Saturday 28 February 2015

Prototype Yamaha TT 500

Interesting story of how this 420cc prototype, no. 043-0-001, skipped crusher row. As told in detail by Mulligan Machine. BP
i found out about it a while back thru november/december 08(i think) issue of motorcycle classics. i skipped over it my first read, and a few months later out of boredom picked it back up again. Low and behold the saga.....

The Missing Link: Yamaha's first 4-stroke thumper “Around 1974 or so, I got a call from the retail dealer in Buena Park [Calif.]. He said there was a guy asking for parts for an unusual engine. A light went on, and I asked the dealer to find out where he had got it. The guy clammed up. That’s the last I heard of it until I saw it at the Hanford meet.” — Bill Stewart, retired, Yamaha Motor USA Testing Department Manager.
The course of engine development is not always smooth. What seems like a good idea on a computer screen does not always translate well to reality. And in the old days of drafting tables, the process of moving from two to three dimensions was even more fraught with unforeseen obstacles. Prototypes demonstrate in a concrete form the process of development of the production motorcycle. But since factories don’t want rival companies — or journalists — to get their hands on a prototype, they’re almost always destroyed.
The occasional prototype does survive, and when it does, it’s usually very valuable. Glenn Bator, a well known California-based restorer and vintage bike broker, found this engine and, through a lucky break, learned its history.
In the early 1970s, the Yamaha testing facility (then in Buena Park) got rid of unwanted pre-production motorcycles and other test machinery twice a year. Bill Stewart remembers they would call in a scrap metal company, who agreed to grind everything they got into little bits in exchange for free scrap. “Somehow, this engine slipped through — someone took it out of the scrap yard or they stole it,” Bill says. The engine Bill is talking about, no. 043-0-001, is the missing link between Yamaha’s offroad 2-strokes and its popular and successful TT500 4-stroke thumper.
In 1973 or 1974, Bill and his crew opened a crate from Japan and pulled out an offroad motorcycle powered by a 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine. The engine, marked with serial no. 043-0-001, had sand cast cases clearly derived from the 500cc 2-stroke SC500 Yamaha was then making.
The valves (45mm intake, 37mm exhaust) were operated by an overhead cam with the cam chain running on the left side. The spark plug was on the right. The piston was a flat top, 3-ring style typical for the era, with small reliefs for the valves. The cam sprocket and crankshaft flywheels were special construction billet steel marked with red layout dye and scribe lines. The connecting rod was a production level forging with “043” embossed on the surface. Lubrication was wet sump. The cam gear and oil pump gear were machined billet steel, while the oil pump was a special sand cast unit.
The clutch, transmission and cycle parts were from the ancestral SC500, as was the frame, although modified to hold the 4-stroke engine. A cable operated compression release was automatically operated by the kickstarter.
Crankcase breathing and oil control seem to have been the principal challenges to the Yamaha engineers. The cases appear to have been repeatedly reworked by welding and epoxy filling to prevent oil ventilation to atmosphere during the piston’s down stroke (which pressurizes the crankcase) and to control oil pickup by the flywheels. There’s also evidence that the cylinder studs and carburetor mounting were moved at least once.
Despite all this work, no. 043-0-001 wasn’t going to win any races. Bill remembers: “I had an old Ariel Red Hunter — it would ride rings around that thing. [The Yamaha] had a lot of problems. It was only 420 or 440cc [the engine as it now exists is actually 478cc, but it might have been bored out at some point], due to having to reduce the cylinder height to fit the 4-stroke conversion in the old 2-stroke frame. The motor was short stroke, and it needed a longer stroke to make any torque. The engineers knew it wouldn’t do the job — it was a Band-Aid until they could design a good motor.“
Meanwhile, someone owed Jack Davis money. Jack ran a business in the Los Angeles area making performance motorcycle and snowmobile parts, and often volunteered to help the Yamaha factory with offroad races. Jack was given this engine (missing rocker box and side covers) to clear the debt. It then sat under Davis’ bench for a number of years. Eventually, he gave it to Bob Gregg, another offroad enthusiast, who operated a foundry.
Bob had C&J Racing make a frame for it, but made the rocker box cover and side cover himself. Bob adorned the chassis with typical period offroad gear including Preston Petty fenders, Malcolm Smith handlebars and S&W shocks. Jack rode the completed bike and wasn’t impressed. Bob eventually gave the bike to Jack, who eventually sold it. It might have ended there, if not for Glenn Bator. On July 4, 2007, Glenn was watching a parade and chatting with a family standing next to him. The husband mentioned that his brother had a prototype Yamaha TT500 he wanted to sell. Glenn went to see it, liked it and bought it. “I used to work for a Yamaha dealership,” Glenn explains. “I used to work on TT500s when they were new.”
In an effort to give the bike more exposure and determine its history, Glenn brought the bike to the big vintage bike meet in Hanford, Calif. Bill happened to stop by, and saw the bike. “You know,” said Bill, “that motor shouldn’t exist.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Friday 27 February 2015

UPDATE - Perris Tomorrow Night


The season opener happens at Perris tomorrow night. Get out there to see a massive variety of machinery from brakes Indians to framers and DTX, plus some of the top US racers preparing for the GNC.
Race entries available on the day too, I think. G

Thursday 26 February 2015

Ride the Himalayas with Sideburn

Ride the challenging roads of the Pangi Valley and the Himalayas in the far north of India with Sideburn's editor Gary Inman and respected tour leaders, Helmet Stories.
Seven days of riding, camping and feasting with India’s most fun motorcycle tour company and your favourite motorcycle magazine.

PRICE: 100,000 rupees (approx. £1000, US$1600, €1400, AU$ 2000 at current exchange rates).

INCLUDES: Royal Enfield bike rental, transfers to and from New Delhi International airport; meals and drinks on the road; all accommodation (twin sharing in hotels, individual tents when camping); sleeping bag; guides; back-up truck; mechanic and kitchen staff.

WHEN: 10-18 September 2015.

WHERE: Chandigarh and Pangi Valley in Himachal.

You must be in New Delhi before midday on 10 September 2015.  Fly home after 8pm on 18 September 2015. Helmet Stories can suggest hotels if you want to arrive before or leave later to have more time to acclimatise and relax.

13 places only.

The trip is run by the highly experienced Helmet Stories company.
All payments to Helmet Stories.

50% deposit on booking.
25% two weeks before trip.
25% on arrival in Delhi

NOT INCLUDED: Flights to and from Delhi; any accommodation before the 10th or after the 18th; personal insurance; riding kit (bring your own).

10 Sept, day 1: Arrive New Delhi, transfer to Chandigarh by van/bus, 250km. Overnight in hotel.

Day 2: Chandigarh – Manali by van/bus - 185 miles
Hotel overnight.
6am start to reach Manali by afternoon. Last hot running water for four days. Collect bikes.

Day 3: Manali ­– Urgos - 110 miles.
Camp overnight.
Very easy if the sun is out, very tough if the rain gods come out to play. There's perfect tarmac, mud to play in, wooded tracks running along feisty rivers and a campsite shaded by willows at the end of the day. A perfect start to come to terms with your motorcycle, a 500cc Royal Enfield.
Day 4: Urgos – Phindri - 55 miles.
Camp overnight.
Challenging riding on this ball-breaking road.
Day 5: Phindri – Sural Bhatori via Killar - 70 miles.
Camp overnight.
Of the same terrain as Day 4. Rewarding riding.

Day 6: Sural-Sach Pass– Satrundi - 75 miles.
Camp overnight.
Even more ball-breaking roads and crossing a 14,500ft (4500m) mountain pass. This is not a gentle blast down the Pacific Coast Highway.

Day 7: Satrundi – Khajjiar - 75 miles.
Tarmac begins. Sort of… Riding through the mini-Switzerland of India. Overnight in hotel. Hot running water.

Day 8: Khajjiar – McLeodganj - 80 miles.
The last day of riding marked with scenic back roads and ending in the official home town of the Dalai Lama. Overnight in hotel.

18 September
Day 9: McLeodganj – New Delhi airport by van/bus - 370 miles.

* Organisers reserve the right to change the itinerary without prior warning.
Can you spot the bike?

Sideburn Wooly Hats in Stock

We thought we weren't going to make any more of these wooly hats, and even told people who asked.  But so many people kept asking for them and then some paid stupid money (£114) on eBay for a WOOLY HAT! Not a kidney. Not a roman coin. Not Marilyn Monroe's bra. A hat!

When Guy Martin's own website said they'd like some to sell, we made some more.

We have them in stock at the eBay busting price of £15 plus post. But a quick search shows them already on the popular internet auction site at up to £59.95 (these screen grabs were taken this morning). Speculating to accumulate. Nothing wrong with that in this post-Thatcher economy. Some people are even using our photos without permission, and we don't like that.

  • So to make it clear. 
  • We have them in stock. 
  • They are made in England. 
  • They are £15. 
  • We will NEVER sell these hats at an inflated price on eBay or anywhere else. 
  • If you see someone doing it with our photos, they are doing it without our permission. 

Get yours at the Sideburn shop. G

Wednesday 25 February 2015


Who'd da thunk it? We certainly never realised our little fanzine would make it to twenty issues. Sideburn #20 is now at the printers!
We do appreciate the seven years of cheering from the grandstand.
Without you, there would be no us. Thank you for your support.
Classic photo by Dan Mahony of #20 Johnny Murphree leading the freight train at the Springfield Mile. BP

Tuesday 24 February 2015

UPDATE: Death Spray DTX For Sale


The bike David Death Spray rode in the Rookie class last year. Clean and ready to race. Perfect for someone wanting to get involved with the DTRA this year.

Suzuki RMZ 450
Excel rims
R6 forks
Ready to race
£1850 / London

Dirty Sunday

The mystery BM' has been traced to the Activa Garage, Dirty Sunday event in Eauze, France, held last September.
It looks like a great event.
Check out the DIY studded Fat Boy tyre on this Harley chop.
Serge Nuques, 'Knight of Groland', in his element.
More info (and scroll down for a full set of Patrick Douki's photos) on the Classic Racer Facebook page.
And here's a video from their first event in 2013. BP

Monday 23 February 2015

Johnny Alpha at the Go-Go Cage

To paraphrase Ornamental Conifer, Mondays aren't so bad, it's your music that sucks.

Making my Monday better way is the latest mix from Johnny Alpha, with help from Liverpool's Go-Go Cage DJs, Carl Combover and Andy Hoodoo.

The track list is below. Now cut a rug! G

 Johnny Alpha (left) and Carl Combover
 Andy Hoodoo and friend

Krazy Horse Go Big

My favourite motorcycle shop in the UK is expanding. For nearly 20 years, Krazy Horse was a great little back street chopper shop in the sleepy town of Bury St Edmunds. They built award-winning bikes and sold parts. Then, in the depths of a global economic downturn, the owner decided it was time to throw £100,000s at a new building, still in the same Suffolk town.

The result is a proper 'destination'. There is a large showroom of a massive variety of custom bikes for sale and on display, plus a high class cafe, parts area, MoT area, Dyno room and clothing shop selling Levi's, Dickies, Deus Ex Machina, Roland Sands, Belstaff, Pike Brothers...

The audacity of investing so heavily when others where cutting back has proved to be a good one. Krazy Horse are now dealers for Norton, Indian, Victory, Zaeta, Paton, Hardknock (learner-freindly chopper-style bikes) and Morgan cars. They've run out of room, so, from this Saturday on - 28 February - they will have two premises, a short walk from each other.

As part of the opening they are having an exhibit of the work of UK photographer, Merry Michau. Go check it out. G

Sunday 22 February 2015

All You Need Is Ride 4

We have a handful of the new issue of classy French zine All You Need Is Ride in stock. It's now written in English.
We've stocked up on Motorcycho issues too.
Fill your boots at the Sideburn webshop.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Ocala Dirt Track on FansChoice.TV today

The same FansChoice TV crew that delivered GNC live streams all year are streaming live racing from Ocala, Florida today. This is a non-GNC race, but FansChoice and the AMA are using it as a test for new equipment. Some of the top racers will be there preparing for the season opener at Daytona next month.

Live streaming coverage will begin with pre-race interviews at 3:00 p.m. ET (12:00 noon PT) with practice at 4:00 p.m. ET (1:00 p.m. PT). The evening program of racing is slated to begin at 6:00 p.m. ET (3:00 p.m. PT). Log on and tune in at

Sideburn x DTRA x Bolt

We're having an event with the DTRA at Bolt London, the afternoon of Saturday 21 March.
Come along and see...
  • Great DTRA race bikes
  • The best photography from the last few seasons
  • Meet the race organisers and have all your questions answered
  • Check out the new number boards with a custom font from House Industries
  • Paw the fancy clobber and Biltwell good stuff that Bolt sell
  • Have a Dark Arts coffee
  • Make a night of it with an after-party hosted by the Eat Dust crew from Belgium
Oh, and get your hands on the new Sideburn! G

Friday 20 February 2015

Das Boot

Anybody got any info on this BMW R75/5? Initially thought it could be the Australian Aftershock, but watching the video again that looks wetter. BP

Thursday 19 February 2015

XS Stunner

Lovely Shell XS750 (not to be confused with the factory shaft-drive triple monster), Star Racer framer, built by Jim Speer. BP

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Peaty's Bike Bonanza

Advanced warning of a mountainbike jumble in Bristol next month. I am a pedal head as much as a petrol head, and have been invited to have a stand. Beyond motorcycle tyre kickers, Sideburn seems to have drawn troops from BMX and skateboarding disciplines. The cross-over of inspiration is always heathy. There is not a lycra-only door policy. I will have a full range of Sideburn mags and limited stock of T-shirts. If there's anything you specifically want from our stock leave a message. BP
More info on the Peaty's webite

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Icon New Jack

Another great bike from Icon Motorsports , the US riding kits company that builds some fantastic bikes for their new product range photoshoots (Icon Basehawk jacket in this case).
This time they've updated a 1982 Katana with:

Oil cooler in the headlight opening and LED streetlight below
Bandit 1200 motor (some people talk about it being 'bigger', it has slightly more capacity than the original, but it's actually more compact front to rear)
Mikuni flatslides
Two British Nitron shocks in the monoshock position (like a prototype Rossi M1 from 2008 or so)
Modified Suzuki TL1000R Swingarm
Twin fillers
New tail
EBC discs and Nissin four-pots
USD Showas from a 2002-era Fireblade
Honda SP2 wheels

I love it. G

Di Traverso School

There's a report from the launch of Marco Belli's Italian school coming in the next Sideburn, on sale in March. G

Monday 16 February 2015

More Mablethorpe

My old mate Col drove 100 miles down from Scarborough to watch the beach race at Mablethorpe and took these photos. The next race is this Sunday. Racing from about 11. 
Don't worry, there aren't any quads...
Carl CFM dominates the 250 road bike class on this TDR250
Neil's Suzuki from the 200 road bike class.
George Hopper and his mini-grasstracker
The variety of bikes is a big draw. Some people go low, dirt track style chassis, below, while others keep long suspension. Above is a CCM Rotax from the Unlimited road bike class. Below is a Honda XL250 (I think) from the 250 Road bike class.
Pete Pearson's Yamaha 600. He absolutely flies on this thing.
Handsome grasstracker. 
Before the racing started there was a memorial service for a lady who had been helping the club, marshalling for years. All the racers lined up on the beach as the local lifeboat went out to, I think, scatter her ashes and shoot a flare into the air.
Me in the middle. Starts are getting better. I'm getting slightly closer to the leaders. I had some good battles with the two bikes either side. There are about 12 bikes in our class.
The ambulance, is on the startline. We start in a line, off the track and have a drag race to the first corner. You can see the churned up track bottom corner. Pete Pearson doesn't even touch that bit of the track, his line is so high and flat-out.
Carl spitting a blue genie off the start. On his way to another heat win.
Mark's Bonneville. He's mustard off the start. This bike prefers a waterlogged beach that doesn't rut up and stays smoother.
Another oddball bike in the Unlimited Road Bike class, a grey import Yamaha SRX. 

For more info on times and race dates go to

Thanks for the photos and emergency spannering Col. G