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MC Dispatch

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High-Mileage Classics: Glenn Gerein's Rare 1984 Yamaha XJ750RLs

1984 Yamaha XJ750RL 1 
One of Glenn Gerein's rare 1984 Yamaha XJ750RLs. 

Yamaha only made 887 of these 1984 Yamaha XJ750RL motorcycles; 601 came to Canada and the rest went to Australia.

It is almost identical to the Yamaha XJ900RK that was sold in the U.S. in 1983 and 1984, but it has the smaller engine, a frame-mounted fairing and no anti-dive forks. Other than that, all parts are interchangeable. They even share the same factory shop manual.

I have two, one set up with a sidecar so depending on my mood or the weather I can have a bit of variety in my riding style. The solo bike has 86,000km on the clock, which works out to about 54,000 miles. I originally bought it as a parts bike because it had an almost new set of factory exhaust pipes that are no longer available. The engine had issues but everything else was intact, so I decided to bring it back to life two winters ago. I had another engine kicking around that I had soda blasted and repainted along with the frame. I left all the body panels with the faded patina, rebuilt the carbs and the brake systems, redid the front forks, installed new wheel bearings and tires, and wired in a new fuse box.

The old girl runs like a champ. These are great bikes, with two valves per cylinder, double overhead cams, four carbs and shaft drive. They are simple to work on and everything is easy to get at. Most mechanical parts are readily available, but finding original body parts is getting harder.

1984 yamaha xj750rl 2 
Glenn's other 1984 Yamaha XJ750RL with a Gazelle sidecar. 

The Gazelle sidecar I found in a backyard five years ago. I was searching for a bike to mount it on when I came across the other XJ in a salvage yard. It needed work; the owner kept promising me he would get it running, but it never happened. Every time I stopped by for a visit there was another part missing. The thing was slowly being cannibalized, so I decided to drag it home before it turned into a pile of rust and scale.

I spent a winter on this one as well, doing all the maintenance, hooking up the car and getting it painted to match. Two summers ago, I rode it from British Columbia out through the Rocky Mountains and Alberta to Saskatchewan. I put on 3,300km (2,050 miles) in a week and it never missed a beat. I’m not sure exactly how many miles are on this one as it has a different engine in it, as well.

I really enjoy these old bikes — they are good all-rounders, and quite peppy for their age. You can tour with them and they handle very well in the twisties. Whenever I take the sidecar out for a spin, I have to allow a little extra time to socialize. It seems to attract people who like to chat. There’s a great community of XJ enthusiasts at www.xjbikes.com; without them, I’m sure my bikes would be a box of rusting parts. Here's a video demonstrating what it's like to go for an early morning ride witht he sidecar on southern Vancouver Island: