Thursday 11 August 2011

Old Flames: Part 3

By 1979 I was earning enough money that I could afford to buy my first new bike. After a bit of deliberation, I eventually bought a Yamaha SR 500 for about £950 from MCS Motorcycles in Paisley.
This is the only picture I've got of the actual bike. No, I don't know why it's in black and white.
This picture was taken just after I bought the bike, and just after I'd swapped the high handlebars for a more sensible pair from a Honda CB400N.

Now I had a 'big bike' the world was my oyster, and a friend and I planned on going touring in France. First problem was that you could get almost no accessories for the SR, and I ended up with a 'Eurodesign' universal fitting rack and a pair of their 'leatherette' panniers, which were actually made of cardboard covered with very thin vinyl! However, coupled with a sports bag bungeed onto the rack, my bike was transformed into the ultimate touring machine.

Except it didn't quite work out that way. My friend and I went for a week or so camping round the Yorkshire Dales, where some of the SR's design faults made themselves apparent. As a touring bike it was a bit limited by the intrusive vibration which limited cruising speed to below 70 mph. This was fortunate as just about this speed it would start going into frightening weaves, which sometimes meant that it was hard to keep it within one lane on the motorway! The weaves, and the generally discomforting handling led me to experiment with tyres (Dunlop Red Arrows - made about 5 miles from my house at the art deco 'India of Inchinnan' factory), rear shocks (a pair of blue 'S+W' shocks - anyone remember them?) and various changes of fork oil. Although the handling got better, it was never quite as good as I had hoped.

Over the following year I went away lots of camping trip (mostly in the Highlands), and did a fairly high mileage on it.

Good points: Very good fuel consumption, easy to work on, fun to ride within its design parameters.
 Punchy single cylinder engine.

Bad points: Poor handling, almost total lack of spares (Yamaha dealer took 3 months to get me a spare clutch cable!), no accessories, general build quality was poor, a bit underdeveloped.

The following summer, when we had planned the France trip, my friend pulled out so I went for a week camping in Wales. When I got back I was offered my next 'old flame', so the SR had to go.

In conclusion, not a bad bike, but it could have been so much better had Yamaha ironed out of its design faults. In retrospect I wish I had bought a Honda CB400N (Super Dream), another bike on my list when I bought the SR.

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