My first ride was a nine-mile commuter thrash home through the Peterborough rush hour gridlock, and the SR was both briliantly effective and such a charismatic giggle it left me beaming from ear to ear.
Once you’ve mastered the kick-start proceedure (no ‘leccy start here, natch), ie key-on, kicker out, use the decompressor under the clutch to pump the piston to top dead centre (you can see it through the crafty sight glass on the right hand side of the head), let go decompressor, clutch in and whump on the kicker and you’re away – it’s not difficult, honest – the SR is an absolute doddle to ride.
The narrow, light and low dimensions are more 125 commuter or something like Suzuki’s VanVan than full-on 400/500, which makes the SR completely unintimidating – so much so I reckon I could teach my kids to ride it round the garden.
The downside of ‘nimble, unintimidating and thrummy’ is, at 60mph+ (or, what you need to survive on modern ring roads) twitchiness, vulnerability and vibes. Those dinky proportions had me feeling like a gorilla mounting a chimpanzee; its 65mph top whack (70 on a good day, 60 uphill) would be outstripped by even the 250 Inazuma on which I braved last year’s winter and after just a mile or two of that my nads were numb.
That doesn’t make me dislike the little SR – anything but. You just need to understand what you’re getting into. As an authentic classic the SR is a charmer; as a cross town commuter, a delight and as a blank canvas for a customiser (Yamaha are planning a whole raft of ‘Yard Built’ accessories for it) it has appeal.
The 399cc single just thrums along no matter where the needle’s pointing with steering so light and precise you feel you could wiggle between parked cars. The front disc’s enough, considering the SR weighs less than me (or feels like it, anyway) and the rear reminds why drum back brakes on lightweights used to be so good, providing oodles of feel. 0-50mph or so with lots of manouvring thrown in is the SR’s hunting ground. Give me one of these over a commuter scoot any day. But get it on a dual carriageway and it's a bit scary. It struggles above 60 and really could do with a little more guts.
First off, that ‘authentic classic’-ness, in the flesh, is simply dizzying. Forget the smooth (should be ribbed) seat and dull, modern, satin grey paintjob for a moment (why Yamaha didn’t paint it ’70s colours is beyond me, this is just wrong), and take in the details.
The metal switchgear is authentic late ‘70s/early ‘80s Yamaha fare – in fact it’s identical bar the stickers (I checked) to my own 1980 RD350LC. The old school grips take me back to sitting on showroom Suzuki GTs and TSs in the Seventies, the chromed bars remind of my first 17-er road bike, an S-reg CB125 with a gazillion miles on its green clocks.
There’s more. The big, old-fashioned orange and chrome indicators are like something from Motorcycle Mechanics; the big (also chrome) tin mudguards are the sort of stuff that’d normally have grown men fighting over at autojumbles. And I haven’t seen new tyres so narrow and 18-inch since 1984.
Okay, so £5200 may not seem like a lot, but then this is not really a lot of bike. It's sinmple and effective but it's the sdame price as an MT-07 and that seems very odd. If this was a grand less, you;d be in business!
The old school twin dials and switchgear are, to someone of my generation, completely natural and intuitive; the lack of any sort of electronics (not even a little LCD panel on the clocks), is somehow completely refreshing and the presence of an old fashioned petrol tap, backed up by a bonus low fuel warning light inset into the tacho, is reassuring.