- Nigel Sainsbury
Enduring the Enduro
Apart from looking at the wonderful machines that are on display, one of the more fascinating aspects of attending motorcycle meetups is the conversations you have with the people who ride. Bikers are from all walks of life, and often you can connect with individuals on another level as you discover that there is something else you have in common other than riding.
This is exactly what happened last week at Bikes and Breakfast in Clifton, Virginia. Bill Becker, a landscaper, and arborist pitched up on his immaculate 1971 Yamaha RT1B. A single cylinder 350cc two stroke enduro bike. In fairness, I notice Bill every time at Bikes and Breakfast, just that this week I had a chance to talk to him and discovered that we both had a soft spot for the Yamaha DT Enduro motorcycles. Except that Bill's soft spot runs much deeper than mine and is honed to the period 1971 to 1973. Bill has 13 Yamaha's from this period, 10 are runners and three that Bill describes as being "under construction". But why just 71 to 73?
A native of Virginia since 1967, Bill has lived in his current home since 1978 where he can ride and maintain his fleet of Yamahas. Like most of us, Bill's two-wheel adventure began with bicycles. At 11 years old he rode a Schwinn 5-speed Stingray Fastback and at 13 he was on a 68' Honda C50 mini trail. Both the Schwinn and the Honda are part of his inventory, although they are not the original bikes he owned. Nevertheless, it shows the dedication he has put into remembering his youth. It was when Bill turned 15 years old that his love affair with the Yamaha Enduro brand started. Bill got his very first motorcycle; a 1971 Yamaha DT1E (250cc) in orange. Even today, Bill suggests that with all the bikes Yamaha made over the years in the enduro style (globally from 50cc to 400cc), they got it spot on when they made the 250cc. Within the family, Bill has a couple of original unrestored bikes. A 1973 LT3 (100cc) in grape, a 1971 DT1E (250cc) in mandarin orange and a candy orange 1971 CT1-C (175cc). Bill bought the CT1-C in 2011 after it had spent 37 years in the basement of a house. The bike had been ridden just 500 miles. After a clean of the carb and treating of the fuel tank, the bike fired right up. A repair was necessary on the clutch which had dried out over the 37 years, but the bike runs like new today even though it is 50 years old. Indeed, Bill believes the simplicity of the 6-volt electrics for lights and ignition is the key to the success of these bikes running some 50 years later. What you will not find in Bills inventory is any 125cc enduro Yamaha's. These bikes had an electric start and 12v electrics. Bill also does not have any 1972 models of any bike because he just didn’t like the colour schemes. In 1974, Yamaha change the style of the bikes, most notably the exhaust which was routed up and over the engine existing on the opposite side to the 1973 model. The bikes continued to morph more in 1975 (black engine rather than the natural aluminium look) and was restyled again in 1977. None of these changes appealed to Bill, hence they do not feature in his collection. Scattered around the shelves and hanging from the rafters of the garage are hundreds of parts from years of collecting, most of which are no longer in production. His favourite bike of the group is of course the 250cc. The bike that started the love affair with the Yamaha Enduro brand. What better way to spend a brisk Sunday morning in Virginia learning about a series of motorcycles that were the forerunners of the dual sports bikes of today. Two interesting points of note from this era. The rear indicator lenses are red (front ones are orange) and on the 1971 DT1E, the gear shift shaft goes right through the engine and out the right-hand side. This was introduced in 1968 to allow for right foot gear changes on those bikes that were used for flat track racing, but only lasted until 1971. Thank you, Bill, for sharing your Enduring story, and congratulations on your choice of reading material.