Yamaha FS1E – The Must Have Bike For 1970’s British Kids

Launched in 1973 the Yamaha FS1-E was every young motorcyclist’s path to freedom. The ‘E’ suffix at the end of the models name simply represented which countries regulations the FS1 had been produced to meet. ‘E’ was for England. 

It was a 49cc moped that quickly got nicknamed Fizzie by the British youth and it was for many their first foray into life on two wheels. In total around 200,000 were eventually produced for the United Kingdom market earning it a solid place in British motorcycle history.

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Yamaha FS1E Review

A 1973 Yamaha FS1 E photographed by SG2012 and kindly licensed under CC BY 2.0

In 1971 it was decreed that 16 year olds could only ride mopeds with less than 50cc and that had pedals. The idea being a moped with pedals would put an end to the carnage caused by allowing 16 year olds loose on their Japanese 250’s. 

Yamaha spotted a market and released their 60mph FS1E with a set of pedals on to conform to the UK laws.

You would be hard pressed to find a rider pedalling one of these mopeds. If they ran out of fuel, you’d more likely find them pushing it as it was easier than pedalling. 

Regardless, for 1973 the Yamaha FS1E was released and young riders couldn’t get enough of them.

At the heart of the bike was a 49cc, single cylinder, two-stroke, air-cooled engine with rotary disc valves and a four speed transmission as opposed to the five speed in the original FS1.

The gearbox was a little unusual with a 4-down gearbox and neutral at the top unlike the conventional 1-down, 4-up system. It took some getting used to but for new riders who knew no better it soon became second nature.

Revs need to be kept up in first gear but once you are off, the engine pulls nicely and everything is relatively smooth thanks to the disc valves.

Now by law the pedals were actually functional on the Yamaha FS1E. They can be rotated forward to rest as motorcycle footrests normally would and this is what they are best suited for. 

However, you could engage the pedal drive linked to the engine-drive by a short chain and actually pedal power the moped. 

It had low gearing and no freewheel so it made for hard work, but met the Government’s restrictions and so Yamaha made it as functional as possible. 

It was possible to start the engine with the pedals engaged, however when actually doing this it could cause issues with the cam and shaft arrangement which engaged the pedals and seizure of this system was common. 

Fuel needed to be mixed with two-stroke oil until the Autolube model was later released removing the need for manual mixing; until then though riders would need to carry around a bottle of oil to be mixed in when fueling up.

Drum brakes front and rear were the braking systems on the early models, later on the front they received a hydraulic disc brake. 

With such a lightweight chassis drum brakes were quite capable, although the later disc brake was a welcome addition.

The Japanese company played a great game with the Yamaha FS1E as once young riders were hooked on their fizzy, the idea was they would move up the Yamaha range to the RD250 once they hit 17 and weren’t as limited with licensing restrictions.

Honda and Suzuki both had competitive options but the four stroke SS50 from Honda wasn’t as well performing and Suzuki’s AP50 didn’t match up to the Fizzie.

Yamaha had captured the heart of the youth and gained cult status, with followers and enthusiasts to date. 

In 1977 the UK Government caught on to Yamaha and the law changed yet again. 16 year olds could now have a moped without pedals but all new 50cc motorcycles were restricted to 30mph.

By 1983 the Fizzie fizzled out. Sorry, it had to be done.

Yamaha FS1E Spec’s

  • Engine – Air-cooled, two-stroke, single disc
  • 49cc
  • Bore x Stroke – 40 x 39.7mm
  • Carburetation – 16mm Mikuni 
  • Transmission – 4 Speed, wet clutch
  • Final Drive – Chain
  • Frame – Pressed steel back bone
  • Suspension – 26mm telescopic forks and twin shocks on the rear
  • Brakes – 110mm drum front and back
  • Weight – 70kgs
  • Wheelbase – 1160mm
  • Fuel Capacity – 6 litres

Yamaha FS1E Top speed

While the early Fizzy could push the needle near the 60mph mark when laid on the tank and with a decent wind behind you, the later FS1-E bikes were limited to 31mph. With a bit of tinkering though they could do 45mph once de-restricted. 

How much is a Yamaha FS1E Worth?

Today you can pick up a FS1 E for somewhere between £2,500-£5,000 in the UK.

The bikes are a worthy investment that will hold their value over the years, furthermore they will get harder to find in good condition. 

Already the Yamaha FS1 E is a nostalgic collectible and will remain so, I would think into the distant future. When a legacy is as strong as Fizzie’s that doesn’t disappear quickly. 

There is currently a very good condition 1977 Yamaha FS1-E DX model on eBay for £6,500 and it has had a ground up restoration so is a worthy collectors item.

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Check out all Fizzy's currently listed on eBay

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One interesting Ad from 2018 which you can see here, is a guy in Canada selling two bikes in need of restoration for just $750

A cool Fizzy sold with Bonhams for £6,900/$9,266. This was once owned by Richard Hammond (of BBC Top Gear fame). 

Verdict

The Yamaha Fizzy was the ultimate toy for young new riders. It was so much more than a bicycle with a bolted on engine, it offered an opportunity for adventure and new found freedom. 

The Yamaha FS1E was a gateway to bigger and faster motorcycles and I am sure if you ask any rider that had one for their first bike, a smile will appear before any words are spoken.

That’s a special kind of motorcycle.

Yamaha FS1E - The Must Have Bike For 1970\'s British Kids

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