BORN FROM DAKAR SUCCESS
In the year 1983, the Dakar Rally was still in its infancy. However, its huge popularity and success had already been noticed by Yamaha and other manufacturers. It was time to introduce a new design of bike. One that would capture the adventurous spirit of offroad riding but also that of long distance touring. Hence the Yamaha XT600Z Tenere was born. This 600cc thumper would prove to be immensely reliable, simple to work on and capable off long distance adventure riding through any terrain. Over the next decade the XT600 Tenere would have four evolutions before finally being replaced by the 660 Tenere. However, these bikes remain popular and desirable across Europe with prices rising and numerous experts to service the large, devoted following. On this page you will find a history of the XT600Z, workshop manuals and downloads, FAQs and an extensive bank of knowledge.
XT600Z (34L) – (1983-84)
The 34L was launched at the Paris Motorcycle Show in 1982. With its distinctive large 28l fuel tank, kick start, long wheel travel and mono cross suspension, the 34l became a popular overland bike. As a successor to the XT500 range, the XT600 34L had serious improvements in regards to long term usability. A 12v electrical system, 28litre fuel tank, extra horse power, mono-shock suspension, front disc brake and long suspension travel. All these features were designed to make the XT a reliable companion over long distance adventures.
The bike came in two colour schemes, red/white and blue/black. In modern times it would seem that the red/white combination is the most common, with the blue/black uncommon. However, this is reversed with the successor model, the 55W. Read more about the 34l below.
The best improvements and innovations to a product come from pushing it's limit. What better way to push a machine to the limit than racing through the desert in the Dakar rally? From the XT500
XT600Z (55W) – (1985)
For one year only in 1985, Yamaha produced the XT600Z 55W. This model would prove to be highly desirable in current times. The XT600 55W Tenere is most easily distinguished from its older brother (34L) by the diagonally placed tank decals and the addition of a front brake disc guard. Other changes included, better forks, improved caliper, longer seat and a 50T drive chain tension system.
XT600Z (1VJ) – (1986-87)
The two previous XT600 Tenere models can be considered the first generation of 600 Teneres. Models 34L and 55w were very similar to each other. That would all change in 1986 with the introduction of the XT600 1VJ Tenere. Designed again to capture the factory rally bikes of the time the 1VJ kept the rugged and adventurous look of the previous models along with a few more comforts. These comforts would aid the average rider with every day use. As much as this bike was for adventure, it needn't be too hardcore. A major update was the addition of an electric starter alongside a kick starter. The oil cooling was repositioned along with the airbox. This airbox was now seated under the tank, which had reduced in size but still a strong capacity at 23 litres. The larger airbox, updated dual style carburetor and bigger valves worked together to give the thumper 46 horse power. However, overheating problems did occur in some situations. Continue to read about the 1VJ below.
XT600Z (3AJ) – (1988-90)
The final addition of the Yamaha XT600 Tenere series was introduced in 1988. A complete re-design of the previous looks. However, it was still in keeping with the Yamaha factory rally bikes of the time. The 3AJ now featured a full fairing, with twin headlights. The tank capacity remained at 23 litres but the overall size, accounting for the airbox under it, remained a very large tank. To help address the cooling issues of the 1VJ, a low fitted mudguard was standard, directing more air to larger cooling fins on the cylinder. Later model 3AJ's were also fitted with oil coolers twice the size of the first released 3AJs. This model update also saw the introduction of a rear disc brake but also saw the removal of the kickstarter. Read more about this final edition below.
XT600Z (3DS) – (1988-90)
A curiosity version of the XT600Z 3AJ was produced specifically for the Swiss market. Denoted the 3DS, it is instantly recognisable by the single rectangular headlight. This was a Swiss regulation for motorcycles. A altitude compensator was also fitted to help the bike maintain power over the highs of the famous Swiss passes. Altogether though, this model was under-powered due to regulations. I was also shown a printed picture when purchasing an Xt600e, from a man who had toured New Zealand, and in the picture was a 3DS. It would seem unlikely that a Swiss 3DS would make it all the way to New Zealand. Perhaps they were also available to other countries also.
The Future Of The XT600Z Tenere
All good things come to an end, but the best things leave a strong legacy behind. This is the case with the XT600 Tenere. In the years after the final 3AJ release, Yamaha went ahead to release an XT600e. This would be the last model featuring the XT600 engine. However, this was no Tenere, although a great bike in itself. The Tenere name was transferred into the XTZ660 for a short production span. This would eventually become the more modern XT660z Tenere, with XT660R and XT660X equivalents. That takes us up to modern times where we are all probably aware that the Tenere name was transferred to the Tenere 700 / T7. What this shows is that the original Yamaha XT range has a strong lineage in the decades that followed and Yamaha can continue to produce this class of bike to a high quality reflected in the popularity throughout the entire range.
FAQS AND POINTS OF INTEREST
Yamaha introduced the Tenere to us as a motorcycle ready for any adventure. This naturally means that the Teneres are designed with large tanks from factory. Starting with 28l tanks for the early models, slowly being reduced to 23l by the last 600 Tenere the 3AJ due to changes in airbox location.
Still, there are a number of aftermarket tanks & tank/fairing combinations to suit a number of uses. I will do a quick overview here but a full article with more detail will come later (look out for it below).
Perhaps the most significant aftermarket tanks are produced by moto-forms. These were seriously large tanks produced in a number of capacities from 30 - 49 litres. Other manufacturers did produce after market tanks such as Acerbis, although these are not as prevalent. I myself have a fibreglass 43litre tank for the 3AJ, complete with matching fairing. This appears to made by a company named MotoXtreme (pictured below). This tank is the only one of these I have seen and possibly made as a one off. I intend to use it for a project in the future.
It is also worth mentioning that a number of auxiliary tanks were produced, again, mainly by moto-forms. These were in the form of side panel tanks and rear tail piece tanks and could hold either fuel or water. I have only ever seen auxiliary tanks for the 3AJ and 1VJ models. Similarly, it is somewhat rarer to see aftermarket tanks for the 34L and 55W Teneres. Perhaps this is because they already had larger 28l tanks from standard. Again, I will write an article on these at some point.
REBUILD – RESTORE – MAINTAIN
(Coming Soon) Seen as I maintain around 5 XTs, I spend a lot of time tinkering in the garage. So I decided to write a number of articles showing specific restoration projects in a new section called “The Workshop”. There you will find a number of high quality walk through articles, step by step guides and videos of various maintenance, rebuild and restoration projects for my XT600Z builds and projects along with other bikes that I have a liking to, mainly Yamaha XTs. Follow the button below to check out what I am up to in the workshop.
MY YAMAHA XT600Z TENERE
I bought my first Yamaha XT600Z Tenere 3AJ after discussing my dream bikes during a successful client meeting at work. That evening I found one for sale on Ebay and bought it! It needed a complete cosmetic restoration as it had been tired for quite some time. However, it had a big bore XT600e 3Tb engine already completely rebuilt. I decided to restore the bike into the Chesterfield design as a replica of Ingo Lochert’s Dakar Rally replicas. Since then, I have become a little obsessed with the XT, purchasing two more Yamaha XT600Z Tenere and an XT600e. Do I have any plans to stop? No. I’ve barely started. Checkout my XT’s here for some inspiration for your own restoration project!