Motorcycle Forum banner
1 - 6 of 6 Posts

· Vintage Rider
453 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Haven't posted here for awhile and also didn't see a section on off road trail bikes either. Anyway, while putting bikes away for the winter, I had a chance to get one more ride in with some of my vintage "Trail Bikes". Maybe some of the older riders here will remember these models!:smile:

Trail bikes were at their peak of popularity during the mid '60s. Honda led the market beginning in 1961, and the rest of the big four quickly followed the leader. However by 1970 the market for non-competition off-road bikes had all but faded away, with Yamaha completely out of the genre because of the success of their Enduro series and Kawasaki and Suzuki were using the same frames as their Enduro style bikes however usually with a dual speed transmission arrangement. Only Honda kept in the trail bike market into the '80s.
So before putting away for winter, I thought I'd roll back the clock to the Trail Bike "heyday", (1965-66) and do a little comparison that a potential buyer might face as he shopped the "Big Four" for a brand new trail bike for Christmas in 1965. I think we all know which brand won out back then, but now, 53+ years later, which one would you choose. I won't pick for you, as I would be biased but love them all.

Here's the bikes that were all marketed against each other in the same size class. These are all original, although not perfect, "survivors" from my collection.
From right to left.
1965 Honda CT200 "Trail 90"
1966 Kawasaki J1TR "Countryman"
1965 Yamaha YG1-TK "Trailmaster"
1965 Suzuki K15 "Hillbilly"

Whether you were a hunter and needing a bike to get you back into the woods to haul out a big buck, or just enjoy some "cow-trailing" down to your favorite fishing spot anyone of these could get 'er done. One thing is sure though, these bikes weren't built for speed or dirt racing, but could definitely climb some steep grades with some gearing changes. It's a tough choice!

First a little overview of each model. This K15 from Suzuki is a single cylinder 2-stroke with high clearance fender, upswept muffler, anti slip seat and a factory standard luggage rack. All the trail models would use aggressive knobbies to do the job.

Yamaha actually had 2 different style trail bikes in '65. This is the YG1-TK which is also a 2-stroke with additional fender clearance due to the smaller 16" wheels used on this frame. A small framed luggage rack was standard, but a larger chrome rack was an option. Exhaust system was a low pipe arrangement on both versions. The other model offered by Yamaha was a step-through model with the same engine, called an MG1-T. I didn't bring out my '65 MG1-T for this comparison so as to keep it to one offering from each manufacturer.

Kawasaki jumped into the market with this early '66 model J1TR. It was also loaded with the required accessories for trail riding, including upswept pipe, high fender, engine bash plate and standard chrome luggage rack.

Honda stuck with their step through design which they claimed made it easier to mount and dismount when having a load piled high on the luggage rack. The rack was only part of the frame in the standard trim but a large chrome carrier was a factory option. Upswept pipe was great for crossing streams.

Now for a quick look at the powerplants of these trail machines!
L to R
1. The Suzuki K15 still required you to mix your own gas and oil. Engine: Air-cooled 79 cc single cylinder piston port 2-stroke. 8.0 hp/ 7,500 rpm. The transmission is a 4 speed with neutral on top.
2. The Kawasaki J1TR was also a pre-mix model with an 81cc single cylinder rotary valve 2 stroke engine putting out 7.5 hp/ 6,800 rpm. The transmission was a 4 speed rotary shift.
3. Yamaha's YG1-TK was an oil injected two stroke. The engine had a rotary valve induction system with a claimed 6.2 hp/ 10,000 rpm. Transmission was a 4 speed manual shift with neutral on the top.
4. Honda had the only 4 stroke powerplant with the CT200 being an 87cc OHV engine producing 7.0 hp/ 8,500 rpm. The transmission was a 4 speed which utilized their well proven "auto-clutch" making it easy to operate with one hand if necessary.

Here we have a riders view of each model. I think you all can figure out which belongs to each manufacturer. All speedometers registered to 80 mph with Honda being the only exception. A bit optimistic as most of these models were topped out at around 50 mph.

The models which had a center tank all had chrome side panels except Honda which had the tank located under the seat. These all carried just over a gallon of fuel, and the bikes were rated around 150 mpg. Suzuki and Kawasaki required pre-mix and the Yamaha and Honda could be filled at the pump without worrying about adding oil.

The rear wheel sprocket arrangement varied between these models, and would have been an important part of the decision making for most customers. Yamaha however (top left) only had a single sprocket and no change over from road to dirt was available. IMHO this wasn't great if you had to travel some distance on an improved road to get to the trail head, as this little engine is beginning to rev hard above 35 mph. (top right) The K15 had a side by side dual sprocket arrangement that required adding a section of chain (carried in the tool kit) to go over the larger sprocket when you wanted extra climbing ability. (bottom left) Kawasaki had the same system as Suzuki. (bottom right) Honda had a dual sprocket set up that required over laying the small sprocket when riding the trails, but was then stowed away on the hub when not in use.

Later in 1966 improvements would be made on all of these models. Honda would release it's CT90 with the OHC motor in '66 and in '67 they would also add the first dual range transmissions. Kawasaki would add "Superlube" to the J1TRL model in '67, ending the need to pre-mix. Suzuki added "Posi-lube" in 67 as well, updating the model to the K15p. Yamaha would install dual sprockets the following year as well as enlarging the engine plus a subtranny in '69. Kawasaki released a dual range model C2TR in '69 and Suzuki did in '68 which was called KT120.

Well there you have a brief comparison of the different Japanese Trail Bikes from 1965/66. So let me know which is your favorite (Don't tell me it's a DT1 or some such bike that wasn't built yet LOL).
For those of you my age, I hope you enjoyed a little reminiscing as well, as I sure like giving these little trail bikes a good spin every so often.

Now back to laying them up for winter.

· Retired twice: Navy and as a govt contractor
12,410 Posts
J1TR for no other reason that I like the look, but it should have a higher exhaust

· Vintage Rider
453 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
J1TR for no other reason that I like the look, but it should have a higher exhaust
The J1TR has the longest tailpipe I've ever seen on a bike, sticks out well past the fender and taillight. Honda's were the ugliest though, but obviously also the most reliable especially after sitting in a barn for 40+ years.
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.