In the past 5 years we have only covered builds that were based on a Yamaha XT. Far too little if you ask us. It is one of Yamaha’s biggest success stories and an absolute Paris-Dakar legend. Yamaha introduced the first XT, the XT500, in 1976 with a 500cc single cylinder air-cooled engine. It was known for its tractor-like torque and power delivery. The XT also had a reputation of being absolutely bulletproof. In 1982 and 1983, a lesser known XT550 was produced. In 1983 the XT600 emerged on the market, and had the tough task to continue the legacy its predecessor created. And oh boy did it deliver…
No 1-trick pony
Sold from 1983 till 2003 (30 years!) in a myriad of forms, the XT600 was rightfully a success number for Yamaha. Sure, somewhere in the late 1990s the competition was starting to catch-up, think of KTM, BMW, and Suzuki, but Yamaha kept on pushing through. You could get one with a large safari-style fuel tank, kick start, electric start, or both. It was immensely popular with “overlanders”, motorcycle world-travellers, because of its simplicity and reliability. Towards the end of its career though, it had lost some of its oomph due to stricter emission legislation, and the quality of fit and finish started to deteriorate as well. It is the last of the true air-cooled big displacement single cylinders from Yamaha.
Supermoto a GoGo
The motorcycle we are seeing in front of us is one of the last series Yamaha XT600. Built in 2000, the folks from 86 Gear Motorcycles wanted to give the XT some of the pizzazz it had lost. We have seen a number of beautiful machines that had passed the hands of the master craftsmen from Warsaw. This is one the latest additions to their long and impressive resume. The customer wanted his XT600 to turn in a real head turner. It had to be radical, without losing its original Yamaha identity. The fate got sealed when the decision was made to turn the XT600 into a supermoto. On steroids.
The start with, the frame was shortened and modified. To get a smooth overall line of the bike, a 1983 XT500 alloy tank got repurposed. After that, a matching seat was fabricated and a Motogadget speedo attached. The bike got a new set of 17” supermoto wheels and tires, a new YSS mono-shock in the back, and progressive fork springs in the front. With sporty wheels come performance brakes. So, the front brake got replaced with an oversize floating disc, with an upgraded master brake cylinder and a braided steel brake line. The XT got all-new wiring and a lightweight battery that still has enough power to crank the engine. The original decal scheme of the original XT500 was used and a handmade brat-style leather seat was fabricated to add some lushness.
No replacement for displacement
Christian Boosen, the main man from 86 Gear Motorcycles, didn’t want the XT to be “all show, no go”. The engine received a high compression piston, a big bore cylinder that gives an additional 30cc, and a camshaft from the first model of the more performance driven Yamaha TT600 from the same era. This gave a significant boost to the engine power. An oil cooler was added, connection rod, in and outlet channels, and rockers were polished and the inlet channels were adapted to the diameter of the new Mikuni TM34 flat side twin carbs. A custom air intake with K&N pod filters was fabricated to guide the air smoothly around the mono-shock system and a custom exhaust system to help get rid of the exhaust gases with as little resistance as possible. Finally, a hydraulic clutch was added to deal with the upgraded clutch springs.
There is barely anything left of the original character of the 600cc single. Thanks to the racing carbs, bigger engine, and performance camshaft the Yamaha now reacts very sensitively to the throttle – without a gentle hand, you can end up on the back wheel in an instant. It has become, by all means, a hooligan bike. The strict diet and power boost have turned this XT into a roaring menace. On the road its performance match modern sport bikes.
Photo credits: Bartek Zaranek Photography