Since I’m already on the topic of late 70’s Yamaha bikes and mentioned my sorted history with XS1100’s yesterday, I figure I ought to dispense a little information about how to build one properly into a long distance touring bike.
This is my 1978 Yamaha XS1100 that I picked up in Arizona.
1978 is the first year of the XS1100 and also the best in my opinion if for nothing else than they came with a kickstart shaft. They do not have a permanently affixed kicker, but one can be easily bolted on. They instead came with a small kickstart lever hung under the seat for use in emergencies. The later year XS1100’s did not come with a lever or shaft in the engine. The hole for the kickstart shaft was plugged and the space for the mechanism inside the cases was left empty.
A reader recently wrote in a question addressing my apparent lack of interest in the Yamaha SR500 singles.
Just stumbled upon your site, awesome.
I just can’t understand with all of the great motorcycles that you’ve chosen, how you don’t own an SR500. The xs650 is fun, the XS1100 is fast, the XS400 is cute, but the SR500 is just plain cool. Get one.
Well Todd, I certainly hope I haven’t given off the impression that I don’t dig the SR500’s. I am a man of all stripes and don’t hold prejudice against any motorcycle (well, I can think of a few…), and certainly not any single cylinder vintage ride.
The Yamaha SR500’s are wonderful bikes in both stock and modified form. They actually still produce them in a 400cc variety sold overseas – if only the American consumers would get their heads out of their asses and wrapped around a bike that doesn’t weigh 600 pounds.
I was just flipping back through the blog and realized I never wrote up anything about my 2002 Honda XR650R.
I’ve had a lot of XR600’s and other Honda singles, but I always wanted to have a go with an XR650R. The aircooled XR600R was retired after it’s final production year of 2000, the same year the XR650R was introduced. It was a long time coming as the XR600 was certainly behind the times in terms of technology, both performance and manufacturing. Honda’s Baja race team was still using the 600 through 1999 and it just didn’t have the mechanical advantage it used to. The outdated 600 was performing well in the races during the mid and late nineties only because Kawasaki had pulled it’s support from Baja and was no longer racing the KX500, which trounced the XR600’s earlier in the decade.
I camp most of the time, and go to hostels other times. Occasionally it’s fun to splurge and clean up in a nice hotel.
I was trying to decide between sleeping for a few hours behind the gas station, or to keep on keeping on. It was cold, foggy, and late. In typical fashion, I kept going. And I am extremely glad I did.
Every once in a great while I get to experience an incredible serene and transcendent moment while on my motorcycle. Two previous events that come to mind are; riding through the dark in Bahia de Los Angeles with an incredible breeze in spring of 2009, and shutting off the bike while coasting down all the mountain passes in northern Pennsylvania in summer 2007, again at night. In this case it was descending down out of the mountains towards the gulf coast. On a slow curvy road over the course of an hour I dropped from extremely high elevations near the volcano, down through the canyons, to nearly sea level. The temperature kept increasing, flickering lights were scattered across the hillsides, and the glow of the moon illuminated the entire landscape. It was one of those beautiful numinous moments that most people miss out on. I’m convinced there is something about night riding that brings it out. But it’s more than just darkness, it’s a perfect combination of weather, location, spirit, and I suppose, being self aware.
Around 3am or so I hung up my hat.
I said goodbye to Mazatlan.
I knew I’d love Mazatlan, and finally it was the next stop. I still needed to rest and recover a bit, and would rather do it in Mazatlan than up where I was. The few hundred miles to get there was difficult with only a couple fingers to work with.
The hospital stuff isn’t much of a story. The ambulance dropped me at a small hospital in town where where I got some x-rays and was attended to by a couple doctors who didn’t seem to have much experience or training. I left with a cast on my left hand and a splint on my right and hobbled out to the street and caught a taxi. He brought me to the nearest hotel where I crashed for the night.
The next morning was fairly rough. I was incredibly sore and swollen all over. My knee, ankle, hands, and in particular my ribs were troublesome. I’ve had bruised/cracked ribs in the past so I’m used to the feeling, but that doesn’t make it any more comfortable!
I was more or less tracing the main road and hopped off sporadically when I spotted a fun dirt road. I didn’t have a map which was somewhat of an issue, but my limited fuel range was more of a concern than proper directions. I had planned on heading into Creel but the nighttime temperatures were dipping to 40 and below so I knew I’d freeze since I didn’t have any cold weather gear. Instead I hugged the ocean and continued south.
The temperature variance was huge. Scorching hot in the sun during the days, and cold as soon as it got dark. So when the sun disappears I pull off the road and make sure I’m geared up with everything I have.
I’ve heard many people recite the “Don’t drive at night in Mexico” mantra many times. I never paid much heed, partially because of my own stupidity, and if I need to be honest, my bravado as well. On this particular night I had a rude reality check.