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"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013

Nifty Fifties

In 1973, Yamaha launched the humble FS1-E. 40 years later, the Fizzy has reached cult status



What were you doing in 1973? James Blunt wrote a song about it, but I was a mere prancing sperm in my dad’s ball bag. Rootsy and Heidi Klum were born, France were nuke testing, there was a solar eclipse, and Yamaha launched the FS1-E – better known to we Brits as the Fizzy.

The 49cc icon chucked out nearly 5bhp, hit a genuine 45mph, and looked as good as Heidi Klum in her prime. The Fizzy was a prepubescent boy’s dream and a regular terrorist to town centres. Today’s schools have bus parks, while 70’s schools had parking bays littered with FS1-Es and mullets.

Thanks to stupid laws of its time, the Fizzy also donned a pair of pedals. More shitty laws in 1977 limited all mopeds to 30mph, which has continued into the new millennium. The majority of kids (or parents) accept that, and suffer with milk floats overtaking them.

However, those in the know will always bend the rules, and every two-stroke engine was destined to be tinkered with. Those in the know include Darrell Taylor who runs a company called 50cc Tuning. You don’t need a first class degree in company names to figure out Darrell’s interest. What started off as a seemingly unassuming engine and chassis mating sesh turned into what you see here; a comprehensive ground-up rebuild with few original Fizzy components remaining. The design brief was simple. Build a very fast, liquid-cooled, retro looking FS1 based on the US version, which was tagged the G7.

Forget its donor heritage. The meticulous engineering involved in this FS1-E is unbelievable. It’s scattered with golden trinkets among the more obvious eye candy – like the original battery box now housing the race carb. After carefully cutting and trimming the standard wrap-around frame, an insanely tuned engine was offered up to form part of a crude monocoque chassis.

Those of you just in, or around, your thirties will remember the Derbi Senda – a Spanish-made CBT hooligan mobile for 16 year olds that kicked the shit out of Honda Melodys, TS50s and DT50s. The Derbi engine is prime for extracting power, hence the inclusion for this Fizzy. I remember seeing as much as 70mph on the speedo of a derestricted version, and promptly seeing it melt a ring to its barrel... These motors are also the powerplant of choice for Metrakit racers and other nifty fifties due the burgeoning tuning potential.

What started off as a 50cc has manifested into nearly 80cc and 23bhp, through the installation of a Metrakit 44mm long-stroke crank and a 47.6mm ported big-bore kit, while Darrell has fine-tuned all the other internals. There’s also a massive (in relative terms) 30mm Keihin carb feeding the juices, a beautifully crafted Metrakit race exhaust, and a close-ratio gearbox with an über tall first gear to kick things off.

Styling wise, you couldn’t want for more. The US-spec G7 tank and side panels, complete with a Dutch market seat unit, meant mechraphilia wasn’t out of the question on the day. And Yamaha RD50 mag wheels, although much heavier than the standard spoked items, add even more retrosexuality.

I’d never ridden a Fizzy, let alone sat on one, and a boyhood dream was about to be fulfilled. When a bike of any ilk looks as good as this, it’s difficult not to get aroused. As Darrell kicked the ‘Fizzerbi’ into life, the ballistic tune is palpable. Running rich jetting to play it safe with a journo riding years of scrupulous build, the throttle is still crisp and snappy. It takes mental concentration and correct bodyweight distribution when opening the throttle in order to prevent looping – really! The Derbi engine’s delivery is a rancorous eruption of two-stroke mayhem, useless you’re below 8,000rpm where the innate chassis flex is felt at slow speeds. Unless the thing is singing in the powerband, nothing feels instinctive onboard the Fizzerbi.

Sans limiter, it’s all about tentatively abusing the throttle cable until you start to feel the engine get taut at around 14,000rpm, zipping through the ’box and constantly feeding another cog without pissing off the locals. A massive handful of gas and a skilful set of clutch fingers are needed just to get the mags moving.

There’s no definitive weight figure but all I get is ‘it’s under 50kg’. That’s one Dani Pedrosa and 23 raging horses: a formula for madness, and it’s little surprise that this Fizzy can play with the big boys... in a straight line.

The Metmachex swingarm is purely aesthetic, which is fine by us. The pressed-steel, spindly original item isn’t exactly performance enhancing. The just as spindly wheels means the pegs are never in danger of touchdown and this limits cornering heroics and halts potential of the sticky race rubber. The Fizzerbi is just as much about show as it is go. And what a show it is.

One of the last remaining FS1 OE components are the forks, and they’ve been treated to heavier weight oil and some more preload. The shocks are custom made and super-soft, which makes the ride supple and compensates for the contortionism needed for the cockpit.

Mint FS1-Es are fetching as much as £3k, which is a similar price to the cost of Darrell’s handywork, and also the same price as a just as mint, brand-new Aprilia RS50. It’s fair to say teenagers are desperately screwed when it comes to their choice of modern-day L-plate material. Scooters and pukka race-replicas aside, there aren’t many bikes that offer the same pulling power and pure performance of the older generation. In fact, there are none. Darrell’s masterpiece doesn’t just whoop its CBT buddies, the Fizzerbi manages to obliterate most learner-legal spec machinery.

0-40mph takes, on average, about three days on the RS50. The Aprilia couldn’t pull the three-ply from a roll of Andrex, with a timid, flat power curve throughout. Straining and wheezing for every single rpm, the restricted motor is actually a similar derivative to that in the FS1-E, but all it manages to splutter out about 5bhp. It’s not Aprilia’s fault the RS50 is so slow to cohere to emission laws, but it’s dangerously slow on modern roads.

We’re not sure how anyone could ‘learn’ anything with so little power, but the RS is smooth and glitch-free, and the gearbox is slick. Thankfully the chassis is a little bit good. When you’ve got multiple world championship titles and the RSV4 as a base (and a donor bike to pinch bits from), it’s no surprise the RS50 has a real panache, sharing the same chassis as its 125 cousin. The engine never asks any awkward questions because you’ll never reach required speeds.

Like it or not, two-strokes are a dying breed when it comes to showroom-fresh metal. Even two-smokers in competition are fading, but like anything nostalgic, there’s still a core following attempting an unlikely revival. Although hugely niche, Darrell shouldn’t have any issues shifting more Fizzerbis if this example is anything to go by.

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