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Cult bike Yamaha SR 500

The air-cooled single cylinder from Yamaha

Persistent myths have grown up around the simple but beautiful cult Yamaha. For example, that their air-cooled single-cylinder is difficult to kick, but lasts forever.

"Now there is again a motorcycle for men who like the bass of a mighty single-cylinder more than the coloratura soprano made of filigree four-cylinders." In 1978, for example, Yamaha promoted the newly introduced SR 500 – with a hearty, vibrating half-liter stew that was then the men’s Motorbike par excellence. On top of that, the "steam hammer", the nickname the SR quickly got rid of, also had to be kissed awake with a kick starter. For this it was necessary to first find top dead center with the decompression lever and sight glass on the right of the cylinder head – a nice oldie procedure that contributed a lot to the creation of legends about the SR. If you just stepped on it, the stubborn single-cylinder could actually drive you crazy. But if you got the hang of it, you soon no longer needed a sight glass and could even start an SR at night and barefoot at the first step. But the myth of the men’s motorcycle remained.

D.The second reputation, which the SR also quickly got away, was much more appropriate: The traditional Yamaha was soon considered the VW Beetle among motorcycles. But not because she ran and ran and ran. On the contrary: after around 45,000 kilometers, the “steam hammer” often ran out of steam and made it clear with a loud clatter that an oversized piston was now due. Rather, the Beetle image was correct because the SR was just as simple and functional as the ball from Wolfsburg, and it soon became an integral part of the German street scene. Anyone who started riding a motorcycle at the beginning of the 80s also rode an SR at some point.

Cult bike Yamaha SR 500

The air-cooled single cylinder from Yamaha

Data / information


Air-cooled single cylinder, technically very straightforward. Quite a few gained not only their first driving experience with the SR, but also their first screwdriver experience. Photos: Model 48T, 1990.

Single-cylinder four-stroke engine, 495 cm³, 25 kW (34 PS) at 6600 / min, 41 Nm at 3000 / min, five-speed gearbox, loop frame with split steel tube supports, weight 170 kg with a full tank, tires at front 3.50 S 18, rear 4.00 S 18, Tank capacity 14 liters, top speed 142 km / h, 0-100 km / h in 8.3 seconds

Repair instructions for the Yamaha SR 500 (T), Bucheli Verlag, paperback, illustrated, 152 pages, 29.90 euros

Kedo Performance Parts, Hamburg-based parts distributor with a large range of spare and tuning parts, specializing in SR / XT and other Yamaha one / two-cylinder, Tel. 0 40/40 17 02 00, Motor Service Coesfeld, engine overhauls, repairs, Tel. 0 25 41/8 44 94 44, www.mscoe.of

Market situation:
Untampered SR are considered collector’s items, the second hand offer is correspondingly small. 80s models with high mileage over 60,000 km are not available for less than 1,000 euros.

Club / IG / Internet:;; (here SR scene magazine “Kick.Start” as a free download); (here technical tips in the "Bucheli project")

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