Sometimes in life you have to be careful who you share your dreams with. They might be shattered, stolen or in this case, they might be bought. You see this 1975 Yamaha R5 was bought by Doug Devine a few months ago after seeing it sitting at his friend’s place gathering dust. “This project started when a friend showed me a ’72 Yamaha R5 he had been storing in his shed for the past five years” recalls Doug. “Upon his move from Austin to Louisville, my friend had intentions of bringing her back to her former glory, but life happened. After a few months of sporadic conversations about the bike, the R5 was mine.” Unlike his friend, Doug didn’t mess around and jumped straight into planning this lil’ smokers reincarnation. We thought we’d let Doug describes the project in his own words:
“Originally, I wanted the R5 to be a low and speedy expression of my personality. My friend, Scott Hableib, and I spent a while just studying the bike trying to figure out how I could make this work. Scott, a graphic designer and fellow bike builder, created a concept drawing for inspiration. I set out to see if the mechanical aspects were there. I bought a battery, points, a condenser, and cleaned the fuel system. Once I fired her up, she smoked badly, but had the potential to run pretty well. I began researching 2-strokes and, in turn, decided to tear down the motor.”
The more I modified the frame, the smaller the R5 became. Each day, after hours of working on the bike in our spare bedroom (shout out to my wife, Jessica, for letting me turn a few rooms in our home into a bike shop), I would mock up the bike to help me visualize what I was building. About two weeks in, I realized that the bike was going in a completely different direction that I originally anticipated. I took a week off from building and contemplated what direction I wanted to take the bike in. During one of my daily internet searches about motorcycles, it occurred to me that no one would dare build a ‘50s-style 2-stroke bobber.
Early on, I hoped to do most, if not all, of the work myself. When I finished the frame, I began work on the tank and seat. The tank was badly beaten up and had to be smoothed substantially. I realized that the tank needed to be smoother than I was capable of doing so my friend, James Kemp, took over. James was apprenticing at a body shop and said he would love to tackle the tank. After choosing a color, James set out to make my tank smoother than a baby’s butt. Once I knew the tank would be blue, I decided that I didn’t want chrome or blacked out parts. So, I set out to learn the process of nickel plating (watts system). I estimate that I plated almost 400 pieces on this bike including each and every nut and bolt.
Next came the seat pan which ended up being the toughest part of the build. Thanks to Scott for coming to the rescue with the foam work.
Now that the frame and suspension were figured out, it was time to tackle the motor. HVC Cycle out of Lincoln, Nebraska had every part for a Yamaha R5. I compiled a two page list of every part that needed to be replaced. Five days later, the parts arrived at my door. The motor was painted black and baked in my kitchen oven (another shout out to my wife for letting me take over the kitchen too). I’d also like to thank Scott and another friend, Chad Francis, for allowing me to paint parts in their warm garages.
Last but certainly not least—the pipes! Scott and I talked for months about the pipes, and I made several phone calls about whether or not the lack of chambers would work. I was told that a motorcycle with megs would never run right. After I did some calculations, I came to understand that it would work. It would (and does) work but not in the same sense as a full expansion chamber, a ton of jetting, and finding the sweet spot on the timing. With that said, the bike weighs 263 lbs. (120 kgs) and turns 11,000 rpm all day long.”
Looking at the finished bike, we’re glad Doug convinced his friend to sell him this old screamer. Although, I’m guessing his buddy might be regretting selling it, especially after seeing what a dream bike Doug has created.