The Yamaha DT175

[Ed. Note: This Two-Wheel Tuesday post is brought to you courtesy of Tanshanomi and his big bike brain]

“All you’ve got to do is stand, and fire three rounds a minute. Now, you and I know you can fire three rounds a minute…but can you stand?” — Richard Sharpe, Sharpe’s Eagle (1993)

That stirring challenge (posed to new recruits by a grizzled veteran of the Napoleonic wars) is from a fictitious pre-battle movie monologue. But it perfectly describes the remarkable history of the real-life Yamaha DT175. The DT175, moreso than perhaps any other motorcycle, has proven its ability to stand. Individually, DT175s have survived ridiculous amounts of abuse at the hands of third-world peasants and squirrelly teen novices. Overloaded, poorly maintained, smashed and corroded DT175s are at this moment buzzing all over our planet. Collectively, the DT175 has survived in the marketplace for more than three decades with very few changes, like a two-wheel Morgan. The DT175 was born in 1974, when the three-year-old, piston-port 175cc Yamaha CT3 Enduro was redesigned with reed-valve induction. In 1978, the frame was revised with a monoshock on the back similar to the YZ motocross line. The swingarm was replaced with a square-tube design two years later. Americans may be forgiven for not being familiar with the DT175’s awesome longevity. EPA regulations banished it from our shores after 1981. But throughout the world, the DT175 has soldiered on, becoming a much-loved icon in the process. It was updated a bit here and there; a YICS intake plenum chamber (or “boost bottle”) was added in the mid ’80s, and a decent front disc replaced the feeble front drum in 1999. But overall, the the 2010 DT175 is remarkably similar to the ones that sat in U.S. dealer’s showrooms so many years ago. The larger DT250 has been out of production for years and the smaller DT125 has been replaced with a modern, liquid-cooled design. The DT175 remains. The DT175 has always been a spunky, eager machine. It cannot handle supercross whoops or speed though the woods down a gnarled enduro single-track. But it has proven itself perfect for navigating fire breaks, Jeep trails, and untold thousands of potholed city streets, unpaved alleys and rural dirt roads. The entertaining but unintimidating power is just perfect for schoolboys learning the joys of two-wheeled freedom. Yet it is the bike’s ruggedness that set it apart. At this very moment, DT175s are churning through deep African desert sand, chugging through muddy Scottish bogs, transporting doctors and preachers on solitary journeys to nearly inaccessible jungle tribes, criss-crossing Asian metropolises loaded down with hundreds of pounds of marketable goods, and ferrying entire families of three, four or more to neighboring villages. When people mention legendary vehicles, they usually think first of the VW Beetle and Model T, then perhaps the Citroën 2CV., If bikes come up, they’ll name the Honda Cub. Rarely will they mention the DT175. That’s a shame, because the CT175 has proven, above all else, that it can stand. [Thanks Tanshanomi! Hoons, be sure to visit his site for more two-wheel wonders.]

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