1974 Yamaha TZ250 | The Bike That Changed My Life

Rider: Jerry Smith
Now: Freelance Writer
Then: Parts Counterman

"I was working at Yamaha of San Jose in 1974, when I bought one of the new water-cooled 250cc production racers Yamaha had just released. It cost me $1495-fairing not included-complete with a giant four-shoe drum brake that I replaced with an RD350 disc, a set of no-name tires whose primary function was to keep dirt off the inner tubes, and a postage-stamp-sized seat I had to move 3 inches rearward just to fit between it and the gas tank.

"Despite being designed to go around in circles, the TZ took me all over the country. Right after I got my AMA license, it took me to Daytona, where I stood in the sign-up line and bitched about the cold weather with Gene Romero, and met a lot of other people I had only read about in motorcycle magazines. I almost met my end there, too, when my front tire went flat entering the chicane at a buck-forty.

"I nearly high-sided the TZ in a slow corner at Ontario Motor Speedway, and ended up draped over the front of the bike with my helmet touching the front fender. I saved it, but I have no idea how. I rode the race of my life, a cutthroat battle for 24th place, at Laguna Seca. I still remember that bottom-dropping-out feeling the first time I went through the Corkscrew.

"Eventually I quit racing and sold the TZ. But today, all I have to do is see one, or smell burning Blendzall pre-mix, and I'm right back in that tiny saddle."