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Yamaha Big Bear

Profile – Yamaha Big Bear

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

(August 2020)

Yamaha Big Bear

Bear or Porker?

Yamaha's early foray into the world of dirt bikes copped some unhappy criticism

Despite attractive packaging, the arrival of the early scramblers wasn’t always greeted by generous praise. An early pioneer for the company was based on the YD-S3 two-stroke twin 250 which, with a set of high pipes, trials-uni tyres, and not a whole lot else, was marketed in the USA from 1965 as the Big Bear (aka YD-S3C, above).

This was an appropriation of the name of an off-road event in California, one for which (to that point) the company couldn't claim any notable success.

Yamaha Big Bear

Move on to early 1967 and its successor is the YM-2C Big Bear (above), now boasting a 305cc twin with a much-improved transmission-mounted clutch arrangement (previously it was crank mounted in the YM1-derived driveline).

There was a mighty 30 horsepower on tap, enough to punt the circa 160kg machine to 130km/h. Costing US$700 at the time, it was popular simply for its looks and not its dirt ability.

One reviewer was unkind enough to describe its off-road ability as being “an ill-handling porker” – harsh but perhaps fair for what was really a dressed-up street cruiser. Yamaha's PR shots perhaps wisely only ever displayed it on easy dirt roads.

Made very much for the American market, the 305 Big Bear was a modest success in its very short time in the showroom, selling around 6000 units and is regarded as the pick of the breed bearing the crazy name.

There was a successor launched at the very end of 1967, the YR-2C 350, claiming an extra five horses and now called the Grand Prix Scrambler.

Yamaha DT-1

However it was the light and quick DT-1 250 single (above) of 1967-68 which really launched the brand into the world of competitive off-road bikes.

Yamaha of course didn’t entirely forget the Big Bear name – decades later it was used on a string of ATVs.

Meanwhile sixties Japanese scramblers are very much in demand and fetching solid prices in the classic market.

Yamaha Big Bear

(Brochure via Skungheeney Harrison at UK VJMC on Facebook)


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