Version 1.0
skip to the main content area of this page
Yamaha srv250 Reviews:-

Review #1 by Mike Prescotte

Yamaha have long toyed with the classic motorcycle. Big vertical twins, raunchy singles and a range of successful vee-twins (at least if you're into customs). It shouldn't come as much of a surprise, then, that they have slipped one of their vee-twin engines into a chassis so utterly classical it could've passed for a fifties Norton, even to the extent of having echoes of the famous Featherbed frame in its double cradle tubular trellis.

It would've been easy for Yamaha to have gone the high tech route, produce a modern interpretation such as the TDM850, but retros are all the rage in Japan and the SRV is an incredibly restrained piece of engineering from a company that thrives on advanced strokers and 20 valve fours. The most obvious cause for concern is its lack of cubes, any Englishman worth his salt being much happier with an 535cc or even 1100cc version. The Japanese home market, though, demands 250cc. A great pity, that!

The vee-twin engine, looking more like a 500, was robbed from the XV250 cruiser, had its OHC cylinder heads worked over to give 27hp at 8500rpm instead of the custom's pathetic 23hp at 8000 revs. Even 27 horses ain't much for a 250 in the nineties (Honda had twins that would equal it in the mid sixties, for christsakes) but with maximum torque at a mere 6500 revs and a vee-twin configuration, the little SRV has a more interesting turn of speed than expected.

To start with, the motor comes into life with a gravelly mumble out of a two into one exhaust that sports a megaphone type silencer of half the expected length. There was certainly enough noise escaping from the engine to warn Tokyo's city drivers of my presence and revving the mill into the red in neutral caused Japanese peds to give me looks full of a mixture of shock and horror. They were not reassured by the sight of a barbarian in an old leather jacket and oil stained Levi's but I waved cheerily, anyway, the gentle throb of the SRV always put me in a good mood.

The peds ducked for cover when I engaged first gear. The first time I selected gear on a cold motor was like a bullet exploding into a plate-glass window. There are only five ratios but they are well spaced and the box was otherwise tolerably smooth and precise. Not the best gearchange action I'd ever come across but far from being the worst.

The Yam weighs only 320lbs, an almost ideal mass as any lighter would allow it to be knocked all over the place. Such lack of mass gives the engine an easy time, allowing the plot to pull off on a minimum of revs without any clutch abuse. It would burble along without any hassles, well able to keep ahead of the cages without going beyond 5000 revs, although the acceleration was only on a par with restricted 125s.

From there on the engine ran hard, although it would never, even with serious abuse of the throttle and gearbox, threaten to snap necks or pull arms out of their sockets. Despite that, its nature was both fun filled and easy going. It'd run down to about 20mph in fifth before the chain would threaten to leap off the sprockets, lope forward slowly to about 45mph when it'd start to move with some energy. 80mph was relatively easy, 90mph possible when the engine was used to its limits, although by then some vibes were coming through the chassis. It wasn't so irritating that it would cause me to back off but unless I was using the maximum power to burn off some other vehicle I'd slow down a little out of fellow feeling for the motor. It felt best at 6500 to 7000rpm.

The riding position was a touch cramped for me as I found the bars too close to my lap, but fitting a different bend would be easy. The pegs are placed well back and all the more comfortable for it. The seat was initially comfy but after ninety minutes my backside was beginning to complain. Its concave shape meant I was stuck in just one position, no sliding around to relieve the tedium. After a three hour ride I felt like I was sitting on razor edged frame tubes! Ouch!

The SRV's narrow, slim and light but the suspension's not up to much. There were 9000 miles on the clock when I bought the bike, enough to have the twin shocks turned to mush and the front forks full of vagueness. Directional accuracy required lots of minor corrections, especially when small bumps were encountered. Large bumps caused the forks to clang on their stops and the back wheel to try to hammer through the base of the seat! None of this stopped me riding like a lunatic through both heavy Tokyo city traffic and hilly country roads. The frame was strong and the steering geometry inspired, allowing me to get away with murder on suspension that were it fitted to a lesser machine would have had me in the nearest ditch. A pair of shocks and heavy duty fork springs would turn the SRV into a Ducati killer.

On the right-hand side I could occasionally scrape the exhaust, on the left it was a toss up whether my knee or toe would touch down first. The Dunlop tyres seemed jolly good to me, even giving plenty of feedback through the dubious suspension.

The bike wasn't brilliant in the wet. The powerful single front disc would, given half a chance, lock up the front wheel without any warning, trying to slide the SRV into oblivion. Both tyres gripped well up to a point but would suddenly let loose on damp roads, the back tyre sliding out a yard before I knew what the hell had hit me. The rear drum brake, engine braking and a gentle touch on the chassis would get me through most things.

However, the tiny front guard, a ridiculous item in the overall context of the SRV, allowed large volumes of water over the engine which caused the front cylinder to stutter. Having a punchy 250cc vee turned into a recalcitrant 125cc single was not my idea of bliss, especially when I was surrounded by aggrieved Japanese cagers who held a grudge against foreigners, who were obviously only in Japan to steal their women and mess up their ordered society. By the way, the rear shocks were so dubious I have yet to take any women pillion.

One cager rammed his hand on the horn, peering over his driving wheel with eyes popping out of his head at the apparently dead motorcycle in the way of his car; a sight made all the more horrifying by the fact that I was viewing it through the slightly distorting but otherwise excellent mirrors. The motor coming in fully saved me from premature extinction. After a couple of misadventures I made up a mudflap, sourced from a van that had taken my parking place at work. End of the cutting out horrors.

For bopping around town the SRV proved ideal, being usefully narrower than similar capacity fours and having a better turning circle. I found it ran better in third than second, even at walking speeds, with little grumbling when the throttle was whacked open.

The bike seems quite popular, with some rather quaintly dressed Japanese trying to go back in time to the fifties when men were men and bikes had kickstarts. The SRV growled quickly into life on the electric boot, though, and I doubt if that particular vein of nostalgia would go down well with the average Japanese rider.

No, the SRV manages to combine a modern motor with all the practicality and sensible design of a fifties British twin. Ridden mildly, it'll even turn in better than 70mpg, although I was usually managing nearer 60mpg, which gives a range of well over 150 miles - far too much with that dubious seat! Just to rub salt into the wound, the Yamaha's only available in one colour - British Racing Green!

I paid the equivalent of £1600 for my example, so a grey import would probably go for £2500 after all the shipping and tax charges. Too much, I'd guess, for the level of performance but it obviously points the way for the future - an SRV535!

Mike Prescotte (Motorcycle Expert)


Review #2 by Unknown

So big is the retro game in Japan , that they will do almost anything to take the market by storm. The SRV has a chassis that wouldn't have troubled Norton in their heyday, having defined good handling in the sixties and then thrown it away with the rubbery Commando, and a vee-twin engine cloned from their custom bruiser, which puts out a little more power whilst sharing the majority of engine parts.

The overall effect would probably have the people at Morini spewing up their pasta in disgust if not envy, but the reality of such a small vee-twin engine is a lack of zap, even compared with the better Jap thumpers, a capacity at which the single cylinder idiom really excels as there's minimal vibration to absorb by the balancer. 250cc is about right for optimum engine efficiency for a single, with a vee-twin there are too many frictional losses.

Torque the SRV motor has, it even claims 27 horses, but doesn't seem to move as well as a similarly powered 1970 Honda CB250K3! I had the impression that the motor was churning through an excess of friction, that the oil was turning to treacle and that it lacked the kind of sweetness exemplified by a Morini 350 Sport when on the cam, a design ruined more by modern emission and noise regulations than any intrinsic engineering faults.

Finesse and quality had done a runner in favour of style over substance. This initial impression faded after a couple of days, for 20,000 miles had left the mill a touch vibratory and it took that long for the buzz to fade into the background. A newer model proved much more stimulating, almost had me waxing lyrical as the suspension was a lot firmer and the handling an order of magnitude improved in its precision and accuracy.

Neither did the finish of the older one inspire - rotted alloy, peeling chrome and scarred paint. This on an eighteen month old example that had been thrashed all its life, reflected in a £1500 price in Tokyo. The immaculate ones fetch closer to £2500, which means rather silly money in the UK, where they are still, unfortunately, rare.

As a practical hack, price aside, low mileage examples would make the grade and they would certainly have the old codgers going all nostalgic. The high mileage ones probably aren't worth the effort, so a careful eye has to be kept for clocked examples in the UK, an all too pervasive manoeuvre in the good old motorcycle trade

Review #3 by Unknown

This HyperLink is the home of Peter Pan Herein lies the images of my bikes, places to visit, rides and manoeuvres committed and some plugs for folk who have helped me along the way. This first page is dedicated to the bike that helped me get started on the road. Classically styled and with enough chromed parts to keep a newbie-fanatic occupied, I loved my Yamaha SRV. A 250cc, five speed V-Twin engine similar to the ones in Viragos packed into a smaller frame. Thin tyres, bog standard suspension and single front disc/rear drum brakes. Ahh, those were the days. Even die hard muscle bike sadists handed out compliments whilst wandering around it. "Nice bike mate, does it go like a Trumpy?" (Triumph) "Nope" I said "And it doesn't leak oil either" Included in this page are a couple of photos courtesy of the OSB Ride Day Gallery and Paul's camera. This was the first outing for me that coincided with my first exposure to OSB members (arrggghhh). Easter of 2004, some of the OSB family made the trek up from Brisbane to Gladstone for the weekend. Methinks that the little silver beastie looks content in its esteemed company! :)