The Yamaha SR500 is a street version of the beloved XT500 dual-sport, featuring a slightly modified version of the 499cc twin-valve engine, electronic ignition, and dual 18-inch wheels. Built to bear a strong family resemblance to the British-inspired XS650 twin, the SR500 was only sold in the US for model years 1978-1981, but remained in production until 1999 — one of the world’s best-loved thumpers.
Enter Garett Wilson (@dubstyledesigns), whose KTM Duke street tracker was one of our favorite builds of 2019, featured not just here but at Bike EXIF and several prestigious shows. Now, we’re thrilled to be back with another one of his builds. This time, it’s a 1980 Yamaha SR500 built out of his buddy Jake Shellito‘s garage in northern Colorado:
“I had a vision to turn this single cylinder cruiser-looking bike into a gaudy street tracker.”
The bike is now sporting a massaged DT400 tank that’s been painted gold candy / flake instead of the factory yellow, complete with painted lettering instead of decals. Meanwhile, Garett upgraded the suspension at both ends, with stiffer springs and a fork brace up front and beefier rear shocks mated to an aftermarket aluminum swingarm. The engine, while stock internally, has been paired with a 36mm flat-slide Mikuni, updated electronic ignition, and custom exhaust with a silencer originally intended for an R6 — “it gives a nice deep tone to the 500 single.” While “Goldy” is one of the sexiest street trackers we’ve seen, she’s no show queen:
“I built the SR to be a rider — I rally it to work during the week and bomb around the foothills on the weekends.”
Amen to that. Below, we get the full story on this little bomber, with photos from Garett himself except where noted.
Yamaha 500 Street Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I built the SR500 in 2014 — mainly out of my buddy Jake’s garage before we had any “fun/useful” tools like we do now. There was a lot of Harbor Freight screaming loud bandsaw action, drill pressing, and MIG welding going on back then.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1980 Yamaha SR500.
• Why was this bike built?
I built the SR to be a rider — I rally it to work during the week and bomb around the foothills on the weekends.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I had a vision to turn this single cylinder cruiser-looking bike into a gaudy street tracker. Of course you can’t google street tracker without seeing a Mule bike so I’m sure those were in my mind as I was creating this.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Suspension-wise I lowered the stock forks two inches, stiffer springs, and added an HHB fork brace for stability. The shocks are one inch longer than stock Ohlins. I sourced the aluminum swingarm and the triple trees from Motolanna to shave some weight.
The tank was a DT400 eBay find — I had to massage it a little so it would fit over the fat oil-in-the-frame backbone of the SR frame. The tail section is a fiberglass Knight-style. The back of the SR frame was cut off and a new subframe was bent up to loop around the tail section and give it some support. I made an aluminum seat pan and shaped the foam and had Brain of Greeley do the cover for it. That was the first seat I had made and I didn’t want to fall through the foam but it’s a little on the stiff side — when I’m old and crotchety with a bad back maybe I’ll make it softer.
The motor is still original with the intake and exhaust. The stock carb was swapped out for a 36mm flat slide Mikuni and the header was from Hoos. The silencer is an Akrapovic meant for a R6 — it gives a nice deep tone to the 500 single. I did rewire the bike, ditched the battery, and updated the ignition to a Rex Speed Shop unit to help with reliability and ease of starting. There’s nothing quite like the panic of trying to kick start the old single after your buddy kill-switches you at a stoplight — not like that would ever happen haha. With that updated ignition it usually fires first kick.
I retrofitted a Magura hydraulic clutch which made the clutch pull buttery smooth. Controls are handled with Renthal bars, mounts, and grips. The front Brembo caliper and master are from a Ducati and I have to thank Kim Boyle for sending me his diagram of the rotor spacer the 320mm is mated to. I made the first caliper mount out of wood and then copied it over to aluminum.
I looked at that yellow DT tank mounted on the SR for a couple months while I waited for my tail section to show up (never purchasing from that guy ever again) and I decided that my paint scheme would be based on that. I had to mix a little of my style into it of course and chose the gold candy with gold flake in place of the yellow. I made the stencils for the lettering and laid out the panels by hand so it could all be painted on — Dan White says decals are lame and he’s my painter so I do what he says. The end result is always worth that extra time. The wheels, drum, and rotor are the same gold — just without the flake and with a matte finish. I blasted the frame and and forks and they got the matte black finish.
19/18 Dunlop k180s finish out the tracker look.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Some people call it “Goldy” — my 5 year old calls it the “golgen mogersycle” — I just call it the SR.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
The bike is lightweight (290lbs) and torquey, it’s got a low center of gravity and handles amazing. I wish it was a 6 speed transmission instead of just the 5, but for shorter rides this bike is a ton of fun. It will cruise 75 no problem, but it doesn’t quite have that horsepower to blast away from the dumbness the interstate can provide.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I didn’t weigh this one before building it but the internet says it weighs somewhere between 350 and 380 so I’m happy I cut 60-90 lbs off of it. The little single has also gotten up to 103mph at the “track” (Trailtech GPS proven) which is 8mph over factory claims. I’m proud of the fact that I walk past this bike everyday and it still looks as good as the day I took it for its first completed ride. Sure there’s some rock chips — it is a rider after all — but it has held up really well over the past six years and it’s always ready for a rip.
Follow the Builder
I have a couple builds in progress now and a few more waiting their turn. Follow my instagram @dubstyledesigns to watch another KTM Duke, XS650, RD350, and RD400 all come together.
Also, @jake_shellito is putting a bike show together in northern Colorado — check out @homegrown_moto_show and if anyone is in the area later this year bring your bike and come hang.
Really cool bike dude! I have a 78 TT500 I’ve had since 1980. You’ve inspired me to upgrade it, thanks for sharing your work I might need some advice if that’s okay.
Sounds good hit me up on instagram
Nice bike. What a blast to ride, I bet.
Nice bike wish I had one Lyk it very nice bike
Well done. I have a 1980 SR 500 that I am starting a rebuild on. I’ve owned it since 1990 and a friend of mine stored it at his house (outside under a tarp. ouch). I’m hoping you can send me some links for chasing down parts, particularly decals. My side panels especially need restoration. Any advice will help. Thank you. Sean
I made these stencils on the computer and we painted the graphics on. I don’t have a good lead for you on decals – I’ve seen stuff listed on eBay before. @dubstyledesigns on Instagram is the best way to get a hold of me for any questions.