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2015 Yamaha SR400 First Ride

Thursday, August 14, 2014

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2015 Yamaha SR400 First Ride Video
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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.

While prime for customization we like the quiet purr of the SR400s exhaust note.

(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.
Yamaha SR400 Highs & Lows
  • 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

Bell Helmets Custom 500 Helmet
The classic good looks of Bell Helmet’s original open face lid lives on with its recently redesigned Custom 500 helmet. DOT-approved and available in six sizes (XS-XXL), each variation, with the exception of the XS/S comes with a uniquely shaped fiberglass outer shell and internal EPS liner. It comes with a quilted and fixed internal liner and is attached to rider’s head via a conventional fabric strap and D-ring enclosure. The Custom fits with sizing comparable to its Moto-9 off road helmet and available in seven colorways.

2015 Yamaha SR400 Photos
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2015 Yamaha SR400 First Look
Riding weight is claimed to be 384 pounds  which along with a 30.9-inch seat height will make the 2015 Yamaha SR400 especially accommodating for smaller riders.
Yamaha introduces a fresh entry-level street bike to the US market with its Japanese-built 2015 SR400 ($5990). The SR fuses the styling of the original 36-year-old cult classic with a few elements of modern technology, including fuel-injection and a front disc brake. But the classic-styled Yamaha keeps things stone-axe simple with a surprising omission from the spec sheet, electric start, with the SR400 sourcing a kick-starter...

Find out more in the 2015 Yamaha SR400 First Look article
Street Bike Dealer Locator
2015 Yamaha SR400 Tech Specs

399cc air-cooled Single, Two-valve
Bore x Stroke: 97.0 x 62.7mm
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Clutch: Wet multi-plate, cable actuation
Transmission: Five-speed
Final Drive: Chain
Front Suspension: Telescopic fork; 5.9 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Twin hydraulic shocks; 4.1 in. travel
Front Brake: 268mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Rear Brake: 250mm drum
Front Tire: Bridgestone Battlax 90/80-18
Rear Tire: Bridgestone Battlax 110/90-18
Curb Weight: 384 lbs. (claimed) 
Wheelbase: 55.5 in.
Length: 82.1 in. Width: 29.5 in.
Rake / Trail: 27.0 deg. / 4.4 in.
Seat Height: 30.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gal.
MSRP: $5990
Colors: Dark Grey Metallic 

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vegavairbob   October 4, 2014 06:58 AM
The new Yamaha SR400 from the experts: "The Yamaha SR400 has stood the test of time like no other model." “We decided to import the SR 400 in small quantities, based on the demand from tuners and special customers" says Product Planning manager Oliver Grill. Oliver expects the bike to remain exclusive. “The bike is of course not cheap with low production quantities, high-quality parts and production in Japan." Total Motorcycle "The 2015 Yamaha SR400...re-introduces a motorcycle that originally debuted in the U.S. in 1978. Not much beyond the addition of fuel injection has changed with the 399cc motorcycle, making this more like a classic reissue than a modern bike masquerading as old iron." "The SR400 is supremely manageable. Small, lightweight, and simple to operate, this naked bike recalls many of the things there are to like about back-to-basics motorcycles." About.com "Yamaha had been a little left out of the small bike market in North America, with nothing in between the ancient V-Star (a re-badged Virago) 250 and the 600cc sporty-but-comfortable FZ6R. Enter the SR400. Its looks can only be described as retro…so retro that owners will be fielding questions from strangers asking how long it took to restore it." Ride Newfoundland, April 2014 "For many riders, the character, soul and image of a machine is far more important than its acceleration figures or potential lean angle. Fundamental qualities such as simplicity, ease of use and timeless design are more important to the SR400 owner. With its relaxed torque, light and agile chassis and sheer mechanical beauty, the SR400 is designed to appeal to riders looking for a motorcycle with a real heritage and character, and one which fully engages its owner." MC News.com AU, April 2014 "The Yamaha SR500 sold in Australia from 1978 to 1982 and only a few thousand hit the streets. Since then, small volume importers have shipped in grey imports to satisfy the demand for SR bikes to customize into cafe racers." "Meanwhile, he can’t wipe the grin off his face as he trundles around the streets of Melbourne on the new Yamaha SR400. The fuel injection means it is not as hard to start, it idles smoothly and evenly, and it’s so easy to ride around town.” "The new model is a very sweet ride.” Motorbike Writer, May 2014 "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." "Yamaha says they plan to bring in 500 units." Back Roads Motorcycle Rides, June 2014 "There is a lot to like about this cult classic, from its retro good looks to its easy handling personality, it has a carefree, other place and time kind of feel." "If you can get onboard with the anachronism of kickstarting a fuel-injected bike, you’ll find the 2015 Yamaha SR400 to be a satisfyingly enjoyable ride. Ultimate Motorcycling, August 2014 "Real Retro? More Like, Real Survivor. "Overall, the SR400 is a fine little bike, mechanically sound and terrifically styled." "The SR is a fundamental motorcycle, and if you're after that essential vintage-bike look and feel without the constant upkeep, the SR400 may be the bike for you." Motorcyclist, August 2014 "The motorcycle is quite literally a stamped-in-steel copy of the more than 30-year-old original." "Riders looking to relive the glory days or seeking an authentic classically-styled retro motorcycle, with a one-year warranty, will love the SR." Motorcycle USA, August 2014 "Anyway, here the thing is, all 384 pounds of it, rolling on 18-inch wire wheels and tube-filled Bridgestone Battlax tires, for the low low price of $5,990. Yamaha’s people are throwing out phrases like mechanical honesty and elemental beauty to spin the SR, and they may be onto something.'" Motorcycle.com. August 2014 "For any retro-loving motorcycle enthusiast, the eye glides along the sweet, svelte lines of the 2015 Yamaha SR400 just like it did in 1978. Because Yamaha got it right back then and correctly chose not to change much since. "And just think. Because it’s new there won’t be any stripped or rusted fasteners. That’s worth the $5990 asking price right there. Well, that and the satisfaction of kicking your motorcycle to life." Cycle World. August 2014 "We haven’t seen this bike in 33 years on the U.S. market. Like a time capsule that’s been opened, the 2014 Yamaha SR400 is a completely new, old motorcycle." "It has all the charm and feelings of a vintage bike, without the repair bill." "You’re not going to keep up with your pal's 600, but you’ll be the one laughing while you wait on them at the bottom of the canyons or end of a traffic jam." Ride Apart Inc. August 2014 "This Yamaha with its first introduction in the late 70s is still a serious motorcycle 35 years later." "With the growing desire for back-to-basics' Yamaha decided the time was ripe for a reintroduction." "The beauty of the SR is that the sympathetic-looking air cooler is not retro, but the real deal." Motor magazine September 2014 "The 2015 Yamaha SR400 carries a retail price of $5,990, and is available in just one color, Liquid Graphite. Yamaha probably could have lowered the price by reducing the quality of some of the components, like the solid steel fenders and tank. I’m glad that they didn’t, because the SR400 feels like a solid piece of manufacturing." Forbes September 2014 "The SR400 looks like the real deal because it is, a living classic that hasn’t changed much since it debuted nearly 40 years ago. I’ve watched guys stop to admire it in the parking lot, assessing its clean lines and generous chrome, wondering how old it is. And if they’re of a certain age, they pause, close their eyes briefly and think back to more carefree days. Those memories are priceless. Creating new ones will set you back $5,990." Rider September 2014
vegavairbob   August 28, 2014 05:07 PM
I paid about $2000 for a new '79 SR500 back in the day. So what hasn't at least tripled in price in three decades. Most new entry-level sport bikes have gone up even more, now in the $7000 - $8000 range. At $5990 the 2015 SR400 is a well made, limited production motorcycle that is worth the money. Suzuki does offer cheaper Thumpers, including the $4399 TU250X and the $5699 Boulevard S40, but you get what you pay for. The SR is a much nicer machine. If you don't care to spend $6000 for a brand new one but a (nice) 1978-81 SR500 for #2500 $3600. Yea, there worth more than $2000 now.
Lee   August 20, 2014 12:04 PM
Taste is such a personal thing - look at every single retro-styled bike in the world and compare it to a similar class modern bike and it comes out behind in pure function. But as long as there are bikers who think the rear fender shouldn't be two feet above the rear wheel, that you should be able to see through the engine instead of seeing yards of plastic, that mufflers should be low and parallel to the ground, that riders should sit upright and not leaned over the tank, you'll have motorcyclists who pay as much or more for the traditional look.
cggunnersmate   August 20, 2014 05:56 AM
To woodco100: Honestly this probably isn't the bike for you, especially if it would be your only bike or more importantly sole means of transport. You'd be better off with and FZ-07 or similar. This bike (SR400) is not really marketed to you. It's a niche bike, limited quantities, it's a nostalgia trip for older riders who had an SR500 or similar back in the day or someone younger who wants to look like someone from the late 60's early 70's. A modern urban beatnick. With only 500 bound for the US (if a true number) means they arent' expecting to sell shed loads of them, that's what the FZ line is for. There's nothing wrong with a company selling a bike at a higher price based more on intangibles like nostalgia, exclusivity etc than performance factors. HD has been doing this for decades. Many of your boutique brands do this at rediculous prices. MV has sold F4's at six figure prices and they'd get soundly trounced by a bone stock $15k S1000RR. But they sure are pretty and you don't see many.
woodco100   August 19, 2014 08:43 PM
Perhaps I stand corrected, perhaps not. Apparently this is the hottest selling bike in the USA that no one knew about. Let me ask this, can you name one thing this bike does well, except look old, sorry vintage. Does it tour well? Accelerate and handle well? Stop well? $6k is a lot of money to me, I can only have 1 MC. I am still looking for someone to explain why this should be the one.
Lee   August 19, 2014 01:51 PM
I bought a new SR500 in 1978 and it was a great bike for a few years - handled great - looked great - easy to start and easy to maintain - however, 2 things soured me on Yamahas forever - here I was supposed to have confidence in the quality with their logo being a precision tuning fork, and then 2 really bad things happened - the magneto completely failed one day after work and Yamaha got $400 for a replacement, that was a quarter the price of the whole bike, their attitude was, throw the bike away or buy the new magneto. The second thing was, the dopes didn't use Locktite on the nuts that hold the jug to the crankcase, the nuts vibrated lose (it is a thumper after all) and that necessitated an expensive repair. With 3 other Japanese manufacturers competing for my money, my attitude since then has been, "Fool me once, shame on you."
DaytonaSG   August 19, 2014 11:59 AM
My first motorcycle was a 1978 SR500. If I had unlimited money and garage space, I would buy one of these. It was a very charismatic motorcycle, and the vibration, though pronounced was, somehow, not at all annoying. And there is some satisfaction to be had every time you get on and start it on its first or second kick.
cggunnersmate   August 19, 2014 09:40 AM
I was also an initial knee jerk that it was over priced and from a performance per dollar standpoint it is, at least compared to it's stablemate the FZ-07 but they're catering to two different markets even though they are (several generations removed) both basically UJM's. The FZ-07 is your modern standard with some hooligan tendencies. The SR400 is your nostalgia trip. Classic bike styling and performance with moder reliability. You pay a premium for at least one of those on a Harley Davidson. Well I guess HD's are fairly reliable nowadays. The SR400 is $3-4k cheaper than the Truimph T100 family (Bonnie, Thruxton and Scrambler) as well it should be with half the number of cylinders and less then half the displacement. IMO, it's reasonably priced, though too rich for my blood and I'd go for the FZ-07 at that price and find an old SR500 or similar for a project at a lower price but that's just me. A bike like the SR400 wouldn't be my primary but a pleasant diversion from my main bike (currently an Aprilia Tuono).
vegavairbob   August 18, 2014 09:26 AM
The negative and stupid comments by people who wouldn't even consider this bike is not going to influence anyone with any brains and $6k.
vegavairbob   August 18, 2014 09:23 AM
kz1000st, woodco100, woodco100 The bike is produced in limited numbers. That's the way Yamaha has been doing this model for 36 yeers in Japan. They could care less whether you buy it or not. It's not made for you. And Yamaha has to increase production to keep up with demand since it has returned to Europe, and the US.
vegavairbob   August 18, 2014 09:18 AM
If I read one more person say it's too expensive...after one look I felt it was well worth its $5990 price tag. Why quibble. Vintage SR500s have increased in value $1000 above their original MSRP, unlike most multi-cylinder bikes of the era worth half as much.
airedale   August 18, 2014 08:54 AM
I don't understand all the hate for this bike. A lot of folks like the looks of the UJM style bikes but don't have the time, inclination, or skills to keep a 35 year old motorcycle on the road. For those people this is the only real option currently on the market. If you don't like it don't buy it.
56Steve   August 18, 2014 07:17 AM
"If you were a motorcyclist back in the 1960s or ‘70s" Well not in the 60's bike didn't come out till 78. Glad to see it back, I had a SR500 about 10 years ago, fun bike on a back road but could be a little cantankerous to start but the SR400 with FI should solve that. I hope they sell a bunch so I can pick up a used one down the road.
motousa_adam   August 16, 2014 12:02 PM
Haha!! Well said, Piglet2010 !! Adam
Piglet2010   August 15, 2014 05:21 PM
Since it says "Yamaha" on the side people say it is overpriced. But if the same bike said "Harley-Davidson", it would magically become a bargain.
kz1000st   August 15, 2014 10:39 AM
I'm with the people who say "Wait and buy the leftovers". This is an SR-500 revisited. It goes no faster than a Suzuki GW-250 but cost a lot more. It's even more than a CB-500, yet is no better. Nostalgia is nice but even Harleys don't have kickstarters anymore. Offer both, electric and kick, and you might have something. But not much. I owned a W650 for ten years. It sounded great, it looked great, it got attention every time I stopped with it. I never liked it. The past belongs in the past. Those half price multis work better and last. I'll take a thirty year old Maxim or Seca any day. This I'll just smile at.
Motdog   August 15, 2014 10:31 AM
@woodco100- The Vstar250 is $4340 and you want Yamaha to price the SR400 at $4k? That's not happening. The demand on this bike is red hot right now and given the fact that Yamaha will not be flooding the market place, we can safely assume that there won't be any dust collecting in a long time. BTW, all of my local Yamaha shops can't hardly keep this bike, the FZ07, FZ09 or Bolt on their floor.
vegavairbob   August 15, 2014 08:40 AM
The 2015 SR400 is virtually the same bike as the SR500 which was sold in the U.S from 1978-1981. The SR500 was discontinued in 1999 but the SR400 has been sold only in Japan since 1978. t didn't take very long after stumbling upon the news of the bke's upcoming availability in the U.S. for me to decide to buy one, and after one look I felt it was well worth its $5990 price tag. Why quibble. Vintage SR500s have increased in value $1000 above their original MSRP, unlike most multi-cylinder bikes of the era worth half as much. I picked up my new bike June 25th 2014 from the same salesman that sold me a new 1979 SR500. We were in our twenties then..Scott is 60 now and I turn 55 next month. I started it a few times on the first kick (one time in two kicks). It feels just like my old SR500...with a smoother engine and an easier clutch. It idles smoothly, and there's no choke or hot start button to fiddle with thanks to the EFI. Power feels close to the 500. After all, it is the same engine while making 6 less hp. It feels less thumpy at slower speeds and the lower torque is evident, but it accelerates as well as the 500, and is more eager to rev through the gears. Brought it up to about 65. Kept altering the speed, following the break-in procedure. The ride comfort and handling is awesome, like I remember. The bike is well balanced and responsive, and the seat is noticeably more comfortable. It was very windy on that first ride home but the bike was unaffected. With the threat of bad weather I'd have to show it off another day. The quality is top-notch and the bike looks even pricier than it is. The engine finish is high and the paint and chrome are flawless. The exclusive U.S. Liquid Graphite metallic paint job with Yamaha black side covers is decidedly striking in person. The aluminum spoke wheels are nicely finished giving the bike a classy, vintage look lacking on the original, while Yamaha chose function over form regarding tires and brakes. In lieu of retro treads (Metzler Perfect Me77) on the '14 European model, sticky Bridgestone Battlax BT-45s are fitted to the '15 U.S. model, as is a modern drilled front disc brake rotor. The bike is produced in small numbers. According to Yamaha's Japanese web-site, 1,300 units per year are being produced for Yamaha's Japan home market, while its been announced that 500 units will be imported to the U.S this year. Yamaha must be very proud of this model, building it as long as they have, because although the bike has remained virtually the same in design for 36 years, much refinement is evident and it looks and feels like t's built, not to a price, but with a lot of care and pride.?
woodco100   August 15, 2014 05:40 AM
...or just wait 3 years. The dealers will begging you to buy the leftovers for $4k. Just blow the dust off and ride home.
woodco100   August 15, 2014 05:38 AM
No one buying this MC cares where it is made, build it outside of Japan to keep the cost down. Surely they could deliver a 40 year old design for about $4k.
Piglet2010   August 14, 2014 05:58 PM
@ OutOfTheBox - Both the picture and specs indicate a front disc brake on the SR400.
neo1piv014   August 14, 2014 07:31 AM
For that kind of money, you can get a hell of a machine that isn't solely cashing in on nostalgia. If this thing was priced better, I could see the appeal, but six grand is a tough pill to swallow. How much is that FZ-07 again...
dabimf   August 14, 2014 04:45 AM
Nice simple bike. However, way too much money to pay for nostalgia. Too many nice bikes in the market in the 6k range.