Bikes Of A Lifetime: Yamaha Edition


When I sold the 500 Interceptor, I told myself, quite firmly, “No more bikes! They simply cost too much!” Well, spring sprung, and that idea, repeated thousands of times, went out the window. I was finished with buying new bikes, so I went looking. A week or so later I found a Yamaha XJ750RL.

Anyone who read bike mags in the mid 1980s would see the same refrain over and over, “The Europeans get all the good stuff.” Well, Yamaha must have been listening, because they brought the XJ750RL into Canada, and not the USA. The RL was basically a European version of the Seca 750. The RL was in many ways the perfect sport-tour bike; the fairing gave good protection, the seat, bars and pegs were the best I’ve ever experienced, and the shaft drive was excellent. The fit and finish of Yamaha bikes of the era was, in my opinion, the best in the business. Another bonus was that the four cylinder air-cooled engine was very narrow, it being a two-valve design, and the alternator being set behind the cylinders.

I got the bike and, typical for all Japanese bikes of the era, the front forks were way too soft. A set of progressive springs fixed that. A fresh set of Metzler tires were installed and at the same time, a tune-up was in order. This is where the trouble began: the bike never ran right after that. As soon as I got it out of the shop, it started to have an intermittent miss. It always happened at the wrong time, too, like turning left in traffic. I took it back to the shop and they scratched their heads. I played around with it, and it never got better.


That was a real shame, too, because the bike was an excellent tourer. It was easy to ride until the tank was empty, which was often 350 km. Vibration was almost non-existent, and the shaft-drive the best I have ever experienced. However, I didn’t keep it because of that miss and I didn’t have time to sort it out. The RL went in the paper after one season and I sold it for what I paid for it. It had cost me the price of service, fork springs and tires to ride for a year, cheap in my book.

Yamaha only sold about 600 XJ750RL models in Canada, debunking the myth that European bikes would be popular in Canada.

Yamaha Seca 650:

 Another season did come and with that I needed a bike to ride. The RL had really disappointed me and I always thought the shop that worked on it had screwed it up and then not fixed it. I loved the Yamaha engine/transmission set-up; it was a really good combination of width, weight and power. The Seca 650 had, in my opinion, great retro styling and the exhaust note was the coolest I have ever heard. I found one with all of 6000 km on the clock for $2000, which was top dollar for a seven year old bike. I figured it was worth it since it needed nothing to get on the road.

I loved the way the Seca looked; the styling was so cool, and like most Yamaha bikes of the era, the fit finish was perfect. All the control relationships were top notch and the bike was very comfortable on long rides. Downsides? Well, the front fork was the typical Japanese bike wet noodle and the rear shocks were nothing to write home about. Although the bike was a really nice daily rider, it just didn’t have enough oooomph for me. Thus, I started to talk myself out of it. Really, I should have kept it, but as all of you reading here know, I can’t stand success. Thus, the Seca 650 was traded off in only two months. For what? You’ll have to tune in next week!