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Vintage Yamaha Enduro Rumblings

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5 minutes reading time (1062 words)



I'm sure most of us have had similar experiences while piloting our vintage enduro's...

11329909 1069533433061409 5042710524178293095 nMy ten mile commute starts off with a short section of two lane highway as I make my way from the west end of the tiny town I live in to its eastern limit. The two lanes of the Trans Canada Hwy are choked down to 60 kilometers per hour through town and early in the morning most of the traffic is made up of semi's and people taking the fast route to work.

Just before the speed limit returns to the blistering pace of 90 kph, I'm off to the south, across the short-line tracks of the Huron Central Railway and onto a stretch of gravel road that parallels the mightly Spanish River. No TCH velocity for me and “Yellow Fever”, (my DT400C) thank you...

Glimpses of the fast flowing river are only available in spring and fall as the brush grows thick once the weather warms, obscuring my view. This section of "old" road was once the only route west through this area, long ago by passed by the highway. And its here that every morning I pass a dog walker, a fellow older than myself. His pair of retrievers, running free, obey his call to come and sit by his side as I approach. I upshift and pass by gently lugging the burbling DT, doing my best to keep her quiet. He never fails to smile and wave and I wonder if this is in appreciation for my noise abatement tactics or because somewhere in his past he recalls a time when motorcycles were supposed to sound like mine?

The fun on the gravel ends after eight kilometers and the old road becomes hardpacked until it terminates at the junction of Hwy 6. The last few k's are built up, some old places but mostly newer, larger homes on nice acreages. If there is a "money" section to this road, this is it. I rarely meet anyone here but when I do there are no smiles.

At the junction of six, another turn to the south and then the "busy" portion of my daily ride through the town of Espanola follows. With a pulp and paper mill playing major employer and a population of 5000 I mingle with what passes for the morning rush hour in these parts. School buses trade lanes with caffeine starved maniacs who pay little attention to the 40kph slow zone as we pass the playground of the elementary school. Kids behind the chain links spin around to watch as the bright yellow motorcycle buzzes past and I'm left wondering about their thoughts. Do they realize my ride is older than their moms and dads?

Espanola may be a small town but they are big on traffic lights. In the distance of less than three kilometers I gamble with four and generally lose out to at least two. We all know that DT 400's are one of the best bikes ever produced but we must admit that they are not happy idlers, hence the need to blip the throttle while waiting at stop lights. My blip routine varies depending on my stop light mates; light, almost unnoticeable increases in rev's for when I want to keep a low profile and more pronounced grip twists that run the needle past 3 g's for when I feel like a rebel. The reactions from within the cars also vary; from totally ignoring to visibly bothered. With the odd one sniffing the air followed quickly by power window action - on a good day. Once in a while though I can see a glimmer of appreciation. It starts with a surprised look my way and the facial expression that we all recognize as "what the heck is that?". Mixed at first with a hint of annoyance that softens when they see the grey in my beard and realize that this old fool is reliving his past. And perhaps, if the cage occupant is of a certain age, could two stroke dirt bikes have been part of a past he or she remembers?

I'll never know for sure; with the green I'm off through the gears leaving them with a fragrant reminder, (or maybe a lesson) of what motorcycling was forty years ago.

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Hwy 6 continues south, the gateway to the famous Manitoulin Island (a beautiful ride in itself) but on work days, I must force myself to hang a left just past the family owned hardware/lumber yard and make my way to the shop where I work. The day is spent doing my best to make people's toys work as the factories in Japan and the U.S. intended. These days this task involves fussy laptops, software updates and ECM communication failures, thankfully along with some good old fashioned wrench turning and screw driving. (With some precision ball peen hammer use thrown in if I'm lucky...) And hopefully when all is said and done a few more atv's, outboards and motorcycles are ready to be enjoyed again.

Is it any wonder that I look forward to 5:30 and my vintage enduro ride home? While most of my workmates grab their keys and hop into their trucks, (the local vehicle of choice is the four by four pick up truck) a couple of us commute on two wheels. My fellow technician takes the comfortable approach, straddling his late model Yamaha FJR complete with adjustable wind screen, heated grips and a fairing, “wind tunnel designed” to keep him dry. While I'm on the three or four kick exercise routine that is DT400C ownership he pushes a button and brings over three times my DT's cylinder swept volume to quiet life. With some raw oil built up in the crankcase over the day, (my injection pump seeps through a touch), I wheelie through our back lot and behind me trails a good cloud of Yamalube 2 S. In this locale its tolerated by most and even enjoyed by some. My colleague thinks its cool that I ride old bikes. Although he says its sort of like owning a pet raccoon...he thinks its cool but he's glad its me and not him.

Who has the most fun on the ride home is up for discussion. But for certain we all know who gets the most reactions, good and bad...


Location (Map)

Espanola, ON, Canada


© Ken Mortimer

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