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Memorable Motorcycle: Yamaha SRX

Thursday, April 15, 2010
Memorable Motorcycle: Yamaha SRX
Frank takes a ride on the Yamaha SRX, our vintage motorcycle expert referring to the big Single as 'the best British bike the Japanese have ever made.'
The Yamaha SRX generates an ardent passion amongst its fans. Listen to a group of SRX owners and you could be forgiven for thinking that every third bike sold in the 1980s was an SRX: it wasn’t! That Yamaha’s big Single remains a minority interest is proof positive that Yamaha made the same mistake as many other manufacturers: they came unstuck by following the demands of vociferous customers - who then didn’t buy the bike they had been so stridently demanding.

Throughout the 1980s there was a consistent call for a true, classic, big Single - a bike drawn directly from the same gene pool which spawned the BSA Gold Star and the Velocette Venom. The arguments for the sporting Single are strong and persuasive. With a wafer-thin engine, the Single concentrates all its mass immediately down the center line of the bike and provides the most elegant and graceful of riding experiences.

Yamaha had already had one stab at the exercise, with the desperately flaccid and dull SR500 - the sort of bike Trainee Accountants would ride on their way to a seminar on tax allowances for worm breeders in Social Priority Areas. The SR had middle-aged styling, didn’t go, didn’t stop and had soggy handling which reduced it to the role of a Sunday afternoon potterer - or worse still, “sensible motorcycling.” The SRX was intended to be a completely different beast.

When launched in 1985, the bike was completely new in the sense that it bore little, or no, relation to the earlier SRs. For a start, the engine was sourced from the proven XT600E. This was, and is, an excellent motor with foolproof starting, a sweet six-speed gearbox, light clutch and willing power. In the XT/SRX trim it was also lightly stressed since basically the same power unit was used in the TT600 enduro bike and had a good reputation for longevity even when hammered off road. It was, after all, a successful Paris-Dakar race engine.
Memorable Motorcycle: Yamaha SRX
Yamaha decided to go for the twin-shocks in the rear as opposed to their trademarked monoshock for its SRX.

The chassis was new too and, depending on which side of the fence you stood, it was either inspired by Yamaha’s TZ race bikes or the British designed and built Seeley Suzuki. Either way, it was a neat piece of engineering which enveloped the motor so tightly that the bottom frame rails had to be made detachable.

Other bits of the first bikes were the result of raids on Yamaha’s parts’ bins. The front forks and brakes were lifted straight from the YPVS 2-strokes and the electrics were common to many of Yamaha’s bikes at the time.

Strangely, since Yamaha actually pioneered single shock suspension with their YZ motocross machines, the SRX was a twin-shocker - with a swingarm which owes more than a nod to a Seeley.

If you like big Singles, there is no question that the SRX is stunningly beautiful: not simply attractive but a pure work of art. The petrol tank looks as if someone has poured liquid plastic over the bike as it curves its way sensuously round the frame. Neat touches abound everywhere. Being a dry sump engine, the oil tank is separate and fabricated from alloy. The clip-ons are neat and precise and the instruments cafe racer-ish in a way which is completely authentic. In short, Yamaha got the SRX completely right.
Memorable Motorcycle: Yamaha SRX
The Yamaha SRX still delivers real world performance fit for a modern roads and traffic.

The riding experience is as good as the bike’s looks. There is something utterly addictive about the thump of the huge, 96mm, high-compression piston banging away in the heart of the metal horse. Nothing else can match the Single in the spine-tingling emotion stakes. With the standard silencer replaced by something more fruity, the SRX is a Manx Norton or Matchless G50 with lights. As the single overhead cam, 608cc, four-valve engine sucks in lungs full of air and exhales them with window-rattling enthusiasm, it’s back to real GP road racing in the ‘60s. Where’s my pudding basin helmet and black leathers?

The six-speed gearbox is sweet, the clutch light and the motor bursts into life with one half-hearted prod of the kick-start. The only thing it doesn’t do like a British classic, is leak oil.

The frame too is every bit a classic. Equipped with modern tires, the handling is excellent with all the neutral predictability and stability of my Seeley Suzuki race bike. Put one of the “Continental Circus” stars of the ‘60s on the SRX and it would have won GPs.
Memorable Motorcycle: Yamaha SRX
While it may not win any drag races, the Yamaha SRX will get you down the road in a hurry while returning great fuel mileage.

The SRX is also a thoroughly practical motorcycle. The four-valve head is equipped with twin carburetors and this gives an effortless, fuss free performance on the road. There is none of the hesitation of a sporting big Single from low revs. Instead, the SRX just gets on with the job all the way from 2000rpm to around 5500rpm, when vibration begins to make itself felt. Peak power, a genuine 33 hp at the back wheel, comes at 5500rpm and maximum torque a thousand revs lower.

Despite the apparent lack of horsepower, on paper at least, a standard SRX will cruise effortlessly at 75 mph and will just about crack the magic “ton” - all while sipping petrol at a miserly 80mpg. This performance, and frugal petrol consumption, makes the SRX a very pleasant, if unusual, classic touring bike.

Unlike classic British bikes, it has excellent lights and the inevitable vibration which comes with any big Single is never intrusive. The only modification to watch for is that the thinner saddle, fitted to all Japanese market imports, needs replacing by the inch thicker, American-spec design so that the riding position is not too cramped. Otherwise, the SRX is a bike which will handle 300-mile trips in a relaxed classic style - and still have the reserves of power, handling and braking required to deal with modern traffic.

Memorable Motorcycle: Yamaha SRX
The SRX may have been what buyers demanded, but they didn't actually buy the bike. The Yamaha a disappointment on showroom floors.
So, in summary, Yamaha built an outstandingly clever motorcycle which exceeded its performance brief in every respect - and looked the part too. A bike which is completely faithful to its original concept, meets the customers’ demands and works to perfection must clearly be a guaranteed success? Well, no.

First, Yamaha tried a re-vamp of the bike by introducing a modernized front end with a single disc and a 17-inch front wheel. In some ways, this was a retrograde step, because the original SRX had completely neutral, and very stable, handling. The 17-inch front gave quicker but slightly more nervous handling, more suited to sporting riding.

All the twin shock SRXs suffer from the myth that they are hard to start - and myth it is. An SRX will fire-up first kick, hot or cold - even after a six-month lay up. None of this meant anything to riders brought up on electric buttons: kick-starters were simply intimidating.
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Wabbit1961   December 1, 2013 07:21 AM
Just bought a used SRX-6 a couple months ago. THERE'S NOTHING BETWEEN MY LEGS!!! This bike is NARROW. I came off a 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 sport tourer and this SRX has me re-learning how to lean a bike over! So far I'm chicken to push it too far. The bike had a Supertrapp exhaust and pipes on it and came with the original exhaust also. I had the owner put the original exhaust back on the bike which I now believe to be a mistake. It chokes and spits like it's running out of fuel once it gets to about 5krpm. My bad. The bike was probably previously jetted for the Supertrapp. This week I plan to swap it back to the Supertrapp. It's a LOT less costly than having it re-jetted to stock (3-4 hour labor and parts = $400-$500!). The bike at this point is only getting about 40mpg so I know she's running WAY rich for the stock setup. I do run non-ethanol gas in it ($4.80/gal US). I LOVE THIS BIKE! It just has SO much character. I've taken it to bike meets and guys always come over to comment on it and gawk. They freak when I kick start it and it thumps away. Even with the stock exhaust it has such a cool sound in the rev band. Can't say enough good things about this bike. People ask me, and my mechanic shakes his head at me, when they know what I was riding and what I now choose to ride. I've ridden 1200cc and smaller, but riding this bike you use every ounce of throttle and motor, not just the low end of the rev spectrum as is with my 1000 Ninja. My mechanic thinks I'm crazy to have sold my Ninja for the SRX, but I love the older bikes and always will.
Tim -New SRX owner  September 25, 2010 08:17 PM
I went to a Yamaha dealership to try and find a carburetor rebuild kit, but no luck with Yamaha or aftermarket. You are able to order parts still through them but they were not able to order a single specific piece, such as a Carburetor float chamber gasket, but I was able to find it through this website. http://www.motogrid.com/pages/parts/viewbybrand/2/yamaha.aspx The Gasket is available for $13.23 Tim 86 SRX-6
suhaimy suhail ahmed -spare part?  September 21, 2010 07:56 PM
it is easy to get spare part for srx? example like engine gasket...
tedster -Best Brit bike by Japanese? I disagree.  September 3, 2010 12:09 AM
Don't know why they are calling this bike "the best british......."
It doesn't look like any classic Brit bike I've ever seen. Also it looks like the thin end of the wedge of the coming "sportbike" styling which is awful.
Andras -first bike  August 11, 2010 11:03 AM
I bought an SRX-6 almost a month ago, it is my first own bike. My first impressions are really good, in my opinion the power is enough for a naked bike, the handling is pretty good, and I just admire its looks. So far I've enjoyed every moment I spent on it. Nad that's what it's all about, isn't it? :)Here you can find some photos of my bike: http://www.flickr.com/photos/44876724@N03/4860265385/
Dickie -SRX owner  July 6, 2010 05:08 AM
I bought an SRX400 last week. It's my first bike so I have nothing to compare it to. It's great to read so many great comments about my new/old bike. It's an 88 model. It sounds like I've done well with my purchase, so I may just have to hang onto this one for more than a year or two. I'm amazed at how easy the clutch is and yes, that thumping engine is making the experience of learning to ride everything I had hoped it would be. Can't wait for the Aussie summer to begin so i can go for long coastal rides. Giddyup.
scote' -sweet  June 23, 2010 11:31 AM
To bad most riders are hung up on horsepower. I had an SR500 now have a KLR650, big singles are just plain fun, one cylinder, two wheels, what else do you need? I would love to have an SRX but you do not see them for sale that often.
Ludethedude -SRX400 = 33bhp.  June 19, 2010 05:01 PM
I've a late SRX400 - it's the one with 33bhp and monoshock. The 600 churns out more. I've been out of biking for 18yrs until I got the SRX three months ago. It was never sold in the UK and this one came over from Holland in 1999. I'm really, really happy with it and can see myself keeping it for years. Can't comment on Harleys 'cause I've never so much as had a go on one! Harleys are different sort of riding.
athula wilson -srx  April 23, 2010 04:28 PM
I'm lucky enough to own two of these at the moment. would not hesitate to get the third one. one of the best bike designs for a one of the best manufactures! If you like SRX, try googling yamaha SDR200.
Vince XB -Milwaukee doesn't want Mike  April 21, 2010 10:08 AM
Now, I love American bikes, especially our now departed Buells. That said, "dumbass metric"? Really? Don't make us American V-Twin lovers look like stupid Neanderthals. It's one thing to love the bike or brand you ride, it's another to throw the hate blanket on everything else. The SRX was a nice thumper bike. I love these late 70's, early 80's era bikes. They have a lot of character and so many of them were highly ridable. It's a refreshing change from the bloated, fat, and heavy products (barely) rolling out of Milwaukee at the time. Even the Sportster wasn't very sporty until the late 80's.
Backat55 -wishes  April 21, 2010 08:47 AM
Wish someone would make something like this today, with modern updates.
Like Royal Enfield but needs more performance
Ed Ahlf -SRX  April 20, 2010 05:06 PM
I took mine on a 2000 mile trip back in '95 with my Brother on his FT500 Ascot. Great fun. Traded for a TDM850 in '99. The USA SRX's had 2 front discs and the "shopping cart" wheels. Now have a KLR650, single cylinder fun with electric foot.
Jose -SRX  April 20, 2010 02:14 PM
I had totally forgoten about the SRX6. In the article it states that the engine is from the XT600E. That is wrong. The XT600E has an electric start only, that is why it's called an E model. Also, the SRX and the XT600s only have 5 speeds, not six as stated in the article. Unless he was riding one of the Japanese market 400cc or 250cc models. Not sure if they are 5 or 6 speeds. One other item. Didn't the US model have twin front disks?

As for the dumb asses arguing about H-D versus metric. Get a life. When I ride my XT600E on the street, most H-D guys won't even look at me. I just figure they are jerks. So when I seen them while riding one of my H-Ds, I just ignore them f'em.

I wave and give props to any rider on the road or trails. We are all part of a riding brotherhood...... ok, sisterhood too.

Ride On!

Joaquim Gonsalves -Sweet Ride!  April 20, 2010 01:20 PM
This one is my kinda classic. Definitely on my list of dream bikes!
Finn -SRX Owner  April 19, 2010 07:48 PM
Good on you SKrolaids - I'd like to sell it to you but I live a bit far away - Wellington, New Zealand. I also own a MuZ 660 Skorpion funny that some of us have moved on to the same bikes eh.
Bob in FL -SRX  April 19, 2010 06:46 PM
I bought one of these sweet SRX6's new back in 1986. I loved it and only sold it as a result of my first disastrous divorce. Years later I bought an MuZ Skorpion to try to recapture the feel of the SRX, but the Yamaha was definitely the sweeter machine. I miss the SRX much more than I miss my ex-wife.
Mike in WV -Dannicus and irksome  April 19, 2010 05:32 AM
Totally agree with you. I'm not a HD hater...just get pissed at those who see nothing of value in bikes other than HD.

In the early 80's, I had a Yamaha XS850s....that was another fine bike and fun to ride.
DoctorNine -Had one back in the day...  April 18, 2010 04:04 PM
Bought one of these new in '86. Absolutely the best city bike, pound for pound, that I have ever owned. Lightweight, torque out the wazoo, and fast to 60MPH. Never should have sold it to buy something for the interstate. Should have just stored. Learned my lesson though, I won't make that mistake again.
Tim B -SRX  April 18, 2010 10:01 AM
I don't think I've ever seen one of these bikes in person. They are surprisingly nice looking. It seems like it would be a lot of fun to ride even with that "little" engine.

I wonder if milwaukee mike realizes how dumb and ignorant he is.
irksome -...  April 17, 2010 02:42 PM
Milwaukee Mike is to be pitied, not scorned. Imagine going through life eating only tuna casserole. Big, overpriced, heavy, unreliable tuna casserole...
Dannicus -MZ  April 16, 2010 02:26 PM
MuZ! I thought that motor looked familiar.

Mike in WV,
I think milwaukee mike is a bit of a troll. I wouldn't get all into defending imports or bashing Harleys with him. He's set in his ways, and he's been round and round with other posters on here before.

bikerrandy -SRX600  April 16, 2010 11:26 AM
I don't see anything ugly about the SRX at all. Quite the opposite. If it had an electic starter I may have bought 1 when new. Instead now I ride a `00 MZ660 Tour with the same motor but with additions. But I have to admit this SRX still looks better than my Tour, IMHO.
Mike in WV -Milwaukee  April 16, 2010 10:37 AM
It's under Street Bike as well where it belongs and at the top of the article it clearly points, as it should, to the street bikes tab. Also worthy of note...this was during HD's AMF years and most of those bikes were Junk. So tell me Mike...what makes a metric dumbass? Explain how a unit of measure has anything to do with the quality of parts or the fit and finish of a bike. What about your beloved V-Rod? What happens to the day when HD goes metric with the rest of the world? What advantage does SAE have that translates into being of better quality than metric? I ride American...I've ridden Japanese, I've owned and ridden HD's...I'm fortunate to be able to afford any bike I choose and someday, if HD ever builds a bike as good or better than the one I own at the time, then I may consider buying one again...but not until. I was out with friends last night at a bike night...the have a brand new Road King...looks nice...unfortunately they didn't have any room in their saddlebags for the gear they just picked up, but since my saddlebags are so much larger, I carried their gear for them. I'm very happy that when my bike is parked in rows of RK's, SG's, RG's, SoftTails and Ultras...it's my bike that gets most of the attention and praise. I admit...that's nice, but it wasn't why I bought the bike...the bike was the perfect fit for my riding, comfort and need for power.

Again...take the time Mike to enlighten us all on just what makes SAE better than metric. It should make for some interesting, if not brief, reading.
Drunkula -Been looking for one  April 16, 2010 09:37 AM
Back in '86 I was in love with the SRX. However I was also in love the the FZ600 just a little more. I ended up getting the FZ. It was a great bike but the SRX is one that got away. With that in mind I've been watching Craig's list hoping to find a decent one at good deal. Here's to hoping!
milwaukee mike -Mike in WV  April 16, 2010 08:28 AM
If you lookes under the "cruiser" tab, you will find this article.
You'd love to critize, but your probably riding a dumbass metric.
Dannicus -Styling  April 16, 2010 07:21 AM
I actually dig alot of the 70s and 80s styles, but they just got it a bit wrong with that bike, IMO. That's not to say I would't rock a clean example on the commute!
Mike in WV -Bruin is lost again  April 16, 2010 05:47 AM
LMAO...once again Milwaukee Moron jumps on an opportunity to try to slam a non-Harley. Obviously he just clicked on the link without looking to see what class it was under. As is his typical behavior, he jumps to conclusions and the facts are irrelevent. In it's day...this was actually a cool little bike. Keep in mind that the styles during that time were not nearly as developed as we have now. In my advancing years, I get nostalgic seeing bikes from my younger days.
Dannicus -You are here...  April 15, 2010 09:53 PM
Mike, up at the top there are tabs that tell u where u are. This one is, "Street Bike."

Btw, love the SRX motor. Too bad the bike has a terminal case of the uglies!
milwaukee mike -SRX as a cruiser?  April 15, 2010 06:53 PM
I thought this was the cruiser forum?
And a bitty yamaha single just doesn't quite fit the bill.
irksome -Thumpers rock(ed).  April 15, 2010 06:09 PM
I bought one in Iowa, back in the early '90s and then rode it up to Wisconsin and across Michigan until sleet and snow forced me into a UHaul the rest of the way home to Boston. It was my 2nd single and an ideal bike for the city and for my riding skills at the time. What a blast on the roads of NH and western Mass. But I take some issue with your description of my old SR500; there was a wealth of aftermarket parts available at the time which I took full advantage of: lumpier cam, high-compression piston, stiffer fork springs, better shocks, rearsets, clubman bars, White Bros. exhaust... in many ways I miss my SR more than the SRX. Mainly because I BUILT the thing into the snotty little pig that it was. Ah the good old days, viewed through rose-colored glasses. Still, I'll keep my Speed Triple.
skrolaids -bike  April 15, 2010 03:58 PM
if you plan on selling it please give me a call as I am interested and I am looking for a small bike to take to work. I live in ct. 860-770-2181. ron.
Finn -SRX owner  April 15, 2010 02:02 PM
I have A SRX - I have been short changed in the gearbox department - mine has only 5 speeds (bloody ripoff) To kick start one has to lift the right footpeg - sometimes baggy pants catch the peg on the downstroke and I have scarred inside shins to prove it. Nice article though - should help with the sale when I get round to it.