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Yamaha is a brilliant marketer.They've created their own versions of other country's existing or previous designs and perfected them. The Yamaha SR500 is a knockoff of the classic British Thumpers - a single-cylinder, four stroke street bike patterned after the big bore singles that ruled the roads of the 50s. Beyond that, Yamaha's innovative technology made the SR500 as modern as it was traditional with a perfected compression release lever and piston position indicator that made kick starting the machine quick and easy. Something that couldn't be said for its forebears. They also gave it disc brakes, electronic ignition, self-cancelling turn signals, dry sump oil-in-the-frame lubrication for ground clearance and initially, alloy wheels with tubeless tires. First introduced in 1978, the SR500 was imported to the US until 1981 and was discontinued in 1999, but the SR400 sold in Japan, the same bike with a different crankshaft and shorter piston stroke, has been in production almost continuously for 36 years left virtually unchanged. Could this be the "perfect" motorcycle? Could very well be. It certainly has endured.

The SR500 was priced and compared with other "middleweight" 500s and 650s. In a 1979 comparison test it was of course slower than the multi-cylinder bikes in straight-line speed, but not in the switchbacks - as it was judged having the best handling along with the best fuel mileage - 60 mpg (the new model with EFI is rated at 66 mpg). Motorcyclist magazine praised the SR500 for "its way with a twisty road few motorcycles possess." Yamaha's popular XS650 vertical twin (1970-1985) was criticized for its poor handling, and having even more vibration than the SR500. Did I want the SR500's best-in- class handling attributes or the XS650's electric start and more power "suitable for touring. "Not considering any brand other than Yamaha, I chose the SR500. I remember a Honda CBX (inline-6) owner trying my SR500 and falling in love with it.
The updated SR400 EFI version (2010-on) now available in other Asian countries and imported to Europe, is coming to the US this month as a 2015 model. The SR is partially hand built. For instance, the engine covers are polished by hand and there is a lot of manpower involved in bending the exhaust header. The build quality is high and it cost Yamaha quite a bit to produce it.

Photo: 1981 Yamaha SR500 (US spec final model)