Confessions of a Junkie: Five-Dollar Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler

What if this Scrambler runs all the way to the Canadian border? Then it will be a dazzling affirmation of the beauty and value of junk.

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by John L. Stein
Besides mechanical problems, the trip was beset by rain and cold. Here, sunshine and scenery invited contemplation.

Editor’s note: This gem of a story was originally published in the August 1985 issue of Cycle magazine. Please enjoy the tale, along with an exclusive new postscript that follows up on the fate of this Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler, “Requiem for a Big Bear.”

The yard sale: There it sat, as appropriately as a discarded Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times might lie crumpled in a dumpster, awaiting a Monday morning trash pickup.

Desirable when new and useful, the 1965 Yamaha Big Bear Scrambler now seemed lost in a rolling wave of litter that washed over the lawn. The 250 Big Bear belonged to an industrious young man intent on pursuing his fortune, such as it might be found, in the operations of a Samoan fish-processing plant. Not running, lame with worn-out tires, a weak generator and a faulty crankshaft bearing, the 20-year-old Yamaha had been scored and ravaged by two decades of salty ocean air. Its Autolube oiling system, meant to civilize 2-strokes of that generation, had long ago been discarded. The Big Bear was junk. It was also $5. Sold.

The beauty and value of junk

An inventory of the 60 former and present occupants of the Stein garage for senior citizens of the motor world reads, in part, something like this: Eight Ducatis, three OSSAs, an AJS twin that used National Geographic magazine covers as its cylinder-base gaskets, a 1958 NSU Super Max and a score of hyper-kinetic 2-stroke street and off-highway Japanese bikes. The automobile roster has included about a dozen ’50s and ’60s American and English convertibles, an elderly Cadillac hearse, a New York City Checker cab, a Kaiser Special and, most recently, a rumpled Lotus. Close to two-thirds of these vehicles did not run at the time of purchase, and the vast majority were more appropriate for a dismantler than for the highway.

  • Updated on Feb 11, 2023
  • Originally Published on Jan 29, 2023
Tagged with: John L. Stein, Road Trip
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