This collection of information is mostly about my favourite old motorcycle the Yamaha XT500, along with my interests in home machining. This information will change as time goes on depending on my interests but hopefully it will also grow. I'm no computer whiz and these pages are all about the content. You won't find any web-design or fancy stuff here....
The XT500 has become a popular bike to collect and restore. It's an easy bike to understand mechanically and the electrical system is simple and reliable. Two problems new owners face when trying to refurbish or repair is exactly how the electrical system works, and how to start the bike.
It's often said that the XT500 is a difficult machine to start....and this is true if you are used to small 2 stroke kick-start motorcycles or a modern electric start bike, but with a little technique the XT500 is a reliable and sure starter.
If you want to know the secrets to starting a big-bore 4 stroke single....click here.
The XT500 electrical and ignition system are simple but reliable and easy to understand. Spend some time on this page for some knowledge I've collected over the years. here.
The XT500 was introduced to the North American market in 1976 and continued to be manufactured and supplied until 1989 in France, Italy and Germany. In France the bike was extremely propular and over 160,000 XT500s were sold over the years.
In mid 1979 the US the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated that all motorcycles over 50cc manufactured after January 1, 1978 would have to meet environmental legislation (EPA Clean Air Act) and that meant that all XT500s built after January 1st 1978 sold in the United States required substantial changes. The changes included a special CDI, with a sealed carburetor idle mixture screw as well as a different wiring harness and generator.
The only XT500s affected by these changes were models specifically for the US starting with 1978 and 1979 models IE6-20500 on, and 1980 and 1981 models with serial numbers 3H6xxxxx and 4R9xxxxx. Mostly these special madels were confined to the US although it's possible that some IE6 US series may also have been sold in Canada in 1978 and '79.
The production requirement of 2 fundamentally different models of the same series (CDI and Magneto) for North America must have been a problem for Yamaha and in 1982 they replaced the XT500 for all of North America with the XT550 which met the regulations for the US.
The 1982 XT550 was sold on for a single year until it too was replaced with the XT600 in 1983. For other countries not faced with environmental legislation, the XT500 in the standard configuration (magneto/points ignition) continued to be manufactured and sold until 1989.
For standard XT500 models there are no impossible to fix electronics or computers. The tried and true magneto/points ignition and simple electrical gear can be fixed by anyone with basic skills. The XT500 has a rugged roller bearing engine including camshafts....easy to adjust valve gear, and generally easy maintenance, along with absolute bullet-proof reliability.
The XT500 is now a rare breed; a small, easy to fix, good handling enduro/trail-bike that's light-weight, with a low seat and yet blessed with a reliable and powerful 500cc single cylinder engine. I've never been able to replace this combination of features with any other bike.
I first bought this bike in 1993 and over the years I've put it into good enough condition to qualify for "Collector" plates as a vintage machine, although it's not just a collectors display piece, it's a working and functional trail-bike that gets used almost every day in the summer.
Around 1998 I decided I should have something more "modern" and more capable.
On the left is my 1994 Suzuki DR650...a huge, powerful and heavy bike too big for me and my trail-bike habits. On the right my 1996 Suzuki DR350s...a very nice bike. I can't remember exactly why I parted with it, but it was a mistake.
In the spring of 2012 I made one last try at a newer and more modern Dual-Sport motorcycle and I purchased this beautiful DRZ400s:
In the week after I bought it I installed dozens of accessories and tires, but only a short time later my suspicions were confirmed that it was simply too much bike for a old, short, trail-bike rider. I got tired of picking it up and it was gone by the end of summer.
Thankfully my old and faithful XT500 was still in the shed, and once again I reverted back to the only bike I can ride in safety and confidence. It doesn't need fancy accessories, you just get on it and go.
For 25 years this XT500 has taken me to many mountain tops and remote places and nothing beats the confidence of knowing I understand it completely, and I can fix it easily. In all those adventures it has never let me down. Having confidence in your bike is especially important if you like to ride alone.
Among the other bikes I've enjoyed is this 2007 Yamaha XT225. Sometimes I call it my "little" bike, but in reality it too is larger than the XT500. But it's light, the seat is low and it has electric start. My daughter and I often ride together and the good gas mileage from smaller bikes expands the range.
We've had some great rides together to some of the local mountain tops, such as Mount Baker on the left and Grey Creek pass last year in the fall.
the XT500 is still my favourite.....
The Triumph Dragster
Back in the 1960's I helped my brothers build a Triumph dragster using a rigid frame triumph chassis and a highly modified Triumph 650 engine. It was bored out, with Johnson Motors cams, big pistons, lightened valve gear and very rare 2" Amal GP carburetors.
The construction took place in the family garage, and the testing on the front street to the delight of the neighbours.
The picture on the right shows my brother (right) with some other drag racers at Deer Park Raceways near Spokane in 1968. All the bikes ran Avon drag slicks.
My little machine shop
In my High-School years is was common to be taught "Industrial Arts" especially if (like me) your apptitude testing determined that you should "do something with your hands" rather than your brain.
In those days the shop courses offered exposure to real machining equipment including lathes and drill presses. After my initial session running a real South-Bend lathe, I was hooked and the possiblities seemed endless. A lathe was very appealing to a teenager who loved to build machines and repair broken items and I promised myself I'd have a lathe one day.
I've never lost that interest and a small workshop is a key element in my life. I spend many happy hours making gadgets, motorcycle parts and building strange machines.
Here's a page on a project for dividing a workpiece on a milling machine the easy way.
And here's another page on a tailstock die-holder for my 7x10 mini-lathe: