The Yamaha DT-1 started a trend in American motorsports that would last for decades. Yamaha’s DT-1 made dirt bikes accessible to the general public, and reliable enough to use for transportation. Plus, it was plenty powerful: the 246cc air-cooled two-stroke engine gave the DT-1 a top speed of 70mph.
When Yamaha introduced the DT-1 in 1968, the U.S. motorcycle market was not in good shape. At the time, motorcycles were complicated, expensive, and definitely a ‘niche’ market. The kid down the street probably didn’t have a trail bike.
That all changed when the DT-1 hit the market. With a (more) affordable sticker price of $520 (about $3,800 in 2020 dollars), a considerable portion of the population could own a bike they could ride to work and through the woods. And with a fuel capacity of 2.5 gallons, this early dual-sport motorcycle had a range of up to 100 miles. But because it’s a two-stroke, the Yamaha DT-1 required a fuel-oil mix of 32:1 with Yamalube oil.
Today, the Yamaha DT-1 is a classic and getting harder to come by. But they’re out there, and they make an excellent addition to any collection. Plus, the Yamaha DT-1 was inherently well-designed, and parts are widely available. So you can still ride it how it was meant to be ridden.
The DT-1 was succeeded by the DT250, DT350A, and the DT400B. The Yamaha DT series ran for many years after the original was discontinued, and many DT250 and DT350 bikes are still around today (unlike some vehicles of the 1970s and 1980s).
Yamaha DT-1 Specifications
The Yamaha DT-1 was produced in Japan from 1968 to 1971. The motorcycle initially sold for between $500 and $550, which was low for the time. DT-1 bikes came with an 18-horsepower 246cc two-stroke engine and magneto ignition. The engine was coupled to a typical five-speed manual transmission. For a carbureted two-stroke, the gas mileage was acceptable: 35-55 miles per gallon. Overall, the bike weighed in at about 231 pounds.
Yamaha DT-1 Styling
Aesthetically, it doesn’t get much better than this. The DT-1 looks classic and features a liberal amount of high-quality chrome. Smooth lines and exposed parts give it that unmistakable pre-80s motorcycle look. But the tready tires, big shocks, and tall clearance send a message: It’s a trail bike, and it’s built for the dirt.
Custom DT-1 Builds
The aftermarket world for the Yamaha DT-1 is about average, with plenty of custom shops around willing to entertain one-off builds. The DT-1 is a bit of a Motorcross legend, so there’s lots of guides and parts resources online. Standard replacement parts are generally easy to find. The DT platform is versatile and strong, though the DT-1 isn’t the most popular choice for custom work.
Overall, the Yamaha DT-1 is an excellent classic trail bike (and perhaps the first true dual-sport). Expect to pay anything from $1,000 to $8,000 for a DT-1 on the private market. In 2020, the average seems to be around $2,000-$4,000 on classifieds like Craigslist.