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Monday, February 09, 2015

Eleventh vehicle - 1976 Yamaha XS 650

At the same time I owned the Corvette, I found myself owning another motorbike.  A fellow submarine sailor begged me to take this bike off his hands as he was leaving the Navy.  He did not want to take the bike along with him when he left the service.  I bought it for a song.

Below: 1976 Yamaha XS 650

The Yamaha was basically a refined Japanese version of a classic British twin, the 650cc Triumph (Below).

The Japanese were in the process of destroying the British motorcycle manufacturing industry by building better and less expensive motorcycles.  The Triumph had an overhead valve engine, and a drum brake up front.  The Yamaha had a superior single overhead cam (SOHC) engine, and a front disc brake.  So the Yamaha ran better and stopped better than a generic British bike of the same size.

There were probably a huge number of other improvements the Yamaha had over a British bike, but I'm not familiar enough with the Brit bikes to point them all out.  One thing is certain:  It needed WAY less tinkering to keep it running.  The Yamaha was not a finicky bike at all - valves, points and carburetor adjustments were rarely needed.  Nothing ever came loose or fell off the Yamaha.

The Yamaha had an electric starter, but it also had a kick starter in case the battery died.  It was a very nice running and handling motorcycle, with no quirks at all.  The power delivery was good from bottom to red-line, and it didn't vibrate excessively (for a twin cylinder).  It always started right up.  If there was a down-side to this motorcycle, it was that it was pretty damn boring to ride - especially after having owned a Kawasaki Triple.

At 50 horsepower the engine wasn't especially powerful.  In addition to the mild engine, the bike was heavy, so acceleration wasn't this bike's strong suit.  Nor could you corner it too hard or you would find yourself scraping the foot-pegs.  It was probably not a bad machine for commuting to work, but I found the bike to be very uninspiring, and eventually I sold it to a shipmate.

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