Two-Stroke Scramble: 1968 Yamaha Big Bear

When Al Roller came across this 1968 Yamaha YDS-3C Big Bear, he tore it down to the frame and restored it to perfection.

| March/April 2014

1968 Yamaha YDS-3C Big Bear
Claimed Power:
28hp @ 8,000rpm
Top Speed: 85mph (period test)
Engine: 246cc air-cooled 2-stroke parallel twin, 56mm x 50mm
Weight (wet): 349lb (159kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.1gal (15.5ltr)/75mpg (period test)
Price then/now: $690 (1965)/$3,000-$5,000

Yamaha motorcycles have indelibly marked Al Roller. They had to. He grew up just 100 yards from the local Yamaha of Port Washington, Wis., dealership and his family — mom, dad, two sisters and brother — all rode trail bikes bearing the tuning fork badge. And — how cool is this? — Allen’s mom used to take him to school two-up on a 1973 Yamaha AT125.

“Motorcycling was a family affair,” Al explains. Born in 1969, Al was 8 when he got his first Yamaha, a 1976 GT80. Although many other Yamahas surrounded Al, the model he clearly remembers the most is the 250cc Yamaha Big Bear, a motorcycle that had very few changes to its architecture during a short production run from 1965 to 1968. “The older guys used to ride Big Bears around the dealership, and you knew they were special because they were loud and fast,” Al says.

Al went on to compete in motocross and stand-up jet ski racing, and his first street bike was a 1984 Yamaha FJ600. Motorcycles remain almost a singular passion for Al, now a toolmaker working at Strohwig Industries in Richfield, Wis. His family continues to ride, including his wife, Erica, and their three sons. One day, the boys will likely inherit Dad’s collection of vintage Yamahas, which continues to grow as Al can fund the purchases. Included among several other Yamahas in the garage are a 1975 RD250, a 1972 U7E (his mom’s first bike, and already something of a family heirloom), and a 1975 DT175 he just picked up.

A favorite discovered

Al’s favorite Yamaha might just be this 1968 Yamaha YDS-3C Big Bear Scrambler. Back in 2000, Al was at a local motorcycle accessory shop buying a helmet. That was when he noticed a “For Sale” ad posted to the bulletin board: “Big Bear Scrambler 250 Twin, $450 OBO,” it read. There were a couple of pull-tabs with the seller’s number, and Al followed up.

Al’s older brother Dan is an accomplished rider and worked for a time at the local Yamaha dealership. Al appreciates Dan’s knowledge of the brand. “My brother and I went to look the next day, and when I asked him if he thought it was worth it, my brother said, ‘If you don’t buy it, I will,’” Al recalls. “I offered him $425 and he accepted, so it came home with me.”

3/6/2014 11:40:51 AM

My first real bike was Big Bear scrambler, so this brings back a lot of memories for me. All the cool kids in high school were riding Honda 305 scramblers. I wanted to ride, but was never one to follow the crowd, so I went for a Yamaha 305. I had no idea what 2-stroke meant(or 4-stroke, for that matter), so was rather surprised when it first fired up. Sure sounded odd. But I quickly learned that not only was it faster than the 305 Hondas, it was also faster than the newer CB350 Hondas that had just come out. I seem to recall the tank sides being chrome, rather than the white. And the tank had a large chrome acorn nut on top, which served as a vent. Same exhaust pipes as are on the this 250, and yes it's LOUD with the baffles removed. My 60 year old ears are now paying the price for my then-16 year old experiments in exhaust tuning. Thanks for the memories.

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