Yamaha SR500 project bike

A motorbike and a cup of tea.

A motorbike and a cup of tea.

A new year means a new project bike. Not new in the sense that the bike is new, quite the opposite in fact. My hankering for something a little bit different, combined with my obsession with hot rods lead me to this 1978 Yamaha SR500 mid way through 2013. The plan was to buy it and then figure out what to do with it after. It was in a ‘ridden’ in state, which to my mind is better than buying one that’s been leant against a garage wall for years housing spiders and stubbing toes. At least I knew this one worked as it was being regularly ridden at flat track practice events right up until I stuffed it in the van. I paid £750 for it, not bad I thought, especially after looking at the prices that were being paid for them on eBay.

Squint, now squint a bit more, now twist your head a bit. See, it's ace.

Squint, now squint a bit more, now twist your head a bit. See, it’s ace.

The plan is to build myself a little street tracker. I’ve been a long time lurker of the whole scene that’s currently blossoming. Granted, I’ve stumbled across more than one fashion victim city boy who isn’t sure why I’m staring glazy eyed at his custom street tracker. It would appear in London at least that there’s a growing trend for people that have no real idea about bikes to simply bung some cash at a man and ride away on something that looks cool. Honestly, I have no problem with that at all, the more the merrier I say. I’ve also met some incredibly clued up and cool people (Google the BSMC) that are just as passionate about this stuff as I am, only they’re better looking and didn’t get their tattoos while drunk at the TT. I really wanted to ride around on something that I’ve had a hand in building. Maybe it’s down to my grounded upbringing and mechanically inquisitive mind, more likely it’s down to me obsessing with the idea that I know what I’m doing when it comes to spanners and motorbikes. The entire last sentence was a lie, by the way.

Yes, that's a mudguard made of an old inner tube. Factory as chips.

Yes, that’s a mudguard made of an old inner tube. Factory as chips.

I’ve challenged myself to do as much of the work on this bike myself as possible, and without the aid of a manual to reference. How hard can it be? I’ve worked on singles plenty in the past, I kicked my old Gilera Nordwest motor across the workshop floor on more than one occasion, I also once half stripped a BSA B40 that I bought for a hundred quid in 2010, only to sell on three months later to pay a £564 parking fine (gotta love London living).

Anything that needs a kill strap is really fast. Fact.

Anything that needs a kill strap is really fast. Fact.

I took my time with this one and amassed a sizeable pile of bits and pieces before I even considered stripping it down. I’ve got some beautiful parts waiting to go in and I’m convinced that even the most hardcore modern sports bike fan will appreciate this bike when it’s finished. The first job I had to do was strip everything off, which you can see in these pictures. There really wasn’t much to take off, the tank and seat unit took five minutes, the motor another hour of heaving, swearing and the odd piece of knuckle skin. I made sure to take pictures of the wiring, thinking it would help me when it comes to rebuilding it. I also made sure to put things in individual boxes. More importantly, I made sure  to sit on the frame rails a lot and make brumm noises. Come back next month and see how much of the frame I managed to cut off without the forks or swing arm falling out. It’s going to be a good build, this.

A solid day in the workshop left the bike looking like this.

A solid day in the workshop left the bike looking like this.

Many thanks to DMP for the loan of the workshop space and the voice of experience in all things mechanical.

Words: @Johnatsuperbike Pics: Phil Steinhardt, for the good one at the top.

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