The vinceunlimited Yamaha DT175 Story
An Initial Trial.
We all remember our first.
Our first girlfriend, first kiss, first single and first time stealing from the dairy. Or was that just me?
Anyway, our vehicles are no exception and my little Yamaha DT175 trail bike was the first vehicle that I owned.
Mind you at the time it didn't seem so little and in many ways it wasn't the first. But much like girlfriends you can't include a quick shuftie with your neighbour as a prima facie conquest. So the Yam formally remains my first.
My parents had purchased a new Gilera moped for my older brother when he turned sixteen. They gave me the option of a new 'ped at the same age or a second-hand motorbike at seventeen.
As I was able to use my brother's wheels I chose the motorbike option and given the stringent restrictions on size ("not a 250 son, too big") and considering cost, I chose the Yamaha.
The year was around 1978 and the bike had a P registration plate, it was only a few years old. That's a P at the end by the way.
Trail bikes back then were much different from today. The styling still had suggestions of a fifties mount with it's front mudguard set close to the wheel, although trail bikes were soon shipped with higher mudguards shortly afterwards.
The tyres were 'knobblies' so gave me a chance to use it on and off the blacktop.
Top speed was a quite miserable 65mph or so. This meant that it never kept up with my mate Jeff's Honda CB125. Then again, nothing else could either.
The best bit of my new toy was the colour.
Although the bike was in sound mechanical condition with no damage to the bodywork, the bike had been repainted. I can't recall the probably implausible excuse the seller gave for the re-spray but I didn't care. It was a cream colour with brown stripes.
For some peculiar reason known only to myself, as a teenager my favourite colour was brown, plus at the time Kenny Roberts was putting Yamaha on the racing map and the distinctive blocky stripes were aped on my fuel tank.
It was a unique bike at the time so if you recognise this pattern and now know the bike get in touch. I would love to see it again. Mind you it would be well past its sell by date by now and I guess pretty ropey. So I'll only give you a few quid for it, all right.
Another useful feature was the off-roading abilities.
Not so much the serious mudplugging but the ability to climb easily up the pavement kerb at the local disco.
Of the few times I ventured off the tarmac my inexperience kept me from performing fantastic tricks and my leg length prevented me from stopping. In fact, I can't recall ever pulling a proper, wheel in the air for more than a half-second type, wheelie. And I call myself a biker!
Plus, in those days, stoppies were only carried out by riders with no control and grabby brakes. The drums on the Yamaha certainly never grabbed anything to my knowledge.
However, I did find the thing ace at driving round town with its light weight and responsive two-stroke motor.
The wide bars, although sometimes a pain through dense traffic, enabled surefooted slow riding skills and great manoeuvrability. This was coupled to a high vantage point from that seat that didn't suit my legs, although it was comfy enough for one bum.
Add a second bum, whose owner had to make do with swing-arm mounted rear footpegs, and it didn't do so well. But for one up hooligan riding round town it was perfect.
I even considered fitting road tyres rather than the standard fitment off-road rubber. I recall that despite my efforts I couldn't match a front and rear so didn't proceed with this mod. If I had I would have beaten the modern super-motards to the idea by several years. Despite not heralding this modern change I travelled many a happy mile.
Nevertheless, it was the unhappy mile that it will be best remembered for.
I recall a frustrating crawl up the outside lane of a dual carriageway, at it's 65mph maximum. Jeff, on his CeeBee had passed the car and decided on a different route into the New Forest. He swung into a left-hand turn and disappeared.
I was still in hot [read: warm] pursuit and trying to pass the car.
Why people insist on travelling at one mile an hour less than my top speed, I'll never know.
Anyway, I just made it and shot round the bend. It was set at a right angle and Kenny himself would have been pleased with taking it at this speed. On his race bike.
Mind you I did have one race bike advantage. The footpegs on a trail bike are small and high set so don't dig in when cornering. A common problem on seventies machinery. Provided the tyres held out the thing could corner like a demon. And the road that day was perfectly dry and smooth.
I leaned over, to the point my boots were scraping the deck, but it wasn't enough. The corner was too sharp. So I leaned a bit more and something eventually grounded out. My handlebar ends!
I slid across the road.
Thankfully, it being the seventies meant that no traffic was on the other side. Unfortunately, being summer and a carefree teenager meant that I wasn't dressed properly. The lightweight jacket I had on rode up my torso, followed by my tee shirt, then in turn, each layer of my skin. Gravel rash par excellence.
Despite this mishap I enjoyed my time with the Yamaha.
Even now I wish it was sat in my garage so that I could play on it. The engine may have been noisy and underpowered but the styling was just right. The high exhaust and low front mudguard may date the thing to a certain period but that's when I was learning the meaning of freedom and this bike helped me achieve that. I'll always remember it fondly.
Like all my other firsts, I guess.
Author: Vince Poynter
Version 5.054 9 Jan 2018
First Published: Version 1.02 in Mar 2004
The first image shows the front page of the official UK Yamaha DT175 sales brochure and was added in Version 5.054 9 Jan 2018. Credit: Yamaha
The second image shows a photograph scanned from an old 'Bike' magazine and was used to illustrate a story about a female despatch rider called Sue Fiddian. It was first added to my website in Version 3 in Mar 2010. I liked this as it best represented the 'look' of my DT175. Used and generally remembered in black and white. Credit: Bike Magazine