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1959 Yamaha YDS1R 250 Racer, Part Two
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In the first part of this story, Richard Tracy told us the history of Yamaha's Asama racer. So then he bought one, in bits, and rebuilt it in time to get it on track...

Back in the days before eBay and the Internet, I managed to unearth most of an original factory race kit for a YDS1R racer, as well the remnants of a bike whilst looking for various YDS2 and TD1 parts. I'll add here, that over the past 18 years or so, I've had several early Yamahas such as YDS1s, YDS2s, YDS2 Ascot Scrambler (US Flat Tracker), YDS3s and various TD1 road racers.

It then took a long time to find a suitable donor YDS1 frame and engine to enable the restoration of this rare machine (YDS1s are an extremely rare beast at the best of times!), plus an awful lot of research and tracking down other parts. The majority of the bike came from the USA, and was surplus stock from an ex-Yamaha factory backed rider. Most of the other parts were tracked down from either Australia or the US.

This'll be an 'After' photo, then. 1959 Yamaha YDS1R 250 Racer on display at the Stafford Show

The engine was in a completely rusted up and seized state and the cases were broken where the chain had come off. To get over the problem of the broken section, the cases were machined as in the day to allow easy access to the rear sprocket. This design was carried over to the subsequent TD1 models by Yamaha, so I felt happy to do it.

With the crank being totally unserviceable, I installed a new YDS2 assembly, which meant some modification to the clutch. This worked out well and allowed the use of needle roller bearing small ends, in place of the bronze bushes used on the earlier model. The gearbox was in surprisingly good order and was pretty much left alone, although every bearing and seal was replaced throughout, of course.

The pistons fitted are genuine two-ring YDS1R type, and run in the iron linered barrels, reconditioned and tuned by FAHRON Engineering.

With the clutches being as bad as they were on the early Yamahas (I have experience of racing with a TD1B, which had a similar crank mounted clutch and had burnt plates out in the past!), I had some clutch plates made with different thicknesses (by SAFTEK), and beefed up the clutch springs. This has provided the bike with a much more useable and reliable clutch, than the standard road affair.

And from the other side... 1959 Yamaha YDS1R 250 Racer on display at the Stafford Show

The original steel fuel tank needed to be repaired, where time had taken its toll on some welded joints, and one of the knee grip holders had also been ripped off. The kneepads themselves were made out of dense polymer foam and rubber extrusions, patterned on the originals. A strange detail about the fuel tank; Yamaha made the fuel cap and twin fuel taps out of lightweight alloy, but the tank itself is incredibly heavy pressed steel!

The machine was loosely assembled on the workbench before final painting (an absolute must, if you are ever undertaking a rebuild of a special or one-off machine). This allowed the re-manufactured pipes (the original being rusted to pieces and only good as patterns) to be welded in the correct positions and cables made to the right length, etc. Plus many small parts had to be fabricated, which was a case of analysing original pictures and taking measurements from the bike itself.

My deadline was to get the bike finished for an event at Moergestel, in Holland, but this was not to be. There was a delay with the chrome and the paint (I had asked a friend to do the paint, as I was pushed for time on the mechanical side).

But I really wanted it finished in time for the VMCC Festival of 1000 bikes, where I had entered my friend, Cameron, to ride on it (as I was entered in the Past Masters parade on my factory MZ 250). So, I spent every evening and weekend for a month beforehand, trying to complete it. On the night before Mallory (or should that be early morning of…), the last few bolts were tightened up….

Geoff Kellond, Yamaha YDS1R 250, Silverstone, 1962

We drove up on Saturday and set up the tent in the paddock. The morning was spent timing the magneto, setting the carbs and generally race prepping the entire bike. The afternoon scrutineering session soon approached and the bike was wheeled out for the first trial run. I could hardly believe it myself, as the bike burst cleanly into life within three or four paces of pushing it. It sounded crisp, responsive and incredibly loud and made the rest of the bikes in the paddock seem fairly lame (no offence, but it really is that loud!).

Scrutineering was then passed and the bike was again checked, fuelled up and prepared to go out. We had a minor problem with the gear change, as the heel/toe rocking lever wasn't activating the gear change lever on the spline shaft far enough. This proved to be the lever attached to the spline shaft was actually too long. But, my friend was still happy to go out for a maiden voyage with only three gears, as the bike needed gentle running in.

The time came, and we queued up to go out on the track… this took some waiting but we eventually pushed started and got the bike out on the circuit. I nervously waited, leaning over the pit wall, until eventually I saw the gleaming red machine go by (albeit quite gingerly), but the thumbs up sign and big grin from behind my friend's crash helmet, told me that everything was AOK.

Random RD stuff on

After four or five laps we noticed that he did not come round again, so we apprehensively walked back into the pit area. Cameron came into the pits, with the bike still running fine. It turned out that the air cleaners had come loose, and he obviously didn't want to lose them!

Over a pint back in the bar, Cameron told me how surprised he was with the crispness of the engine and the way it handled. OK it was still being run in and only using three gears, but he's an R1 rider (and a typically critical Australian!). So I was extremely happy with the outcome, and felt proud that the bike went so well, straight away. I also was extremely happy with the finished restoration as I think it looks great, especially now I have the rear mudguard fitted.

A couple of weeks later, I took the bike along to Popham Airfield, where it stood on the VJMC stand, somewhat out of place in amongst the 'Classic Japanese Period' bikes of the 70s. But, it gained a lot of interest, especially when it was fired up!

That 'proud owner' moment... 1959 Yamaha YDS1R 250 Racer on display at the Stafford Show

At the Stafford Show in October, we had it displayed as the as the centrepiece of the TZ Club's fine display of Yamaha race bikes. I know this show is aimed at the Japanese classic scene mainly from the 70s, but I must admit, I was slightly disheartened (although I have come to expect it now, from choosing to restore such unusual machines …), that the bike went relatively unnoticed, except from the people in the know, of course...

It really is an odd bike to display though as people who like British bikes seem to pass it by as just another Jap bike, and the majority of Japanese bike enthusiasts, seem to prefer the 70s and 80s machines. It is somewhat of an enigma in classic bike world, but I find the history side of bikes like this fascinating. The personal challenge of bringing an unusual machine like this back to life far outweighs what other people think. So if you're looking for a popular machine to get into in the classic scene, I wouldn't recommend the really early Yamahas -- unless you just can't help it of course!!

Proud owner not shown... 1959 Yamaha YDS1R 250 Racer on display at the Stafford Show

All the bikes I have built have been restored to function as they were originally intended, as well as having to look good. I try to get the bikes as close to original as possible, no more and no less. The next bike on the bench, is an ex-Arthur Wheeler Moto Guzzi 250cc.

For more details on the YDS1R see my website at


Pop Along To Popham

We first saw Richard's Asama racer at the Popham Megameet.

The 2007 Popham Megameet and Bikejumble is on August 19th at Popham Airfield near Basingstoke on the A303. Enter your classic (of any era and don't worry if it's a Japanese classic!) for the show in advance and you'll get FREE entry, otherwise admission is £5. There's free space in marquee for classic club displays, plus arena action, concours, jumble and more. Gates open 10am, full catering, bar and toilets. Huge array of classic motorcycles - possibly including a YDS1R…

See or call 01256 397733


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