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Second Fiddle? 1982 Yamaha Tri-Moto YT125

Seemingly always playing second fiddle to Honda, like Burger King is to McDonald’s or everything is to Amazon, Yamaha made some very nice motorcycles. I have two, at least, that I can think of off-hand. This 1982 Yamaha Tri-Moto YT125 can be found listed here on eBay in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. The seller has a $1,599.99 buy-it-now price listed or you can make an offer.

Yamaha introduced the Tri-Moto, their first three-wheeler or ATC of any type, to the US market in 1979 which was almost a full decade after Honda’s US90 ATC hit the market in 1970. It had several features that set it apart including the company’s famous Autolube oil-injection system for two-stroke engines. They also had a snorkle air cleaner to prevent, hopefully, dirt and water from getting into the carb and engine.

They all had balloon tires but Yamaha didn’t have the famous and almost impossible-to-find-now smooth balloon tires that the early Hondas had. Honda started out with a 90 cc version but Yamaha went with a 125 cc as with this model. In 1982, the company offered a 175 cc version, and later a 200, 225, 250, and even a small version called the Tri-Zinger which was a 60 cc model. The plastics on this example are in almost perfect condition but there are the usual scratches and a couple of the decals appear to have seen better days.

I should have warned you before showing a naked photo of this YT125! We have seen quite a few ATCs of the three-wheeled variety here and it’s always fun and informative to read the comments. They could be dangerous for inexperienced riders who either went too fast or didn’t take corners correctly, intuitively thinking that you had to lean into corners rather than leaning the other way to put pressure on the outside back tire. Racing ATVs were another story and Yamaha had some good success with racing ATVs before pulling the plug on three-wheelers as every manufacturer did.

The engine on this one is a Yamaha 123 cc single-cylinder two-stroke with a bit under eight horsepower. This one starts on the first pull and runs perfectly. A top speed of 30 mph doesn’t seem like a lot but it is on one of these things. I know that a few of you have owned Honda’s version of the ATC but have any of you owned a Yamaha ATC?


  1. Howard A Member

    I’m not sure that’s true, Yamaha made some pretty impressive vehicles. Having had both, I felt the Yamaha was better built than the Honda. Again, splitting hairs, I suppose. My ex brother in law bought a Tri-Zinger for my then nephew, who was just a kid. I remember, it had a throttle limiter, that my nephew, and others like him, quickly disabled, and he had a blast with it. Took many a spill, but back then, that built character, or so it seemed. While Honda did seem to beat most to the punch, I think Yamaha was/is a better product. Since us hooligans are grown up now, and not much chance of younger folks wanting anything to do with this, perhaps someone will buy it for what it was intended, mending fences and slow rides back to that ol’ fissin’ hole, but wheelies and jumps, or hanging the back out on corners, well, let’s say we learned our lesson.

    Like 8
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Hey, Howard. I’ve always preferred Yamahas since that’s what I got started on as a kid. I wonder why Yamaha never got started building cars as Honda and Suzuki did, other than a few engines for other manufacturers’ cars.

      Like 6
  2. Jack Quantrill

    No wonder they quit making these widow makers! Lives were lost.

    Like 1
  3. Troy s

    I have to agree with Howard, Yamaha made….at least for off road, some excellent products and never thought of them as second fiddle or runner ups especially compared to Honda. Honda created the Elsinore but found itself in the middle of much heated competition in motocross, both Japanese and European brands. Being from southern California there was no shortage of tweaked out YZ’s set up for motocross, desert racing or just plain driving the home owners nuts with that two stroke battle cry.
    As far as three wheelers go, yeah that was Honda’s territory until the eighties, I always thought of them as pit or camp stuff….dune diggers…the serious rides had two wheels. Good times back then.

    Like 2
  4. Howie Mueler

    It says Sold now.

    Like 1
  5. steve

    Got the grandson a 4-zinger which was a hasty attempt to make a 3 wheeler into a 4 wheeler. 60cc with shaft drive.Once the exhaust restrictor (basically a washer) was removed it became an animal. It would haul a 200+ lb adult faster than was safe or sane (which is why it was the “go to” toy when friends were over) If this has anything like the power/weight ratio of the little guy? Just save time by having it pointed at the emergency room when you start it…

    Like 2
  6. TBone

    I broke my collar bone riding one of these about 40 years ago. Going too fast on a logging road I was not familiar with and tried to turn but with no weight on the front end, plowed into a tree. Flew over the handlebars and hit a tree. I realize now that I got off easy. I have heard many stories of head injuries, spinal cord injuries and deaths. As for me…my father, a former Army drill instructor, did not even consider calling a law firm. He chewed me out for being a dumb @$$

    Like 2
  7. Foobarski Member

    Even though it’s a Yamaha and not a Honda, it reminds me of the “moon buggy” chase scene from the James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever.

    Like 1
  8. Brad460 Member

    Having had both many 70s and 80s hondas and yamahas, imo the yamaha products were much more thoroughly engineered. Honda basically had frames made of welded steel stampings while yamaha used steel tubing and many times nicely machined aluminum bits.

    Much of it is personal preference but I’ve had excellent service from all my yamaha products

    Like 1
  9. chrlsful

    too top heavy (ur bod), balloon tire suspension, rear tyi instead of 2 up front, no wonder they were banned…

    Like 1
  10. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: as Howie mentioned above, this Tri-Moto sold for $1,599.99.

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