The best motorcycle in the world: Yamaha’s XT 500

There’s no doubt that Yamaha’s XT 500 is a cult motorcycle. Valued by many for its on- and off-road qualities here’s a closer look into what makes this bike so special.

We have before promised to tell you more about the bikes that make Heart & Tradition Trading Company go round. Here’s the first one of two: Diego’s personal 1981 Yamaha XT 500. Diego refers to this bike simply as “the best motorcycle in the world” and we were curious to find out if he’s right.


It all started when Diego was a little boy: Browsing an old Yamaha brochure he got to know the DT-series, which also happened to be his initials and therefore he was hooked. Years later he bought a 1982 DT 125, which became his first motorcycle.

Soon after he discovered the cult that was starting to build up around the XT 500 models and after searching for three years, he found one that was in good condition and the price was right too. He  rides the XT for a little more than a year now and it has really been a lot of fun so far.


Having its 500 cc twin-valve single-cylinder engine, the XT 500 was produced from 1976 until 1989. Yamaha’s SR 500 and its off-road brother, the TT 500, share the engine with the XT models. Just after launching it, the bike became an instant success and was produced until 1989, when it was replaced by four-valve engines.

Winning the first big African rallies in the late 70ies, the XT 500 proved its (off)road-worthiness. With a 21-inch front wheel and an 18-inch rear wheel with enduro-style tires the XT 500 is the perfect choice for on- and off-road use.


Diego’s bike is pretty much bone-stock except for a luggage carrier, longer front fork, different front fender and some risers for the handlebars. For the future Diego is planning to rebuild the complete suspension and add better shocks in the rear.

Diego’s been riding the bike on a lot of dirtroads all around the woods where he’s living and says that the bike is also perfect for taking shortcuts when riding in the city – curbs and occasional pieces of lawn really aren’t obstacles for such a versatile bike. And that is probably the biggest reason why XT 500s are so popular among so many riders: Versatility AND reliability.

All photos taken by Holger Salach.