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.
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.