20 years of the Yamaha SR 500

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20 years of the Yamaha SR 500

20 years of the Yamaha SR 500
One for all

Whether you are a muesli man, a tourist or a handyman, puristic two-wheelers have loved the quirky stew for 20 years. Now the love of nostalgia and the SR 500 become history.

Werner Koch

December 21, 1998

Laser show and Halligalli. Merciless engines and heavy touring steamer Hayabusa are presented on huge stages – the battle cry when storming the 300 km / h sound barrier, in between fat chrome cruisers and razor-sharp hyper athletes dazzle the host of motorcycle onlookers.

INTERMOT 1998, the mega-show of the curious and the sore soles of the feet, from one sensation to the next, a coffee in between, and on it goes. Yamaha R1, R6 and R7 irons stand in line, crouched and poisonous.
Everyone gazes and is amazed, and suddenly, blinded by the glistening light of the highlights, you stumble across a slim set of chairs that actually has no place here. It’s lost and lonely on the main stand, more of an obstacle in the superlative hurdles than an exhibit. Two wheels, a stylish engine, saddle, tank, a simple black steel frame – and the SR 500 is ready. Who would have thought in 1978 that this humble venture would work? No human. Everything was on the move to multi-cylinder, with Suzuki there were four in the GS 750, with Honda six in a row in the CBX 1000. And then this crude enduro motor stumbles along in the road chassis. Lean performance, no e-starter, vibrations in all situations – and lots of buyers. The SR stormed the hit list of approvals in Germany, no street corner without SR 500. How did that come about? Because the SR embodied the pure driving machine: as much as necessary, as little as possible. Clear lines, functional and no frills, in between the beautiful engine, which couldn’t be more single-cylinder or four-stroke.
»Two wheels, a stylish engine, saddle, tank – the SR 500 is ready«
And now you’re fleeing the overflowing high-tech, chrome and plastic, crouching in front of the SR 500, taking a deep breath and grinning: “I had that too.” Well, not exactly, Muesli-Peter, old buddy the anarchist youth, had one. But somehow it was mine too. At least when the valves rattled, the chain was worn out, or the box was otherwise hanging on a drip. Then I have them SR 500 made afloat again and then threshed through the Black Forest. »Test drive«, have ?? I said to Peter, “must be.” “And that the footrests are now hanging on in tatters and the manifold is half sanded through, must be, right?” My God, what can I do if there is the same radio in every corner and schraddelt ?. Didn’t get the Peter and his SR 500 at all. That came later. When he visited me in the hospital – broken ribs, shoulder off, pain – crap, fell off the racing bike.
Two weeks later I started his SR and chugged through the Wurmtal into the Black Forest. Fifth gear, not 100 on the clock, the visor open and deeply breathed. Not bad either – just riding a motorcycle. Away from the constant hacking around and slow braking, just let it go. Open the gas, close the gas, smell, taste when forest and meadows change, feel how the asphalt waves rock you, the stew roars like valerian. The SR 500? Just great. Yes, yes, it’s okay, I know that not everything works as well as on a CBR 600. But that doesn’t matter. “You just have to turn off the gas if it wobbles,” said Peter. And where he’s right, he’s right.
“Fifth gear, not 100 on the clock, the visor open and deeply breathed – just riding a motorcycle”
But then got ?? I caught Peter and his SR, and that was the end of the fun. He wanted to go home as soon as possible after a wild party. With the new flame. But the SR didn’t want to. Scattered on the floor in sweat in his T-shirt, jacket and helmet, he tried to bend the Kickstarter. Pfffftsch, pfffftsch, pfffftsch, pffftsch, pffftsch. “Filthy cucumber, pork bucket!” Then I tried it too. TDC wanted, deco lever pulled and peeked for the small silver dot on the right of the camshaft. In the middle of the night it is pretty dark, however, and Peter immediately etched around that only idiots would have to look for the point and that he could feel every single one of the four bars in the calf muscle. We then agreed on the last tram that the thing with the camshaft lighting might make sense after all and that the next day I would drive his unruly Yamaha into my workshop in the racing truck.
There was always something to screw up – not only with starting problems. Tighten the timing chain, replace broken steering head bearings, grind cylinders – but what am I telling you, the SR freaks themselves know that much better. And there are plenty of them. In 1998 around 27,000 SR 500 were still registered. Or what is shooting around under the abbreviation. Because hardly any motorcycle in the world has been redesigned to such adventurous variants as the good old Yamaha.
“We have agreed that camshaft lighting may make sense after all.”
One of these SR variants ran around in front of my nose a few years later. Not in the Black Forest, but on the racetrack. Engine designer Gottfried Michels conjured 63 hp from his PAMI single racer’s 650 cm³ displacement. The blow would certainly have hit Peter. “It’s going like hell now,” he beamed when I milled open the 27-hp throttle intake manifold for him. But 63 hp and win races with it? I think Peter sold his SR 500 shortly afterwards. What a shame, now that a full 34 hp are fidgeting on the gas cord.
In any case, it never got boring in the SR scene. Above all, the Japanese have gotten into the matter excessively. As a result of the lack of motorcycle tradition, the Far Eastern tuners and noble screwdrivers copied with preference British classics, for which the SR single was tailor-made.
The SR engine also carried many a “Presi” from the rocker scene through the country. Chopped and lowered, open pipe screwed in, and off the post. But today they drive a Harley, mostly leased, but hardly faster than the old SR.
And who ran across my path the other day? Exactly, the muesli Peter. Just got a new flame and a new SR. “It suits me, so I’m getting old now. Only the valves are ticking so weird again, do you have an hour? ”Great, then I can drive something other than racing machines or excited 600 grenades. And Peter gets a nice read for Christmas so that he can finally understand what can be made out of such an SR 500.
Because the attempt to record the myriad of SR conversions in this little story, even in the promile range, would fail in the beginning and a special issue is not planned, here is a recommendation: read the book “SR 500 – 20 years of pure motorcycle”. Get it from the friendly Yamaha dealer. Everything and everyone who is infected with the SR 500 bacillus can be found there. Choppers, racers, unique items, addresses, tips and God knows what else. And that’s a good thing, because the SR 500 deserves it. No other model on the market has lasted as long as 20 years. If you want one now, you have to hurry, the Yamaha dealers sell out, and that’s it. For 7,995 marks the last oldies go over the counter, including an anniversary badge and an engraved SR piston as a souvenir.

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