Archive index   Go to the Archive index

BTSC logo

The Story of XKJ 58J

by Colin Atkinson

The fifth in the series of bikes that I have owned... etc.  This one is taken slightly out of sequence because it never came into my life until about 5 years ago.  However, the reason for this will become apparent at the end.

XKJ 58J is a 1971 Yamaha 50cc open-framed scooterette, which the manufacturers called the 'Mate'.  Unlike the current model of this name which is a four-stroke, shaft-drive scooterette, this one is a disc valve two-stroke single.  It has a 3-speed gearbox with neutral below first and an automatic clutch.  This particular bike had been left unused and unloved, with the magneto cover off, at the end of someone's garden for several years.  It was acquired by BTSC member Pete Buttress and I helped him to get it running.  Surprisingly that wasn't difficult and, after c1eaning the spiders out of the flywheel mag and giving it a general clean up and oil change, it was soon running sweetly again.  Something it has continued to do ever since then.

About five years ago I changed jobs and wanted a bike to take me to and from the station (3 miles each way) and be a general Winter runabout.  The little Yamaha seemed to fit the bill and so I became the owner.  It has given faultless service ever since and has never let me down once.  Apart from tyres and oil, it has needed no maintenance at all.  For those who say that Japanese bikes don't last I would point out that this bike is now 15 years old and, as far as I know, has never needed any mechanical repairs.  I have no idea of the total mileage as it only has a 10,000-mile speedo - only that it has returned to zero at least once in my hands.

The little disc valve engine has the carburettor mounted on the right-hand side of the crankcase in a casing which keeps it clean and dry.  This model has not got an air cleaner as such, drawing air through the pressed steel frame.  This does not seem to have caused any premature wear though, as it still starts first kick, except after leaving it for a week when the carb has to be primed with a few kicks first.  Lubrication is taken care of by a separate oil injection system, so provided that you keep the tank topped up with two stroke oil you get no problems.  An occasional change of the SAE20 oil in the gearbox does not come amiss, especially as there is no level indicator or dip stick, so if any loss occurred through leakage, etc, you would not be able to check how much was left.

Very similar to the Honda and Suzuki designs of "step-throughs", it takes a while to get used to riding them and anyone used to riding a scooter would feel more at home on them at first than someone more used to a conventional motor cycle.  The seemingly undamped leading link front suspension allied to undamped and under-sprung swinging fork rear causes a certain amount of pitching and weaving, which feels rather odd and unsafe at first.  However the feeling is worse than the result as, after 5 years, I can honestly say that it has never caused me to have a heart-stopping moment and I don't even notice the odd feel now.  I have read criticism of this style of bike in the motor cycling press when their handling is compared with a motor-cycle-styled 50 of similar performance, but it was designed with a different market in mind and it has many virtues in that market's eyes.  If they didn't have, they wouldn't still be sold with basically the same design almost 30 years after the first one appeared.  By today's standards the performance is not great (although better than a restricted moped) but adequate for shortish journeys.  It cruises all day at a steady 35mph.  The top speed is supposed to be about 45mph, but this takes some obtaining and although 40 can be held for a lot of the time the p1ug tends to overheat and whisker occasionally, whereas it never dies at 35.  I am not a lover of automatic clutches but have grown to accept it, although having had the throttle freeze fully open on me once, I did wonder about what would have happened had the ignition key not been down by my knee, but behind me on the toolbox as on some Hondas.  Even 50cc takes some stopping when the throttle is wide open.  Another thing I am not keen on is pressed steel frames and their tendency to rust from the inside out, but this can be controlled with liberal sprayings of Waxoyl.  In any case this model seems to have suffered less in this respect than the Hondas.

When plastics first started to be used on motor cycles I thought that it was a good idea, no more rusted mudguards or leg-shields and side panels, etc.  However, reality has not quite worked like that and whereas metal, if it becomes dented, can be straightened out to a certain extent, the same cannot be said of this type of plastic which, being semi-flexible, cannot be repaired once broken, and broken it does become once the sun's ultra-violet rays have, over the years, turned the formerly flexible plastic brittle.  A badly aimed football in the garden one day and broken leg-shields was the result.  On the other hand of course, is the point that until that happened, plastic (even it scuffed and scratched) still looks better than rusty metal.

Well there we have it, a little bike that has proved very good at the job it was designed for and still capable of doing it after l5 years, which brings me to the point of mentioning it out if sequence.  As I have said, it is still a good and reliable runner, but because of its age parts are very difficult to get hold of.  It definitely needs a new exhaust pipe (silencer is OK), and could do with new leg-shields and seat - although they are not essential for running.  The point is that for me it is a workhorse which has been used daily in all weathers up until I stopped using it for its routine commuting job because of the bits which would soon be desperately needed.  However the recent Chiltern 100 run gave me an ideal opportunity to give it a good run, so I used it to ride round the long course, a feat it completed with flying colours, covering 100 miles in the process (because Tony Everett and I got lost a couple of times).  Some would ask what was the point of taking such a bike round a course such as this and I would answer that:

  1. it shows those who think that all Japanese bikes are disposable rubbish that they are wrong, it's 15 years old, still with its original engine and still going strong;
  2. to show youngsters who think that they can't start motor cycling without lots of money and a new bike that on something like this, which cost very little indeed, you can still have a lot of fun and travel distances reliably;
  3. to show those that think that 50cc is only capable of short runs to the shops that they don't know what they are talking about and that you enjoy the scenery more when you have time to se it.

However, the most important reason was that I wanted to ride it, the most important reason of all.  Yes, I would certainly buy another one.

This article was first published in the November/December 1986 edition of The Independent, the magazine of the British Two-Stroke Club.

Archive index   Go to the Archive index