WHAT ABOUT THE OLD-TIMERS?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - ROAD TEST -

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’

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