Yamaha XT600E trail bike is a stunning survivor from the 20th century.
All the opposition is liquid-cooled. Still the first choice for go-anywhere adventure, this gutsy thumper is aimed at riders modelled on a brick outhouse. Despite its 17in rear wheel, the XT's seat is still 855mm from the road and its dry weight is 156kg. The model's E suffix refers to its electric start, a daring innovation in 1990 and long since a trailie essential. Four valves are opened by a single camshaft.
The 95mm bore and the low-compression piston's rings are specially coated to reduce clearance and mechanical noise. A twin-choke Teiki carburettor ensures quick response with good mileage. Power is a modest 43PS at just over 6000rpm, but top speed remains a respectable 95mph for the 595cc single. There's nothing here to frighten a home mechanic, and the XT's production run speaks volumes for its basic reliability.
You can buy more agile trail bikes with smaller engines that will outperform the 600 Yamaha, but none have its character or reputation. If you're looking at an XT that's done a lot of off-road miles, and many have, check wheel and swing arm bearings carefully as pressure washing often forces detergent and water past seals.