Happy Year of the Ox from JNC

Today is the first day of the Year of the Ox according to the lunar calendar. If this were Italian Nostalgic Car we’d be on easy street, but Japan doesn’t really have any cars named after cow-esque animals. The closest thing we can think of is another member of the bovidae family, the bison, as in the 1970 Kawasaki 250TR Bison.

Introduced in June 1970 as a dual-sport, the Bison was a rival to bikes like the Suzuki TS250 Savage and Yamaha DT-1. It was an offshoot of Kawasaki’s 1969 350TR, also known as the Bighorn, with a reduced bore 2-stroke single making 23 horsepower. Overall weight rang in at 271 pounds. Naturally, it would have to adopt the name of another hoofed animal, so it was called the 250TR Bison.

It was notable for its exhaust pipe and megaphone muffler, located on the left side of the body. On the right side, a compartment below the seat held a tool kit. It was reportedly as easy to ride on city streets as it was in its natural environment in on dirt trails and desert dunes.

Technically, the Bison name lasted just one year. Due to a trademark issue, Kawasaki had to remove the word Bison from its official name in 1971. The model lasted until 1975, but even with that relatively short lifespan, it was so popular that in 2002 Kawasaki brought the 250TR back.

The reborn 250TR was a retro bike that mirrored the look of the original but designed for on-street use. It used a single-cylinder 4-stroke engine (carbureted initially but then fuel-injected), but there were other major differences. The exhaust pipe was now on the right side, sadly. Ironically, the retro 250TR had a longer run than the original, ending production in 2013.

Yeah, we know it’s a stretch to compare the Bison to an ox, but at least it gave us an opportunity to talk about this obscure but beloved bike. Happy New Year!

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12 Responses to Happy Year of the Ox from JNC

  1. KiKiIchiBan says:

    Toyota said they could power its new Mirai for a year from the manure of one cow…

  2. Mark F Newton-John says:

    Uhhhh…. That’s a two-stroke.
    Finned head, exhaust post low in the cylinder, obviously no valves in the head.

  3. Mark F Newton-John says:

    The remake in 2002 is a four-stroke, but another giveaway the original is a two-stroke is the expansion chamber exhaust.

  4. Christopher says:

    In the article, you state that its competition was the Suzuki Hustler TS250, the Honda XL230, and the Yamaha DT-1 250. The only one you got right was the Yamaha, and, kinda, the Suzuki. The Suzuki TS 250 Savage, produced from 1969 to 1981, was actually one of the Kaw’s competitors. The Hustler T250 and X6 models were Suzuki’s twin cylinder two-stroke road bikes. As for the Honda, neither the XL series, nor a 230cc Honda existed in 1970. Nor did a 250cc model, at least not a 1970 year model. The first 230cc Honda was produced in 2003, the CRF230F. The XL series first appeared in 1972, with the XL250 Motorsport model. Prior to that, the only 250cc dual purpose bike in Honda’s lineup was CL72 Scrambler, produced from 1962 to 1965, based primarily on their CB72 250cc twin cylinder road bike.

  5. Christopher Huffine says:

    Actually, here is a link to a new motorcycle company in Spain,OX motorcycles, not Japanese, but keeping with year of the Ox theme:


  6. Clifton says:

    This model range used a rotary inlet valve, with the carb housed in the right hand side crankcase cover. Due to the rotary valve, inlet timing didn’t depend on the piston, and they were nice torquey motors. They had a distinctive whine too of the rotary valve which was a disc on the end of the crank. Nice looking bike and handled very nicely on the street.

  7. cesariojpn says:

    And for Presidents Day, a tasteful photo of a Nissan President.

  8. Raleigh says:

    There was also the Suzuki GT 750 Water Buffalo.

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