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Yamaha YR5 350cc RoadTest


Motorcyclist Illustrated 1973

That sickly sweet feeling in the gut means that a 'bike appeals. Totally and to every sense.

Two strokes had missed my per­sonal boat. Ridden and, to a large extent, enjoyed. But noise, stench, power delivery and character had never succeeded in sparking off that certain sharp delight. A self admitted bias.

The Yamaha CS5E had moved mountains to dispel the discrimi­nation. An instant rapport. The hazy notion that family blood runs deep bolstered up happy antici­pation for the largest of the Yam strokers - the 350. And after all, what's good enough for Jarno, etc.

The relationship with the R5F didn't start well. It was hatred at first sight. A yakking, ringing, ob­stinate, unreliable, uneconomical, ineffectual and devious little beast that no amount of cossetingwould < pursuade to acquiescence. I knew what the F stood for.

A period had arrived in life when quiek, reliable transport was not only necessary but essential. Immovable and resolute, the Vam had quietly giggled at my undig­nified fury. Life would emerge, but only after a pitiful, tormented half mile run-and-bump. It was obstinate and slow, being heartily shamed by an accompanying Kawasaki 250. There was no enjoyment. And so, coughing, retching, spluttering rider and machine reached a compromise - a policy of noncooperation.

Mitsui had been fair. This was not one of their best. The 'bike had been in the hands of a (thankfully) unnamed constabulary. It had' been ruined as the hand of the law slapped the 350, potentially one of the ultimate mid-capacity sports­ters, around a trials course. Raise an eyebrow at the logic, if you must. Poaching had never been a paying proposition in North Lon­don. But the result had been pre­mature dotage for the Yam. It wasn't a happy ship. Our's had been luckier than others. Mitsui demanded a complete rebuild.

Now a word from our sponsors. Excusing a substandard machine on the grounds that it has led an arduous and ugly previous test life or that it is a result of an assembly line computer hiccup becomes an embarrassing occupation after the third or fourth time. The excuse often has every true foundation, but after a while leaves nothing but the joyless contradiction of, on the one hand, reports of riding acquaintances and other mags that say "Brand X is good", and on the other, the disillusion of personal experience.

The benefit of the doubt may fairly suffice in the first instances that the phenomenon arises. It could all so easily be true. After that, seeds of doubt are sown. In other words Brand X is either rotten or has been subject to lousy preparation. Despite appearances to the contrary MC/does harbour various noble sentiments of responsibility to readers. In gain­ing the truest picture of a machine, the coincidence that we hh a bummer (which we seem to do embarrassingly often) will in all but the most exceptional cases, be ignored. Those "exceptional cases" will, as always, be stated categorically. But now the motor­cycle offered for test must be taken as representative of the breed to a far greater extent.

The Yam then, started out a stinker. Too bad to be just another freak. It was returned to Mitsui, checked completely, rebuilt and returned within 72 hours. Which says a lot for their brisk efficiency - not the sort of service you can count on getting from your friendly neighbourhood weasel.

The ailments were revealed. The odd copper, who will be instantly recognisable by his blushes, had forgone the niceties of running in. A piston furrowed like a ploughed field testified to that. The monumental seizure hadn't been helped by a carburettor float which didn't, and which helped in the uncanny ability to wet plugs every other mile.

With soul refreshed and an ini­tially gossamer hand at the tiller, the R5 redeemed itself. It actually started. Was actually quiet. Was actually quicker. The billowing smoke screen still billowed, although not to the previous astounding extent.

But still the hopes, perhaps falsely built up by reports shouting "the best 350 in the world", went unfulfilled. It should have been exceptional. It was merely good. The reasoning behind this opinion will follow later in the test, but warnings from Mitsui, that even in peak health our particular machine wasn't the brightest had been given with a disarming honesty.

In appearance the 350 is virtu­ally indistinguishable from the 250. A different lick of paint - a dull red instead of candy gold - is the giveaway. Unless you go to the lengths of squinting at the side flashes.

Internally the differences are predictable. Cr. down from 7.1 to 6.8; bore increased from 54 mm to 64 mm (capacity up from 247 to 347); carburettor throat from 26 mm to 28 mm. While internal ratios remain identical, primary reduction changes from 3.238 to 2.869 and final reduction from 2.666 to 2.500. Differences also exist in the oiling system. Which all adds up to a 36 bhp kick in the pants at 7000 rpm.

Visually the machine leaves no outstanding impressions on the eye. Slight, light and wiry - neat, yes, but no headspinning stylistic innovations. Essentially a very "ordinary", quiet piece of motor­cycle to the passing world. Which is mystifying, since the smaller CS5E, bearing all the family like­ness, caught the eye and the imagi­nation. Cinderella to the 350's Plain Jane. Typical Japanese in a way that Honda just avoids, but none the less missing ugliness. By a tumble of circumstance and chance the machine has now rested within MCFs happy portals believed to be "not a million miles" from my back yard) for over three months. Unlike many road testers it is hard for me to enter into the illusion that test machines are "mine". They are never even referred to as AfC/'s. Probably something to do with the hassle of parting with a much loved machine the moment that a personal relationship has been struck.

In the Yam's case it was differ­ent. Of the 4500 miles under its Dunlops, three and a half grand are mine. The mud and rust (sorry) are mine, as is the patch on the rear tube. The machine has been used constantly and without exception for at least the last 70 days. Bin through a lot, you could weep. A certain insight into the Yam's finish is only to be expected.

Paintwork, with the exception of certain parts of the frame, is durable. The only sign of sloppiness (mass production?) appears on the tank where colour borders fail to marry by a whisker, and leave a line of off-white primer peering through. Paint over frame welds is thin and under the devas­tating neglect heaped on the machine, light rust is already beginning to wheedle through.

If Japanese chromework is the object for traditional hilarity, Honda, for whose finish I have no mean respect, have come a long way in stopping the laughter. Not so the R5, which has suffered. Wheels, speedo/tacho bodies, upper fork trim and fork stanch­ions themselves have all sheened over with rust, though none yet reaching the pitting point and all hopefully an easy match for Sol-vol. More serious is the corrosion on a small number of nuts and bolts around the handlebar fixtures, where pitting is already taking place.

Surprisingly, alloy corrosion has become obvious on control levers and their fixing clamps though the light touch of a wire buffer is expected to restore all former beauty. Again, the thin paint of the pressed steel brackets mounting the pillion footpegs and silencers has given way to the nibbling of the lead oxide treatment.

Before bringing down the collective wrath of Mitsui and Yamaha it must be emphasised that the conditions under which the machine has been kept have been bad. Outright neglect that no private owner with an ounce of sense would subject his 'bike to and which were chosen for the specific intention of gauging weather protection resistance under the severest of conditions. Throughout the test period the thing has been cleaned twice thoroughly, and from then on left naked as nature intended to the elements, all of which were miser­able. Neither tarpaulin nor plastic mac. Until an ex-editor cares to lend us a nameless Teutonic motorcyle (the big one, please Alan) for a similar extended period the above criticisms will hardly be of great comparative value, but must be read as what the Most moronic of owners can expect.

An aspect which does speak of ill-conceived design is the seat. Expanded rubber foam nestling under the standard quilted plastic covering. From beginning to end the stuffing has remained in a sodden state, leading to red-faced dribbles down the side panels and over the battery compartment. It wouldn't have mattered if it hadn't been so obvious.

In common with any modern machine save the Ura! (that's modern?) mudguarding is inade­quate, happily splodging power unit, forks, swing arm and. unbe­lievably, tank with the ti: that the road sweeper missed To the intending owner we say: get your­self mudflaps back and front.

Far outweighing any frivolities of weather protection are the QD wheels. Gloriously, blissfully QD. To Yamaha^s everlasting credit is the one nut that stands between you and complete removal. And that despite the conviction that manufacturers see riders merely as buyers, not as the wTetched, misbegotten and very cursing creatures left deflated in the snow storm somewhere east of Inver­ness. You didn't think they made 'em like that any more?

Electrical controls are a Nip norm of dip/main beam and on/off sliders crouching above horn and lateral trafficator control on the left, with a centrally mounted off/on/parking key twixt speedo and rev meters. Pilot light, when the bulb hasn't blown, is governed by a flat twist-switch on the head­light shell.

Once the Yam had recovered itself, the ritual of starting simp­lified. Choke use though, was always critical, i.e. it was imposs­ible to start without it, four-stroking became excessive after 20 yards and disengagement after that distance resulted in a sogging unhappy motor reluctant to fire both cylinders unless massive revs (for a cold unit) were used. Within half a mile the show began swing­ing smoothly - until it had cooled for 10 minutes and demanded that the entire process be repeated. It was hardly a deterrent, but merely represented a characteristic of occasional two strokes that the four stroke man will find unattrac­tive.

Power delivery belied the relatively small capacity. Below 2000 rpm it was an impotent, sagging barbie with little return. Above 2500 top gear could be pulled, tfcovgh gently in a subdued, half hearted manner, but progress none the less. Between 3 and 4.5 the torque increased dispropor­tionately and the exhaust note look on the deep, hollow moan that marks the bigger Yams. 5500 rpm was all that was needed for town pace (well beyond the reach of the box-bound commuter). Yamaha claim maximum power output at 7000 rpm. Though a brake may prove me a liar, the full force of the unit appealed to the senses some 1300 little ones after that, taking one abruptly to the red paint. At this point the R5 is a noisy creature. A sing-song wail that was utterly delicious, but not society's greatest friend.

Ultimate performance was a variable thing. In the lower gears acceleration was strong and fear­some, nothing lacking. Top speeds were achieved in fourth gear at engine speeds above the red line. Which left top as a disappointing, irritating overdrive, capable of spinning the machine along at any point between 75 and 85 mph inde­finitely providing that the slides were wrenched against the stops.

Top gear performance, as with the speeds attained in the lower gears, did remain variable. The dependence of peak performance upon quirks of climate, humidity and proximity to Chipping Sod-bury at 5.00 in the afternoon is yet another characteristic of so many two strokes and one which I find intensely annoying. Once more with feeling - it wouldn't impress a four stroke man.

Instrumentation could not be expected to help greatly in deter­mining top speed, the speedo­meter appearing to have a mind of its own and acting entirely inde­pendently of the rev meter. Maxi­mum speed at one downhill point registered a funny ha ha 110 in fourth at some 8500 rpm. Optim­ism at its highest. The change into top instantly reduced velocity (indicated and actual) to 85 mph or so at 6.5 to 7 thou.

As motorway transport, the realities of medium capacity have to be considered. To trample the thing at maximum effort inevitably persuaded all but the most ambiti­ous, but in return it would be a busy, tiring process that could leave rider and machine puffed, if not exhausted, after several thousand miles of ownership. The most comfortable and relaxed pace corresponds to the maximum capability of the M-way boy racers, hence hassles in the ensu-ing game of dodgems. So, with a guestimated max of 94-96 mph the muscly confidence of a ton-plus cruising machine ain't going to be yours. Scream the thing if that be the only way you like to travel, but neither you nor the machine will last long.

It is the long, serpentine A class roads where the 350 comes into its clover. Roadholding, though, was betrayed by the surprisingly bad Japanese Dunlops. "Surpris­ingly" since these covers have proved more than enough on heavier, faster machines - the two Honda Fours being cases in point. Quick sweeps introduced uncer­tainty, a split second jitter of lost confidence at speeds above 75 mph. Framing, bearing in mind the exact similarity to the racing ver­sions, is beyond suspicion and can be discounted. Suspension, although distinctly stiff at the front, giving a pneumatic drill ride over even mediocre road irregularities Combines with a set of rear units that vary between the outright hard and jumpy on the tallest setting to a happy, though not magnificently comfortable medium, on the softest of the three positions. Suspension, like tyring, in the final analysis revolves around rider weight and prefer­ence. The compromise issued by the factory won't throw any ques­tion marks at the roadholding but if it's an easy ride you demand think about a lighter oil in the front. TT100 covers on the rear and a Dunlop ribbed frontwards (no - they don't make a 3.00 x 18 TT100) are the panacea for depres­sion at roundabouts.

A chief delight of the Yam lay in the gearbox. A gearbox that beg­ged use without any whiff or sign of clutch. Light but positive, tre­mendously satisfying and flatter­ing to flicker through from ratio to ratio, an instantaneous, unhesitat­ing change of key from the back-end. So nearly up to the CS5E's blissful standard only to be removed to the ranks of the "also rans" by the unnerving tendency to jump from any ratio a micro­second after engagement when every stop has been committed and pulled out. The fault appeared only on those changes where said clutch had been abandoned. It tinged the fun 'n' games with a shadow of circumspection.

Braking also did not meet expectations thrown up after the little 200, a machine that was, if possible, so nearly outbraked. Sure - initial impressions were impressive. At urban speeds a crisp bite and steady deceleration on the first serious applications. But then it tired and yawned, and then resignedly faded under the heaviest loadings. Never as diabolical as some drums, but still insufficient for the demands of most riders.

Mitsui have, rather unsuspect­ingly I think, offered the long awaited opportunity for an extended test - to my mind the only type of true evaluative test. S6 a big thank you, Mitsui. It can be taken as granted that no other manufacturer/concessionaire has so far been willing to release a machine, probably (and dottily) the only one of a particular model on the test fleet, for press use over such a long period. The reasons are varied and doubtless don't need my comment on them.

The Yam R5F is an interesting machine and criticisms of indi­vidual characteristics should not be confused with disappointment with the entire motorcycle. Of the three and a half months with the machine, the last four weeks of incessant use has seen me become happier with the 'bike. Now that the initial fracas is sorted out the thing's unstinting service despite a gross lack of attention or mainte­nance has mellowed my original feelings of hostility. To come down to mundanities. it has car­ried me where I wanted to go, driven furiously for 90 per cent of the time, without decline in perfor­mance and, indeed, without any protest whatsoever. There is no reason to think that the prospec­tive buyer cannotexpect the same.

The unpredictabilitv of top speed, especially fifth gear perfor­mance, my blackest disenchant­ment, has now been accepted and allowed for, and in all fairness will not present the bulk of owners with any disappointment in their everyday riding.

About London the thing is immensely satisfying to use. the nimbleness, acceleration and, blow it, sensuality of the exhaust note have been enjoyed and become more pronounced in the urban situation. Over longer runs the ridiculous 2.6 tank capacity (including a very worthy 20 mile reserve for die light handed), the guzzle-gu: consumption of some 34 hard ridden miles per and a staggering oil use in the aby hundreds per pint have all proved practical nuisances.

Above all reliability has been superb. Perhaps the modern motorcyclist should take this for granted. I rather think, though, that he doesn't. When all is said and done it is a virtue that most will happily pay a high price for.

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