1978 Yamaha XS750 2D
The best, most practical and rideable/reliable allrounder 750 from the UJM and OL empire!
I'm the second owner of this bike. This 'unit' is bullet proof.
Only annoying problem I've had (thus far) was a dead or 'sick' cylinder. It sat around before I bought it and the 3 CV carbs were completely cleaned. Now it runs good, but occasionally it still goes thru a spat of weak 'cylinderitis'. No misses... just a saggy feeling and response/stutter. I suspect a minor and spurious ignition/coil issue.
Stock chrome mufflers tend to rust out at end/bottom sections. Curiously, my 78 XS11 pipes (with apparently same mufflers as XS750E) is rotting the same way. I will weld patches in both sets.
Other than these trivial things... this bike is hammer proof. I can still visualize 1st owner (that I bought from) looking sadly and forlornly as his former bike departed his driveway on my trailer. He hated to part with it. I won't.
Riders not as seasoned (ergo, "senior") as me maybe could use some context here. Until the XS750, Yamaha in the 70s made mostly smaller two stroke twins or four stroke transverse twins (modeled after Triumph, similar to earlier Kawasaki 650cc W1 and W2 BSA clones of the mid 60s). The XS750 triple was Yamaha's answer to the the big bore superbike wars of the mid to late 'heavy seventies'... and constituted their calculated unique/different response to the Honda 750, Kawasaki Z1 and Suzuki's new and highly touted GX 4 cylinder 750s and 1000 line-up that (in 78 or so) were the latest "15 minutes of fame UJM bikes".
Yamaha's XS750D1 & D2 models (mildly tuned, 3 into 1 exhaust) 'go slow' bikes were actually well reviewed and received when it first came out. Yamaha decided to go with a smoother DOHC 3 cylinder transverse air cooled engine with 90 degree transfer case/middle gear and shaft drive back into 90 degree rear-end, and that actually allowed the XS750 to develop its own market niche and following... mostly for the touring or commuter set crowd who didn't like the older 'classic' BMW boxer set-up or BMW prices. I think the catch phrase back then was that "Yamaha out BMW-ed BMW". Other than the bigger Honda Leadwing, a smoother better suited for touring bike was not to be had from Japan. But I still can't help but think about how much faster these XS750s would have been if also offered with a chain drive... :-)
Because of the above acknowledged relatively mild, meek and uninspired performance -- but very competitive -- nature of the XS750D2, Yamaha juiced things up in an attempt to sell more triples in 1978 with the new XS750E model. It was hotter, quicker and hopped up with electronic ignition (a big deal at the time), 3 into 2 pipes and a more sportier paint scheme, etc. With the E, the tach redline increased 2K to 9 grand... The cycle mags loved the E in 78... and it graced the cover of Cycle magazine as "Superbike of the Year". That got my attention. In addition to all the ravings about improved performance, it sure was a nice looking and balanced bike... (BTW, I still have that mag... :-) )
OK. Enough of that 'way back then' stuff. This XS750 is NOT a 2D model. It's indeed the higher revving (hence stronger and faster) set-up with bigger carbs, beefier cam, higher compression and 3 into 2 exhaust that DOES liven it up a lot -- certainly compared to the slower D2s. My XS750E is 100% stock except for period/accessory Lockhart oil cooler... which seems like a very sensible/effective add-on. Now for some way-out symbolism and analogies below...
Frankly, these bikes remind me of Japanese "OLs" (office ladies) back in the 80s before the Japan Inc's economic bubble (and endless optimism) burst. These XS triples are very tidy, quiet and attractively designed and adorned. Neatly styled, cosmetically conservative (I'm NOT talking about Yoko Ono or the indulgent far out "Harajuku Girls" here!), competent and sorted out -- in short, cookie cutter 'perfect' and very 'polite'. IMHO, the best, most tasteful two wheel styling from Japan you could get in the late 70s. And the XS750E has matching good manners, compliancy and obedience as well. But with noticeable comfort, "Isetan Department Store" immaculate and tasteful flair and quiet strength, resilience and dependability of a Toyota.
I can make this admittedly stretched and culturally/gender chauvinistic comparison and no doubt politically incorrect assertion because I grew up in Tokyo and have over 60 international biz trips to/from Japan under my belt (and rearend). And in my youth I dated my share of 'Keikos','Reikos', 'Yukikos', 'Marikos', 'Sachikos','Miyukis', 'Yokos' and the like. One could concede that I know at least something about Japanese ladies and Japanese 'balanced and harmonious' cultural norms. :-) (And I still speak fluent Japanese).
Is there a real, informed relevant point lurking here somewhere? Yes. For some obscure reason these XS750s -- especially my 'China Red' XS750E with blackened engine/accessories and matching black cast wheels XS --remind me of the quintessential very pretty, efficient and well disciplined mass market Japanese ladies. XS750s do EVERYTHING well... and the XS750E does it even BETTER. Dependable, reliable, clever and determined. It's really NOT a big that you thrash or want to mistreat. The E in particular DOES give back LOTS of smiles. It's perfectly suited (to this day!) for middle distance light day touring, a Sunday ride on your favorite scenic road or just plain daily commuting. Its seating position and handlebar geometry is perfect for general purpose 'naked bike' riders. Seat and suspension is equally comfortable, along with foot peg placement. Brakes are FANTASTIC (even by today's standards)...and the narrow engine and good, nimble twin cylinder XS660 like handling make this a real FUN bike to ride to boot! Of course, the shaft drive means it's quiet (no chain noise) and fuss free too.
If the D2s "Out BMW-ed BMW", then the E model "Out Trident-ed Triumph" (of iconic 3 cylinder fame). This bike does it all... in a nicely balanced, practical 'unit'. A bit boring... I must confess. And less wild and exciting. But always there... and always ready to deliver a great ride and many trouble free miles. Maybe I should have married one of my Japanese girlfriends after all... :-)
Obviously, I highly recommend this bike -- even 30 plus years later. If you see a XS750D2 or E for sale, check it out! They usually were/are well loved and cared for... with relatively low miles. Buy it to ride and enjoy day in and day out. Sorry this commentary is long winded and somewhat obtuse... but the XS750s (and in particular XS750Es) are often over looked and deserve better... [Oh... did I mention my XS750E is affectionately and fondly named "Keiko"? "Honto ni sou desu." :-)]
Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 23rd September, 2009
Liked the review, really set me up. Got a rolling project on the go, arrived via a trailer April 2010, now stripped and in bits in my garage.
It's a 750; frame's from a 2D 1977 UK reg, and engine from another 750, yet to check out exactly what year. Though have the logbook for the frame.
I bought this bike as a 850 UK reg. Came with a logbook, though closer inspection showed me it was all 850 aside from the engine! Not to be deterred, I placed an ad for either a 750 frame or 850 engine. The frame came first, so it's a 750.
Reading your article really made me glad I chose this bike. Never owned one left, school at 15 in 81 when Yamaha finished making em, but I've always wanted a Japanese muscle bike from that area, and the XS fits the bill perfectly.
Gonna make a start on the rebuild this month. Off goes the frame and some other bits for shotblasting and a respray.
Keep on riding.
A very informative and intelligent review of a bike that is fast becoming a classic. I bought a stock 77 2D 6 weeks ago for £750 and I love it! Never had anything like it before, I have always ridden motorcross and trials bikes etc. Saw this 2D on Ebay and liked the look of it, so I bought it. Can't recommend this model enough, if you are interested in blasts around the countryside on sunny days, then this is the bike for you.
I own an early model XS750 Special (XS750SE) with the 18 inch rear wheel. I like the comparison to Japanese girls, although, like the XS750, those kind of young women are harder to find today (I'm Japanese and live in Japan).
I commute on my XS everyday, and people tell me it's crazy to commute on a 30 something year old bike, but as referred to in the review, she's really reliable; no starting problems, no breakdowns, no nothing. I had to swap the engine once because I had problems with the 2nd gear, which seems to be a common problem with the bike, but other than that, she is rock solid.