While working for a dealership back in the ’80’s we took in a Yamaha Venture trade in. The owner had thought he wanted a touring bike but realized he was more of a sport bike kind of guy and off he went went with a new GPZ900, and we had the SS Venture. A boat with saddle bags and a trunk.
The dealership owners knowing that I was headed off to Laguna Seca the following week for the Grand Prix offered me the Venture to ride. Now, I had only been been riding relatively lightweight, high horsepower (for the time) and somewhat decent handling (again for the time) motorcycles so getting on a big touring bike was a bit intimidating. I spent a week riding it to and from work and a casual weekend ride before loading it up with my then wife and our luggage to head north. And, No we didn’t have a sidecar but I love the thought
So there I was on the Queen Mary of motorcycles ( I hadn’t ridden a Gold Wing yet) . Tank full of gas, back seat full of wife and all the luggage full of stuff, I was scared to death. But, here’s the deal, this motorcycle could handle everything I threw at it. Two up the bike was as stable in a straight line as can be, through corners it was very predictable (albeit slow handling) and then there is that motor. The big Yamaha V4 delivered as much power as you wanted, when and where you wanted and with no muss or fuss. It was truly wonderful. Once I got used to riding a big touring bike I started thinking maybe this is for me?…Thank goodness my better sense took hold. Back to my GPZ. But still, that Yamaha gave me a whole new perspective and at this point in my life it’s becoming a bit more clear.
I found a really nice Venture on ebay today only 26K miles. Fully loaded and dirt cheap. From what I can see this is a buy,fly and ride it home bike…even with your ex wife on the back!?
Click on the pics below for a bit more info. This is a very cool tourer. A little suspension work, modern tires and this is a travel the country with no worries.
<a target=”_self” href=”http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1983+Yamaha+Venture&icep_item=331932548800&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg”>1983 Yamaha Venture</a><img style=”text-decoration:none;border:0;padding:0;margin:0;” src=”http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1983+Yamaha+Venture&item=331932548800&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D”>
This is one of the great motorcycles. But….
It had to compete with the mighty Z1 from Kawasaki, the CB750 from Honda and the GT750 from Suzuki. A pretty big hill to climb.
Yamaha already had the very popular RD series of small two stroke twins, then came the “let’s beat the Brits at their own game” with XS650, but still needed something different. Let’s go after BMW. The TX series of 500’s and 750’s twins didn’t do all that well so again, the Tuning Fork followed Triumph and developed a Triple. It worked.
The XS 750 isn’t the most svelte in it’s class even compared to the Bavarian R75 but it works. The Yamaha Triple is a wonderful motor, it may not have the horsepower of other bikes in it’s class but what it does have is drivability. It isn’t peaky, It’s got just the right amount of torque to allow you to enjoy the ride solo or two up.
The XS 750 is a perfect platform for a classic Sport tourer. Reliable motor, shaft drive and good ergonomics make a great bike. But then…with some suspension mods the XS becomes a Euro Sport. Is at all positive? No.The XS750 requires attention, you have to keep up with the service. Drive shaft and transmission fluids, the motor does tend to use oil (not as much as my Buell) but keep on top of those things and you have a great bike.
In the late ’70’s every motorcycle manufacturer was trying to out-do each other. In the bigger picture, the Japanese won, in the enthusiast world, Europe won. What Yamaha did was build a bridge and did a good job.
I found a really nice XS750 on ebay today that is a true ‘fly and ride’ bike. The bike is in Canada, you’re going have to do a bit a of paperwork but it will be worth it. Think about it this way, you get a cool bike at a very good price and you get to ride it home…hit the whole Continental US and a bunch of Canada. How much fun can you have for a bike that will cost you less than a grand??!
Click on the link below for more pictures and info. Happy riding
<a target=”_self” href=”http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1977+Yamaha+XS750+Triple&icep_item=182121615441&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg”>
1977 Yamaha XS750 Triple</a><img style=”text-decoration:none;border:0;padding:0;margin:0;” src=”http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1977+Yamaha+XS750+Triple&item=182121615441&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D”>
OK, I’ve said this before…I need a bigger barn. And a bigger bank account. But I have to say this is one bike I would really like to have. I almost bought one back in 1981 but for some reason I bought a Honda CB750F. I don’t regret that at all, but somewhere in my heart that XV920 still lingers. My good friends Eric and Ken also have this affliction for the XV and between the two of them I think they have five or six! Some run, some are donor bikes and a couple are, well, the best way to describe them is ‘Frankenbike’.
When I first saw the XV920 at Van Nuys Yamaha I was taken by the shape of the tank and seat, the big 8″ headlight and the enclosed chain drive (which I was used to on my Bultaco Matador). The only thing about the bike that I didn’t like was the funky looking tail section. I was given the opportunity to test ride it and I liked it a lot. The suspension was a bit weak, the tires were skinny even by the standards of the day, but those were things that could have been fixed. Still to this day, I wonder why I bought the CB750 instead? Price? maybe. But in reality, the Honda handled better and was faster, but there was still something about that Yamaha, that to this day holds my interest.
The XV wasn’t really designed to go after the big four cylinder bikes from Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki of the time but more the Europeans, Ducati and BMW. Hence the styling and general power. The XV didn’t have a lot of horsepower but it did have torque by the boat load. The mid range of the bike was amazing. Back to my choosing the CB750 versus the XV, it was that blast of power once you hit the higher rev range, which is exactly where the Yamaha ran out of steam. But still, in the real world, mid range is where you need the power.
The XV920 was not a good seller for Yamaha and it only lasted two years in the US market. The cruiser styled Virago continued for many years. The American style. The XV920 is a really a bike that you ride cross country easily and comfortably. A few tweaks to the suspension and you have a great Sunday morning Cafe racer. The bike is wonderfully reliable (typical Yamaha), great looking (in my view) and you probably won’t see one at your local Sunday morning hangout. It is unique and I still want one.
The XV lends itself to all kinds of customizing and parts still available at your local friendly Yamaha dealer.
I found a really nice one on ebay today that is selling for a really good price. Yeah, it needs the basic level of love (maybe a little more…) like a battery, carbs cleaned and electrics checked over but it is stock and looks good. It’s not the send a check , fly out and ride it home bike (besides it’s sitting the snow) but for a few extra bucks you can have it freighted home , spend a few days working on it and you’ll be ready for Spring riding.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.
This motorbike is an absolute blast to ride. It does everything almost perfect! Fast enough to keep you out of trouble, and fast enough to get you into trouble! What more could you ask for?
In 1981 a couple of friends and I were going to Laguna Seca for the USGP as we had been for a couple of years. This trip one of the guys showed up on a brand new Yamaha XJ550, I mean ‘Brand New’! He brought it home from the dealer the day before. Beautiful bike. But, Since the rest of us were riding well broken in 750’s and 900’s we were wondering how well Roger would keep up. Turns out we were the ones keeping up!
After Roger picked up his bike he rode it to Monterey and back the same day, did the oil change that night, threw some clothes in a backpack (we weren’t into fancy motorcycle luggage back then) and met us for breakfast. Roger had already run the route so we knew where the parts of Highway 1 were good and bad. That little 550 proved to be a flyer. Roger didn’t baby it by any stretch of the imagination. Footpegs dragging and cornering like it was on rails. It needs to be added here that Roger was, and probably still is, an incredibly smooth and skilled rider and made the most of that Yamaha. After I( had my turn riding it I was tempted to trade in my CB750F. Tempted, but kept the CB.
I have seen some customized versions and some that are still stock. The XJ550 is reliable and fun. What more could you ask for?!
I found a very nice one this morning on ebay. Low miles, all stock, in nice condition for it’s age and with some standard TLC should be a great ride. The seller says it’s rare…it’s not but that doesn’t take anything away from it. I believe the XJ550 is one of Yamaha’s great bikes because it did everything so well. There were a couple of guys I raced with at Willow Springs on the 550 and were quite successful. One guy actually rode his 100 miles to the track, took off the street stuff (light and blinkers), raced all weekend, put everything back on and rode home!!! A great bike.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info
The Yamaha ‘Tuning Fork’ logo is historically important because Yamaha has been in the piano business since 1887, motorcycles didn’t come along until 1954…The YA-1 ‘Red Dragonfly’, 125cc of two stroke fun.
Post World War Two was a big time for small displacement motorcycles around the world and truthfully, other than here in America, they still are. Small displacement bikes are used by commuters, police, mail delivery, just about everyone, even your Dominoes Pizza in Mexico gets delivered on a 125!
Through the 1950’s and into the 1960’s the motorcycle business here in the U.S was dominated by the British and Harley Davidson. I know that some of you will disagree with me and that’s Ok…but the Japanese were coming and they were coming fast. It didn’t take them long to go from ‘Jap Crap’ to serious competition for the US buyers dollars. I use the term ‘Jap Crap’ only because it was a common feeling and, in some cases true, at the time.
Yamaha was the first to successfully to take on the Brits with the XS650 twin, it was also Yamaha’s first four stroke motorcycle. Following the heels of the XS650 Yamaha went after the big Brit singles. 1976 brought the TT500. Big torque,big powerband, Yamaha reliability and easy to start…by comparison to the BSA B50 and Gold Star.
The TT500 found its success in long off-road races particularly the Paris-Dakar where in 1979 (the first of the Paris Dakar Rallys) Yamaha took the top two places, the second year of the rally Yamaha took the top four! places.
The TT500 leant itself to heavy modifications the best of which was the Dick Mann chassis. I have ridden a TT500 with the DM frame and it did wonders for the bike. The TT as it is was a bit slow handling, not bad, you just had to plan ahead a bit more than on a lighter bike, but it is still a great bike. Yamaha hit a home run with the TT, it spawned the XT500 (the street legal version which also in my mind really created the Adventure Touring market that BMW then perfected) and the SR500 (Yamaha’s factory Cafe Racer…which I still love and lust after!).
I found a really nice TT500 on ebay today, yeah it’s got some flaws but hey…it’s old. It is a low hour (according to the seller…) runner. I would simply get it, give it a good through and love riding it. Or…search around for a Dick Mann frame (you can just call Dick Mann Specialties and get one…$$$$) and turn it into a really cool street bike. Or…get a Champion frame for it and go vintage flat track racing. The TT will be anything you want and be happy doing it.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.
Is there a motorcycle in your past that you regret ‘not’ buying? Many of us have come home with a bike that once it is in our garage we asked ourselves “what was I thinking?” Worse yet is when your significant other asks you the same question, in a much different tone of voice. And then even worse yet is when you rationalize the purchase and start tearing it all apart to ‘restore’ it or ‘customize’ it and coming to the realization that you made a mistake. You DFU’d.
Next scenario…years ago you were choosing between two new motorcycles, your significant other had given approval for either one (he or she didn’t care which one you bought they just wanted you to stop asking them which one you should get, asking all your friends which one to get, because they were getting annoyed by you at this point as well, “Just flip a coin and buy one…”).
Scenario number three…you bought one of the two but in the back of your mind you still keep thinking about the other one. Fast forward two, three, four decades and while driving home one day you see one parked in a driveway with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. It’s the exact model you looked at all those years ago, color and all. You turn around, you write down the phone number and hurry home with your heart pounding. You run in the door, the S.O is there, you tell him or her about the bike, the checkbook is looked at, you get the green light and the phone call is made…the bike was sold five minutes ago.
This is a true story, mine. The bike was a Yamaha XS650. I have loved that bike since the first day I sat on one at International Motorcycles in Canoga Park. Having spent years on Brit Bikes, I felt right at home on the Yamaha.
The Yamaha was also a successful racer, it powered ‘King’ Kenny Roberts to the AMA Grand National Championship, when it really was a Grand National Championship but that’s a whole ‘nother story. The XS is still very popular in Vintage Flat Track racing.
The XS650 is the perfect platform for any customization…cafe racer, street tracker, chopper, tourer, vintage flat tracker… it just plain ol’ works. The motor is gorgeous, reliable and easy to work on. The chassis lends itself to mods very easily and there are a lot of aftermarket suppliers that can help you make an XS the bike of your dreams. Now you just have to get one.
I found a really nice 1977 model on ebay today. It is a runner that has been gone through pretty well. It’s completely stock, which is always perfect in my book, that way you can customize it any way you want or just leave it as it is and enjoy it.
Oh, and did I mention it can be customized really well…
Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures. This is a really nice bike for the price.
The last of the air cooled two stroke Sportbikes in America. “Really great performance for not much money” is how Cycle Magazine described the Yamaha RD400. The RD series from Yamaha, no matter what size, was a motorcycle that I like to say has a ‘high giggle factor’.
My first experience on a Yamaha RD was when my step-dad bought my mom an RD250. He and I rode a lot and he figured that she would like to ride as well. After a couple of in the cul-de-sac lessons mom decided that motorcycling was not for her. Now what to do with the little Yammie? Ride it!!! Being that Michael (step-dad) was a die hard Brit bike guy, I got the pleasure of flying past him on tight twisty roads on this ‘little’ two-stroke. Great fun.
In the late 70’s and into the 80’s the Yamaha two strokes were dominant in club racing. The twins were light, they handled great and were easy to make faster. Yamaha, at the pro level, had already proven its little twins could beat bigger four strokes. Young people could get into performance motorcycling and still be working at McDonalds.
What made these little bikes so great then and still popular today? It’s called ‘feel’. Off the bottom any four stroke will pull away from a two stroke but, once ‘on the pipe’, a two stroke has a responsiveness that can’t be matched. Some will say that the powerband on a high performance two stroke is much like a light switch, it’s on or off and no in between. For some two strokes that was true, but by time Yamaha brought the RD400 a lot of that was cured (kind of?) mainly because of trying to meet emission standards, particularly here in California. But nonetheless, a good two stroke has that instant response when your right wrist wants it.
The RD motor is great but what really sets the motorcycle apart is its handling. The RD’s are incredibly intuitive, they know you want to turn before you do! In 1979, Yamaha gave the RD400 a better suspension, moved the foot peg mounting bracket above the muffler, which gave the bike better cornering clearance, but it still wasn’t uncommon to drag the mufflers…that’s how good these bikes handled, and lighter wheels and brakes. Less unsprung weight makes for quicker more responsive handling. handling. The RD series was always a very confidence inspiring motorcycle, and a very fun ‘hooligan’ bike.
I found a really nice ’79 RD400 Daytona Special on ebay today that is selling for a very reasonable price (so far). It is not running, has the normal ‘patina’ for a bike it’s age, that means some rust here and there and faded paint. I’m thinking that all it needs to be a good rider is a a new battery, clean the carbs, air filter, you probably would want to put a new set of tires on it and just go through it with a fine tooth comb. Don’t bother doing a full ‘restoration’, just make it rideable and have a blast. This is probably one of the easiest winter projects I can find.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. This really is a cool bike to have…too bad I have too many other projects in the works and not quite enough room. One last thing, for those that like traveling on a smaller bike, the RD400 was probably one of the best you get. I would not think twice about traveling cross country on an RD400.
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.
I have always been attracted to oddball motorcycles, yet another psychological flaw I can attribute my step-father. Bultaco, Greeves, any English bike and big thumpers. Sure, I’ve owned my fair share of UJM’s, my favorite being my 1980 Honda CB750F, but I like riding a bike that you don’t see a hundred of when you pull up to your favorite Sunday morning breakfast stop. I also have to admit that I have a few Honda CB350 twins that just happen to probably be the largest selling motorcycle of all time(?) but nowadays you really don’t see many of those on the road.
The bikes that really get me going are Thumpers. A big single can be just about anything, and everything, you need. Thumpers are generally lightweight, narrow, low center of gravity and built for quick handling. The motors are simple…hey its only got one cylinder…and have a wonderful sound. A big single has a feel and soul that really does let you be, almost force you to be, one with your motorcycle. Granted, when you’re out having fun on a Sunday morning multi cylinder bikes will just gobble up your single on the straightaways, but throw in the tight twisties and bigger faster bikes are going to be in your rear view mirrors.
Big singles, like many other ‘cult’ bikes generate passion in their owners but I think just because of how singles feel, that passion, that love, is strongest…but that’s just me. Well, I’m not really alone on that one, there are so many forums and Yahoo groups dedicated to thumpers that you will never be lacking for companionship and camaraderie. The support groups are out there for those that feel they need a twelve step program to deal with the ‘Thumper addiction’.
There is a classic thumper on ebay today. The Yamaha SRX 600 is a bike that was only brought to the US one year, 1986. Yamaha had a minor success with the SR500 some years earlier and were having good sales with the SRX400 in Japan. Some true believers at Yamaha corporate believed that the time was right to bump up the SRX, give it good components and send it out into the world. Well, it pretty much went over like a fart in church.
Here’s what Yamaha did, they took the motor from popular XT series dual sports, stuffed into the SRX400 chassis, gave it good bits from the FZ600 (so it would handle and stop well), created a gorgeous body work but…gave it true class by making it kick start only. When most people think of having to kick start a 600 single they would probably choose a root canal first but, the SRX with its built in compression release mechanism is really easy to start…get the piston up to top dead center, set the choke, turn the key and give it a good swift kick. The beautiful sound of a big thumper fills the air. There is one little thing I have to tell you about these bikes…during the starting ritual, don’t even think about touching the throttle! Don’t even look at it, with the two carbs, this bike is way too easy to flood and then all you can do is have another ice tea and wait a bit or hope you’re on a downhill so you can bump start it. The SRX is a true enthusiasts motorcycle, I love ’em.
There is one on ebay today that needs a new home. According to the seller the bike spent a good portion of its life outside (under a cover) and shows the moderate amount of corrosion that goes with that life. He did start the project but then went on to others. Before abandoning the SRX he had the carbs rebuilt, bought new tires, chain,brake pads,battery,cables and more. It was a runner before it was parked so maybe the few new parts and a good clean up, you could have yourself a really unique and fun motorcycle. Click on the pics below for more info and pictures. I have seen really nice SRX’s go for as much a $4000, so far I think this will sell at a good value.
I see that look in your eyes; the look you get when you and your friends are talking about classic Grand Prix racing, the “don’t talk to me now, I’m watching the race” look, the way your ears perk up when you hear a classic 2 stroke on full song, the smile you get when you’re pulling on your leathers at the track on race day, and that deep in your soul lust for the smell of burning two-stroke oil. You my friend are a sick puppy…and you’re my kind of motorcyclist.
We don’t ride average motorcycles. We are the type that believe that if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room, that motorcycles are far more than mere transportation but it is our mode of transportation everyday. We look for the most entertaining route to work and we say to our loved ones on Sunday morning “I’m going for a short ride, I’ll be back by lunch” then we arrive home late for supper. The sides of your tires are worn out long before the center and your motorcycle insurance premium alone would probably feed one hundred children in Africa for a year. We couldn’t live life any other way no matter how hard we try…lucky us.
Today on ebay I found the perfect motorcycle for the true adrenaline junkie in us all, a beautiful 1986 Suzuki RG500 Gamma. This is a true, honest to goodness real racebike that just happens to have a horn and blinkers. This bike is the closest thing to a Grand Prix racer you could buy back in the 80’s. Suzuki’s very potent square four 95 horsepower two-stroke motor slipped into a very lightweight aluminum box section frame, a race bred suspension, brakes that would stop you on a dime (and give you nine cents change), and beautiful slippery bodywork. There is one thing about the RG500 that is not so perfect, the powerband. The Gamma had a light switch for a throttle, the motor was either just loafing along (which it didn’t like doing at all!) or it was scaring the daylights out of you. The powerband was narrow and all at the top end of the rev range, the RG is a bike that when you are riding it you really have to be at the top of your game. It’s wonderful.
When the RG500 came to market (which by the way never did come to market here in the US so any one you find more than likely came through the grey market from Canada) it was based on seven consecutive years of 500cc Grand Prix Championships!!. Yamaha at the time was also selling it’s wonderful RZ500 but Suzuki out did the Yamaha by bringing in the Gamma with more horsepower and nearly fifty pounds lighter. Officially, the RG500 was only produced for two years, 1986 and 87 but there some out there that are titled through 1989. As wonderful as these bikes were, sales didn’t reach the potential that Suzuki (or Yamaha for that matter) expected, the buying public wasn’t really ready for a street going race bike. Today a modern Sportbike will easily leave an RG500 in its wake, but that wake won’t have that sweet two-stroke smell that stirs a real enthusiasts soul.
If you want a classic ‘racebike with blinkers and a horn’ click on the pictures below for more info and pictures. I have a feeling this bike is going to sell for a very reasonable price considering its beautiful condition.