I am at present riding a 1973 TX500A Yamaha, which is the very first model designation of the XS500 Yamahas. They were TX500s in 1973, and re-designated XS500 in 1975. I have had my motorcycle for some years, and all in all, I have found it to be a very reliable and competent machine. It is easy to ride, and its riding position is very similar to my 1978 Triumph Bonnie.
Once you understand the very simple mechanical needs of this bike, the maintenance is very easy to perform. This bike still goes along well, even though it was made 37 years ago.
This comment is for Bob, and he wanted to know what oil filter to get for his XS500 Yamaha. The one that I buy and that goes straight on is a Valvoline oil filter number VO33. I hope that this helps. The guy that said that the XS500 leaks oil; well I have never found this, and there was nothing wrong with the earlier head design. I have looked at the ride reports on the UMG website, and I have found them to be on the whole inaccurate. He said that these bikes had a two piece head, but that is not true. I have the earlier head, and when I took it off the bike to do the valves, I found it to be of one piece alloy construction. If these bikes are treated and rode properly, and the regular maintenance is kept up, then they are as reliable as any other motorcycle. If they have been thrashed and worked on by bodgy mechanics, then they will be unreliable.
If you get a good one or restore one of these bikes back to original specs, then you will have a good bike. Two brothers in America recently rode two of these XS500 bikes across America from the east coast to the west coast, and back again. I and many other Yamaha owners were able to follow them on the web as they rode along through the various towns, and it was a great experience both for them and for us. The XS500s went the whole distance, which is not bad for 35 year old bikes.
Hello, I read your comment on the Yamaha XS500. Would you buy it or a used Suzuki GS750? Thank you. I have had 5 bikes, but none now. I would like to ride comfortable and cheaply.
Jeff in Dayton Ohio.
In '79 I bought a XS500C in metallic-grey with black rectangles. It had only 5000km's on the counter.
It was my second motorbike, my first was a XS360/400, and since the 500' had the same edgy design, it was easy to get focused on the 500' as an upgrade, and after a test ride I was sold!
I'm still biking, but I have never reached the same annual distance on any of my bikes since then. I had the 500' for about two and a half years and drove some over 60.000km's on it. The long distance was due to numerous weekend trips to rallies in Holland (=2x750 km's). In those days it was possible to maintain a driving speed of about 90mph/150kmh (solo driver) on the German autobahn, which it managed fine. The small gas tank was well helped by a fair gas-mileage during these trips.
As the distance could prove, it was quite reliable, but with time it started to leak oil between the cylinder and head on the right side, which finally caused the need of a gasket-replacement, however the problem was a small O-ring drying out.
After that it cracked the cylinder head on the trip home from a weekend in Oostende (B). At that time the counter read about 40.000km's. Though the engine is known for this problem, I suspect the cause to be bad tightening at the gasket-job, as well as I might have delayed the re-spanning of the cylinder head (as the workshop blamed me) :-/ After repair, it drove without any trouble until I upgraded to a Benelli 750 six (which is a completely other story regarding reliability!).
- A slightly high welded Tomasselli handlebar.
- A Dunstall handlebar fairing (or also called: 1/4-), which was quite a joy during the Holland-trips and fitted nicely into the edgy design of the bike.
- An oil thermometer, which was the worst/best I have done, since it made me realize that the oil temperature was very high (maybe the wear of the cylinder O-ring is caused by very high cylinder head temperatures?!). =:-o
- The oil temperature caused me to make up some plans for moving the filter out under the rear swing arm, and maybe cut-in a radiator on the tubing. However, a friend crafted an adapting plate for the bolt-on base of the filter, but the project wasn't realised at the time the bike was sold.
I've come past a site with a modified filter-base for the use of a more common filter - Google might help the people who might be interested in such.
Lastly: I have always blamed the engine for an unreliable measurement of the oil-level.
I lately saw a XS500 frame, to which the frame of the contemporary Honda CB500 is a sad piece of welded pressed sheet when compared.
K. Nielsen DK
It is the bigger twin, the TX750, which got the 2-part cylinder head!
As I remember, it's the extra part, a completely valve train layer.
The two engines aren't a common design, as many think.
K. Nielsen. DK
I totally agree with this review. Whoever coined the phrase "Any bike is better than no bike" had never owned an XS 500.
Despite constant attention from several repair shops, my one-year-old model never ran consistently for more than three consecutive weeks. It drank petrol like a hole in the sand and vibrated far more than its balance shaft should have allowed. There are no words to describe how I felt - and still feel - about the XS 500, but think "vile" or "putrid" and you'd be heading in the right direction.
I eventually replaced it with a well-worn Honda - nine-year-old CB 500/4 engine in a CB 550 frame - which was infinitely better in every way.
Reputedly, the workshop manuals Yamaha sent to (European) dealers for the XS 250 contained incorrect information, causing them to be set up wrongly from new. The XS 500 had no such excuse; it was simply a terrible, over-complex and totally unreliable machine. Anyone (like me) who bought one under the impression they were getting a smaller but more technologically-advanced version of the XS 650 soon recognised the enormous error they had made. Usually within three weeks.
To date, I've never owned a newer bike or (taking inflation into account) shelled out a higher purchase price for a motorcycle, and yet the XS 500 was the worst I've ever owned - or even ridden (including a BSA C15, CZ 175, Honda CB 500T and Neval Minsk).
Last year, I saw an XS 500 at Rivington Barn near Horwich (in Lancashire) and I felt physically sick. Literally. The memories are that bad.
The irony is that I'm now the owner of another Japanese 500 cc four-stroke vertical twin - the Kawasaki ER-5. It was a bit of a panic buy, but it's proved to be wonderfully reliable.