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.