XT600Z Tenere 1983-1990

Built from the success of Yamaha’s Dakar Rally bikes of the period the Tenere was born. The bike was named after a particular difficult section of the Dakar Rally in Africa. Over a decade it is estimated that 20,000 bikes were sold in France alone, some 30% of the total production. The 600s featured large overland tanks (23-28)l, large wheel travel and upgraded suspension. These were advancements in the enduro scene of the time and began a legacy that is still going strong today.

You can find a range of manuals and other useful resources here.


XT600Z (34L) – (1983-84)

The first generation of the Tenere family that 40 years later, is still going strong. 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. The bike was an improvement on the earlier 500/550, it now produced 43hp and strong low end power. The mono-cross suspension system was big news for enduro bike enhancement of the time. Combined with the large tank and a number of other upgrades, this made the Tenere a strong overland touring bike capable of serious trips.

Looking for a brand new 34L? David Lambeth will build you one here.

Model Codes:

  • 34L - European
  • 39E - Australian
  • 50U - Swiss
  • 50T - European

XT600Z (55W) – (1985)

In 1985 Yamaha introduced the 55W to European countries only. Featuring only moderate changes and improvements this model is prized for its relative rarity, only produced for 1 year and only in the European countries. Common problems still included 5th gear wear which was a problem common to all Teneres of the decade.

Looking for a brand new 55W? David Lambeth will build you one here.

Model Changes:

  • New forks.
  • Improved front caliper.
  • Front disc cover.
  • Longer seat.
  • Re-arranged rear rack.
  • 50T drive chain tension system.
  • Slightly different graphics.


Model Codes:

  • 55W - European
  • 47N - Swiss

XT600Z (1VJ) – (1986-87)

The 1VJ marked the second generation of the Tenere family. Designed to provide a few more comforts to the rider it was highly anticipated. Major changes were made, including adding electric start, moving of the airbox to under the tank which had the effect of reducing the tank size to 23 litres.

More changes were made to the performance of the machine. It now produced 46hp from larger valves, modified carbs and newly designed air filter box among other changes (see below).

Overall the 1VJ was a success and is still a popular bike today.



  • Improved rim quality
  • 23 litre tank that hangs lower
  • Larger handguards
  • Increased secondary carb diameter. 27mm to 28mm.
  • Relocated battery, air box, oil tank and toolbox.
  • Double bulb rear light with failsafe system.


Due to the moving of the air box to under the tank, the tank now extended further down the bike.

This had the effect of restricting airflow to the engine.

An unusual decision was made to remove the air vents on the rear of the high mudguard further blocking cool air reaching the engine. The final issue and arguably the biggest, was that the air intake was aimed right above the cylinder head sucking in warm air from the offset.

Although some of these issues could be remedied, numerous head gaskets were blown and mid trip disasters occurred, enough to damage the reputation of the Tenere and send a strong message to Yamaha that a solution was required.

DIY Modifications For Preventing Overheating:

  • Fit a vented mudguard with mounting spacers to provide airflow over the top of the mudguard and through it.
  • Close the air box intake snorkels and remove the filter cap to draw in cooler air not facing the cylinder head.


XT600Z (3AJ) – (1988-90)

The XT600Z 3AJ was the 3rd generation of the 600 Teneres and the solution to the overheating problems of the 1VJ. The most distinct changes being the addition of a full fairing enclosing twin headlamps.

In some aspects, the predecessor 1VJ damaged the Tenere reputation, the 3AJ addressed the issues and improved various other areas with benefits for overland travel.


  • Rear disc break
  • Full fairing
  • Small touring screen
  • Larger / sturdier instrument panel
  • Removed kick start
  • Altered gearing ratio
  • 5th gear strengthened (Although not solved)
  • (1989) Extra cooling oil supplied to 5th gear

Overheating Solutions:

  • Low mudguard
  • Larger cooling thins on the cylinder
  • Modified engine lubrication design

It is interesting to note that in 1989-90 the black engine 3AJ was fitted with a larger oil cooler, almost double the size. Does this then suggest that the 88 still hard recurring overheating problems? However it has also been suggested that David Lambeth considers the oil cooler not necessary in most climates.


With previous models renowned for experiencing early 5th gear wear, the 3AJ's 5th gear was strengthened. Some reports will tell you that this issue was ultimately solved. This appears not to be the case. I found a member of the Facebook group who uploaded a picture of his 3AJ gears with 5th gear significantly worn. To preserve 5th gear ensure that you do not put too much pressure on 5th by accelerating at low RPMs. Both Richard Moore and David Lambeth can provide upgraded gearing from a 660 to replace your own. Contact them here.


1989-90 Changes from 1988

  • Engine has changed from Grey to Black.
  • Larger oil cooler.


Model Codes

  • 3AJ - European
  • 3DE - Australian, New Zealand
  • 3DS - Swiss
  • 2VG - Brazilian (Rear Drum)

XT600Z (3DS) – (1988-90)

The XT600z 3DS is a 3AJ produced for the Swiss market. Although lacking in the traditional 40hp+ power of other models due to strict Swiss emission policies, it outperformed rivals at altitude. Designed to take on the higher elevations of the famous Swiss passes, this bike was fitted with an altitude compensator.

(See below for performance information)

It was also fitted with a curious yet distinctive single headlamp. The reason for this remains unknown to me.

The XT600z 3DS is a variant produced specially for the Swiss Market which had strict emission regulations. This variant appeals to me, with its characteristic single rectangular headlamp opposed to the traditional 3AJ's twin lamp.

Due to the tight emission regulations the bike's power was reduced to around 28hp - 32hp. This reduced power would cause issues scaling the high Swiss Passes so an "Altitude Compensator" was fitted.

Part no: 2WJ-14303-01-00.

This allows the 3DS to perform at altitude better than normal.

Power Restriction Information:

  • Exhaust insert is fitted with a reduction ring.
  • The rubber intake manifolds are of smaller diameter.
  • A plastic ring is fitted on top of the vacuum piston in the carb, to keep it from opening fully.
  • Airbox mid section is of a different design.
  • Possible gearing differences.

It has been suggested that the DS in 3DS denotes the German/Swiss Drossel limitation.

I was contacted by a young man named Francis from the Italian side of Switzerland seeking the Chesterfield Decals for his 3DS. I will follow up with him at some point to get some pictures of his curiosity bike.