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.

Update
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

13 comments:

  1. Strap a picnic lunch to the back of the seat and you'll be set for the day.

    It is nice to hear a first hand review of the bike. Thanks for taking the time to post it. We haven't seen one in the showroom out here in Oregon yet.

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    1. I hope you get to see and ride one. It would be nice to hear your thoughts on the bike. It is very much like the lithe TU.

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  2. Nice Review of a Great Retro Classic! The Question is, Will Canada get this bike? :-S I hope so...

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    1. I hope Canada gets the SR400. I enjoy this style bike and would like to see interest grow. Yamaha seems to think it will be purchased by riders as a second or third bike, but it could easily make it as an only bike for many.

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    2. A year has passed and I still find myself reading your review, though this time, it seems clear that Canada will not be getting the SR400. :-( I hope you are still enjoying the bike. If not, let me know, I just may be interested in buying it off of you! ;-)

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    3. Hi Mario, The longer we have the bike the more we are enjoying it. We made a Coast to Coast (Florida east coast to Gulf coast) trip recently on it and I'll need to find time to type it up and share photos. By the way, last time I was at the local dealer he had 2 new SRs on the floor. Not sure if they have quit selling or if he is seeing a steady sale of them.

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  3. As mentioned earlier by Mario, some of the first comments made by our group centered around the cost of the machine in comparison to machines of equal size. Otherwise, a bike that would fit my riding perfectly and if not exactly quite right, I'd adapt to it rather than forcing it to fit me.

    Thanks BR, looking forward to more of your exploring.

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    1. Hi Coop,

      You and Mario are exactly right. The price is something I had to consider and I have been considering it since the bike and the price were officially announced in March. It is impossible for the SR to come out on top of a discussion when technology, performance, low maintenance, and price are factored in. Truly, what else is there? Still, it called to my heart...

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    2. I've pointed a number of my friends to your review here and the comments are still coming. These guys have/know the TU250 and they've all owned or currently have SR500's. Jim has done lots of miles on his GN400, so his comparisons between his current TU and the SR's have contributed lots of speculation and 'expertise' in the group. :)

      Your new bike is beautiful and will definitely be fun. Competitive only goes so far.....Thanks and good luck with it!

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    3. I'd really like to hear comments from your friends about the SR500 and the GN400. When these bikes were bring sold in the states, I was happily thrashing around on my Harley / Aermacchi 2 stroke enduros and my Suzuki Titan 2 stroke. I was a 2 stroke junkie and would have overlooked these bikes in their heyday, so words from those that know/knew them would be very welcome.

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  4. Very nice write up. I have become interested lately in the Suzuki TU250 and this bike as an alternative to riding a bigger scooter. I am hoping to get down to my local shops to see them, but did not know of the very limited supply of the Yam. Sorry to hear that.

    What is it with these companies? They come up with something that people will want and then either limit the supply here in the US or stop selling the models after either a long time or within a very short time. Grrrrrrrr!!!!

    Anyway, you got my attention!

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  5. The TUs have been hard to find for sale around here. Seems most folks that have them keep them, but I did notice one of my favorite dealers had a new and a used one on the floor earlier this week when I was there. Like you, I enjoy the simple lines of the classic bikes, some of the new bikes look like caricatures of motorcycles. We may be in a minority though as the new styles sell and the classic crocks get a lot less movement at the dealers. Luckily, the manufactures are taking a few chances and testing the waters with some simpler designs. I hope they are successful!

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  6. Hi there people. I have owned & ridden SR500's since 1981. They were not a popular bike back then over here in New Zealand as everyone who had or wanted a Jap bike had or wanted the biggest, fastest, most complex 4 cylinder motorcycle money could buy. They were very anti the old school British bike & the British rider was anti the Jap bike. If you had a Jap bike that looked & sounded like a British bike there were few friends on both sides for you but me & my friend who rode an XS650 were 18 & we liked to upset the motorcycling public on both sides as we were 10 ft tall & immune to death by conventional means as of course all 18 yr olds are. I was the only one I knew with an SR & to me it was my poor man's BSA Goldstar. I tryed all sorts or exhaust's to get the right sound & more performance & found a K&N filter, re-jeted carb & free flowing exhaust & 1 more tooth on the counter sprocket gave it a few more horses so on a long straight road in still air conditions I could get 160k on the clock from my 1980 G model. They just work better unpluged. I have had 4 SR500's, 2 long term, 2 short term. The first one I had for 8yrs, an every day rider, went round the clock & some more, the 2nd I still have & have owned it since 1989. The other 2 I owned for about a year each but hardly used them, they just dont seem to break down or ware out. The one I have now, a 1979 F model has a 90mm piston, re-jetted carb & K&N filter, an extra tooth on the counter sprocket, a custom DBD Goldstar type header pipe & Goldstar muffler. It's a very happy free breathing motorcycle with quite a bit more stomp than in standard trim. I would think the SR400 would respond to the same treament in much the same way if you felt you needed a bit more from the old girl though how you would get the injection system to richen things up is not in my field of knollage. We have great roads over here as there are lots of twists & turns keeping most riders pretty honest in there skill level so there is no problem staying with most others on the road excepting the hot shots with 100hp or more, sticky tyres & a lean angle that see's a hole in your elbow before you touch a peg down. What I can tell you about performance comparasons of my SR against the XS650 & GN400 my friends rode back then is the GN400 was a little slower, but then it was 100cc smaler & with it being a chopper/custom Jap bike, it was not set up for fast cornering unlike the SR. The breaking performance was near the same. The XS was only better in the comfort department as the seat had more padding, it was a box stock XS2 so wiggled in the corners & I never had him come past me on the Hiway ether though another plus point for him was with a bigger tank he didnt have to stop for gas as often. There were other bikes around I havint compaired it to but to sum up it went as well as most of the other mid range bikes excepting my friends Suzuki GS550E that had a full Youshimura engine & went like a haunted sh**house in a straight line & better than most in the tight stuff though that could be the mental state of the person behind the bars, you deside.

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