BLAST FROM THE PAST
1968 Yamaha DT-1 250 Enduro “Game Changer”
by Carl Ribaudo and Mike Webb
Every so often a consumer products company introduces a product that changes everything that comes after. The Sony Walkman and Apple iPhone come to mind. In 1968 Yamaha launched the DT-1 250 Enduro, a motorcycle that changed the industry. At the time 2-stroke off-road machines existed, but they came from smaller operations that weren’t producing huge numbers (i.e. Greeves, Bultaco, Montesa and CZ). The DT-1 was the first dual sport bike developed by a Japanese manufacturer. It was a single cylinder, two-stroke, light weight, good ground clearance, you could ride it on a trail or to the grocery store for some milk. A year later Yamaha offered a GYT kit that upped HP from 21-30. The bike retailed at $580.00, $400.00 less than a Husky 250. It was reported that Yamaha sold 50,000 of them.
Yamaha through its marketing research identified a latent demand for off-road riding. The size and growth of the market caught not only Yamaha unawares, but other Japanese manufacturers as well. Yamaha capitalized on the success of the 250 and made additional 90, 125, 175 and 360 versions of the street legal trail machine.
From a historical perspective the DT-1 was a key element in the explosive growth of the off-road and motocross industry. The DT-1 along with a very strong economy, a booming housing and auto market, vets from WW2 and Korea who now had discretionary cash and most important, wide open public lands to indulge this new past time created a unique opportunity for the industry to experience explosive growth. The DT-1 was such a perfect product to take advantage of the circumstances, it transformed the industry bringing new riders into the sport. The DT-1 was quickly copied by other manufacturers and soon there were choices in every shop.
For many, the DT-1 was stripped of its lights and street accessories the minute it was in your garage and a variety of accessories from 21-inch wheels, a Preston Petty fender, a Webco fork brace and the mandatory expansion chamber was added so you could compete in desert or motocross events.
The DT-1 was a game changer because of affordability and the ability for the owner to customize it for whatever riding they liked, from street to MX. Reliable and easy to work on the DT-1 was the perfect entry bike for many and perhaps the biggest game changer in our sport ever.
(here’s a link to a story Jody wrote at Motocross Action covering the birth of the DT1. It is a detailed story on the machine and well worth reading! https://motocrossactionmag.com/yamaha-dt-1-the-best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-motocross/ )
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