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.