In 1975, when J. Randy Riggs was the senior editor of Cycle World magazine, Cycle World and rival Cycle magazine were battling it out for the number one spot in American motorcycle magazine sales. One way to get a leg up on the competition was to get exclusive stories on new models.
At this time, Joe Parkhurst was the Cycle World publisher. Randy remembers him as "a wonderful guy - best guy I ever worked for." Under Joe's leadership, Cycle World was the first magazine to give serious recognition to the Japanese manufacturers, and the magazine was often rewarded for his interest with a first crack at new models.
Parkhurst then owned an interest in the Saddleback Park off road facility in Southern California. Randy remembers: "We used a back area of the park for the secret test of the first TT500 pre-production model in the Summer of 1975, out of public view." Photos taken during the test were later enlarged, colorized, mounted, and used as a backdrop for the annual Yamaha dealer's meeting in October of that year, where the TT500 was introduced. The importer gave Randy one of these murals, and Randy has kept it over the years.
Randy remembers the TT500 with a great deal of affection. "I liked riding the prototype so much we asked for it on a long term loan basis. It wasn't a racer - it was too heavy. For a cowtrailer, fire road companion and reliable play bike, it was perfect. It became my Baja bike for a year. The only problem I had with it was a flat front tire, and I rode it hard - I maintained it, changed the oil and so on, but I didn't baby it at all. I remember thinking when I had to return it, I'm going to miss this bike.
"We tested a lot of bikes, and after a while they all blend together. This one was on the radar. It was one of the few that stood out in that time period."
To read our review of the TT500 from the November/December 2008 issue, go here.