25 years of the Yamaha SR 500 – portrait of Gottfried Michels

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25 years of the Yamaha SR 500 – portrait of Gottfried Michels

25 years of the Yamaha SR 500 – portrait of Gottfried Michels
See that it has a story

His story is in large part hers, hers in large part his. He built the Pami-SR. Now Gottfried Michels is arming back ?? so that she can run again.

Michael Orth


The friendly gentleman is crouching next to a tubular frame with one of those bulky goggles on and welding. The frame for his racing motorcycle, his Pami-SR. In which “Pa” stands for Klaus Pahl, the suspension specialist, and “Wed” for Gottfried Michels, the engine man. “It was created in a workshop here in Trier. I remember it was snowing. If you wanted to screw something on the other side, it had to be taken out, turned outside in the snow, and then pushed back in. That was how big the workshop was.” He says affectionately “they”, although it’s about a motorcycle. But that probably expresses his relationship to this motorcycle. Because he also says later: “I’ve had them longer than I’ve been married.” In the winter of 1977/78 that, and Gottfried Michels, today an engineer much valued in motorcycle circles, was still a mechanical engineering student.

Above the photo, black and white, the clear protective film is already peeling off and creasing between the cardboard pages of the artificial leather album as you leaf through the early eighties. “Today these are pictures without comment”, he says. And comments: “Here, typically, half disguised only because there was nothing else left and no money.” Turn the page. 1980 is on the photo and “Grand Prix of the Saarland Nurburgring”. “A certain Mr. Wimmer was two places in front of me, with an XS 400.” He, Michels, on an early version of the Pami-SR. The tank as narrow as that of a 50s, the footrests on aluminum plates, cut by hand with a jigsaw. Smile. It was his first street race ?? with around 42 hp. “I squeezed the moped to the last. But when I run, I don’t know the bike, then I expect it to do everything for me.” Turn the page. Knee on tank (“Do ?? no knee on the street, is it too bad for me? Therefore”), sausage-colored station wagon, boot tips, wrapped in slippers made of adhesive tape. “That was always a problem. I once had a duel with Helmut Bradl in Colmar Berg. I couldn’t slack off. They then had to sew me on five toes.”

Turn the page. Right turn, inclined position. “That was Dahlemer Binz in 1982.” He had led the SR to the last lap. Then the engine started. It happened before, at the beginning. A fine example of the relationship between science and practice. Because Michels had written his diploma thesis on the influence of valve cross-sections in the SR engine. but “the first few years were still wild years of wasting away”. The piston was too heavy and the connecting rod was unsuitable. Ergo have the single cylinder “rarely did what we expected”. What was to be expected with a drive whose raw parts had to be one thing above all else: affordable. And the components that harmonized with the budget did not necessarily get along well with each other.

The brakes, however, fit with their self-made disc ?? Origin VW bus ?? perfect with the fork. “A disaster with 35 mm standpipes. With a real brake on it, the fork would simply snap off.” It still worked out with the success on the Dahlemer Binz, not ?? 82, but ?? 92. On the not so simple Pami ?? Four-piston brakes, magnesium wheels, Yamaha TZ fork, freely programmable ignition, over 65 hp ??, with this Pami, driver Manfred Kehrmann simply left the highly armed competition behind. They were all totally flabbergasted. And yet: With the victory, the motorcycle said goodbye, disappeared in a corner of Michels for ten years? Office, stood on old wooden parquet in front of white woodchip. For the 1993 season, Michels had developed a water-cooled four-valve engine based on SR.

Today it stands on a steel cupboard in the workshop. The weld seams that run lengthways over the housing tell the story of inertial forces that simply could not be brought under control. The trophies next to it tell other stories: that of Michels’ most effective occupation with the engine of the BMW F 650. Supermono masters had their engines prepared by him. And when Dakar champion Richard Sainct poured the winning champagne over the dusty turnip in 1999 and 2000, single-cylinders prepared from the desert heat in the factory BMWs from Michels cracked. “If I transfer the effort that I made with the SR to modern engines, I have to be stupid to screw it up.” He says that as he cradles a meticulously machined cylinder in his steady hands. His mustache is almost the same color as the cylinder he uses in the new old Pami-SR: 95 millimeters bore and 70 millimeters stroke, 490 cubic meters. Spins 9500. “Should bring 55 to 60 hp, stable. With it we can ride inconspicuously.”

Not in the supermono class, of course. With the veterans. The SR is now one of them, because the gentlemen’s officials have decided that a motorcycle built in 1978 can now be recognized as a classic. So Michels is arming the Pami-SR back. Sometimes rolling eyes, grinding teeth. Because it is no longer one’s own inability to narrow the limits of what is feasible, but rather a set of rules. “You should see that the motorcycle has a history. But I refuse to drill a hole in a titanium screw. I don’t consider securing certain parts with wire as historical. It’s prehistoric.” Many engine innards reappear from some boxes in his cupboards. “My guts show”, he says. “We put them away back then. Now they are up to date again because the old status should become the current status.”

He has already adjusted the brakes. It’s a lockheed. He used to want it, but couldn’t afford it. For the fork he has dip tubes from Yamaha plugged into standpipes from Suzuki. And cut out the bridges with the jigsaw and made it easier with the drill. The motorcycle is back on 18-inch spoked wheels, and apart from the volume, the handmade exhaust also follows the historical model.

But not the rear end. It is too high for the strict commissioners. Michels had once raised the bench six centimeters. “Because of the rotten knees and the broken back.” He doesn’t want to change that. “What would that make sense if you convert your own motorcycle so that you can no longer sit on it yourself ???

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