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It was 1988 and a cold Christmas morning. I had a Yamaha XT350 delivered as a Christmas present for my husband Pete. As he opened the front door I knew for certain that he had no idea what to expect. To his surprise parked on the road in front of our door was a lovely Yamaha XT350 almost completely decorated with balloons, set off with the final touch of a huge red ribbon wrapped around the handlebars. I could see from his glistening eyes that he was pretty choked up as I had been telling him we couldn't afford one and he would have to continue dreaming of ever owning one. The ribbons and balloons were rapidly removed because he didn't want to ruin his biker image and he obviously wanted to get a better look at his new pride and joy.
On went his Helmet and Jacket (very important) and once she had been kicked over and warmed up off he sped down the road. I could see from the outset that it was far too tall or rather he was too short but he soon adapted his riding style to stopping by resting one foot firmly on the floor whilst the other was hooked over the saddle. I had a quick try at riding the motorcycle but only went a few yards as I really didn't like not being able to touch the floor and dreaded dropping her. As we are both vertically challenged at just over five foot tall and the seat height is 33.7 inches it soon became obvious that at the present seat height of the motorcycle neither of us would really in full control of handling it safely when riding. By cutting the seat down to the bare padding we could just about touch the floor although it was still on tip toe but as we are experienced bikers we could control it quite easily on both on and off road. I wouldn't recommend this to newer riders though.
The Yamaha XT350 is a Dual Purpose Bike with a four-stroke single engine. For those that have no knowledge of these terms I will give a brief explanation. A dual bike is specifically designed for both on and off road riding. On both tarmac and in fields/lanes and can climb over obstacles. A single engine is the most basic of the engines with only 1 spark plug .one cylinder and one piston. A single engine does not produce many revolutions per minute and not a high rate of horsepower but this is ideal for small bikes you want to ride in lanes or fields as well as on the open road. The top speed was 85 miles per hour.
She certainly wasn't the type of bike you could call pretty and apart from the odd glance you didn't have people staring in admiration at the design or colour scheme so I can safely say the XT350 is a pretty standard looking dual purpose bike. I preferred riding on tarmac rather than off road although I did find the suspension a bit too springy and the vibration from the engine took a bit of getting used to. My husband much preferred the off road riding where he found it easy to ride up steep hills and over obstacles due to the six gears it sports. The seating position of the rider is upright and I heard somewhere that the handlebars were designed specifically to reduce wrist ache especially when used off road. The bike is lovely and lightweight and very nimble to weave in and out of traffic during rush hour. Although the seat is designed to carry passenger I found the bike had no grunt at all with more than a single rider and the seat is not the most comfortable for passengers anyway. The fuel consumption depending on how hard she was driven but was on average 125 miles to a full tank which had a capacity of 3,2 gallons so you will have to do the calculations based on where you live and how much you pay to see if this is good value or not?
I am not mechanically minder but Pete had no problems at all fixing any repairs that occurred. The chain had to be adjusted on a regular basis, but this was easy to perform and as the bike didn't have basics like a horn, indicators and wing mirrors it was easy to maintain and just the usual checks like brakes, oil change, lights, clutch, petrol and oil levels and lastly tyres. Although you can use the XT350 specifically as either a road or off road bike and can fit tyres for either of these separate functions please remember you must use correct dual purpose tyres if using for both on and off road on a regular basis. Our XT350 was huge fun and a very reliable bike to ride both in summer and winter during the years we owned her.
The most annoying statement I can make about the bike is she really was a bitch to start. I found I always needed to use the choke and had to remember to decompress the kick start before you even tried to start the bike and then when you do give the kick start a good kick it used to kick you back and got me in the shin each and every time. It wasn't just my style of starting the bike that made this happen as she managed to get everyone in the shins that kicked her over. Once running you had to let it warm up for at least 5 mins before riding. If you didn't she used to stall as soon as you pulled away but once warmed up I don't remember her ever stalling. The headlight only runs when the motor is running which isn't always a good feature if you did break down in a dark lane
It was demonstrated to me that if you were in at least second gear and pulled the throttle back enough, then you could achieve a brilliant wheelie. Although I was never brave enough to try this my son who was 10 at the time showed great glee in demonstrating this skill to me. No mean feat for a mother to watch through her fingertips I assure you.
Specifications from Haynes Manual
Air cooled single cylinder 4 valve 346cc bore and stroke 86 x 59.6mm Compression ratio 9:1 24mm dual Teikei carburettors transmission 6-speed wet clutch Seat height 33.7" Ground clearance 10.8" Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gallons (including 0.5 gallon reserve) Telescopic forks, 10" travel Single rear shock, 8.6" travel 3.00-21 front tyre 110/80-18 rear tyre
Lastly If I were offered an XT350 at the right price nowadays I would not hesitate to buy another one. I have seen them appear on occasions on e-bay and biketrader but never seem to have the cash when they do crop up. Spares still seem to be readily available at reasonable prices. Ours was sold to buy a trials outfit but we have seen it recently and although looking neglected and old now the engine is still running well.