Love for 3-Cylinder Bikes


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3-cylinder bike 

Seeing 3-cylinder bikes in your last two issues knocked my socks off, and I wondered if together we could do, well, a triple play.

During Wisconsin’s last cold winter I worked up a 1981 Yamaha XS850. It’s basically stock, with some mods to make it into an old man’s café racer (comfort before function). The work pays off whenever someone counts the pipes, wondering if it was a four and I cut one off, or a twin and I added one. Nothing sounds like a triple at the stop light, and pulling away from it offers a pleasing pull. To further confuse onlookers I completely de-badged it and sport “GEE IDUNNO 3” on the side covers.

It’s an endless wonder of ideas and innovations motorcycle companies are willing to try, and we are all fortunate your awesome magazine brings them to us. —“Blue” Mike and Lana Peterson/Chetek, Wis.

6/3/2020 4:41:07 AM

I had a couple of XS750Es [electronic ignition model with red/silver panels], one snazzed up with 3 into one exhaust, full fairing etc, the second a stocker with just a set of Koni shocks. The 3-1 stuffed up the steady flow of power, the stocker was a gem, lovely sound, very solid handling, great seat, brilliant 8" halogen headlight, great controls [ none of the crap that is now obligatory on modern bikes] self-cancelling indicators [ why isnt that technology obligatory on all bikes these days??]. A truly great all-rounder. No wonder it didnt sell......

3/10/2014 6:56:29 AM

Nice to see this classic, Blue Mike. When I was teaching in Osaka in 1980, one of the instructors offered me an almost new XS-750 - for only five hundred dollars. I protested that this was far too cheap but he insisted, and I later learned that Japanese riders tended to have a strong dislike of three-cylinder machines, for some odd reason. I dearly loved my XS and rode it a number of years. As a period sports-tourer it was responsive, light and (as you noted) had a great sound to it. I understand that this was Yamaha's first attempt at a shaft drive so they subcontracted the units from a BMW supplier. I was involved in a fatal accident in Thailand in 1985, and the police got the XS (which was pretty bent up by the collision in any case). It was such a sweet machine I'd consider another one. And responding to David - I had one of the very first Mach III 500s ever to hit the West Coast. At the time I wrote for CYCLE, CYCLE GUIDE and CYCLE WORLD, and Alan Masek of American Kawasaki lent me a brand new machine. Did some crazy riding up in the California foothills on that sucker. Years later, at the Isle of Man, I met Mr. Otsuki, nicknamed "Mr. Horsepower", the jet turbine designer who headed the Mach III team. Fun times. Surprised I survived.

9/8/2013 8:56:46 AM

That's a really nice looking bike. I owned a Kawasaki Mach 3 500 at one time, which probably did not sound nearly as nice as a triple 4 stroke, but it certainly gave me some thrills (until Honda's CB750 came along). I was stationed in Japan at the time. What a ride that was!

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