Tag Archives: vintage yamaha

1983 Yamaha Venture

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 7.06.54 AMWhile 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

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 7.15.17 AMSo 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”&gt;Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 8.02.38 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-08 at 8.02.26 AM1983 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”&gt;

1977 Yamaha XS750

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 7.54.17 AMThis 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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 8.51.26 AMThe 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”&gt;Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 7.32.41 AM

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Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 7.33.36 AM1977 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”&gt;

1982 Yamaha XV920RJ

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.22.06 AMOK, 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.
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The XV lends itself to all kinds of customizing and parts still available at your local friendly Yamaha dealer.
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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.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 7.40.18 AM1982 Yamaha XV920 RJ

1981 Yamaha XJ550R

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.53.56 AMThis 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.
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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.

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Click on the pics below for more pictures and info

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Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 8.09.16 AM1981 Yamaha XJ550R

1976 Yamaha TT500

Picture 39The 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.Picture 33

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!Picture 38

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.

Picture 43The 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!).Picture 32

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.

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Picture 51976 Yamaha TT500

1977 Yamaha XS650

Picture 12Is 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…”).

Picture 17Scenario 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.Picture 15

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…
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Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures. This is a really nice bike for the price.

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Picture 111977 Yamaha XS650

1979 Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special

Picture 5The 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.Picture 6

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.

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Picture 151979 Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special