1980 Yamaha SR500
Durable and easy to maintain, the Yamaha SR500 became a cult favorite among classic motorcycle fans
The British single that wasn't: Yamaha's SR500
Photos by Nick Cedar
1980 Yamaha SR500
Years produced: 1978-81
Total production: 15,000 (est.)
Claimed power: 33hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 96mph
Engine type: Overhead cam, air-cooled single
Weight (dry): 160kg (353lb)
Price then: $1,898 (1980)
Price now: $1,000-$2,500
Doug Ratliff is a happy person. Or maybe he's two or three happy people when it comes to his 1980 Yamaha SR500.
Doug Number One believes he was born an artist. "I've always been into art," he says. "My high school ceramics teacher was my idol. He set me on my course."
Doug Number Two (sometimes known as Flash) is an aficionado of fast new Triumph motorcycles. "As a child, I gravitated to Fox minibikes. My brothers were the ‘Gasoline Alley' kids — they were both into engines. I broke my leg at age 13 with a friend on a Honda. It healed up, and I wanted more bike. I bought a black 1978 Yamaha SR and rode it all through college."
Doug Number Three is a collector of classic motorcycles. "I found a Norton, bemired in dirt, and fell in love. To this day, the smell of shellacked gasoline and a beat up motorcycle, and it's love."
The Norton led to a job at Hall-Burdette, a British bike dealership in Northern California, and another mentor, John Burdette. "He was the best, the man. He's now in his 80s and he's still great."
Luckily for all the Dougs, he discovered he was good at teaching. "I looked around for options. I was interested in survival, but I also wanted to give back to the community. I've been teaching since 1984." Now on his third Triumph triple, Doug rides almost every day. "I ride to work unless it's snowing or I have to truck in a load of clay for the kids."
Doug now owns a collection of 20 classic motorcycles (in addition to his three new bikes), an eclectic group of whatever has taken his fancy at one time or another. One of them is this 1980 Yamaha SR500, and it's a bike that all three Dougs can agree on.
Americans became enamored of single-cylinder 500cc motorcycles after World War II, when BSA Gold Stars, Norton Manxes and Velocettes became widely available on this side of the pond. The Gold Star worked wonderfully off road, and many competitors desert raced and flat-tracked them during the Forties, Fifties and early Sixties. Multi-cylinders started to take over in the mid-Fifties, and by the mid-Seventies, thumpy singles were something of an anachronism. Enter the Yamaha XT.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>