Yamaha FS1

Story by Costa Mouzouris// Photos by Costa Mouzouris
February 20 2024

High school desire comes to fruition for 2024 that has been simmering for more than four decades is the cause of my latest two-wheeled purchase. When I turned 14, I bought my first motorized two-wheeler, a well-used, non-running Motobecane 50V moped. I’d earned the $100 to buy it stocking grocery-store shelves. Once I did get it running, it helped me expand my universe considerably. It also sparked a love affair with motorcycles.

Quebec law back then stipulated that anyone 14 years of age or older could ride a moped, on the street, without a driver’s license (basic training is now needed). Back then, mopeds were categorized simply as having functioning, bicycle-like pedals, and an engine displacing less than 50 cc. Because of that law, mopeds were big in Quebec (figuratively speaking) in the late 1970s, and kids everywhere buzzed around on them.

European mopeds were abundantly available, and I was very happy with my French-made Motobecane, at least until one eye-watering top-speed run during which it seized solid. My meagre earnings allowed me to replace that melted 50V with a faster, Austrian-made Puch Maxi. The bike I envied, however, was beyond my financial means: the Yamaha FS1.

Introduced in 1969, the FS1 was powered by a 49-cc two-stroke rotary-valve single, fed by a premixed blend of fuel and oil. Later models came equipped with oil injection, but we never got those. Pedals were added in 1972 to comply with U.K. laws for learning riders. In order to get countless adolescents on two wheels, Yamaha Canada imported the FS1 in 1975, primarily for the Quebec market. The bike skirted Quebec’s law by being equipped with pedals — thus classifying it as a moped — but it also had a four-speed, clutch-operated gearbox. Well aware that it could be ridden in La Belle Province without a licence, the Canadian Yamaha distributor even cleverly added decals on the side covers, garnished with a fleur-de-lys and blue-and-white lettering that read “Le Québecois.” It was sold in Quebec until 1977, though it had a longer run in the U.K., where it was unofficially known as the “Fizzy.”

The pedals were added solely to bypass legislation, and not really to help get you to a gas station should the FS1 run dry. They are useless: they don’t freewheel when engaged and spin when the bike is in motion, and they’re geared so low you’ll pop a vein just pedalling across an intersection. The secret, however, is that they lock into a forward position, which essentially transforms them into motorcycle-like foot pegs.

Canada got early, unrestricted versions of the FS1 claiming five horsepower, which is huge by moped standards. My Motobecane claimed 1.5 hp; my Puch, an even two. That was enough power to reportedly push the FS1’s speedometer needle to 80 km/h with a tailwind. Later restricted versions topped out at 50 km/h.
Le Québecois was the envy of any high-school kid looking for a summer ride. It had gears and a kick starter, and unlike the more common step-through moped designs, it had a high-mounted gas tank. To me, and countless other youngsters, these features made it a real motorcycle.

Alas, I eventually moved onto bigger pedal-free bikes, and although I have owned several classic mopeds over the years, the FS1 remained elusive. But there is now one parked in my garage — or perhaps more accurately, on my bike lift. I found it online for $900; it has low mileage, it’s complete and in good shape, and it is all original. And, it runs. Time has taken a toll, however, mostly on the rubber components, which have either hardened or cracked.

In the 40-plus years I have been riding, I have never ridden a Yamaha FS1. My plan is to give this one a complete mechanical overhaul this winter, so that I can take my first ride ever on Le Québecois next season. I’ve already begun the process by taking an inventory of all the parts it will need to become almost as fresh as the day it left the factory, save for the paint, which will retain its patina. Fortunately, I found a source for all the parts I need at a place in the U.K. that specializes in old Yamahas (yambits.co.uk). Parts and shipping cost almost as much as my FS1, but my order arrived within days of placing it.

Yamaha wasn’t the only Japanese manufacturer to have produced a cheater moped. Honda made the four-stroke SS50 and Suzuki the AP50, though they never came here. We did get the FS1 though, and with a bit of work this winter, I will finally get to ride the bike I’ve been longing to ride since I was a teenager.


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