There are few paint schemes in motorcycling as iconic as Yamaha’s 1970s-era racing livery. Dubbed the "Bumble Bee" for its striking palette of black and yellow, it is perhaps best remembered in the hands of "King Kenny" Roberts, adorning his 1973 and ’74 AMA Grand National Championship-winning mounts. Anyone who was around at the time would be hard-pressed to look at Russ Somers’ custom 1978 Yamaha SR500 and not conjure an image of Roberts pitching it sideways on a half-mile dirt oval.Intent on preserving as much of the original machine as possible for an authentic retro, Somers resisted the temptation to laden the bike with copious billet aluminum. "I wanted a marriage of old and new," he says, "where the new didn’t overpower the old." Case in point, the modern GPR V1 steering stabilizer, Trail Tech Endurance display and Drag Specialties Wave headlight are respectfully blended with the old school flattrack front number plate.
The 500cc thumper is fitted with a high-performance White Brothers cam, as well as a flatslide carburetor. A custom fabricated header pipe is mated to a SuperTrapp muffler, and the original mag wheels were anodized black. The decision of where to place turn signals—a dreaded disruptor of design flow—was solved by embedding them in the front number plate for a clean look. Somers says there’s no relevance to the number five, "The number fit the area I needed it to." Lastly, an Omars’ Street Tracker fiberglass tank and tail section provided a fitting canvas for the famous Bumble Bee rendering as an ultimate tribute. (Click images to enlarge)