Bridging the Gap: 1972 Yamaha R5 350

The Yamaha R5 bridged the gap between road and track and had a lasting effect on amateur road racing in the U.S.

| March/April 2020


1972 Yamaha R5 350

Engine: 347cc air-cooled 2-stroke parallel twin, 64mm x 54mm bore and stroke, 7.5:1 compression ratio, 36hp @ 7,000rpm (claimed, 1970 model)
Top speed: 100mph (claimed), 95.31mph (period test, 1970 model)
Carburetion: Two Mikuni VMSC 28mm
Transmission: 5-speed constant-mesh, left-foot shift, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v, AC generator, ignition points
Frame/wheelbase: Tubular double cradle frame/52.8in (1,341mm)
Suspension: Telescopic forks front, dual coil-over shocks rear
Brakes: 7.2in (183mm) TLS drum front, 7.2in (183mm) drum rear
Tires: 3 x 18in front, 3.5 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 326lb (148kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.2 gal (12.1ltr)/34mpg (period test, 1970)
Price then/now: $739/$2,000-$7,000

By the late 1960s Yamaha’s production racers, the TD (250cc) and TR (350cc)  were enjoying unparalleled success on racetracks around the world. But the racers’ street bike counterparts — Yamaha’s bread and butter consumer products — were showing their age.

Compared to other contemporary middleweight models on the market, bikes like Honda’s CB350 and Kawasaki’s Avenger A7 350, Yamaha’s DS6 (250cc) and R3 (350cc) models relied on 10-year-old technology to lure customers into dealer showrooms. No surprise, sales began to lag.


That was about to change in 1970 with the launch of two all-new models — the DS7 (250) and R5 (350). Beyond engine displacement, these new models were joined at the hip in many ways, sharing similar and updated platforms.

But when Yamaha Motor Corporation released those two models (the R5 in particular) the folks at headquarters in Hamamatsu, Japan, had no idea that the new roadsters — both powered by all-new air-cooled twin-cylinder 2-stroke engines — would have a lasting impact on amateur road racing in America. And the R5, in particular, did exactly that.

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