Yamaha's YSR50: The Tiny Tuner
by staff
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ah the 80s. When the unlikely phrase "hair band" almost became a genre, and sport bike sales in the US began a meteoric climb.

One of the cutest sport bikes to roll out dealerships during the '80s was in some ways barely a conventional motorcycle--at 50cc it was more scooter than back road weapon. Instead what it became was an absolute sales weapon.

Yamaha introduced the YSR50 in '87. Powered by a 50cc air cooled two stroke engine the YSR had a cool sport bike chassis, race graphics and a full fairing. The oft-repeated story was that Yamaha USA brought the bike into the US almost as an afterthought, thinking that somebody might buy them.

Oh, they did, buy them, that is. The YSR50 was about the closest thing to a motorcycle that appealed--iMac like--seemingly to everyone. Incredibly, the YSR50 became one of Yamaha's best sellers in the late 1980s. Dealers loved the bike as it introduced sport bikes--on a Lilliputian scale--to a vast array of riders, from veteran racers to Joe Circuit Board, the latter who had probably never been inside a Yamaha dealership.

Everyone seemed to own a YSR50 in the late 1980s, from King Kenny Roberts (YZ80-powered of course) to your local college freshman.

The YSR50 was the bike that basically gave birth to Moto Liberty--a longtime retail dealership and race house in Texas--and helped launch the careers of Tommy and Nicky Hayden, and also Ben Spies. All three raced YSRs when the only double digit they knew was the one on the front number plate of their YSR. Spies, for example, was roadracing a YSR50 when he was just eight years old.

The aftermarket for YSR50 parts exploded in the summer of 1987, with expansion chambers, carb kits and race tires being offered for those enthusiasts who just could not live with the YSR's mid 30 mph top speed.

From different perspectives the 1980s seems like a decade teeming with really bad ideas--"hair bands" and all. But the appeal of the YSR50 hasn't slowed down much--nice examples bring upwards of $2000 in on-line auctions.


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