Watch the 2015 Yamaha SR400 First Ride Video and see what we think of Yamaha’s new but classically designed and kickstart-only air-cooled street bike.
If you were a motorcyclist born in the ’60s or ‘70s you may have ridden Yamaha’s SR400. If not, now’s your chance as Yamaha returns the $5990 SR400 to its model line-up for 2015. The air-cooled 399cc Single that powers the SR is fuel injected, but the retro-styled Yamaha stays true to its roots with an old school kickstart-only ignition. Its elementary platform encourages new and experienced motorcyclists alike to get back to the basics of riding.
Whether it’s tiny high-waisted shorts or Oakley Razorblades, it seems everything old is new again, and Yamaha is gunning for the nostalgia theme with its SR. The motorcycle is quite literally a stamped-in-steel copy of the more than 30-year-old original. Swing a leg over it its short, elongated seat and you’re greeted by instant familiarity. The seating position is open and well suited for zipping around the city. The SR features a well-proportioned and slightly swept back chrome handlebar and a pair of round classic gauge clusters displaying speed on the left and engine rpm on the right. Transmission neutral, turn signal indicator and engine warning lights are also integrated into the gauges.
(Top) The SR400 sources a two-valve air-cooled 399cc Single that’s fuel injected. It’s lit via a manual kickstarter. (Center) Instrumentation is simple but effective and even includes a low-fuel warning light. (Bottom) The SR400’s seat is long and low. It can accommodate a passenger and is reasonably comfortable for city riding.
Just like the original, lighting the SR’s two-valve engine is a physical experience. Instead of push button electric start, it uses a dirt bike-style starter lever on the right-hand side of the motorcycle. Fortunately, with the inclusion of electronic fuel injection, the procedure is a bit more automated. Here’s how it goes:
Flip the key, engine kill and fuel tank switch to ‘on’, and pull out the kickstarter. While holding the handlebar-mounted decompression lever with your left finger slowly boot the starter until you see silver inside the indicator window on the right-hand side of the cylinder. Release the decompression device and return the kickstarter to the top of the stroke. Now give it a firm and complete prod and you’re ready to ride. (Riders also need to make sure they don’t give it any gas as that will only inhibit starting). While the technique may seem a little complex, once you get a feel for it the process becomes pretty easy. The SR also bump starts easily, even at a speed around 10 mph. The kickstarter is an interesting novelty. Still, it would be nice if Yamaha had included electric start.
Once running the SR’s engine idles perfectly, regardless if the engine is piping hot or its the first start of the day. With the clutch’s friendly lever pull and wide engagement window it’s an easy motorcycle to get rolling from a stop. Each of the transmission’s five forward gears engage without any fuss and it’s easy to set it in neutral at a stop.
The SR’s engine provides ample torque to holeshot fellow motorists from a stop light and easily keeps up with traffic at highway speeds. Due to the location of our urban ride, we weren’t able to experience its top speed. A degree of engine vibration is constant at all speeds, but it isn’t a deal breaker. However, it is enough to inhibit the usefulness of the rear view mirrors at times. The engine hums quietly enough to slip through neighborhoods undetected yet still emits a pleasing purr when the throttle is twisted.
The SR rolls on a pair of 18-inch wire spoke aluminum wheels from DID wrapped with tubed Bridgestone Battlax BT-45 rubber. A non-adjustable upright fork and a pair of coil spring shocks provide a rudimentary level of bump absorption, comfort and road holding. Heavier riders, or those that ride two-up will need to be mindful of pavement dips and other irregularities as its very easy to use all of the suspension’s travel and grind hard parts against pavement. Besides that caveat, the 400 is exceptionally maneuverable. Like a scooter it can be flipped around in a very small radius and its handling manners are easy to get a feel for on the road. While you don’t have to worry about endoing over the handlebar given the modest stopping force of the front hydraulic front disc and rear mechanical drum brakes they get the job done.
(Top) After a 33-year break Yamaha re-introduces its classic SR400 to the U.S. as a 2015 street line-up for $5990. (Center) While prime for customization we like the quiet purr of the SR400’s exhaust note. (Bottom) Yamaha helps riders get back to the basics with its tried-and-true SR400 street bike.
Riders looking to relive the glory days or seeking an authentic classically-styled retro motorcycle, with a one-year warranty, will love the SR. It’s an ideal platform for customization yet it offers the everyday dependability for which Japanese-built motorcycles are renowned.
- Nostalgic riding experience with modern assembly and one-year warranty
- Retro good looks
- Simple, reliable transportation
- Manual starting procedure could dissuade some riders
- Switchgear appears cheap
- MSRP outpaces inflation from its original era