Yamaha TZ750 Street Tracker

Brad Peterson-built Steve Baker replica for the street.

Yamaha TZ750 Street Tracker
Depending upon your viewpoint, you see a lot of parts missing or the perfect motorcycle. Steve Baker (32) inspired Brad Peterson in many things dirt track and has run this bike on the dirt several times. Baker raced for the Canada team at one point in his career and the paint is a tribute to those years.4theriders.com

You will never forget where you first heard a TZ750 fire to life. For me, it was the Daytona paddock in 1985, and for Brad Peterson it was at a mile dirt track race. "I went to the Sacramento Mile and watched Joe Kopp lap on a TZ," Brad recalled. "That was the first one I ever heard run, other than on video. I think it may have been only the second time I was physically next to a TZ.

“It’s one of those moments where you get a shiver and the hair on your neck stands up. You can’t get that from a picture or video; it’s one of those things you have to experience in real life. Even with all the time I’ve had with my bike, I still get those same feelings every time it fires up.”

Brad Paddock
Brad bumped the TZ to life in The Ridge’s paddock, and for many, it was the first TZ750 they had ever heard. A crowd gathered quickly. “I think riding a TZ and swimming have something in common: Don’t eat right before you do either of them or you could get sick. That’s when you know you have the right bike,” Brad joked.4theriders.com

But before that four-cylinder TZ engine seared his brain, Brad had fallen in love with dirt track racing due to a childhood of watching races with friends in his hometown of Bellingham, Washington. If that town pulls at your racing memory, it’s because Steve Baker grew up racing in Bellingham, watched by Brad and his friends, and eventually the entire world as Baker became the Formula 750 World Champion on a TZ750 roadracer. Baker retired from racing, opened a dealership in Bellingham, and Brad began frequenting the shop.

Brad took note of his proclivity to “de-content” the bikes he bought. “Generally, when a person buys a motorcycle, they immediately start the personalization process,” Brad said. “It’s either an addition or a subtraction of parts. For me it’s typically the latter.”

Minimal To The Extreme

As Brad and his friends Kent, Rick, and Tom rolled two immaculate bikes out of the trailer onto the asphalt of The Ridge raceway paddock, the gathered crowd saw the definition of street tracker.

Some say impractical, some say practically perfect. Brad’s two favorite builds, the TZ750 in the foreground and the Harley-Davidson XR750 behind. Brad wanted to thank Brian Billings, Bonzai, and Cody of BBRP—the race shop that helps make his dreams become rolling reality.4theriders.com

“When you get to the point of taking off all the unnecessary stuff, lightening everything, tweaking the engine and chassis—let’s just call that a street tracker—a legal streetbike that reminds us of what we’ve all watched race,” Brad said. “So when I finally came to the realization that I needed a street tracker, I immediately started the process of deciding which bike to modify.”

Brad, a quiet and humble guy with impressive bike-building talents, then laughed and continued. “So of course, I went straight to the most ridiculous and least-practical models! My first experiment was with a Harley-Davidson XR750 about eight years ago. Then I took it a step further with the TZ750, arguably my least-practical bike built as a street tracker.”

Agreed, very impractical: No electric starter or kickstarter, bump-start only. Must mix the fuel and oil. No sidestand, no fairing, no speedo, no neutral light. Terrible fuel mileage. Four chokes to click on and off. Smokes up the place. Loud. Rattling clutch. Terrible in traffic if you stall. No luggage space. Dismal miles-per-tank numbers.

Yamaha TZ750
Brad searched in vain for an existing TZ dirt track frame. Jeff Palhegyi had built four but they were all sold years ago—until Jeff discovered that Scott Guthrie didn’t use his and arranged a sale to Brad. God bless Scott Guthrie! Jeff also built the underslung exhaust that spits music to anyone within half a mile. It’s beautiful—and more beautiful because Brad runs it, lets us run it, puts Steve Baker on it, and has had Joe Kopp race it.4theriders.com

But you will not notice, or care, when it comes on the pipe. Practicality redefines itself as the 300-pound bike is urged forward by four 175cc cylinders firing on every stroke. Suddenly, and I mean suddenly, the genius of Brad’s build has you reviewing your own bike choices as you wonder how you could ride such impractically heavy and slow-witted machines. Accelerating through the air with nothing but a tach to lead you, the wide dirt track bars alive in your hands as the front tire skims the pavement with dial-a-wheelie power, the soundtrack is intoxicating and all you want to do is hear it again and again.

There’s not much of a party under 5,000 rpm. Brad has the Lectron carbs fueling well, the bike even idles, but putting around with a cold engine at low rpm brings you about the same acceleration as a Rebel 250 at low rpm. In fact, there’s no hint of the celebration to come, no sign that you’re on the engine that helped to make Kenny Roberts and every other one of my heroes famous. Shift it early and you could be in danger of not accelerating because low-rpm acceleration was never in the design parameters of the TZ750 engine. F-18s don’t hover, and TZ750s don’t putt around. That said, Brad’s TZ putts better than any TZ750 I’ve ridden, thanks to the light weight and perfect jetting.

Lectron carburetors
Lectron carburetors feed a Scott Guthrie-built engine that has been typically bulletproof. Guthrie owns the Bonneville Salt Flats, with many of his records coming aboard TZ750-powered bikes, the machines that originally put him in the 200-mph club. I would wager that Mr. Guthrie has helped every TZ750 owner in the world, either with parts or advice. Here's my TZ that Scott helped with.4theriders.com

Light This Fuse

You know what a fuse does, right? It sets off an explosion, and this bike’s fuse is the tach sneaking over 5,500 rpm. You feel that fuse burning, and 1,000 rpm later the fire is brighter as the reeds, ports, and exhaust begin to work. The bike is now responding to the throttle, the shocks are squatting, and the rear dirt track knobby spreads out under the pressure. What began slowly as a tingling build is about to completely capture your mind and terrify your soul in certain environments. All of heaven is breaking loose by 8,000 rpm and you are forced to shift at 10,000 rpm because you promised Brad you would, yet you can’t help yourself, and the tach flashes past 11,000 quicker than you can send a prayer to your mommy and reach instinctively for the brake lever as you snap the throttle shut in the face of quickly approaching objects like corners that you never believed were so sharp.

Phew, yowza, holy crap. Let’s do it again.

street-legal TZ750
Second gear exiting The Ridge’s turn 12 is a great chance to explore the power of this street-legal TZ750. Oh, third gear does this too!4theriders.com

Chris Peris and I rode the hell out of it. We took it out on the road and ran laps of The Ridge. We wheelied it more times than we could count because there is joy, fear, thrill, and trepidation in joining the champions of our sport who have power-wheelied a TZ750.

I hustled the TZ a little because it was an eager partner, but I already wadded one TZ750 this year so why take too many chances? See "The Racing Bad". Kidding aside, the bike is a terrific back-road weapon despite the wide bar and dirt track tires. I'd want a little more front brake and a little less rear… The rest is golden.4theriders.com

The Spondon TZ750 I race at AHRMA is faster, but this dirt tracker's upright seating position and minimal weight are a strong combination, especially when you add in the dirt track tires that deformed and squirmed as we clicked sixth gear on The Ridge's front straight. Visceral, and a look into the world of mile dirt track racing.

How Fast Is It?

We hope to someday run a TZ750 down the dragstrip, but I fear the time won’t be particularly impressive. It’s a hard bike to launch; so I’d guess a low 12-second run—maybe high 11s—but trap speeds would be impressive with mid- to high-130s. Not bad numbers, and they may make it seem as if I’m slipping into hyperbole in my description, but what makes the big TZs so exciting is the building of power—from almost nothing to an impressive flexing of muscle. Imagine getting lightly punched in the nose by a brick encased in a pillow; the brick isn’t moving that fast but the crossover between the pillow and the brick is startling.

Yamaha R6 components
The fork and brake system (Brad runs a single rotor up front) are Yamaha R6 components, and Race Tech built the shock. Lighting is LED and runs off the battery in a total-loss system.4theriders.com

I’ve never ridden a four-stroke with such a disparate power delivery so I don’t have a good comparison to offer. The TZ750 is a unique beast. Brad Peterson’s is exceptional. I’ll give Chris Peris the closing thoughts:

Chris Peris

Chris Peris
A quick Chris Peris intro: YCRS owner and senior instructor, AMA 600 Supersport winner, World Supersport competitor for two years, AMA 1000 Superstock podium finisher, current and five-time WERA Heavyweight Endurance national champion. Yeah, he rides good.Ienatsch Collection

When I saw the bike in the pits I was completely impressed. It’s such an iconic bike and this was the first TZ750 I had seen in dirt track form. It was such a showstopper, you couldn’t help but go over and take a look. As I got closer, the level of time, effort, and preparation was immediately apparent; I knew I had to swindle my way into riding it! I grew up riding two-stroke 125s and 250s, but this was always the bike my dad and other riders talked about.

At lunch I heard the distinct sound of the 750 screaming down the straightaway; I figured I should go over to see what Nick was doing and more importantly “see if they needed any help” while I was fully suited up with my helmet in hand. Nick needed someone to film him for a lap so I gladly offered.

The moment they bump-started the two-stroke, the sound and smell made me nostalgic and giddy. I ran a few laps behind the bike filming and when we rolled down hot pits Nick said, “You gotta ride this.” I immediately hopped on before anyone had the chance to come to their senses.

Street riding
Of course we rode it on the street! “Yes, officer, completely street-legal-ish. Emissions? Yes, sir, we have emissions, that’s for sure. That smell? That’s heaven, sir.”4theriders.com
Nick with his bike
"Joe, take my picture as I do my Sacramento Mile impression—I'm Kenny Roberts!" Joe Salas snaps a pic from the seat of his FJ-09, it's good to have talented friends.4theriders.com

Even though it was in dirt track form, it still had that racebike feel. The chassis was quite compliant and predictable, however with that motor it could have used a little more stopping power. I spent the rest of the lap spinning, wheelying, and laughing my ass off. The bike was absolutely incredible and was a joy to ride. As impractical as the bike might be, plus the effort necessary before each ride, it would be worth it tenfold. Great job, Brad Peterson.

750 world champion Steve Baker aboard Brad’s TZ
We’ll end this story with a heartfelt thank-you to Brad Peterson for the opportunity, and a nighttime picture of the 750 world champion Steve Baker aboard Brad’s TZ. Two legends, both delightful and fast.Brad Peterson

More next Tuesday!