Yamaha, YZ400 and fun.


When we were sixteen, in 1984, my best friend somehow got hold of a thoroughly rinsed 1979 Yamaha YZ400.

It was a beast. And it didn’t have a clutch. We’d take it over the waste grounds (otherwise known as the woods surrounding Claybury Mental Hospital) and we’d throw ourselves in full idiotic glory around the circuit we’d laid out.

You’d rev it in neutral, having to kick the revs just enough that it wouldn’t stall, and then bravely, boldly, idiotically – kick it down into first and hold on for dear life. More often than not, of course, it stalled, and so the kick starter got more than its rightful share of metallurgical stress. And because of that stress, sooner rather than later the kickstarter snapped.


No matter. We’d bump start the thing (which, we soon found out, was a better idea than starting from the kick down into first from neutral). It must have looked absurd. Imagine. A gaggle of skinny teens swarming around this huge behemoth of a two stroke Motocrosser, kicking this thing down into gear and getting chases off the enraged shift workers who lived on the estate that surrounded the loony bin. It was a giggle.

I thought about this little era in my life, which was my introduction to motorbikes, recently, and it made me think about how seriously a lot of people take motorcycling these days. Even the self-avowed new wave of custom culture heads, if you look at the way the imagery speaks to you, seems a little,well, over-reflective. Is that the word?

Anyway. It’s supposed to be about fun. Remember that, kids.