In 1985, those clever Japanese folks at Yamaha had the bright idea to release a standard naked motorcycle with a single 608cc cylinder. In 1986, it was imported to the U.S. …and no one bought it. It did not return to U.S. shores in 1987. Elsewhere in the world, however, the SRX 600 had a decent following and was produced and sold until 1997. But, Americans simply weren’t having any part of it.
I wasn’t cognizant of motorcycles in 1986, but I fell in love with the SRX many years later when I first laid eyes on a poster hanging in a friend’s garage. Something about it just flowed, and I was awestruck. I have always been a fan of simple, and, as a single cylinder UJM with a kickstarter, the SRX is about as simple as it gets–almost to a fault. The SRX-6 features a big single with a decompression lever, a Supertrapp-esque muffler which you can toss in the trash for a real Supertrapp, and cool “Super Single” graphics on each rear cowl. My husband describes it as looking “like a praying mantis that got squashed.” So, questionable looks combined with questionable acceleration, and it clearly wasn’t for everyone, especially during an era in which sportier, multiple cylinder bikes were coming into vogue for only a bit more money.
Like the Honda CB-1 from a previous post, the SRX was a relative flop in the American market, and it didn’t get to hang out long. However, the SRX has also managed the same cult following that the CB-1 has attained in recent years. It has become a city commuter, a back roads bomber, and a track lackey. By all accounts, the bike is capable and infinitely customizable. Well-preserved examples sell for about what they did brand new. If you can find them, that is. A fine stock SRX sold on eBay in mid-February for almost $3,000, but chances are good that most searches will return results only for Yamaha’s SRX snowmobile model, or the Cadillac crossover SUV of the same model name. Likewise, you’ll need a wish and a prayer for parts.
In a sea of increasingly colorful and zippy four cylinders like the Suzuki GSX-R and Kawasaki Ninja, the Yamaha SRX-6 may have been doomed in the US from the start. It’s hard to say whether or not it would have picked up any popularity after its abysmal first (and only) year of import. But, like other models of the era that produced nothing more than a resounding yawn from their target demographics, the SRX now enjoys a fervent and dedicated group of enthusiasts–and maybe, despite the initial failures, that is a better fate than has been seen by the average late-80s inline four sportbike.