1978 Yamaha SR500E
One of my favorite bikes from years gone by is the Yamaha TT500. Yamaha did a great job with that bike, it worked well in the desert and on trail rides. It was easy to start (sort of), easy to ride (as long as you weren’t expecting it to act like a lighter European two-stroke), and easy to maintain. Plenty of power for a big single, you could lug it down and it wouldn’t complain, it would rev higher than the Brit singles that it patterned after, it was easy to maintain and the thing I liked about a lot was that it was actually kinda of smooth running for a big thumper. It was a very good motorcycle and sold well here in the USA.
The TT spawned the XT, which was the road going / dual sport model of the time. It too was a good seller. Yamaha had a hit on its hands. There is something about a big single that once you ride one, that wonderful, powerful feeling just sticks with you and haunts you until you own one…then, a few thousand miles later you start wondering “what was I thinking?”.
Big singles are not what you would call fast. OK, before I start hearing all the ranting about the Manx Norton and the Matchless G50 and how fast they were, I’m talking about your average production single not racers, thank you for not sending me nasty e-mails. The advantage that big singles have is their stump pulling power throughout the rev range and the ability to get from corner 1 to corner 2 right now. Big singles are nice and compact which makes them easy to hustle around on tight twisty roads. On top of those features, big singles are super fun to pull big wheelies with no effort.
Yamaha was doing so well with the TT/XT models that they decided to go for a somewhat retro styled, purely street going model based on the XT. Enter the SR500. The SR had just enough of that classic ‘British’ look to look the part, but enough modern touches that didn’t make it look old. However, the SR wasn’t the solid sales success here in the west as it was else where in the world and lasted just a short while in this market. Too bad really, it was/is a good motorbike.
I found a nice SR today on ebay that if you’re looking for a very cool piece of modern classic history, this could a good choice. This particular SR is completely stock, which I like a lot. It is an unrestored original that is not showing its age too much. Paint is good, chrome is good and mileage (at 17K) is acceptable. It looks like it may have tipped over at one time as there is a small scuff on the muffler and a corresponding dent in the tank. Pretty minor. The seller says it starts and runs good so, so far so good.
Now, here are my suggestions for this bike; one…leave it completely stock and just ride it around, two…do a light cafe’ treatment (don’t go overboard here, there is no need to) and have a blast on Sunday mornings or a local bike night, three…go all out! Find a Dick Mann frame, someone out there has to have one they want to sell. The DM frame is designed for dirt but I can tell you this, it is a perfect platform for an incredible streetbike with the Yamaha single.
The SR500 isn’t that fast, it doesn’t handle all that great but if you want a fun bike that with little money and effort can be a faster, good handling vintage bike that is a blast to ride, an SR is a great choice. There are many forums and sites on the web where you can find like minded thumper nuts with ton’s of knowledge that make owning a bike like this so much fun.
Click on the pics below for more info about this SR500 and more pictures.