Two-Stroke 21-Incher: 1971 Yamaha R5B 350

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I still think of Yamaha as the king of two-stroke bikes from the 60s and 70s. Ok, Yamaha is one of the kings of two-stroke bikes from the 60s and 70s. The seller has this 1971 Yamaha R5B 350 listed here on eBay in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and I’m going to try to get through this without bidding on it. It’s at $2,650, there is no reserve, and shipping is only $250 back to my garage (yes, I looked).

I know, I know, what about the Kawasaki 500 or 750 two-stroke triples?! And, what about the Suzuki GT380, GT500, and GT750? I admit that Kawasaki may have had a lock on two-stroke motorcycles in the 1970s with the 500 and 750 triples, they were devils. The difference is that I didn’t own Kawasakis or Suzukis, I grew up with Yamahas, and some Hondas, but Honda was into four-stroke bikes and I liked my mosquito-fogger Yamahas.

Yamaha had some success with smaller two-stroke street bikes in the late-1950s and 1960s, and the company came out with the YM1 305 two-stroke in 1964. The golden number was 21, as in the “21-Inchers”, as in 350-cc, which = 21.35-cu.in. The 21-inchers were a nice size for street use and were very popular at the time, and they made motorcycle companies a lot of money. Hagerty is at $3,400 for a #3 good-condition bike, just as a reference.

Yamaha introduced the R5 350-cc two-stroke in 1970, known as the R5A, which only came in Metallic Purple and White. They followed up in 1971 with the R5B, which had the same displacement and horsepower but had more torque, and it was the best-performing two-stroke from Yamaha to date. It came in the Mandarin Orange and White scheme as seen here. The last year they were available was 1972, and the only thing that changed was the color changed to Mandarin Orange and Black. The R5 was discontinued in 1973 as the company’s RD350 took over, followed by the RD400 in 1976.

This beautiful motorcycle is powered by Yamaha’s 347-cc two-stroke parallel twin, which had 36 horsepower and 28 lb-ft of torque. It’s backed by a five-speed manual transmission and the seller says that this one ran like a champ when it was parked, but we don’t know how long ago that was. I think, maybe in the fall of 2022? The seller says that the tank is filled with Marvel Mystery Oil until spring, so that’s why I’m assuming that it was recently put into storage. It has new tires, new intake manifolds, rubber boots, and a fresh carb rebuild. This would be a nice one to own. Are there any Yamaha 21-incher fans or owners out there?

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Comments

  1. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    The cost of retrieving these memories would cost a fortune on some shrinks couch, so for me, well worth the membership. The guy across the alley( Fiat 850), his 1st bike was this exact bike. I’m not making this stuff up either. His older brother, Paul had the Honda 65/305/BSA650/Kaw 500, and Johnny, never had the guts his older brother had and went with this. It was actually a very nice bike, but smoked like a addict, and was annoying. I believe it had a lot to do with the quality of 2 cycle oil then. Who knows what it was, Pennzoil runoff. He quickly found out, it was horribly inept to keep up with his brother, and then got a Yamaha 500 twin and a much nicer bike.
    These were no slouch, however, with 1/4 mile at 15.4@ 81mph, and could go almost 100. Not many 350s could do that out of the box. I wish Scotty luck, good time to buy something like this and would fit right in his , um, growing collection. Unbelievable find, really, these cost a paltry $839 bucks new, and not really something an enthusiast would buy, more like just cheap city transportation, and poorly maintained, and thrown away. Kind of the end of the Yamaha 2 stroke road bikes, I think Suzuki milked it to the end, as 4 cylinder/4 strokes were all the rage makes this quite rare. 10K miles tells me it was no cruiser.

    Like 7
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      You’re right about a bigger bike being better for road duty, but having been hit twice in the last seven months by inattentive drivers in a car while sitting at red lights, I couldn’t imagine being slammed into on a bike. I stick to side roads so a smaller bike is perfect for me. I do not trust 99% of drivers today. There are still great ones out there who pay attention for sure, but the vast majority do not, sadly.

      Like 18
      • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

        A resounding round of applause in agreement, Scotty, with regards to todays drivers caused in part by the many safety Nannie’s forced upon us that we in turn become subconsciously dependent on. Couple that with the more recently prevalent selfish/anger control group candidates that we call drivers and yes it makes for a far less enjoyable motorcycle outing these days..
        I guess it all comes down to personal risk assessment and acceptance.

        Like 14
    • JustPassinThru

      Memories.

      An R5C was my first motorcycle. Oh, how I’d love to relive those days…

      But I’m older, and so is this thing, and any surviving R5. Reality…it’s not so nice.

      You can’t go home again. Those times are never to return…even if I had the money; even if the perfect specimen appeared on my doorstep.

      Like 3
      • Pnuts

        Come on JP. Just straddle the thing, kick start it, put it in 1st, get it rolling, stand in the rear pegs and twist it open. Unicycle that dude thru at least three gears. It’ll all come back. Just like riding a …..

        Like 0
  2. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

    Well, Howard, adjusted for inflation, $839 in 1971 is equal to $5,877 in 2022. So back in the day, this bike wasn’t exactly cheap. My first bike was a 1969 Yamaha 100 Twin that I bought brand new while I was a senior in high school (Christian Brothers College in Monkstown, Dublin, Ireland) and it looked exactly like the bike in the picture above. I had a ton of fun with it even with only a top speed of about 70mph or so. I was only one of two seniors at my school with a motorcycle, the other being my buddy, and we were the envy of a lot of the guys there. One of my memories I made with that bike was racing the actor Milo O’Shea through the narrow, twisty streets of Dalky against his little drop-top sports car. I’ve only had three bikes in my life, and they were all Jap bikes. The last one was a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT which I absolutely loved. Cheaper than a Harley and just as good if not better in a lot of ways. I’d love to have another, but the little woman is afraid to get on them these days which is why I parted with the Kawasaki. 😭 Oh, well.

    Like 15
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Hey, that was my first bike, too! Nice! Mine was and is orange – I still have it.

      Like 12
    • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

      Hi FG, let’s try this again, my biggest gripe about this site, logs me out MID COMMENT!! I guess there’s a down side to everything today.
      So,, let’s see, oh yeah, I mentioned I will maintain until the end, $839 in 1971 was a lot easier to come up with than $5grand today. I agree, today is a different scene. I feel uneasy too, and one reason I sold the DRZ. Years ago, it was a different story, bikes were a lot more common and no stupid distracted drivers on cell phones. People seemed to know a motorcycle could be there, not today.
      While I’m here, and before I get logged out again,,people may wonder, in this day of 6 cylinder, fuel injected cruisers, why have small bikes at all? Well, big bikes didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual progression. These smaller bikes fit the bill for many city riders, but once suburbs became popular, a bigger bike was needed and these fell out of favor,,fast,,,,and,,,post,,

      Like 5
      • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

        Ha, just 30 seconds after reading your comment and scrolling to the next page, I got logged out. It happens to all of us, I think?

        Like 3
      • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

        I rarely get logged out; I’m surprised some of you are having that issue. You would think it would be an issue for everyone who posts on Barnfinds. A 1972 Ford F100 cost $2,804 in 1972 so $839 for a bike was pretty pricey back then. I’m just trying to put things in context, Howard. Anyway, my Yamaha 100 twin cost £105 in 1969. £100 in 1969 is equivalent to £1,599.92 in 2023 which is equivalent to $1,938. I was working nights in a petrol station and was paid £5 for a week’s work so it took me a long time to save up for my bike. It was worth it though.

        Like 3
      • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

        I’m happy (and jealous) that you still have your Yamaha 100 Twin, Scotty. However, I never saw an orange one on my side of the pond back then. Probably a special color for American imports?

        Like 3
      • wuzjeepnowsaab

        While we are talking about the site…has anyone noticed that the database sorting is forever wonky? I click “next” it takes me three pages forward. Click “next” again, it shows a couple listings I’ve seen mixed with new ones. And then with every new page, the auction results are older.

        Like 1
      • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

        Wuzjeebnowsaab-duly noted in Scotty’s comment (above).

        Like 0
  3. geomechs geomechsMember

    As far as 2-strokes go I liked some of the offerings from Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki but they were severely limited. Suzuki X-6 Hustler, and the original 500 Five, as it was promoted, especially the 500, are at the top. The Kawasaki Avenger 350 was another one and I would’ve preferred that to the 3-cylinder death machine specials. The Grand Prix 350 (‘66- ‘67) that preceded this bike was my preference. They obviously changed it cosmetically only because it still was rated at 36 HP. Truthfully, you could park any one of them at my place and they would be welcome…

    Like 14
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Same here, sir, any of them would be fun to own. I agree about the Grand Prix, that would be my first choice. It would look great parked next to the YL-1 Twin Jet, a very similar-looking bike. Or, the Big Bear 305 is another one. Or the X-6 Hustler… choices choices…

      Like 3
    • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

      Don’t forget the Bridgestone 350 GTO. I think that was a 6 speed too. I never thought it was a good idea to ride a motorcycle with “BS” on the tank, and never made the connection, it was the Bridgestone tire company.

      Like 3
      • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

        The Bridgestone was one of the few bikes you could change the foot controls to either side.

        Like 4
      • geomechs geomechsMember

        The Bridgestone was an impressive bike performance wise but I wasn’t impressed with the chrome plating in the cylinder bores instead of liners…

        Like 4
  4. Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

    A young single widow with one of these lived around the corner from us and rode every day it to work at her state job, rain or shine and occasionally in a light snow. Quiet, unconventional and rode fast as hell very well.

    These are zapreshchennyy! to operate on the left coast now.

    Like 3
    • JustPassinThru

      That bike could be anything to anybody.

      It looks like a step up from a moped. But it had the moniker “widowmaker” well-earned. It has a two-stroke’s potential to, when the rider twists it, to…first ask, “are you sure?” (hesitation and slow launch) and then, launch faster than sound.

      Unlike my later H2, this was an easily-controlled ride, though. Remember, the right-twist grip was dynamite. Treat it that way, and you’ll have a pleasant ride.

      Like 1
  5. 370zpp 370zppMember

    Nice bike. Period.

    Like 4
  6. BA

    Let’s not forget the elephant in the room everyone skipped over the last legal road going 2 stroke to hit USA was ( drum roll ) 1985 Yamaha RZ350LC Kenny Roberts replica and the only modern 2 stroke we in the US got as Canada & Europe enjoyed them into the 90s heck you could get one from Brazil in 2000 brand new! I owned one that had 30 mm mikunis & Toomey expansion chambers & with my 200 lb butt on it would pull a wheelie at 35 mph around 7,000 rpm & my riding buddy with his Harley Sportster 1300 ? Once I was into my power band he didn’t stand a chance! I won’t bore you tales of TZ 750s at Daytona but I watched it all

    Like 7
    • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

      Kenny Roberts -Indy Mile flat track on a TZ750.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bC2so3vp44

      Urban legend has it that he said it was the most insane bike he’d ridden

      Like 0
    • JMB#7

      My co-worker bought the 1985 RZ350. Awesome bike. His came out of Canada.

      Like 2
    • Gary

      I was riding at Nelson Ledges on my 900 Kaw when I was passed by a TZ750. I thought it was a missile as it disappeared so fast.

      Like 2
  7. Joe S.

    I remember the R5s well. High School years. My first ‘motorcycle’ (beyond scooters and minibikes) was the 1970 Yamaha DS6-B (250 street twin). Totaled in a 1973 accident, I moved up to a CB350K after convalescing.

    Retired from biking in 2020 due to medical issues – 1973 was my only serious ‘accident’ – learned much from the mishap. Final bike was a 2015 Triumph Trophy SE.

    *********************

    About this board: I simply appreciate the wonderful opportunity presented here to share my thoughts. Not so long ago, my comments were usually published – rarely anymore. Perhaps they are no longer worthy of publishing – I can accept that. However, the uptick in trollish comments being published here is obvious.

    I’ve attempted numerous times recently to unsubscribe to the board, so I could resubscribe – resetting my email subscription – but the function has been blocked “Not Available”.

    I bring this up due to an uptick in ‘troll invasions’ and ‘black hat hijackings’ on other automotive related boards, particularly those which maintain a ‘twin’ on Facebook. Don’t know if Barn Finds maintains a presence on Facebook as I was kicked off ‘for life’ earlier this year – no loss IMO. Be extremely aware of what Facebook Marketplace can attract.

    Due Diligence is everything.

    Like 0
    • Jesse Jesse MortensenStaff

      Did you go back and check if they were published later? We have filters in place that catch things and sometimes they are just delayed because of caching.

      Like 0
  8. Chuck Foster Chuck Foster

    This was my first bike just out of high school, and I looked for another several years. I finally bought a project purple 74 RD350, then of course I find a 71. No on seems to want a project.
    The first time I speed shifted the 1st R5 I about fell off the back end.

    Like 3
  9. PairsNPaint

    God, does this bring back the memories! My first bike was a ’73 RD350. Bought at Blaylock’s Cycles in Wheaton, MD. The second day I had it (didn’t even have my MC endorsement yet!) it got flat bars. In the months that followed, it further evolved with clip-ons, rear sets, Bassini expansion chambers, milled heads, a gear drop, raised cylinder ports, dual front discs, Borrani aluminum rims, fiberglass fenders, solo seat and a bikini fairing. Off to Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia to race in Cafe Class where I could wheelstand in EVERY gear!. Those were the days I truly believed I was immortal!

    Until the crash…….

    Like 11
    • CarbobMember

      I just had to reach out to you from one old Wheaton, MD. Boy to another. I remember Blaylocks. On University Blvd. if I remember correctly. My first job at 15 was a block away across the street at the Anchor Inn in the mid sixties. Thanks for starting the old memory machine for me!

      Like 1
      • PairsNPaint

        Ah, yes, the Anchor Inn! One of my family’s favorite restaurants! So much was going on back then at those four corners. In the mid sixties I was bombing around the area (I lived in Langley Park at the time) in my first car, a ’63 Corvair clone of a Fitch Sprint and going to High Point HS in Beltsville. Good times!

        Like 0
      • rocksteady

        Damn, I could have been rubbing elbows with you boys in the narrow aisles of Blalock Cycles back then! They are still in business: https://blalockcycle.com/home.

        Bought Suzuki dirt bike parts and my riding gear there. Lived in Kensington. Rode with guys at The Pits in Silver Spring and at Tysons Corner in Fairfax VA. There was even a small patch of open land in Rockville MD on The Pike that had trails and a small hill, where White Flint Mall would stand later. Cops would roust us on odd Saturdays when the dust was really boiling up.

        Original single location Jerry’s Sub Shoppe was other side of the parking lot from Blalock’s, with the original Jerry running the show. Elbe’s Beer & Wine and Nick’s Diner are still in business at their original locations on those two blocks between Georgia Ave and Viers Mill Road.

        Let me stop now before I start reminiscing about Hank Dietle’s Tavern and and the Twinbrook Tap Room! Thanks Barnfinds for this wayback machine opportunity.

        Like 3
  10. jwaltb

    My first (legal) bike was a YDS3 250 Yamaha. It was a great bike The competition was Honda 305 Super Hawk and they were well matched.

    Like 2
  11. Pnuts

    The indisputable king of the two stroke street bikes is Kawasaki. The H2 750 simply had no rival. The H1 500 would have sure been second.

    Like 3
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      I can’t argue with you on that, sir.

      Like 1
    • PairsNPaint

      One of my buddies had a Kawa 750. That one was the scariest ride I was ever on. Great in a straight line, but you’d better have your affairs in order if you tried to corner at speed. I believe the “H” stood for “Hinge in the middle of the frame”.

      Like 1
      • Pnuts

        I had a 72. Bored, expansion chambers, front sprocket down a tooth. Literally the fastest, wildest ride I’ve ever been on or in. I had a 69 Chevelle SS 396 that ran low 13s. 13.08 was its best ever clocked. At that point it was stock block heads with Crane Fireball 500 cam, Hooker headers, Edelbrock intake and 800 Holley dual pump, 4:10 gears. Got 7 miles to the gallon. That Kawasaki would nearly half track it. It had to run low 10s.

        Like 1
      • Pnuts

        And yes, tho they were wickedly fast they were literally good for nothing else.

        Like 2
  12. David Wayne Krum

    I had the rd350,rd400 and the Kenny Roberts rz 350 which I sold to of all people Steven Baldwin he saw mine and said I had to have it ! So I sold it to him at an outrageous price and bought a Ducati 916.
    Funny story is he dropped it off at the local Yamaha dealership which went out of business soon after I still had the title to the bike and they called me to come pick it up. Stephen was no where to be found at the time. I got the bike back in pieces put it back together and sold it again.

    Like 2
  13. David Wayne Krum

    I still want the rz500 someday maybe I’ve retired to Harley’s in the last 10 years. Just got a brand new sport glide a month ago love it for all different reasons. Well someone wrecked my Dyna 😥

    Like 0
  14. Chuck Foster Chuck Foster

    Orange and white, the best combination!

    Like 4
  15. CarbobMember

    RockSteady and PairsNPaint: Elbes and Jerry’s. Sweet memories. I’d sure enjoy a Little Tavern Hamburger about now.

    Like 2
  16. CarbobMember

    After moving out of my childhood home in Wheaton I bought my first motorcycle a new 1974 Suzuki 500 Titan two stroke. Certainly fast enough for me. I was living in Rockville then and could be cruising on country roads just minutes from my apartment. Hasn’t been like that for many years now. My brother had a 350 Yamaha and two other friends had Harleys; a Sportster and an Electra Glide. We rode all over the place including one memorable ride to Harpers Ferry, WVA. My friend with the Sportster set the deadman’s throttle at about sixty and proceeded to stand on the seat fully upright all 6’7” of him. The rest of us were in awe. My brother and I still talk about this to this day. Wild Bill as he was known back then sends Christmas cards with pictures of his grandchildren now. The Harley is long gone. My brother’s Yamaha sat in my Dad’s shed for years before he traded it for plumbing tools. Nowadays we are all too old to ride and modern traffic and drivers multi tasking with their cell phones while applying makeup and drinking a cup of coffee scare the crap out of me. I sold my “Susie Q” in the eighties to buy a boat. Never rode again. Thanks Barn Finds and fellow readers for bringing back great memories for me.

    Like 3
  17. Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

    Auction update: this baby sold for $4,306.99! Which one of you bought it? It wasn’t me, sadly.

    Like 2
  18. Kenn

    What’s this “too old to ride” nonsense? At age 86 I was just gifted a Yamaha 175 enduro to ride the trails of northern Michigan with my sons. As they were growing up we all had enduro bikes like the Yamaha 250 and Suzuki enduros. Spent as little time as possible on roads traveled by automobiles, choosing instead to enjoy the slower pace and greater riding challenge of riding in the woods. Great memories.

    Like 3
  19. Macon Michaux

    Got a Kawasaki S3 two stroke 400 now and a Suzuki GT185. Have had the RD350, R5 and RZ350. Still can’t believe I sold them. But the fastest I’ve ever ridden is my Kawasaki ZL900 Eliminator. That is something else!!

    Like 1

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