1990 Yamaha XT350

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1990 Yamaha XT350
RCR Yamaha XT350 Thumb.jpg
NOT A CAR Details
Make Yamaha
Model XT350
Year 1990
Owner ?
Episode Details
Episode Link Watch
Season YouTube Partner
Air Date June 2, 2014
Credits u/kurosaur

All dual-sports begin here. Yes, here. Not with the XT500, not with the SR500 and certainly not with the scramblers in the 70's. Modern dual sports began in 1985 with this plastic trail bike by Yamaha.

And all body-modifications tell me is this: "My parents are garbage and I'll cheat on you."


1990 Yamaha XT350. All of your precious Suzuki DRZ400SM ExciteBike show-off shenanigans, hard-dicked, "you got a problem body"-armor over top triple XL t-shirt and your non-stop Tilghman Street wheelies with your paper learner's M-endorsement which you renew forever 'cause your single-ply pride can't handle the possibility of failing the motorcycle test - ALL OF THAT rev-popping thumper peacocking has a flashpoint, and it's the Yamaha XT350.
Single cylinder, Four stroke,
two carburetors not a slowpoke,
Slow jet allows for the right through a very small hole my fingers don't fit inside,

It's like last night anniversary, forgot the lube,
Please forgive me, what'dja expect me to do? 
I didn't know you'd been doin' kegel excercises now your lady wallet's too damn tight...
This relationship is over.
Size matters, yes, of course it does, but size does not matter nearly as much as proportion. The Yamaha XT350 may look small, and it might seem too lean to be of any consequence on the open road, but this air-cooled 349cc thumper has a single cylinder four-stroke engine with double cams that let this motorized trouser snake reach speeds of about 80 miles and hour, granted in excess only really means you can kick this thing up to 83 or maybe 90 an hour if you're going downhill.

Right, I have to explain the method of carburetion on this motorcycle. Y'see, the Yamaha XT350 is a single cylinder engine with two carburetors, and here's the thinking behind this: most carburetors have a main jet and a pilot jet. The pilot jet, or sometimes called the 'idle jet', or sometimes called 'the slow jet' is what keeps the engine running when you're not popping the throttle, sitting there. It's a very small hole, just lets a little bit of fuel in. Your main jet is larger, and that takes care of most of your riding. However, your main jet really doesn't come into use until the needle jet starts pulling out, and that really doesn't happen until about 25% throttle.

In fact, if you have an old carbureted bike that just has two jets - slow jet, main jet - and you pull out gently from a stop, you're not running on your main jet; your slow jet, or idle jet, is propelling the bike. So you can feel when the main jet really starts to kick in, and for most people that's a pleasurable feeling like "okay, NOW we're going". That. That's why carburetors are so much fun; there's that, like, two-stage thing when they really come on.

But that doesn't really work well when you're doing a lot of slow riding and you're not really taching it up. So the idea here is to have a small carburetor with a small main jet that can come on sooner and give you smooth acceleration. So, a very small carburetor for low speeds, now that's mechanical; the small carburetor is what you control. Then there's a second, larger carburetor that's vacuum-operated. So after a certain point, vacuum valve opens, and the second carburetor kicks in. I know I'm oversimplifying this crazy, only-Yamaha-could-do-this method of fuel delivery, but for the sake of a simple video, this is how that works.

Of course there's no point in having two carburetors mounted in tandem. Most modern carburetors have three jets: slow jet, mid jet, main jet, and that does the exact same thing as having two carburetors, so why Yamaha decided we need two, I- I don't have an answer for you. But they did it, and they never stopped.

And another thing, first gear on an XT350 is borderline unusable on the street. You can basically use it to pull out and that's about it. It's really for the trail. While the rest of the bike handles admirably, the first gear feels jerky and insecure, like a guy who realizes he hasn't seen anything on his Facebook feed from Kelly Creamcheese in a while and decides to look her up to make sure he hasn't been defriended.

The XT350 doesn't pass current Euro 3 standards, but it persists on the street today having been grandfathered in like a Yale legacy. The XT350 lives in the shadow of Suzuki's DR350S, which outclasses this Yamaha in every way. Oh nice, a drum brake, and a big metal dowel running the length of the swingarm.

And double cams. Right. Why do we need this? Suzuki's DR350 didn't have double cams; why does an offroad bike need dual overhead cams? You put dual overhead cams on something if you need something to rev high, but that doesn't work in an offroad environment; that's all low-speed low-revving stuff. Again, Yamaha just saying "hey, we're gonna- l- lo- loo- look at me, look at me; I'm Yamaha - I'M EXTREME. *inhales* EVERYBODY, LOOK HOW ALTERNATIVE I AM; LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF I DON'T NEED. I'M SHOVING FISHING WEIGHTS UNDER MY SKIN. KMFDM IS THE BEST BAND EVER."

I'm using the term 'enduro' because that's sort of an older term for motorcycles that both do street and do trail, but I should be saying 'dual-sport' because 'dual-sport' means 'street legal'. But people often speak of endurance as if it's a bad thing, as if to suggest that to *endure*, to *survive* while others have fallen by the wayside, is not enough if one does not also *thrive*. But isn't endurance a kind of thriving in itself? Isn't this XT's simple, continued existence worthy of a claim? Or at least a Pasadena mudslide?

...Y'know, out of respect?

The Yamaha XT350 looks back to a time when things were built to last, like marriages, education, and Game Boys. As long as you had a fistful of Rayovacs and a copy of Belmont's Revenge, you could still whip Dracula into a fine paste any time you want. You can still pick up an old Red and Blue cartridge and head off to Saffron City to give Sabrina THE BUSINESS.

Time doesn't have to move forward. You can always go back. The Yamaha XT350 is a testament to what a complete lack of attention to maintenance can accomplish. There's no reason this thing should be still functioning as well as it is, yet here I am riding a bike forged in the crucible of the first Bush administration and I haven't died yet and neither has anybody else, apparently. But I need to apologize: all the gear all the time. I'm riding this bike without a protective jacket; I'm riding in sneakers and jeans. The next bike I'll do, I'll gear up properly.

When we were in California to meet with the Smoking Tire - NAME DROP - there were these dudes on Kawasaki KLR 650s with no road leathers or head buckets and their girlfriends in the back were somehow wearing less. Up in the canyons, they took every sharp corner on those scoliosis roads, braving the asphalt in flip-flops and booty shorts, one wrong turn from shredding their bodies into the consistency of pulled pork. But with the XT350, you won't wind up on the dinner menu at Smokey Bones. There's just enough power here to get you into trouble, but not enough to put a reasonably intelligent person into mortal peril.

The XT350 maintains its status, even nearly 25 years on. If this bike were a person, it would be the weathered former alpha-male who used to have a piss stream strong enough to push a 2 liter bottle of soda across a table. It's that kind of confidence, it's that kind of self-certainty that never ends, and it never really goes away even while the circumstances of the world change at large.

[TEXT: Next week on Regular Car Reviews: "RCR L.A. Airdrop"]
Blind corner, in a Ford Fiesta.

Mr. Regular:
Blind corner is a move where I smear habanero sauce on my ELBOW and DROP ONE AFTER THE GIRL CUMS, BA-BOOM!