1980 Yamaha SR500 — Classic Japanese Motorcycles — Motorcycle Classics

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BSA Gold SR 500
BSA Gold SR 500

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Found on 1980 Yamaha SR500

1980 Yamaha SR500

produced: 1978-81

Total 15,000 (est.)

Claimed 33hp @ 6,500rpm

Top speed:

Engine type: Overhead air-cooled single

Weight 160kg (353lb)

Price $1,898 (1980)

Price $1,000-$2,500

Doug Ratliff is a person. Or maybe he’s two or happy people when it to his 1980 Yamaha SR500.

Number One believes he was born an I’ve always been art, he says. My high ceramics teacher was my idol. He set me on my

Doug Number Two (sometimes as Flash) is an aficionado of fast new motorcycles. As a child, I gravitated to Fox My brothers were the ‘Gasoline kids — they were into engines. I broke my leg at age 13 a friend on a Honda.

It healed up, and I more bike. I bought a 1978 Yamaha SR and rode it all college.

Doug Number is a collector of classic motorcycles. I a Norton, bemired in dirt, and in love. To this day, the of shellacked gasoline and a beat up and it’s love.

The Norton led to a job at a British bike dealership in California, and another mentor, Burdette. He was the best, the man. now in his 80s and he’s still great.

Luckily for all the Dougs, he discovered he was at teaching. I looked around for I was interested in survival, but I also to give back to the community. been teaching since Now on his third Triumph triple, rides almost every

I ride to work unless snowing or I have to truck in a of clay for the kids.

Doug now a collection of 20 classic motorcycles (in to his three new bikes), an eclectic of whatever has taken his fancy at one or another. One of them is this Yamaha SR500, and it’s a that all three Dougs can on.

Americans became enamored of 500cc motorcycles after War II, when BSA Gold Stars, Manxes and Velocettes became available on this side of the The Gold Star worked off road, and many competitors raced and flat-tracked them the Forties, Fifties and early Multi-cylinders started to take in the mid-Fifties, and by the mid-Seventies, thumpy were something of an anachronism.

the Yamaha XT.

Yamaha, a builder of instruments since the 19th became interested in building motorcycles after World War II. inexpensive transportation was one of the sure in the uncertain world of occupied

The company made several in the Seventies (namely the ill-fated Yamaha’s first foray the land of Big Twins, and the XS500, early reliability issues it a poor reputation that beyond its grave) and started for a way to regain lost ground. salesmen in the United States for the development of a four-… with capability, Yamaha decided here, perhaps, was a niche to be

The XT was only the fourth four-… motorcycle had developed, and working out the was, according to project Shiro Nakamura, a nightmare. It appeared at Yamaha’s September dealer’s convention, and was an instant both in sales and in the long African races (Paris-Abidjan-Nice and where the XT was a repeat winner.

The compact, short-… (87 x 84mm) had a stiff crankshaft carried in ball bearings, and a chain-driven camshaft. Lubrication was dry sump, oil carried in the frame. Starting was by as to be expected on an off-road machine, and the brakes were adequate for the

Buoyed by the success of the XT, Yamaha to bring out a street version of the In order to save space and the design team decided not to add an starter. The SR, with electronic and an automatic decompression system to kick starting, debuted in

It had larger valves than the XT, for performance on the street, and the all-aluminum engine now sported larger

The frame was new, and cast and disc brakes were fore and aft. There was little chrome or ornamentation. As Number One says, It’s a design for clean and efficient

As an artist, I see the overall lines of simplicity, directness, and purpose.

the XT, the SR500 was also a hit. magazines liked it because it was than the then ubiquitous and Universal Japanese Motorcycle. As World enthused in the March, issue, Though the style is not that is, it doesn’t have and a barber’s chair for a seat, it is not at all the as so-called normal motorcycles.

The is clean and purposeful. There is no plastic. The SR500 is a motorcycle for

Cycle World must really liked the engine, and it in almost … terms as . a pulsing beast, a flood of torque, a muffled throb and a to pull. Doug’s reaction?  description is way over the top, but it is a little beast.

Testers its instant throttle response, gearing, and low weight. They it sipped fuel at a rate of (Doug says this is a little optimistic.) They some vibration, but said it bad. There were about the not-quite-sticky tires and the drag strip times.

But what really got test attention was the kick-starting drill.

Up the late Sixties, it was unusual NOT to to kick-start a bike. After 10 of electric starters, a kick-start-only was a real anomaly. Doug mind it at all — as a matter of he got this bike at a bargain because of it.

Ten years after sold the SR he had in college, he had a fit of nostalgia and he wanted another thumper. He this one through his friend Brown, a Yamaha field A dealer had died, and Brown had his dealership; all save two SRs, one red and one The silver bike (our bike) was at another dealer, in the back.

Another bike had pushed against it, breaking the meter. Aside from it was in near new condition, with 174 miles on it.

Doug remembers: The back there said, don’t want this You can’t start it.’ I knew how to start it, so I ran through the with the compression lever and it on the first or second kick.

In you want to amaze young at Yamaha dealerships and/or persons of your favorite the starting drill is fairly to commit to memory. It’s easier to work than the drill for a BSA Gold Star.

As explains: Most people put the on the centerstand, but I don’t have to. the kick lever until the is at top-…-center. Yamaha provided a window in the engine for novices, and a silver metal tang the window, you are in the right spot. in the decompression lever on the left-hand bar the grip.

Kick half way through, let the out and then ratchet back up to the You will hear a distinctive meaning the kicker is at the highest Kick as hard as you can, and it start.

Doug’s SR is the second-generation Debuting in 1980, the SR500H six pounds less than the largely due to its rear drum (replacing the original rear and smaller flywheel. From my my 1978 had a propensity for the rear to lock up on the disc. One time I was stalled by the disc locking up on the producing smoke and a red-hot It’s my belief that went back to the drum due to with the disc.

Other were tubeless tires, a carburetor, and increased oil capacity.

By apparently everyone in the United who wanted a SR500 had bought although sales in Europe and continued to be strong. Yamaha exporting SR500s to the U.S. but making them until

American owners hung on to SRs, and it became a cult favored by motorcycle messengers, and aspiring artists. Unlike the British singles, the SR500 is easy to maintain, and will put up a fair amount of abuse. As explains: I grease the chain, and put air in the

I change the oil every 3,000 I occasionally clean the air filter. The plug gets changed year. It’s a really bike — I’ve ridden it miles and haven’t had to fix it.

With time and money due to the lack of bits to fix and maintain and no chrome to SR owners tend to tinker their bikes. There is an company that makes kits to disguise a SR as a replica of one of classic British motorcycles. tanks, replica seats, and exhausts are all easily obtainable.

Joe wrote an article in the August issue of Motorcyclist describing a of modifications to the bike that add horsepower without making the harder to start. These have been so popular have become known as the Mods. A stock SR is very

Doug’s SR has only been customized. It sports drag and a bar end mirror. A 17-tooth countershaft and a Supertrapp header pipe and add top end speed.

Dual overhead oil add needed lubrication to the exhaust rocker, and Progressive Suspension springs stiffen up the front end for canyon carving.

As per Minton’s Doug installed a KN air filter and the carburetor needle. The engine better and the shimming allows gas flow to the engine. Without the the engine would run too lean and a valve. I also changed the and main jet, he says.

has also recently added a front disc rotor and steel brake lines.

likes to ride the SR around and on twisty mountain roads. It vibrate a bit. Above it smooths out, and it’s Its forte is around town — hops and canyon carving.

It is really good on twisty roads — the tighter the better.

The SR is not a lot of fun, it is also practical I have a magnetic tank bag for the SR so I can go shopping on the way home. I get 45-50mpg, on how hard I’ve been Doug says.

Each of the has their own perspective on life, but all the one-lunger. I don’t know to say about the old girl. She’s a good bike. MC


When all is said, done and the SR500 will stand on its and will stand proudly. The of One Big Cylinder and no extras is good to not need any frills. Handling?

No kidding. Imagine the unlikely of the jack rabbit agility of a RD or Ducati GT and the locomotive stability of the Jota or Kawasaki KZ1000. Or, at the of salting and emotional scar, the of, yes, the classic English

By Gads Sirs, it works.

— World . January 1978

For the Guide staffers who had never sampled a four-… street the SR500 was an education, a revelation, and a And for our testers who were familiar those classic British riding the uncomplicated, down to SR500 was like coming again — and finding that is better than ever.

— Guide . April 1978

. the SR500E is a gut machine. It’s is to the soul, not necessarily the senses — or otherwise. The secret to one-kick is to leave your cotton-picking off the throttle throughout the drill.

this as my guiding inspiration I needed more than one or two on the inoffensive kicklever to get things

— Road Rider . September

… I like the SR500. Not despite its but because of its strengths. It’s an machine that doesn’t try to the fact that it is a motorcycle.

And honesty alone is enough for the SR500 to exist.

— Cycle . December 1978

For those who the SR500 for what it is, the rewards are the effort. For them, this is the satisfying bike on the market.

— World . March 1980


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