American motorcycle racing began off road and, even now, many Stateside WorldSBK and MotoGP riders have enviable dirt skills.
In the 1950’s the off-road scene “belonged” to British manufacturers but by the late 60’s the Japanese race to the American off-road market was in full swing. All manufacturers that relied on the US had dirt and dual sport offerings. Yamaha was no exception and in 1967 they brought out the Trailmaster series. These were based on existing road-going machines of the time and equipped with features like engine guards, wide handlebars and high-level mufflers.
In 1969 they really hit the spot with the Yamaha Trailmaster 100 L5T. Not only was the LT5 a good-looking example of the genre, but it also came with a remarkable dual range three speed transmission, which allowed you to change over to a huge rear sprocket at full stop. Low range gave the rider good grunt in the dirt and high range let you ride there at road speed. The little Yam was a real dual sport which also had the proven Yamaha Autolube to auto pump oil to the two-stroke motor.
The 1969 Yamaha 100 LT5 featured a 97 CC air cooled two stroke single cylinder motor that made 8 HP. Pushed through the unique 3 speed transmission it gave you about 35 MPH in low range and 60 MPH in the higher range – sadly you could not change ranges “on the fly”. Minimum ground clearance was over 8 inches and with a weight of 198 LBS the bike was remarkably easy to handle.
Due to its off-road abilities, finding a good example has become extremely hard. If you do find one take a brochure image found on the internet with you to compare specs and model years as many machines on sale are now “bitza bikes”. On the plus side, the engines are quite simple and easy to tear down and being air-cooled the total strip time for a machine is less than a day.
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issued: Thursday, November 11, 2021
updated: Thursday, November 11, 2021
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