Smiles Per Mile: 1970 Yamaha HT1

"This little Yam reminds me of why I got into vintage motorcycles in the first place."

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by Seth Trench

The little Yamaha fell into a burbling idle once I finally found neutral. The HT1 transmission likes to pop right past it, and much prefers first or second.

It takes a persuasive and subtle foot to find that passive notch between the gears.  I figure it’s because the Yam just likes riding so much — can’t blame the little guy, I do too. I slowly let out the clutch to confirm neutral was selected and kick out the side stand. I reach down to turn off the gas valve, and by the time I looked up, a small crowd is already gathering.

The yellow little Yamaha with the funky front end is always crowd favorite wherever it goes. Most males over the age of 45 or so forget their present company and are magnetically drawn to the little enduro, smiles on their faces. Phones are unholstered like the O.K. Corral, pics are taken, and childhood stories ensue. “I had one just like it … Hold on, is that original?” That’s usually how the first question is lobbed, an extended finger pointing toward the replica Swenco front end. “How does it work?” Is usually question number two.  I’ll push my foot down on the back of the cast aluminum “horseshoe” forcing the suspension to compress and will be typically met with “oohs” and “aahs” from the perplexed bystanders.

To use the cliche “smiles per mile,” this slightly modified 1970 Yamaha HT1 is the clear and runaway winner in my garage. As I survey my carefully curated collection of vintage motorcycles, I often recall my humble beginnings in the world of obsolete two-wheelers. I started with a seized and rusted Honda C110 found at a garage sale, and now, well, there are more bikes in my garage than my wife would prefer. I have definitely “leveled up” over the years as my tastes have become more sophisticated and refined, or so I thought. I am first to admit that I have fallen into the “buy and sell” side of the vintage motorcycle world over the last decade as I have bought, sold, and flipped in order to get more prestigious and higher-dollar machines in my possession. Most of them sit silently under covers-too rare or valuable to use much. But the question often lingers in the back of my mind: What’s the point?

  • Updated on Aug 16, 2022
  • Originally Published on Aug 5, 2022
Tagged with: restoration, yamaha
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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