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MOTORCYCLES I HAVE KNOWN AND LOVED


This is my second bike, and my first streetbike, a 1972 Yamaha R5C, a 350cc two stroke parallel twin. I bought it largely because the motorcycle magazines said it was faster than the 350 Hondas. Maybe so, but not with me on it. I think their test riders weighed a tad less than I did...

A strikingly pretty bike in the Halloween orange and black (we wouldn't dare say "HD orange and black"), the bike taught me a lot. Countersteering, although I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time, leaning, leaning more, and leaning even more, even when you think you can't. Saved my bacon aboard this thing a time or two. It also demonstrated why you NEVER ride in the center of a lane in town - my first street crash came when I rode through a puddle of anti-freeze or ATF or something similar. I went down at about 30 mph, but damage to both bike and I was fairly minimal. Slightly bent handlebars were straightened by the dealer and the road rash on my left elbow healed quickly.

The Achilles heel of this bike was its inadequate electrical system. It fouled plugs almost daily, and was a real chore to ride in damp weather. You really had to keep the revs up, much to the chagrin of the neighbors every morning.

In spite of that, the little R5 gave me one of my most memorable rides ever - a 225 mile trip from Springfield, MO to Little Rock, AR in February of '73. I caught a spot of warm decent weather and took off for the weekend. The bike ran flawlessly and everything was fine until the return trip, when I found myself riding through some of the densest fog I've ever seen. Mixed with a little light rain which made a lot of mud in the many construction areas, it made for a very trying ride home. Still the highlight of my short, one year ownership of this bike. I traded it in on...


1973 Yamaha TX 500. Parallel vertical twin with DOHC and 4 valves/cylinder. One of the first "modern" 4 valve heads, this bike was afflicted with development problems. In spite of that, I loved it. It hauled me about 12,000 miles that year.

In spite of it being my only mode of transportation for over a year, I managed to not get any really good pictures of this bike. I have some others, but they are so faded out they are almost unviewable. These pictures were taken by my then-roommate, Larry, when my daughter Sara was visiting me. Probably still the only bike she's ever been on. These pictures are more of her than the bike.

The TX 500 was a sweet-running bike. Although it was a vertical twin, the configuration that has created serious shakers in the past, it also came with a counterbalancing system that virtually eliminated the bad vibrations. You still felt some pulses through the bars, but they were greatly muted. It was easy to sit on this bike all day long. The handling was good. I still wasn’t a really competent rider in the twisties, but I was improving. The TX kept me out of trouble and made me look better than I really was.

There were two major problems with the bike:

1. A serious flat spot in the carburetion at about 5,000 rpm. This was right where it got in the way of all kinds of riding - a brisk pace through sweeping turns, climbing hills at highway speeds, and even for a lot of passing situations. You’d need to roll the throttle on just a bit, and find yourself faltering, wondering where the power went. Going down a gear or two got you back into the swing of things, but it was a big pain to have to do it when you really shouldn’t have to.

2. A poor seal between the head and the cylinders, especially on the left side. Almost all TX 500s had this problem the first couple of years. Replacing the seals didn’t seem to help - had it done to mine, and it still leaked. It wasn’t bad, but it was enough so there was always an oily streak along the left side of the cylinder, and there was always an oil spot on my left pant leg. Very aggravating.

Still, it was a very nice ride, and I enjoyed every minute I spent on it. One of my all-time best rides was on that bike - Thanksgiving Day 1973, when Larry and I rode together (he on his 350 Honda) from Springfield to Branson to be with our families. We went on old Highway 65, the one that twisted and snaked all the way down there, and it was a blast! A perfect, warm day, and a perfect ride to boot. Here's a B&W shot of Larry's bike:

Along the way, we caught up with a Mustang that thought it was handling the curves pretty well. We ran along with it for a little way, then blew it into the weeds!

I seem to recall that Larry's 350 started to blow smoke as we came down the last hill before town and we had to park it and have it hauled in, but he says he doesn't remember that. Regardless, it was still a great ride!

I sold the TX 500 in the summer of '74, to finance a car. Man, what a goof! I was then without a motorcycle for five years! Agony!


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THE EARLY SUZUKIS

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