30 years with a YZ 490

Part I – Meet the Junkheap

For much of the past 30 years, I have been the proud owner of a 1986 Yamaha YZ 490, a fine (if somewhat antiquated even when new) specimen of a two-stroke motocross racing motorcycle (a dirt bike). I first got the 490 in December 1989, and pretty much rode the wheels off it through all of 1990 and the first part of 1991. By March of 1991, the 490 was broken down and worn out to the point of no longer being worth it to me to fix, so down the road it went. During that 15 months I had quite a few adventures with the 490, including taking it to Nevada for a desert race, and even got the chance to “thrill” the girl from Missouri that would later be my wife with a ride on it.

Fifteen years later, a 35-year-old version of myself thought it might be fun to once again possess a YZ 490, so I started looking for one. Perusing eBay, I found a listing for a 1986 YZ 490; the bike was rough looking, but is was cheap and fairly close to me (it was in Colorado Springs, about two hours away from where I lived in Colorado at the time) so I bid on it. For better or worse, my bid was successful and a few days later I was once again the owner of a 1986 YZ490. When I got my “new” bike home and started taking it apart, I started finding things that led to an inescapable conclusion; I had not just bought any YZ490, but the very one that I had owned 15 years earlier. Funny how things work out.

The YZ 490 as it was; in my parent’s basement in Boulder, Colorado, just after bringing it home in December 1989.
The YZ 490 as it is today, basking in the Kansas sun on April 8, 2020.
A much younger me on the 490 in June of 1990 at Greeley, Colorado.


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