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Yamaha Vintage Motorcycles

27 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Yamaha Vintage Motorcycles
Big Bear Choppers Sled 100 Smooth Carb

1976 Yamaha TT500

The Yamaha ‘Tuning Fork’ logo is historically important because Yamaha has been in the piano business since 1887, motorcycles didn’t come along until 1954…The YA-1 ‘Red Dragonfly’, 125cc of two stroke fun.

Post World War Two was a big time for small displacement motorcycles around the world and truthfully, other than here in America, they still are. Small displacement bikes are used by commuters, police, mail delivery, just about everyone, even your Dominoes Pizza in Mexico gets delivered on a 125!

Through the 1950′s and into the 1960′s the motorcycle business here in the U.S was dominated by the British and Harley Davidson. I know that some of you will disagree with me and that’s Ok…but the Japanese were coming and they were coming fast. It didn’t take them long to go from ‘Jap Crap’ to serious competition for the US buyers dollars.

I use the term ‘Jap Crap’ only because it was a common feeling and, in some cases true, at the time.

Yamaha was the first to successfully to take on the Brits with the XS650 twin, it was also Yamaha’s first four stroke motorcycle. Following the heels of the XS650 Yamaha went after the big Brit singles. 1976 brought the TT500.

Big torque,big powerband, Yamaha reliability and easy to start…by comparison to the BSA B50 and Gold Star.

The TT500 found its success in long off-road races particularly the Paris-Dakar where in 1979 (the first of the Paris Dakar Rallys) Yamaha took the top two places, the second year of the rally Yamaha took the top four! places.

The TT500 leant itself to heavy modifications the best of which was the Dick Mann chassis. I have ridden a TT500 with the DM frame and it did wonders for the bike. The TT as it is was a bit slow handling, not bad, you just had to plan ahead a bit more than on a lighter bike, but it is still a great bike.

Yamaha hit a home run with the TT, it spawned the XT500 (the street legal version which also in my mind really created the Adventure Touring market that BMW then perfected) and the SR500 (Yamaha’s factory Cafe Racer…which I still love and lust after!).

I found a really nice TT500 on ebay today, yeah it’s got some flaws but hey…it’s old. It is a low hour (according to the seller…) runner. I would simply get it, give it a good through and love riding it. Or…search around for a Dick Mann frame (you can just call Dick Mann Specialties and get one…$$$$) and turn it into a really cool street bike.

Or…get a Champion frame for it and go vintage flat track racing. The TT will be anything you want and be happy doing it.

Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.

1976 Yamaha TT500

1977 Yamaha XS650

Is there a motorcycle in your past that you regret ‘not’ buying? Many of us have come home with a bike that once it is in our garage we asked ourselves “what was I thinking?” Worse yet is when your significant other asks you the same question, in a much different tone of voice. And then even worse yet is when you rationalize the purchase and start tearing it all apart to ‘restore’ it or ‘customize’ it and coming to the realization that you made a mistake.

You DFU’d.

Next scenario…years ago you were choosing between two new motorcycles, your significant other had given approval for either one (he or she didn’t care which one you bought they just wanted you to stop asking them which one you should get, asking all your friends which one to get, because they were getting annoyed by you at this point as well, “Just flip a coin and buy one…”).

Scenario number three…you bought one of the two but in the back of your mind you still keep thinking about the other one. Fast forward two, three, four decades and while driving home one day you see one parked in a driveway with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. It’s the exact model you looked at all those years ago, color and all.

You turn around, you write down the phone number and hurry home with your heart pounding. You run in the door, the S.O is there, you tell him or her about the bike, the checkbook is looked at, you get the green light and the phone call is made…the bike was sold five minutes ago.

This is a true story, mine. The bike was a Yamaha XS650. I have loved that bike since the first day I sat on one at International Motorcycles in Canoga Park.

Having spent years on Brit Bikes, I felt right at home on the Yamaha.

The Yamaha was also a successful racer, it powered ‘King’ Kenny Roberts to the AMA Grand National Championship, when it really was a Grand National Championship but that’s a whole ‘nother story. The XS is still very popular in Vintage Flat Track racing.

The XS650 is the perfect platform for any customization…cafe racer, street tracker, chopper, tourer, vintage flat tracker… it just plain ol’ works. The motor is gorgeous, reliable and easy to work on. The chassis lends itself to mods very easily and there are a lot of aftermarket suppliers that can help you make an XS the bike of your dreams.

Now you just have to get one.

I found a really nice 1977 model on ebay today. It is a runner that has been gone through pretty well. It’s completely stock, which is always perfect in my book, that way you can customize it any way you want or just leave it as it is and enjoy it.

Oh, and did I mention it can be customized really well…

Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures. This is a really nice bike for the price.

1977 Yamaha XS650

1978 Yamaha SR500E

One of my favorite bikes from years gone by is the Yamaha TT500. Yamaha did a great job with that bike, it worked well in the desert and on trail rides. It was easy to start (sort of), easy to ride (as long as you weren’t expecting it to act like a lighter European two-stroke), and easy to maintain.

Plenty of power for a big single, you could lug it down and it wouldn’t complain, it would rev higher than the Brit singles that it patterned after, it was easy to maintain and the thing I liked about a lot was that it was actually kinda of smooth running for a big thumper. It was a very good motorcycle and sold well here in the USA.

The TT spawned the XT, which was the road going / dual sport model of the time. It too was a good seller. Yamaha had a hit on its hands.

There is something about a big single that once you ride one, that wonderful, powerful feeling just sticks with you and haunts you until you own one…then, a few thousand miles later you start wondering “what was I thinking?”.

Big singles are not what you would call fast. OK, before I start hearing all the ranting about the Manx Norton and the Matchless G50 and how fast they were, I’m talking about your average production single not racers, thank you for not sending me nasty e-mails. The advantage that big singles have is their stump pulling power throughout the rev range and the ability to get from corner 1 to corner 2 right now.

Big singles are nice and compact which makes them easy to hustle around on tight twisty roads. On top of those features, big singles are super fun to pull big wheelies with no effort.

Yamaha was doing so well with the TT/XT models that they decided to go for a somewhat retro styled, purely street going model based on the XT. Enter the SR500. The SR had just enough of that classic ‘British’ look to look the part, but enough modern touches that didn’t make it look old. However, the SR wasn’t the solid sales success here in the west as it was else where in the world and lasted just a short while in this market.

Too bad really, it was/is a good motorbike.

I found a nice SR today on ebay that if you’re looking for a very cool piece of modern classic history, this could a good choice. This particular SR is completely stock, which I like a lot. It is an unrestored original that is not showing its age too much.

Paint is good, chrome is good and mileage (at 17K) is acceptable. It looks like it may have tipped over at one time as there is a small scuff on the muffler and a corresponding dent in the tank. Pretty minor.

The seller says it starts and runs good so, so far so good.

Now, here are my suggestions for this bike; one…leave it completely stock and just ride it around, two…do a light cafe’ treatment (don’t go overboard here, there is no need to) and have a blast on Sunday mornings or a local bike night, three…go all out! Find a Dick Mann frame, someone out there has to have one they want to sell. The DM frame is designed for dirt but I can tell you this, it is a perfect platform for an incredible streetbike with the Yamaha single.

The SR500 isn’t that fast, it doesn’t handle all that great but if you want a fun bike that with little money and effort can be a faster, good handling vintage bike that is a blast to ride, an SR is a great choice. There are many forums and sites on the web where you can find like minded thumper nuts with ton’s of knowledge that make owning a bike like this so much fun.

Click on the pics below for more info about this SR500 and more pictures.

1978 Yamaha SR500E

1986 Yamaha SRX 600

I have always been attracted to oddball motorcycles, yet another psychological flaw I can attribute my step-father. Bultaco, Greeves, any English bike and big thumpers. Sure, I’ve owned my fair share of UJM’s, my favorite being my 1980 Honda CB750F, but I like riding a bike that you don’t see a hundred of when you pull up to your favorite Sunday morning breakfast stop.

I also have to admit that I have a few Honda CB350 twins that just happen to probably be the largest selling motorcycle of all time(?) but nowadays you really don’t see many of those on the road.

The bikes that really get me going are Thumpers. A big single can be just about anything, and everything, you need. Thumpers are generally lightweight, narrow, low center of gravity and built for quick handling. The motors are simple…hey its only got one cylinder…and have a wonderful sound. A big single has a feel and soul that really does let you be, almost force you to be, one with your motorcycle.

Granted, when you’re out having fun on a Sunday morning multi cylinder bikes will just gobble up your single on the straightaways, but throw in the tight twisties and bigger faster bikes are going to be in your rear view mirrors.

Big singles, like many other ‘cult’ bikes generate passion in their owners but I think just because of how singles feel, that passion, that love, is strongest…but that’s just me. Well, I’m not really alone on that one, there are so many forums and Yahoo groups dedicated to thumpers that you will never be lacking for companionship and camaraderie. The support groups are out there for those that feel they need a twelve step program to deal with the ‘Thumper addiction’.

There is a classic thumper on ebay today. The Yamaha SRX 600 is a bike that was only brought to the US one year, 1986. Yamaha had a minor success with the SR500 some years earlier and were having good sales with the SRX400 in Japan.

Some true believers at Yamaha corporate believed that the time was right to bump up the SRX, give it good components and send it out into the world. Well, it pretty much went over like a fart in church.

Here’s what Yamaha did, they took the motor from popular XT series dual sports, stuffed into the SRX400 chassis, gave it good bits from the FZ600 (so it would handle and stop well), created a gorgeous body work but…gave it true class by making it kick start only. When most people think of having to kick start a 600 single they would probably choose a root canal first but, the SRX with its built in compression release mechanism is really easy to start…get the piston up to top dead center, set the choke, turn the key and give it a good swift kick.

The beautiful sound of a big thumper fills the air. There is one little thing I have to tell you about these bikes…during the starting ritual, don’t even think about touching the throttle! Don’t even look at it, with the two carbs, this bike is way too easy to flood and then all you can do is have another ice tea and wait a bit or hope you’re on a downhill so you can bump start it.

The SRX is a true enthusiasts motorcycle, I love ‘em.

There is one on ebay today that needs a new home. According to the seller the bike spent a good portion of its life outside (under a cover) and shows the moderate amount of corrosion that goes with that life. He did start the project but then went on to others.

Before abandoning the SRX he had the carbs rebuilt, bought new tires, chain,brake pads,battery,cables and more. It was a runner before it was parked so maybe the few new parts and a good clean up, you could have yourself a really unique and fun motorcycle. Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.

I have seen really nice SRX’s go for as much a $4000, so far I think this will sell at a good value.

1986 Yamaha SRX 600

1980 Yamaha TT500

Thumpers, singles, one lungers…I love ‘em. A big four stroke single is a great motorcycle, and a small single is just as much fun really. There is something about the power pulses, the sound and the power delivery that make singles so wonderful to ride. I don’t know what it is, but when you start riding single cylinder motorcycles, your view of riding changes a bit.

THe high speed may not be there but cornering speed that can leave a bigger bike in the rear view mirror…at least for a few seconds, will always put a big smile on your face.

I have been racing singles since the early ’90′s and yes, the racing may a bit slower than let’s say a modern 600 four cylinder but the fun factor and the commarardarie of the single cylinder lovers is something a bit special.

I have written before about the Yamaha TT500 my former father in-law owned and that I had the privilege to ride a few times. At that time I was riding a Husqvarna WR250 so jumping on a big, kinda heavy 4 stroke was interesting. I had ridden Triumph and BSA ‘desert sleds’ and raced a BSA 441 Victor, but to get on a modern big single was, well, life changing.

Jay’s Yamaha was no ordinary TT500. He bought the bike new, and rode in the New Mexico wilderness for about a year before he decided it could be better…next thing I knew, I was invited to ride a Dick Mann framed TT500. The stock TT was good but this motorcycle was truly amazing. The handling improvement brought out all the good the motor had to offer. Since that time I have been a fan of the big Yamaha singles.

I have owned a TT500 (I bought a basket case, put it back together, rode it for a couple of months and realized it needed more work than I thought…it was sold shortly there after). Next on the list was an SR500, what a motorcycle, it did everything I wanted it to do. The SR was light, quick, great handling and most importantly…it was fun to ride.

The SR too, was short lived in my garage, the desire for a Honda Hawk was too alluring and so the SR was sold. I still have the Hawk. My love of Yamaha singles came back to life a while back with the purchase of an SRX600, but it all started with that TT500 in New Mexico.

While looking for parts for my SRX on ebay today, I found a really great TT500 for sale at a somewhat reasonable price. This 1980 TT is stone stock…a good thing! I love bikes that are unmolested because you can either leave it that way or customize it to your own tastes without undoing someone else’s work. A little tidbit about the TT500 for you…when it came out it actually took the top two spots in the first Paris-Dakar Rally!

The TT500 weighed only 282 lbs and put out a modest 27HP but it was the torque of the motor that made it so much fun to ride. Now, having owned a TT500 I can tell you this, even though it has a compression release lever and a little sighting window to tell when the piston is at top dead center, turn the handlebars to the left before you try to start it…that way your knee won’t hit the bars when the bike kicks you back…which it invariably will at some time.

This TT on ebay is a great bike to buy, it is already a great trail bike, can be lightened up to be a good vintage desert / enduro bike or just left as it is for a perfect do anything, go anywhere motorcycle. Turn it into a cafe racer? Nah, if you want that I’ll sell you my SRX…just kidding.

Click on the pics below for more pictures and info about this really great motorcycle.

1980 Yamaha TT500

1988 Yamaha Big Wheel 80

Dear Santa,

I have been a really good boy this year. I quit wetting the bed, I picked up my toys when I was done playing with them (most of the time), and I always ate my vegetables (I still don’t like peas). I didn’t talk back to my mom or dad (or my teacher), I didn’t interrupt them when they were on the phone (my mom is always on the phone), and I said my prayers every night.

I was even nice to my big sister, even though I think her new boyfriend is a jerk, I would call him something else but my mom washes my mouth out with soap when I use bad language.

Anyway Santa, I only want one thing for Christmas this year, a motorcycle. See, my dad goes riding on his motorcycle with his friends almost every weekend and I’m stuck at home with my mom. I mean, I love my mom but, after a while…I mean, you know, I’d rather hang out with my dad and his friends cuz they do cool stuff.

Santa, if you bring me a motorcycle for Christmas I promise to be even better next year, I’ll even let my grandma kiss me…yuck Grandma kisses are weird.

Your friend,

Throckmorton

ps, I know a motorcycle might be hard to fit in your sleigh but you’re Santa, you can do anything!

Well dad, there you have it, you know what you need to do. Little Throckmorton wants a motorcycle so he can be just like you. Scary thought huh?

So, you go to the local dealer and buying the kid a ‘new’ bike means you don’t get one this year, never a good plan. One of your riding buddies has a friend that has a cousin that wants to sell his kids old bike, which you know has been ridden to death, another bad idea. And, on top of all that, mom thinks Throckmorton is too young to have a motorcycle. What do mom’s know anyway.

By the way, the picture to the right is how your son sees you…the coolest of the cool.

Well, I have found the answer to your dilemma right on ebay…it was so easy. I found this little Yamaha BW80, the BIG WHEEL 80. These bikes are so easy to ride. First and foremost it has a nice easy to use three speed transmission with an automatic clutch, so simple even Throckmorton can use it.

Next, those big fat tires…stability city my friend. Third, these little bikes are so durable even your daughters boyfriend couldn’t kill it. Yeah, these bikes are slow but that is how you convince the wife to let Santa bring it.

The BW80 I found is in ready to go, will look great under the Christmas tree and you don’t have to do anything but figure out how to add one more motorcycle in the garage. Hey, it’s little and you will have a best buddy for life…’Santa’.

Click on the pic’s below for more info and more pictures. This little bike really is sweet and I would venture as good or better than new for a lot less $$$$

1988 Yamaha Big Wheel 80

Yamaha YM1 305

I really do enjoy early to mid sixties motorcycles no matter what country they came from. To me though, what is great about that time period is the Japanese and the Italians had the most unique styling…odd in some people’s view, and they were the most mechanically inventive.

I’m sure that many will disagree with me about that, but think about it…in America you had / have Harley Davidson…nothing has changed much in nearly 100 years and when they did want to have a different image, where did they go? Italy. In Britain, motorcycles from that side of the pond also hadn’t changed hardly, hence the demise of the British motorbike industry until John Bloor came on the scene. And Germany was, well…Germany.

Those didn’t change after the war disappeared and BMW didn’t change much for another four decades.

So,back to my original statement about the Italians and the Japanese. The Italians were about styling and did design some truly beautiful motorcycles (remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder), but mechanically they were still using older designs (the Ducati Desmo notwithstanding). The Japanese however, were using a combination of older Euro styling along with some more modern styles of their own.

Technologically, they were playing catch up to the Europeans but also being more adventurous, especially with the two stokes and multi cylinder designs.

Leading the way in the two-stroke world was Yamaha. Honda went on to multi cylinder four strokes. Yamaha’s history is a great one and there is all of it on the net…how it went from being (and still is…) a music company and the founder needing something to fill up the time and space they had for manufacturing, into a motorcycle business.

From small single cylinder bikes to world beating twins, Yamaha led the way.

Through the development of the race bikes, Yamaha’s street bikes and you and I, were the lucky recipients of the technological advancements. These advancements came fast and furious, most importantly for the time was the ‘auto-lube’ system. Prior to Yamaha’s development of the system, oil had to be pre-mixed with the gasoline to lubricate the engine internals. With Yamaha’s invention, now the rider just put gas in a separate tank and let the motor do the work itself.

Pretty soon every had a variation of Yamaha’s auto-lube system.

As Yamaha was growing, the theory of ‘if 125cc is good, 250cc must be better. And if 250cc is better, then 305cc must be much better’. Very American don’t you think? We have always believed ‘bigger is better’. Hence, the street going YM1 305.

The 305 came in two versions, the standard street model and the more popular ‘Big Bear Scrambler’. The Scrambler was a one year model however. Within three years the YM1 305′s were replaced by much more advanced 350′s but the 305 really did move Yamaha ahead in the American street bike market.

I found a really nice YM1 on ebay today that really would be wonderful to have and ride. It is in great condition it appears and is ready (?) to ride. I imagine that because it has been sitting for 10 years that it will need the standard stuff…carb clean, new tires, battery, etc but hey, you can pick up a very clean little classic for not too much money.

Now, this is one of those bikes that I would tell you to buy a plane ticket, go get it and ride it home but, if you’re not too far away, hop in your truck and go get it. If you live more a couple of hundred miles away, call Forward Air and have ‘em pick it up. This is a very fun little bike that you can ride almost right now.

Click on the pic’s below for a little more info and more pictures. Oh, and one more thing…the seller lists it as 1969, the 305 stopped being made in 1966 though some were still being sold new and titled as late as 1968.

Yamaha YM1 305

1981 Yamaha XV920 RH Euro Model

There are a lot of motorcycles out there that were either ahead of their time, behind the times, or just didn’t click with the motorcycle buying public at that moment. Some of these bikes now sell used for way more than they did when new, one of my favorite examples is the Honda GB500 Single. When it first showed up in dealer showrooms, Honda couldn’t give ‘em away, you could still buy new ones three years after Honda stopped building them for give away prices.

Today, a nice used one goes for almost twice the ‘new then’ price. Crazy. Then are the bikes that just didn’t click.

One of my favorite examples (and one of my favorite motorcycles) the Yamaha XV920RH Euro Model.

This is not the Virago, which continued on for decades this was Yamaha’s attempt at bringing European ‘Sport Touring’ style to the USA. The motors in the Virago and the ‘R’ model are the same but there are many differences. In 1982 Paul Dean of Cycle magazine did a great comparison article and came to the conclusion that the ‘R’ model was the better of the two but still needed some help.

The ‘R’ model had beautiful Euro styling what with the nicely sculpted gas tank, that in your face, or eyes as the case may be, 8″ headlight, the slightly rearset foot controls, the lower Euro style handlebar, and the enclosed rear chain drive. You know, to this day, I wonder why the enclosed chain system didn’t become more mainstream? It was cleaner, the chain lasted longer, it was lighter than a shaft drive, and didn’t rob as much power as a shaft.

Things to ponder another time. What held the 920 RH back was really only a couple of things. First, the seat…incredibly uncomfortable. To go ‘sport touring’ your tour had to be about an hour or less before your backside started complaining.

Second, the rear of the bike…the designer of that part of the bike had a good idea (luggage rack and storage compartment) but, after one or two too many sake’s for lunch, the final design didn’t work so well…it was changed the next year.

Yamaha aimed this bike at the Ducati’s of the day and actually did a pretty good job. The bike handled well, though not as precise as the Italian Stallion, had a better fit and finish, and a reliability factor that was hard to beat. Still, the XV920RH didn’t sell and lasted only two years in the US market.

It continue in Europe until 1986.

Today while cruising ebay I found a very nice 920 that I wish was a closer to my California home. The owner has done some mild mods in the cafe style but kept the basics very stock. The bike has only 32K miles on the clock, which if it has been serviced routinely, is not too much.

All in all it looks to be a nice bike in nice ‘ride it now’ condition and the price seems pretty inline with the market.

The XV is a terrific motorcycle and one that you won’t see a lot of on your Sunday morning rid e through your favorite twisty roads. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. It is a bike well worth looking at.

1981 Yamaha XV920 RH Euro

1970 Yamaha YDS6B

Hey, you need this bike. Well, you need it if you’re the type that likes vintage two-strokes that have a racing pedigree. I have spent a good amount of time with Yamaha RD series motorcycles and have wrung the daylights out of a CB350 trying to keep up with an R5 Yamaha.

The Yamaha street going two strokes of that era were truly race bred.

These little sleds were fast for their size, out handled anything else from the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ and could give bikes twice their size fits on a tight twisty road. Early styling was a bit iffy but by time YDS6 model showed up, you wouldn’t be embarrassed to ride one to school or to your local Sunday hangout.

And now for a quick little ‘Motoworld’ history lesson…what would one these posts be without that. “Sherman, set the ‘Wayback Machine’ for Japan 1957″. “Ok Mr. Peabody, but what’s back there?” “The early stages of a great motorcycle racing dynasty Sherman”. “Does that mean I’ll get to ride a motorcycle Mr. Peabody?” “No Sherman, you have a tough enough time on the 10cent pony ride outside the supermarket”

The YDS was actually based on the YD racers of the late 1950′s, over the years came the TD series and eventually the all-conquering TZ’s. Through the 1960′s Yamaha basically sold over the counter racers, you could go to your dealer and if you had the money (you didn’t really need a good resume’ back then, just the $$$ and a good relationship with the owner).

Buy the bike, stock it had around 28hp and was good for about 85mph (remember we are talking about a 250 here), then you bought the race kit which brought up the HP but there was still one small problem…these bikes were not what you would call reliable. There is lot’s of info available on the net if you want to know more of the details but basically is was lower end bearing failures and seizures. Yamaha did a good job of addressing the problems and like I said came out with the TZ’s which are still to this day fantastic motorcycles.

In the hands of Jarno Sarrinen, Kel Carruthers, ‘King’ Kenny Roberts, and many more, the Yamaha little two strokes were, and in vintage racing today, awesome motorcycles.

Now onto this really neat little bike I found on ebay this weekend. It’s a YDS6B 250 in really good condition (yes, it does need a little love…mostly just some elbow grease) and the bonus here…it’s comes with a pee-load of parts. The owner has a great deal of info regarding the work that has been done and a lot of pictures showing what comes with the bike. This IS a great bike for a conversion to a proper Cafe’Racer.

Really all you would need would be a set of ‘clubmans’, maybe move the foot pegs back, upgrade the suspension at each end, some nice sticky rubber and you will have a great vintage ride.

Click on the pics below for a lot more info and good pictures. Hurry up, this bike is a great deal.

1970 Yamaha YDS6B

1978 Yamaha SR500

Single cylinder motorcycles rule the world…really, they do. I’m not saying that because I love singles, it’s a simple truth. India, China, Mexico, Europe, all of Asia and Africa, you’ll see more small singles than anything else.

Mail, medical supplies, your order from Amazon, divorce papers, even the pizza for dinner arrives on a small single cylinder motorcycle in many parts of the world. Why? Inexpensive to buy, cheap and easy to maintain, fuel efficient and in crowded traffic conditions, you can still get your pizza in 30 minutes.

Single cylinder motorbikes are truly the kings the world.

Not all singles have to be little 125′s or 250′s being service vehicles, but it is fun to see how they are used.

As we look through racing history, the greats are the Singles. Matchless G50, AJS 7R and of course, the Manx Norton, these are the motorcycles that set the standards by which all others are compared. Built for reliability, speed and nimble handling single cylinder motorcycles.

Over the years Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda have all tried to recapture the magic and the mystique of the race bred singles. But, the American market just wasn’t all that interested. The off-road and dual sports did pretty well, the Yamaha TT/XT500′s being the best examples I can think of at this moment…and I have a soft spot in my heart for the TT500, but the XL 350′s from Honda were good sellers as well.

Honda came out with the GB500, a very ‘British’ motorbike which diodn’t sell worth a damn,ironically, they are now fetching 2-3 times what they sold for new. Yamaha decided to test the street going single waters with the SR500. An off-shoot of its successful XT500, the Yammie had more modern styling and was designed to be easy to start…there’s an interesting story about the original designer getting a sprained ankle while trying to kick start the first model, hence, the directive to make this model an easy starter.

The SR500 grew into the SRX600 and later the 660 and MZ motorcycles of Germany used the 660 motor as the base for their Skorpion line of motorbikes. It seems to me that Yamaha has made the best use of the single cylinder engine in a sporting fashion over the years…which brings us to the SR500 I found on ebay this morning.

This Yamaha SR500 is going to need a good amount of love, or not, depending on your level of picky-ness. I’ll say this, the SRX I have in my barn is needing a lot more love than this SR500…maybe. First off, the owner comes right out and says this bike is rough and looking at the pictures, maybe…but not too much so.

He has taken care of some of the rusty bits, yes it needs to have the seat re-done, new tyres would be a good thing and the electrical system could probably use some attention (I hate going through electrical systems more than anything else when it comes to rehabilitating motorcycles).

The SR500 was a fairly quick bike for a 500 single but this particular SR has been given the Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens treatment…an injection of a new bigger piston (the 540cc steroid kit), and a bigger cam. All that is well and good (until you have to go to court…or in front of the US Senate…) but remember, this is a kick start only motorcycle, and even with the really slick ‘auto-decompression valve actuation’ this bike is a bit tougher to start than a stocker. Man up…and wear really sturdy boots!!

This SR500 comes with a really good supply of spare parts including gas tank, side panels, carbs and more. So, here’s the deal…this bike is a project like I said before but a well worth it project. The SR500 is a great motorcycle and this particular one on ebay has a lot going for it right now.

Keep it a stocker, make a cool cafe’ racer out of it, maybe a full rat bike…whatever you choose this bike is a good value all the way around. Click on the pics below for more info and a lot more pictures of the bike and all that comes with it.

’78 Yamaha SR500

1979 Yamaha XS650 Cafe Racer

I just can’t help myself, I love the Yamaha XS650 and I especially love it as a Cafe Racer, and one that is done well really gets my heart going. However, the XS650 and it’s TX brother turned out to be the almost perfect platform for every type of motorcycle. With an XS650 you could leave it stock and have a great daily and weekend rider, you could throw a set of saddlebags over the back and travel cross-country, make it into a street tracker (or a real flat track racer for that matter), very cool looking choppers and bobbers, and of course…cafe racers.

Yamaha built the XS650 to compete with the British twins of the time and because of a few designs differences (most importantly the horizontal split case vs, the vertical split of the British…which tended to leak oil all over your garage floor and the Yamaha wouldn’t). British twins of the time used pushrods for valve accuation Yamaha built the XS with overhead cams, and though the Yamaha wasn’t really any smoother than the Brit’s it rode smoother. All in all Yamaha ‘outbritted’ (is that a word?) the brits with the XS.

Like I said before, I am a sucker for a good cafe racer and when it’s built on the XS platform I get even more excited…well, lustful is more the word. I know I should feel guilty about saying that having grown into cafe racers through the British twins, but I just can’t help myself.

Today I found a really nicely done XS650 Cafe Racer that is beautiful and a very reasonable price is attached to it. It is very cleanly done, not too overboard and not too stripped. The body work looks good and the little mini fairing (nowadays called a flyscreen) up front looks nice, the exhaust has the right look and hopefully the right tone. Everything about the bike looks right, but…the seller provides no information other than ‘motor rebuilt’.

OK, there is a contact number if you want to ask questions but…come on, give us some details. Anyway, the bike does look really well done and like I said, the price seems really good if the bike is as good as it looks.

Click on the pics below for no more details but more pictures.

1979 Yamaha XS650 Cafe Racer

1980 Yamaha SR 500

There is nothing like a big single to stir your soul. The feel, the sound, the way the motor just pulls away from a corner. Riding a big single cylinder four stroke is addicting. But not for everyone.

I happen to be one of the intoxicated ones. I have ridden big BSA singles in the desert, Honda singles on the road race track and tortured my former father-in-law’s Yamaha in the mountains of New Mexico. I love ‘em.

Yamaha, with the XS650, figured out that American’s were in love with British bikes but wanted the Japanese technology, reliability and price. The big singles from the UK were the benchmark; Matchless G50, AJS, Norton Manx and the BSA Gold Star. The most accessible of them all was the Gold Star and that is where Yamaha started.

First came the TT/XT 500′s. We Americans were getting into the big singles, off road, but still hadn’t found the love for them on the street. We were still loving the big twins. Yamaha was happy with the success of the XT series in the US and decided that Europe was ready for a road going model, enter the SR 500. This is a bike that the engineers didn’t really want to build.

A couple of years of success in Europe and the SR was brought stateside.

The SR was born from the XT but there were a lot of differences. The XT was designed for reliability and simplicity; the SR was designed to be comfortable and more importantly, easy to start for the daily rider. The SR was given an electronic ignition vs. points and condenser and a decompression lever at the handlebar.

Why not just put an electric starter on the bike? Well, Yamaha wanted a lightweight road going single with good power and plenty of torque so an easy to use kick starter was the the only way to go in their minds.

The kick starting of an SR500 is really quite easy, you hold in the decompressor lever, move the kickstarter just enough to bring the piston up to TDC, which is indicated by a little white line in a window on the top of the motor, then give a good solid kick through and the bike fires right up…a whole lot easier than the Goldie. Trust me on that one.

SR’s are a blast to ride, it did everything Yamaha wanted it to do…except sell well here in the US. It did good in Europe and Asia and in the homeland. They even developed a 400cc version for Japan to meet the demands.

The SR only stayed in our market for a few short years.

Now you know that I’m going to say that it is the perfect platform for a great cafe racer and it really is but, it can also be a cool custom. Check out this bobber…

So, while looking for parts on ebay for my own Yamaha single project, an SRX, I found this really sweet SR500. Low miles, stock condition and in generally really good shape. I gotta tell ya, for the money I’m putting into my SRX, I could fly over to Arizona, buy this SR, ride it home, stopping to gamble a bit in Laughlin (it’s a big single…I’m not crazy enough to try and ride it all the way home in one trip…) and still have money in the bank!

This is a great buy for someone looking for a unique and wonderful motorcycle that is ready to ride now.

From the March 1980 Cycle World review, “For those that accept the SR500 for what it is, the rewards are worth the effort. For them, this is the most satisfying bike on the market”

Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. And another cool thing about this particular bike is that it comes with the manuals and the original bill of sale. It’s also a great deal.

1980 Yamaha SR500

’71 Yamaha G6 S

Here we are again thinking about a neat little bike to put on the front of the motorhome for your summer vacation, or stuff into the trailer full of camping gear. Maybe you just want a neat little bike to bop around town on. And…you don’t want to spend a lot of money and it would be nice if it ran. But at the same time you want a neat little classic. Not your run of the mill Honda Trail 90 or something like that, no…you want a bike that has a cool factor.

I think I have the bike for you.

Yamaha has always had cafe racers in their blood, from little bikes ( I mean little) all the way through, and especially, the RD series two strokes. One of my personal favorites is the G6 S model. This little 60cc two stoke has very cool styling and scoots better than most 75 and 90cc models from other manufacturers.

It’s super light so you can put it up on the bumper of the motorhome, you can park it next to the door of the local supermarket and nobody is going to get mad…”oh, isn’t it cute…”. The only thing negative about the G6 model…you can’t ride it on the freeway, and why would you want to? It’s too much fun just being a little buzz bomb with lots of style.

I found one on ebay today that needs some love but has great potential. The owner says it ran when it was parked, cosmetically it’s not too bad (the seat needs fixing) and I’d go through the carbs, slip in a new battery and put some newer / better rubber on it. Then my friend you have a perfect little all arounder.

Probably gets about 80-90 mpg to boot.

For a little bit more info and a contact number, click on the pic’s below. Oh, the pictures are pretty low quality but you can get a feel for the bike.

1971 Yamaha G6 S

’78 Yamaha SR500

I love single cylinder motorcycles. I have raced one for years and ridden one all around the Southern California mountains and deserts just for fun. Singles are simple to ride and simple to maintain. However, some can be a bit difficult to start…until you learn the secret.

The secret (or secret’s, depending on how many people you speak to) to kick starting a big single is a mystical combination of getting the piston (sometimes as big a coffee can) in just the right position, tickling the carb just the right amount (tickling the carb is a British bike thing, I’ll tell you later?), or setting the choke just right and then, while holding the throttle open just enough, a big (and I mean BIG) stab on the kick start lever. If you’re lucky, the big thumper fires right up.

If you’re like most of us, it takes two or three times swinging on that kick starter to get the beast to fire. On the other hand, if you haven’t mastered the secret starting ritual, you get tossed over the handlebars, the bike telling you it didn’t like your technique. Much like a woman or two in your romantic history. Ah, don’t worry about it, you’ll get the hang of it at some point…starting the bike I mean.

The woman, you’re on your own.

When I first wanted to start racing a single cylinder, I started cruising the pits at Willow Springs to see what was the most successful, or at least the most popular. The class was dominated by the Honda FT500 Ascot, but the fastest was the SR500 Yamaha. So my search for an SR500 started. The search was tougher than I thought it would be.

The Yamaha single wasn’t a big seller for the tuning fork company so there weren’t all that many on the used market and what very few there were out there were commanding ‘out of my budget’ dollars. I settled on a $500 Ascot…and then promptly put $3000 into it?!

The SR500 actually started life as the dual sport XT500. A terrific big single and quite capable for it’s size and time in off-road riding. Yamaha was having good sales success with the XT and decided to dip their toes into the purely street going waters.

Part of that decision was based on the growing Cafe Racer movement here in the states but mostly over in Europe.

The tuning forks gave the new SR500 an electronic ignition, added a built in compression release mechanism, both designed to make the bike easier to start. We street guys are such wimps. The styling was right on to fit the market.

But, sales of the SR here in America just didn’t meet projections so the SR only stayed a couple of years on dealers floors. In Europe the SR kept going on into the 1990′s.

While cruising ebay, like I do every morning, I found the SR500 I wanted twenty years ago. This particular bike has 22,000 miles on the clock, not really too many for it’s age, and has been well maintained according to the owner. He did however switch out the body work for the 1979 color, he liked silver better i guess, or did something happen to the original bodywork?

A paint job would have been cheaper I imagine? It does have newer Progressive rear shocks, does Flo come with the bike? and all in all looks pretty good. The SR 500 is a terrific bike for someone who wants a stylish yet classic big single.

So click on the pics below for more pictures and a bit more info.

With all that said, I’m going out to the barn and continue working on my big single,the SRX…the SR500′s big brother

’78 Yamaha SR500

’71 Yamaha CS3 200

Do you like purple? Do like small displacement 2 strokes? Do you love having fun on really tight twisty canyon roads? Do you love easily motoring by big bikes through a tight corner and giving them a little ‘see ya later’ wave as you pass them?

If you answered yes to at least three out of four questions, I have found the bike for you.

This little bike is a perfect candidate for the cafe treatment don’t you think? A set of lower handlebars, a tire upgrade, some fresh oil and maybe new springs in the front end and, if the budget will allow, get rid of the spongy items they passed for shock absorbers at the time. Now, regarding this particular bike, I have a couple of questions. Number one, why was the motor rebuilt at only 2070 miles? had it been abused or just because it had sat around for decades?

Number two, pretty steep opening price. Reality check here, this bike is worth maybe a grand but not a starting price of $1450. Not to disrepect the bike or the owner but just to put a dose of reality in here.

I think this a very cool little bike that would be a lot of fun to ride everyday. Click on the pics below for more pictures and a bit more info.

Big Bear Choppers Sled 100 Smooth Carb


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