1982 Yamaha XJ650 Seca
Time has not been kind to many bikes of the late Seventies and early Eighties
Sturdy, reliable, comfortable and fun, the one-year-only XJ650RJ Seca makes a great rider.
Yamaha XJ650 Seca
Years produced: 1982
Claimed power: 48hp @ 9,000rpm
Top speed: 127mphEngine type: 653cc double-overhead cam, air-cooled inline four
Weight (wet): 502lb (228kg)
MPG: 47.5 (period test)
Price then: $3,099
Price now: $800-$2,000
Time has not been kind to many bikes of the late Seventies and early Eighties. For every well-known and appreciated classic, there’s a boatload of models with lousy suspensions, buckhorn bars, stepped seats and bad graphics. But there are a few less celebrated (or remembered) models out there that are still great bikes today, and the Yamaha XJ650 Seca is one of them.
The perfect mix
Like its mid-Eighties competitor, the Suzuki GS650G, the Yamaha XJ650 Seca combined a sport-tuned, air-cooled, 8-valve DOHC four-cylinder engine and shaft drive. These days, shafts are only for big bikes, and air-cooled fours have all but disappeared thanks to tightening emissions.
When these bikes were designed in the late Seventies, the motorcycle market had yet to splinter into the myriad niches we know today — though a sporting or touring stance was often achieved with styling changes. So it was with Yamaha’s 650 four. Announced in 1980, two versions of the 650 were produced: the sporting Seca for the European market and the “custom” (the term was just entering the motorcycle lexicon) Maxim for the U.S. The Maxim featured high bars, a stepped seat, a 17in rear wheel and breathing modifications including Yamaha’s swirl-inducing YICS — Yamaha Induction Control System — intakes designed to pacify the EPA. It sold well.
But moto-journalists are an inquisitive lot. Some of the U.S. motorcycling press managed to get their hands on a 650 Seca “Eurobike,” and quickly became enamored. “The Yamaha XJ650 isn’t just a great motorcycle,” wrote Michael Jordan in the November 1980 issue of Cycle Guide. “It’s the best American bike your Pounds, Francs, Lire or Deutschmarks can buy. Yamaha might not have any immediate plans to market it in the U.S., but the Euro-XJ’s performance profile perfectly suits the riding requirements of this country.”
What the journos liked was the all-day capable, ever-so-slightly sporting stance of the Yamaha XJ650 Seca compared with the sit-up-and-beg posture of the Maxim. They also appreciated the sportier suspension, sharper steering, greater power output, better brakes and increased fuel capacity.
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