Smoky Runner: Yamaha DT125R Restomod

Yamaha DT125R

BCKustoms returns to his two-stroke roots… 

The original Yamaha DT-1 250 Enduro and the long line of successors it spawned remain some of the most popular, influential motorcycles to come out of the 1960s. Here was a lightweight, budget-friendly, simple-to-maintain two-stroke trail bike with lights and a license plate.

“Priced at $580, $400 less than the Husqvarna 250, the DT1 offered a level of reliability that the Swedes could only dream of… Yamaha hired professional racers to showcase the DT1 and, in February of 1968, two months before the machine was released, Keith Mashburn notched the first race win for the Yamaha DT1 at the Ascot TT.” –Motocross Action

Yamaha DT125R

Models in various displacements would be produced over the years, the twin shocks would be winnowed down to a mono-shock setup, and the DT series would ultimately become liquid-cooled with models like the DT125R — also known as the DTR125. Unfortunately, we never got most of these newer liquid-cooled, power-valve bikes here in North America, so they’ve always had an exotic appeal.

Yamaha DT125R

In the UK, however, the DTR was sometimes known as the “L’s Angel” for its learner-legal status. By all accounts, the bike was a hoot on the pavement and off, thanks in part to the powervalve-equipped engine and long-travel suspension:

“There’s nothing like caning a two-stroke on tarmac, giving it large with the throttle and slamming up and down the gears…. Take it on the trails and the chassis feels so light and agile it ploughs effortlessly through mud and rocks, with decent ground clearance to clear the ruts.” –Visordown, reviewing the DTR

Yamaha DT125R

Recently, our friend Yann from BCKustoms reached out with a new toy intended to take him back to his two-stroke, Baja-loving roots:

“The last movie I saw, The Desert Said Dance, intensified that wish to get another Baja bike after the BCK-050 DR650 “Baja Runner” of last year.”

Yamaha DT125R

He picked up a beat-up, poorly-running 1988 DT125R and set to work restoring it to its former glory with some nods to the white / red YZ400F motocrosser of the late 90s. Highlights include rebuilt engine and suspension, powder-coated frame, Excel rims, Giannelli exhaust, DoEnduro headlight, Drivemode DMD2 dashboard, NC Design Workshop saddle cover, and “every single part checked, replaced, or restored.”

Yamaha DT125R

The result is the “Smoky Runner,” which looks like it could have just rolled off the showroom floor. The check ride was one for the ages — I trip to the Spanish Tabernas Desert, where so many of the great Spaghetti Westerns like Sergio Leone’s Dollar Trilogy were filmed.

“I over-enjoyed it and this will remain one of my best rides ever despite it ended in a hidden ditch at the bottom of which lay two concrete walls. Shit happens. Broke myself but it looked like Smoky had more luck than me. Anyway, back at the workshop, all has been checked and is actually rebuilt to go for the next ride in the Pyrenees next week…”

Glad you’re okay, Yann — enjoy your ride in the Pyrenees. We’re jealous!

Yamaha DTR125 Resto: Builder Interview

Yamaha DT125R

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

Hi there, I’m Yann, a 51-y.o. teenager who loves to ride motorcycles. I learned a bit about building them and racing during my years but I’m still dreaming about the next one. For years, since the early minutes of the 1996 Terrafirma III movie, I’ve been a great fan of US desert races, the Baja races, Johnny Campbell, and so on. The last movie I saw about it, The Desert Said Dance, intensified that wish to get another Baja bike after the BCK-050 DR650 “Baja Runner” of last year.

So I’d like to tell you a bit more about the last build and last ride then!

Yamaha DT125R

• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?

The initial bike is an ‘88 Yamaha DTR125. I got it last summer, complete and rolling, but in a poor condition except the engine, which was rebuilt like new. I knew from the start I’ll have a lot to do with this one. The RPMs were not able to get over 6000 so I was expecting exhaust valve adjustments. With new spark plug, filters, and fuel, this could only work.

Yamaha DT125RYamaha DT125R

• Why was this bike built?

As I’m never fed up with new toys; I wanted to return to the first ever bike I owned, a ‘96 Yamaha TZR 125, but built for my current expectations and rides. Also, talking about 2023 events, I needed to present something new and this was the perfect excuse. One aspect of the built is also to have the possibility to remove really quick the lighting system to turn the bike into an MX racer for training.

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

I fell in love with the TZR when I saw it in the store in the past. For just one time, I decided to have a bike that looked like one in store, all new parts, with a design inspired by the colors I like the most and a Yamaha factory design. I decided to check which off-road Yamaha has some iconic DNA and stopped on a ‘98 YZ400F, the first four-stroke MX bike they produced and its red/black/white factory livery.

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Not much actually this time… The bike has been stripped down, every single part checked, replaced, or restored. The entire frame has been sandblasted and powder coated in black, including the wheels.

The engine was freshly rebuilt with a new piston, so it had just a full maintenance and paint without removing too many parts. (All new parts stored and the overall build-off just took a couple weeks before I left).

Yamaha DT125R

All new body parts, cables, brakes, Heidenau K60 Ranger tyres, new seat cover from NC Design Workshop, new rear shock and front fork overhaul, Giannelli complete exhaust… Except the seat cover you won’t find in shop ‘cause it’s been made for that paint scheme. The brake rotors have been designed at home, as well as the exhaust heat protection, to recall the YZ400F.

Big thanks to DoEnduro who is actually providing homemade 3D-printed head lights for most common enduro bikes. So I found one to fit the white KTM design front enduro plate. And it works great!

Yamaha DT125R

• Does the bike have a nickname?

Everybody knows the 2 strokes are smoky and my builds are nicknamed “Runner,” so I found “Smoky Runner” pretty cool, thinking of the great Smokey Mountains I’d love to cross with this bike.

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

Riding that bike is like returning to your roots. Firstly because all the riders of my generation started with two-strokes. Of course, it reminded me also of my old TZR, but this time I could leave the road.

With just 28 hp, it’s not as powerful as my previous ‘96 Honda CR but I’m too old for those risky rides. So I’m fine with that. Also, I’ve been lucky enough to have my check ride in southern Spain, in a desert where some of the most iconic western movies were filmed.

Yamaha DT125R

True also I appreciate it a lot after a 150-mile ride the day before on my BMW F650 Funduro (The Dezert Runner, see previous article) to be able to jump on this lightweight racer, which is nearly half the weight. Funny to get back to the “no power” low RPM zone and then to have that engine screaming to give its best. With so many new parts, the bike was really like a 2023 bike test.

I over-enjoyed it and this will remain one of my best rides ever despite it ended in a hidden ditch at the bottom of which lay two concrete walls. Shit happens. Broke myself but it looked like Smokey had more luck than me. Anyway, back at the workshop, all has been checked and is actually rebuilt to go for the next ride in the Pyrenees next week during the Wheels & Waves festival.

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

In fact, it’s not been a big project. Bought the donor bike last summer as all the parts I needed and waited to have time to start this, which happened just three weeks ago, and I finished just in time to load the bike into the van for the Trail Adventure Days and my Tabernas desert trip. I’m just proud now to have built a bike which means a lot to many down here, as I know this model wasn’t sold in the US. All modern LED equipment and DMD2 app for the dashboard is a bonus.

Yamaha DT125R

This was kind of an old dream of mine to have a two-stroke back in the workshop and for me to return to the start of my motorcycle history/experience. We still have a lot of parts available here, as the model was produced quite unchanged from 1988 till 2003 and we can even upgrade to a 175cc kit or move to a 200cc engine, which was already available the same year. But keeping a legal 125cc version with a piston which lasts about 20K km is a big bonus including that OEM Japanese reliability. So I’m not ready yet.

There one more detail I’m so proud of. As a great fan of Pol Tarrés, I found a sticker on his previous bike which made me laugh so much. That sticker says “Warning – You’re not Pol Tarrés” just in case I start to feel too confident on the bike!

Yamaha DT125R

The Desert Said Dance

Here’s the film that inspired Yann. We highly recommend it.

This is the story of four men, whose passion come before any paycheck. Drawn to a challenge, and the romance of dancing with the unknown. Pushing themselves far beyond where most people feel alive. Each with motivations of their own. From chasing a childhood dream, to honoring a fallen teammate taken too soon. A five time champion in search of reliving his former glory, and a young Ironman trying to prove his place at the top. A motley crew united by motorcycle with the common goal of proving to themselves and to the world that they are alive and that the dance must go on. The Baja 1000 is like no other…”

Builder Thanks

Special thanks to my sponsors:
@daytona73 / leather company
@moskomoto / Tough gear-Hard travel, Motorcycles luggage
@heidenauer_reifen / German quality tyres
@makadamkulture / Bike & Breizh event September 23rd-24th 2023
@noline.france / cleaning wipes
@delkevicuk / Motorcycle exhausts
@supersproxusa / Motorcycle sprockets
@bellhelmets / #bellpowersports

Special thanks to my technical partners:
NC Design Workshop for upholstery (@nc_design_workshop)
@DoEnduro for the 3D printed off road headlight
Siminox for laser-cut stainless parts
Cap Enseignes for all stickers
WRS Italy for the YSS rear shock (@wrs_italy)

Follow the Builder

Instagram: @bckustoms

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