Sunday, June 22, 2014
Yamaha SR400 Ride Review
This is a very brief ride review of the newly introduced Yamaha SR400. I am of the age that grew up with bikes that looked and performed very much as the SR400 does today. Make no mistake that bikes have advanced in performance and technology since the heyday of single cylinder motorcycles. The SR400 smiles in the face of those advances, and instead of giving us cutting edge performance and advanced gadgetry, it gives us an uncomplicated ride through our world.
If you want the hard numbers on the bike, you can find them on Yamaha's website, but you need to ride this machine if you are to appreciate what it is and is not. The bad thing is, there will be few of these bikes brought in to the US this year, so you may have trouble finding one to ride. Yamaha says they plan to bring in 500 units. I suppose they will see who buys them and what demand they bring.
Physically, the SR400 is small. Most dimensions are within an inch and a half of the Suzuki TU250. It also tips the scales at only 384 pounds with a full load of fuel. The paint is very well done, flawless and with a nice silver grey metallic finish. The frame welds are smooth and pretty, at least if you are strange enough (I am) to think a well done weld can be pretty. There is little plastic on the bike and the chrome is smooth and bright.
Let's start it up and take a quick ride. Turn on the key and you'll hear a subdued hum as the fuel pump builds pressure for the fuel injection system. Swing the kick start lever out into position and push it through gently and feel when the engine comes up on compression. Release the kick start lever to the normal position. Now pull the compression release lever with your left fingers and press the kick start lever slowly until you see the silver indicator in the little window on the top of the right side of the cylinder head, then release the compression release and return the kick start lever to the normal position. (with practice, you can do this without looking at the little window, but for now...) Once you have completed these little tasks, the engine is in a position that you can build a little momentum before it comes back up on compression as you kick it through. Put your foot on the kick start and kick down like you want to start the engine. Nothing crazy here but you do need to use a solid quick movement, after all you are starting a motorcycle engine.
The engine will come to life on the first kick and settle into an immediate and smooth idle. Let the bike warm while you pull your helmet and jacket on and it is ready to go.
I have very few miles on the bike so am still following the break-in procedure that limits engine RPM. Nevertheless, the bike pulls away from a stop effortlessly and works smoothly through the gears. I have been riding it at only about 45-50 mph to stay within the break-in limits. At these speeds it is smoothish. Not as smooth as a multi cylinder engine, but then how could it be with just one piston moving up and down. It has gotten smoother as the miles have built, but I suspect it'll always let us know that it is a single cylinder engine. There is no where near enough vibration to make hands or feet tingle like we have had on many bikes of the past. Instead, there is just enough to let us know that it is alive and enjoying the ride with us.
Riding the bike is very simple, it is light to the touch with no twitchiness. It seems to follow the curves just by thinking about making the curves. The light weight and the 29 inch wide bars make steering a breeze. The narrow tires track straight and true through the curves and it is easy to change lines mid curve. It is as if the road is suddenly wider than you remember it being.
The SR400 had a full tank of fuel when I picked it up at the dealer and the first fill-up netted 74.6 miles per gallon. The tight engine no doubt reduced the mileage and the gentle riding increased the mileage. We will keep an eye on it and report back as it breaks in.
This bike is everything the TU has been for us. It invites us to enjoy the ride, the journey, the world. It does not have a clock and that is good. You are not supposed to ride this bike just to get somewhere and especially if that means getting somewhere at a specific time. Instead it wants to show you the long horn cattle that you would otherwise blast past. It wants you to enjoy the serenity of a stop at a park, or to ponder the past and the future fate of a vacant building. To smell and feel your world.
The Yamaha SR400 may very well be a time machine that can take us back to a more relaxed state of mind. A gentler and kinder world where we appreciate the sight of dragon flies and the smell of horses.
The SR now has a few more miles on it and it is getting smoother and freer everyday. The engine revs easier and feels less tight. I'll be changing the oil and setting the valves soon as it is nearly due for the first check-up.
So far the bike is everything we expected it to be. That is it is light and agile enough to make you feel the bike reacts to your thoughts rather than your inputs. It has taken us down some nice back roads and yet it is capable of cruising at highway speeds. Still, like the Suzuki TU250, it is not very happy on a turnpike or any other real highway. It wants to enjoy a more leisure poke through a rural setting.
Last tank of gas gave 75+ MPG. I have still been riding it gently, so we'll see if it continues to get this mileage as I begin to ride it a little harder.
Yamaha SR500 / SR400 Review