Yamaha SR400

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Test Jim Scays­brook Pho­tos Jeff Crow

I must ad­mit to feel­ing slightly an­cient on the re­cent me­dia launch of the newly-rein­tro­duced Yamaha SR400. You see, I was on the me­dia launch of the orig­i­nal SR500, back in 1978, when I was work­ing for Yamaha’s ad­ver­tis­ing agency, Har­ris Robin­son Courte­nay.

Quite a few of us in the agency were bike buffs, and three of us owned Ve­lo­cettes, so a road-go­ing bike sin­gle (as op­posed to the dual pur­pose XT500) was fairly ex­cit­ing. We even de­signed a new ‘500 Sin­gle logo’ for the side pan­els, which Yamaha retro-fit­ted to each SR500 sold, and, in con­junc­tion with artist Alan Puck­ett, did a poster and press ad with the SR500 ranged along­side Pom­mie stuff like a Nor­ton ES2, BSA Gold Star, Match­less G3 and of a course, a Velo. The SR500 went on to en­joy a long sales life, and to pro­vide the plat­form for in­nu­mer­able home-brewed café racer con­coc­tions, be­fore fad­ing from the scene. It never went com­pletely away how­ever, be­cause in 400cc form (to com­ply with Ja­panese road tax con­ces­sions) heaps of grey mar­ket jobs came into the coun­try, and still do. But just re­cently, Yamaha took the de­ci­sion to re-list a slightly re­fined SR400 in the 2014 model line up. Why not a 500? Well, it seems the tool­ing no longer ex­ists, and it’s not just a sleeve-down or bore-out job, as the 500 has a longer stroke (84mm) than the 400, which shares the 87mm bore. In other re­spects, the 2014 SR400 is very close to the orig­i­nal model that was last made in 1999, save for fuel- in­jec­tion and a fairly sub­stan­tial muf­fler. Sur­pris­ingly – for this would have been a com­par­a­tively sim­ple fit­ment – there is no elec­tric starter, but Yamaha claim that mod­ern fuel man­age­ment makes kick-start­ing a snack. Well, it prob­a­bly is a snack if you’ve been brought up on big sin­gles, but I am not com­pletely con­vinced that the younger gen­er­a­tion will share this sen­ti­ment. If you fol­low the pro­ce­dures (in­clud­ing watch­ing care­fully in the lit­tle win­dow on the camshaft) of get­ting the en­gine over top dead cen­tre and fol­low­ing through with a long, steady swing, it gen­er­ally fires up in one or two at­tempts, al­though it is so quiet that with a bit of back­ground noise it’s hard to tell if the en­gine has com­menced or not. Which brings us to a point that was drummed home to us journos; that Yamaha see this model very much as can­vas for the in­di­vid­ual owner to ex­ploit with dé­cor and all man­ner of af­ter-mar­ket stuff, most prob­a­bly be­gin­ning with the muf­fler. Speak­ing of dé­cor, I will be glad when Yamaha gets over its cur­rent fix­a­tion with drab grey – how about a nice Match­less G50 ma­roon, or BSA blue? Al­ready, a num­ber of places, such as Gasolina in Mel­bourne where the launch was held or Deus ex Macchina in Syd­ney and Elle­s­pede in Bris­bane (all of which will be sell­ing the new model) have a range of bolt-on stuff ready to trans­form the SR400 from mild to wild. Around town, the new model is a dream, be­ing so light and nim­ble, just like most sin­gles. Part of the credit for this must go to the stan­dard fit­ment of Met­zeler tyres (al­beit Brazil­ian-made ones). The ac­cel­er­a­tion qual­i­ties feel a bit stran­gled, but this should im­prove with a few miles on the clock when the en­gine has a chance to free up. The brakes are more than ad­e­quate and you’ll never run out of ground clear­ance. The SR400 is slim and feels quite tiny, and the sub­stan­tial dual seat is very com­fort­able. I gave the SR400 a gal­lop down the Tul­la­ma­rine Free­way and once it reaches 100 km/h, the en­gine sits in a com­fort zone of about 4,500 rpm and it hums along very nicely – I en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence so much I took the long way home! So for $8,999 you get what is al­ready a pretty good and very prac­ti­cal mo­tor­cy­cle, and if the mood takes you, the ba­sis for a bike that em­bod­ies your own taste and style. How long be­fore some­one comes up with an ex­change crankshaft to re­ally bring back the SR500?

BE­LOW LEFT Just like the old 500! Well, sorta, but it’s still a faith­ful re­cre­ation of a gen­uine clas­sic. BE­LOW The orig­i­nal SR500 advertisem­ent art­work of 1978.

Clas­sic, not plas­tic – not a dig­i­tal gaugeto be found.

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