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Old 06-03-2013, 08:06 PM   #1
sam2 OP
Joined: Jun 2012
Oddometer: 31
82 xt550 vs 78 xt500

I am in the process of selling my 94 xt225 becauseI want a larger xt. I have to ride 20-50 miles to get out to good dirt riding from my location, and at 6'3" the little serow is a bit cramped and uncomfortable on the long pavement runs, although its amazing in the woods and sand pits and iI'm a bit worried that I'll get out onto the dirt and regret my decision to upsize. the 550 i looked at seems to be the lighter and more powerful, probably better handling of the two beasts, but I've heard mixed reviews about the dual carb setup on them and I'm a little apprehensive about buying a model that was only made forr 2 years. The 500, however, is in amazing condition, looks like it sat in a garage since about 1980 and owner says it runs great, and its just damn cool! I've been told that the 500's are somewhat of a collector's item, I imagine I would be able to get out of it fairly easy if i wanna go back to a smaller 4stroke. Anyone have any insight or experiences to share about these bikes? Are my assumptions about the pros and cons valid? BTW both are right around the 1000 dollar range asking price, 550 owner seems more willing to negotiate.
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:42 PM   #2
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had a 550, never could get the secondary carb circuit to work correctly. ran great on the primary.

never had a 500, heard they can kickback through the kickstarter something fierce.
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:59 PM   #3
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Both of those bikes will be torture in any sort of real dirt, not to mention borderline unsafe/unreliable. Have you seen the diameter of the fork legs? Felt the suspension or brakes?

Buy it for a novelty, or if you are masochistic.
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Old 06-03-2013, 09:14 PM   #4
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Location: St. Cloud, Minnesota
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I have an '83 XT550 and I love it. Mine runs good and I have never had a problem with my carb. I have been able to find parts whenever I have needed them, lots on ebay.
"Maybe you ain't in a rut, maybe you're in a ditch, way over your head." Don Marshall
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Old 06-04-2013, 12:27 AM   #5
Joined: May 2013
Location: Sweden
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Had the 550's smaller brother XT 400 and did a wonderful 4500 km ride trough Europe over the alps. Felt a bit week at 2500 meter height from air lack. And brakes faded at way down. But wonderful bike. The old XT 500 is a vintage thing that only should be ridden to church at sunny sundays.
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Old 06-04-2013, 12:38 AM   #6
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Location: Crystola ,Colorado
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Go look at the XT -500 thread in this section . You learn how to start an XT -500 ! I like mine , but there are better motorcycles for what you are looking for. I am 5'10" and my XT is too short .

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Old 06-04-2013, 07:17 AM   #7
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Location: Central Wisconsin
Oddometer: 1,129
xt550 stock suspension and other thoughts

My dad owned an xt550... scary suspension off-road, made worse by an engine that seems to have really snappy power. The thing liked to take dirt naps, and wanted you to lay down with it. Sketchy brakes rounded out the package. Easy to flip over backwards too...

However, my brother in law bought the bike (no I didn't want him dead, I like the guy), after I did some research, a project was born. 1980/81 yz/it bikes make great doner bikes for forks rear shock and swing arm.

We couldn't find the swing-arm for cheap, but did the rest, worked great, raised it about 4" . Later on the front end was swaped for a 1999 WRf front end... Awesome, USD forks, disk brake.

The xt550 motor when tuned right is a real animal (for its day), and reliable.
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Old 06-04-2013, 07:42 AM   #8
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Neither bike will do as well off road as your xt225. The 550 is slightly more powerful, and has better suspension then the 500.

I own 4 xt500's, and a 1982 xt550. Honestly, I prefer the 500. The 500 does not really feel heavier, its only a 30 lb difference.

The 500 also has plenty of power for highway riding and trails, so I dont mind that its 5 horses down on the 550...

I think they handle about the same, but the 550 does do better on 'washboard' surfaces. The 500's get slight rear wheel hop on bad washboards... but its not a big deal and I rarely enounter this condition.

Like you, i live between 20 and 100 miles from the trails I like to ride, and I usually take roads with a 45-55 mph speed limit to reach the trails. Both the 550 and 500 do great at those speeds, even fully loaded with gear.

The dual carb setup on the 550 is a pain to get running right. Does the 550 have the CDI ignition? Personally, I prefer points to old CDI's.

On the 500, with points, you dont even need a battery. Juct kick it and sparks (if your stator works and points are set up). I like the simplicity of the points and single carb that the 500 has.

People who say their 500's are hard to start need to tune their bikes better. They start easy for me every time. Make sure your carb is clean, timing is set dead on, and points are clean and gapped. All 4 of my 500's start in 4 kicks or less, and very rarely kick back. Kickback if from impropper technique or impropper timing.

The drum brakes work OK, below 45 mph... above that give you self some extra stopping distance. I ahve had my 500's in some pretty rough off road terrain, and it did ok. Its more of a workout to manuver than a 250, but its a capable bike.

Both are pretty low maintinance, oil change and simple valve adjustment.

They are both dead reliable. I take my xt500's on 200-500 mile rides all the time. The 500's are simple machine and well built. If something breaks, you can probably fix it with basic tools on the side of the road. I can do a complete motor overhaul in less than 5 hours, including tearing the bike down and getting it running again. Parts availability for the 500 is much better than for the 550. The 500 has basically the same motor as the Yamaha SR500, and has a fair amount of aftermarket support. Not so for the 550.

The 500's are also becoming quite collectable, so if you ever decide to sell it you wont lose any money.... and might even make a buck. In my area, pristine 500's sell for $2000, and running 'beaters' go for $1200 and up.

I HIGHLY recomend the 500. You will fall in love with it.

PS: They are both vintage bikes, so they are not going to hang with a modern 500 KTM. But, they are just as much fun.

Sidecar Jockey screwed with this post 06-04-2013 at 07:50 AM
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Old 02-16-2015, 09:00 PM   #9
Joined: Aug 2007
Oddometer: 23
Yamaha xt550 1982

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