The Two Stroke Yamaha YZR500 gets a day out with 'Sancho'…
As you may have picked up by now, I have a bit of a thing for 2 strokes. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, the pinnacle of racing was, of course 500GP racing, with the fire-breathing, maniac two stroke thoroughbred bikes that went with it.
Powerful and lightweight, they were the purest of all racing machines.…
The big brands were all there but in this instance we are talking about the Yamaha YZR500. The flagship of the Yamaha racing line, the bike came in various generations from 1973 through to the last incarnation in 2002 before the introduction of the four stroke era of MotoGP that we know today.
Throughout the lifespan of the YZR500, Yamaha claimed 10 500GP titles in the hands of Agostini in 1975, Roberts in 1978, 1979 and 1980, Lawson in 1984, 1986 and 1988 and finally Rainey in 1990, 1991 and 1992. After this came a drought until Rossi took the MotoGP crown in 2004 on the four stroke YZR M1.
In the early to mid 80’s the manufacturers cottoned on that everyday, riders were hankering after bikes that mirrored those ridden by their racing heroes. Yamaha’s answer to this was the RD500LC YPVS (also known as the RZV in other markets).
AN EIGHTIES ICON
Launched in 1984 and heavily based on Roberts YZR, the RD was a 500cc liquid cooled V4 2 stroke producing around 88bhp. The motor was a twin crank 50 degree V4 and made use of Yamaha’s innovative YPVS ‘power valve’ system.
Unlike the race bike the RD used intake reed valves instead of the rotary disk valve induction.
I was around 5 or 6 when the RD was launched and it really was one of my ‘poster bikes’ in my bedroom and I almost exploded with excitement when my dad, who worked for Yamaha, actually brought one home.
The RD has remained a bucket list ride for me and over the years I have been stunned by beautiful specials that have made their way out into the wild, echoing the YZR race bikes, especially those of my childhood hero, Wayne Rainey.
Anyway, fast forward to June this year and I was speaking to a friend in Sheffield, Andrew Warren. I got to know Andy through various bike groups and he is the proud owner of a very, very special bike, an RD / YZR replica based on the 1992 Team Roberts bike of Rainey.
To cut to the chase, Andy kindly (or stupidly) agreed to let me have a go!
A quick call in July to MotoGusto Towers (thanks Captain John) and I excitedly packed my leathers and helmet in my kit bag and jumped on a train to Sheffield.
On arrival at Andy’s house, coffee in hand, I excitedly made my way out to his garage… and what a garage! The RD stood pride of place on paddock stands, surrounded by a Ducati 1199, 900SS, Honda NC30 400 V4 and Kawasaki KDX200, normally any of these beauties would grab my attention, but today was all about the Yamaha.
“It’s been a labour of love really. The bike is based on a 1984 RD500 matching engine and frame number, to mimic the 1992 YZR I added R1 forks, wheels and front brakes using a Brembo master cylinder and hydraulic clutch. At the back is an Aprilia RS250 swing arm, brake and hugger”.
The rear suspension is now taken care of by a modern fully adjustable Nitron unit. Exhausts are custom made JL pipes with carbon cans’’, he stopped briefly while I picked my jaw up from the floor and wiped my dribble from the tank, “It’s got Foam filters and the carbs have been rejetted to suit along with a programmable Zeeltronic ignition with 2 maps”.
AN ACCURATE TAKE
I pointed out how accurate the fairings were, as Andy pointed out, because they were in fact genuine Harris YZR fairings, made by the British team for their customer made YZR Grand Prix race bikes in the early 90’s. The fairings were identical to the factory Yamaha fairings of 1990/1991. All brackets and fittings were home made by Andy and looked like they had been pulled straight from a factory race bike.
Andy proudly showed his custom made billet alloy yokes mated with Renthal clip ons and an R1 throttle/ cables.
The stunning paintwork was colour matched to the original race bike and done by Phil Bramhall of Bramhall Auto Bodies in Sheffield.
A daytime MOT is on the bike so the lack of headlight adds to the genuine GP look along with brake lights cleverly hidden in the seat unit.
It was clear to see how much the bike meant to Andy and it comes as no surprise that the bike has won numerous accolades at various bike shows… to say the bike is beautiful is a disservice to it… it’s beyond beautiful, I can’t even describe it.
After building me into a frenzy, we finally wheeled the bike out onto the driveway and fired it up, the sound and smell took me straight back to the 500 GP bikes I had been worshiping at Goodwood only a week or so before.
My excitement turned into slight butterflies and nerves, I was finally going to sling my leg over, and ride a real life, 500 V4 smoker. I could feel myself regressing to a childlike state, all my Christmases were coming at once!
I went and changed into my leathers before heading out onto the road. To get to our test area, Andy led on the 500 and I followed on the beautiful little Honda V4… soon enough we pulled into a lay-by, Andy grinned and gave me the 500, “All warmed up for you, enjoy! Just don’t crash it!” he said.
This was it, I was finally going to ride a bike I have wanted to ride for 37 years!
COMPACT AND LIGHT
Sitting on the bike, I was taken by how compact and light it was, yet I still felt like it was made to fit me, just blipping the throttle was spine tingling.
I took a deep breath, engaged the clutch and selected first gear in the six speed box. Once the traffic was clear, I let the clutch out and pulled out onto the road… slipping the clutch slightly to prevent any stall as warned by Andy it was prone to do. I was off.
Winding the bike on was an intoxicating experience, as the rev counter climbed the better the bike sounded and the better it went… and boy, did it go – all the way to two stroke nirvana!
I wouldn’t describe it as crazy, uncontrollable fast, more exciting, fun, engaging and encouraging. The induction sound was amazing and in my head I was riding with the heroes of the past. The bike just pulled, performance felt maybe around that of a 600 but different. It felt right, no, perfect.
The bike had a presence on the road and traffic actually just seemed to pull out of the way as I approached, like a dream, unbelievable.
TIPPING INTO CORNERS
Obviously, weighing about as much as a Pot Noodle (not accurate as the exact weight of this special is not actually known) and with modern suspension, the 500 just tipped into corners like it was on rails. You like the look of that apex? Well, look at it and it will take you there.
Stopping was progressive and firm, not too harsh and not weak… you could trust this bike to stop you on demand.
I’m not going to guess the top speed or acceleration times of the 500 but the original model was claimed to do 0-60 in around 4 seconds and a top speed around 145mph. I cannot confirm or deny these figures but I’m willing to accept them and say this bike is likely good for a bit more due to its upgrades.
I didn’t want to give the bike back, and before I knew it, it was time to call it a day, 500 2 strokes are not renowned for their fuel economy, and we headed home.
I was blabbering like a fool, high off the two stroke treat that I had just experienced, for that hour I was Rainey, I was Lawson, Spencer, Mackenzie, McElnea, Roberts, and Sheene.
I wanted to keep riding to push the two stroke machine further and harder. It truly is a bike that encourages you to push it and keep pushing it. The handling was sublime and I could only imagine what it would be like on track or around some of my local Sussex roads where I know every bend and bump.
A real dream of an experience, thanks Andy!
Now what organs can I sell to buy one, I need one of these in my life.