WHAT ABOUT THE OLD-TIMERS?
Time has been kind to the bikes that inspired our new retros. The BMW R80 G/S and Yamaha XT500 still look fantastic, but how do they ride?
Obviously they don’t handle as well, stop as quickly and don’t have ABS or traction control. You’re going to have to learn basic mechanics and get re-acquainted with kick starts, fuel taps, choke levers and headlight switches.
This 797.5cc, 50bhp boxer twin 1987 R80 G/S comes from a private collector. It has 75,000km on the clock, is original and unrestored, but in perfect condition and now worth around £15,000.
I love the typical 80s BMW coloured switches, leather luggage, the oily-smooth action of the pivoting key in the ignition barrel and the ease it can kick over for such a big engine, if you don’t want to use the electric start.
Bruce says: “It’s sweet, idyllic, even and rides beautifully. You could criticise the brakes, suspension damping and shaft drive pitching, by modern standards, but that’s it, everything else is just perfect.”
Simon adds. “My brother had one and all the familiar sounds have come back to me: the transmission whirr and the sound of the pads going over the drilled disc holes when you squeeze the brakes. It’s like a high-speed cement mixer!”
Simon has owned his 32bhp, 499cc single-cylinder 1981 Yamaha XT500 for the last 33 years. From the age of 18 he’s used and abused it in the UK and around Europe on and off-road. The suspension is uprated and the motor has been rebored but rebuilt using the original parts. XTS are now worth four to eight grand.
It’s light, simple, tractable and doesn’t vibrate anywhere near as much as you’d imagine. Everything works, too, from the speedo to the tacho, brakes and suspension.
“I still love it!” Simon exclaims. “The brakes aren’t up to modern standards, but the motor pulls nicely. It’s got loads of torque. It’s not fast, but it’s nice. It’s like home.”
These classic masterpieces are beautiful to behold and fun to ride, but the new versions make more sense if you actually want to get out there and ride, as Jon explains: “There’s a time and a place for them. They’re fantastic for short blasts with your mates, but they’re not as everyday capable as a modern bike.”
‘I love the ease with which you can kick over such a big engine’