Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Yamaha XS500

Wed, April 14th, 2010

1973–78 Yamaha TX500/XS500
The 8-valve twin was technologically ambitious for its time. It would still run head-to-head with Suzuki's current GS500 in a drag race. But it was a very flawed engine. It had balky carburetion, excessive driveline lash, and persistent cooling problems. A significant redesign for '76 helped, but not enough.
The handling was pretty good for its day...which is to say barely acceptable today.
To help with cooling, the engine was rotated forward in the frame 7½ degrees late in its development. The result is an unbalanced appearance, as if the whole bike was leaning forward, pushing all its mass toward the front wheel. The square '76–'78 bodywork and redesigned head (shown) helped a little.
The majority of XS500 motors have cooked themselves by now.
The XS500 was lighter and more compact than the XS650, more civilized than the RD400, significantly more powerful than the 360/400, and a bit more reliable than the TX750...although most of those marks weren't tough to beat. A comfortable saddle, good fuel mileage and a large tank made it a credible tourer, as long as extended high-speed running wasn't part of the equation.
It's an awkward, unreliable, unremarkable bike.
The bad aspects of this bike are really bad. The good parts only 'kinda' good.