto-modded XT500 from Workshop43…
The Yamaha XT500 remains one of our favorite single-cylinder motorcycles of all time. The big air-cooled enduro won the inaugural Paris-Dakar Rally, swept the podium in the second year, and kick-started the adventure motorcycle class. Factory-backed teams jumped into the competition, BMW developed the R80GS to dethrone the XT, and an “adventure arms race” ensued, birthing the large-displacement four-stroke adventure bike:
“Take a moment to think of your favorite big dual-sport or adventure bike of all time. Got it in your mind’s eye? Ok. Now, repeat after me: ‘Thank you, Yamaha XT500, for making my (insert bike here) possible.'” —Timeless 2 Wheels
Enter our new friend Andreas of Germany’s Workshop43, a born petrolhead who built himself an engine-powered pedal car as a boy and didn’t look back, building everything from highly-tuned 50cc scooters to a CBR-powered 100-hp go-kart. As a student, he worked out of his parents’ basement / laundry room. Now he has his own shop, Workshop43, based in Mainz, Germany:
“Many more machines are planned. Mainly we build project bikes and make custom parts. Not just the typical buy and bolt-on motorcycle builds. That is boring. The goal is to make each project better than the last.”
The donor for this build was a 1981 Yamaha XT500 that was one step from the scrap heap — “perfect” condition for a custom build:
“We always called it a ‘junkyard bike,’ because some people would just have disassembled it and sold it for parts…. No one could say, ‘Oh what a shame that you have ‘messed up’ this original XT500.’ We see ourselves more as saviors and gave this Yamaha a second chance to bloom again like a beautiful flower :)”
The engine was completely rebuilt, bored to 534cc with a larger oil pump and custom stainless steel exhaust. Up front are a set of USD WP forks from a 1990 Husky TE510, with a pair of YSS 420mm shock absorbers out back. The swingarm is aluminum with a three-chamber hollow profile, and Andreas drew up the design for the wheels’ stainless steel spokes, which WWS made special for the project.
The bike has a 12-volt conversion, LED lighting, and a Motogadget M.Unit Blue with keyless ignition. Nearly everything was done in-house, including the saddle and paint, and there are thoughtful details throughout, such as the hot-start lever for the carb, which Andreas made on the lathe. All in all, he’s proud of how this resto-modded XT looks, rides, and sounds:
“I was surprised how comfortable my own seat was –I must have chosen the right foam. The exhaust was very fun to build and the sound of the one-cylinder is awesome!”
Below, we talk to Andreas for the full story on this “Junkyard XT.”
Yamaha XT500 Restomod: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My past with motorcycles. Basically not only motorcycles but everything that makes noise and drives with an engine. Maybe the typical petrolhead? As a small child I built my own small pedal car equipped with an engine, and later a go-kart with CBR engine and 100hp. Furthermore I got into some minibikes…
Then it continued with 50cc scooter tuning until I was old enough to ride motorcycles. Classic motorcycles are simple and offer more possibilities when modifying, because there is more mechanical stuff. Sometimes you just repair with the hammer and less plastic.
I finally moved into new premises for my workshop about three years ago. Before that, as a student, I worked in the basement of my parents’, in a room with carpet and washing machines… The current workshop I built out successively according to my ideas. Many more machines are planned. Mainly we build project bikes and make custom parts. Not just the typical buy and bolt-on motorcycle builds. That is boring.
The goal is to make each project better than the last. My dream is to build a really crazy 911 for me privately. Maybe with self-built titanium exhaust or other crazy gimmicks.
• Please tell us about your bike…
We would like to introduce you to our latest rebuild. It is a Yamaha XT500.
We found the donor in “perfect” condition for a build according to our wishes. We always called it a “junkyard bike,” because some people would just have disassembled it and sold it for parts. There are some pictures from when we bought it. Thus, no one could say, “Oh what a shame that you have ‘messed up’ this original XT500.” We see ourselves more as saviors and gave this Yamaha a second chance to bloom again like a beautiful flower 🙂
The original aluminum tank we found nearby and thought it fit well to the motorcycle, because it reflects a little that the motorcycle had a scrap heap as its beginning.
All work in the conversion was done in our own workshop. From disassembly to welding the frame and exhaust to engine overhaul and fork revision and so on. (Powder coating and paint job.)
Now a small build list:
- Frame was cleaned and shortened
- YSS 420mm shock absorber
- USD WP Multiadjuster fork Ø 45 mm 300mm travel from a 1990 Husqvarna TE510
- Fork and triple clamps, engine guard and other parts have been re-anodized
- Front 1.85″ rim and newly made stainless steel WWS spokes
- Rear 2.5″ rim and newly made stainless steel WWS spokes
- Tires: Pirelli MT16 Garacross
- Aluminum swingarm with 3-chamber hollow profile
- Custom-made seat with Alcantara
- Custom-made aluminum CNC footpegs
- Carburetor wet-blasted with K&N air filter and bigger jetting for 90mm piston
- Custom stainless steel exhaust incl. powerbomb
- Digital Koso speedo and display unit
- Koso LED Thunderbolt headlight
- Motogadget M.Unit Blue (keyless go with cell phone) incl. custom wiring harness
- 12V Conversion and CDI from Rex’s Speedshop
- Rebuilt engine incl. bigger oil pump from Kedo. Bored 90mm cylinder 90 piston and 534ccm.
- Special oil drilling in the valve train in cooperation with Motoren Höfer
- Preparation for painting / wet-blasting by colleagues’ from Munich
- And many KEDO special parts
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
I have not yet ridden this XT500 much, but the bike rides very well. The power of the 534ccm engine is very good — it pulls hard from the bottom at low rpm.
My brothers both have an XT250 and I sold mine to start the XT500 project. The difference is huge. With the longer fork and 300mm spring travel, it is no longer quite so good in cornering, but at higher speeds very stable. I was also surprised how comfortable my own seat was –I must have chosen the right foam. The exhaust was very fun to build and the sound of the one-cylinder is awesome!
But the best is always when your own conversion runs for the first time. Even more so, since this motorcycle was suitable for the scrap heap.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I’m always happy when another part on the bike is finished, but I am proud of the entire motorcycle as it finally stands.
I also like it when you buy such a motorcycle and there is an idea of how it should look in the end. The thoughts in the head are then someday real in front of you.
I am also proud of the small details such as the warm start button on the carburetor (self-made on the lathe) or exhaust construction, which has been a lot of fun. Also the specially-made spokes that I drew for WWS to manufacture them. And of course when you kick the completely rebuilt and tuned engine the first time and it runs!