Memorable Motorcycle Yamaha FS1

May 4, 2005
Frank Melling
Frank Melling
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

Our Memorable Motorcycles expert, Frank Melling also is the organizer of the British vintage motorcycle extravaganza known as Thundersprint. Melling began riding five decades ago and remains as much in love with motorcycles as when he drove his first bike into a cow shed wall aged ten. In the last 50 years, Melling has competed in every form of motorcycle sport and now declares himself to be too old to grow up and be sensible.

The Yamaha FS1E featured a 50cc  two-stroke motor with disc-valved induction.

The Yamaha FS1E featured a 50cc, two-stroke motor with disc-valved induction.

In our May issue of Memorable Motorcycles, we’ll take a look at the little Yamaha FS1, also known as, the Fizzy.

Normal members of the human race could be forgiven for thinking that lawmakers are a separate, alien species who have infiltrated our society with the avowed intent of making our lives a misery. In the first golden days of British motorcycling, you simply saddled up and rode away into the sunset without any license. Then a proficiency test was brought into force, but the neophyte rider still learnt on the bike of his choice. This was too good to last in the UK and so a 250cc limit was introduced, allegedly to keep learners safe – and miserable – riding dull, porcine British-built plodders.

With the advent of fast, sweet handling and reliable 250s, the aliens hit the biking world again. From 15 December 1971, Transport Minister John Peyton decreed that all British 16 year-olds should ride only mopeds. In the legislators’ minds, mopeds were the motorized bicycles that their name implies. Clearly, the idea was that the baby bikers would die of boredom riding 30-mph NSU Quicklys, complete with wire shopping baskets and naval camouflage colour schemes, and so never progress to anything more interesting. How wrong they were…

Leading the fight for humanity was the Yamaha FS1E – the immortal “Fizzy”. Fortunately for all would be Brit bikers of the era, the Fizzy was almost waiting in the wings for Peyton and the forces of evil to strike. The core of the bike was Yamaha’s F5B. This was a neat little 50cc, two-stroke motorcycle with disc-valved induction, learner-proof four-speed gearbox and decent brakes. Development of the bike had begun in 1969 and, under pressure from Dutch dealers, a detuned F5B, restricted to 25 mph and powered by a reed-valved, rather than disc-valved, engine was offered for sale as a moped in 1970.

That it could be sold at all was due to the genius of Henk Dullens, service manager of the Motorpaleis bike shop. Henk gifted a clever, reliable dodge for adding pedals to the basic motorcycle design so allowing it to be sold as a moped.

When the dead hand of John Peyton struck at British riders, the full power version of “Fizzy” was ready for action. Everyone who had one looks back on it with affection – and with good reason, too. The disc-valved motor produced 4.8 bhp – which was enough for a genuine mid-40-mph cruise. 50-mph-plus was just about possible providing the rider was laid flat on the tank, pointing downhill with a following wind. Naturally, this was the only modus operandi for the Fizzy owner out for a relaxing ride in the countryside after a hard day at Tech College. Around town, the motor was torquey, easy to ride and capable of the most extreme abuse imaginable.

The Yamaha FS1E was a favorite for new riders thanks to learner-proof four-speed gearbox and decent brakes.
The Yamaha FS1E was a favorite for new riders thanks to learner-proof four-speed gearbox and decent brakes.

In keeping with the quality of the engine, the handling was first class and the brakes too were excellent. In fact, mechanically, the bike was a superb package and, given half a chance, was capable of eking out every gallon of fuel to ridiculously high mileages. Driven sensibly, over 100 mpg was possible. The only difficulty being that there never has been a sensibly ridden “Fizzy”!

But best of all, the “Fizzy” was, and is, a magnificent piece of styling. Stood still, it looks as if it is cracking the magic “ton.” On the move, it is slim, svelte and athletic. Truly an aspirational bike for every 16-year-old human being – and an anathema to alien legislators.

Spares for “Fizzys” are still surprisingly available and riding one today has lost none of its charm. The only problem is that purchasers of very early gold, purple or baja brown bikes can expect to pay $7000 for the very best examples. That’s an awful lot of money for a four-speed 50cc moped no matter how charismatic it is. 

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