’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