Yamaha Motorcycle History
The Japanese company was well known for its musical instruments, but in 1955 it began producing motorcycles. It began with simple and inexpensive machines but has grown to its position as a Powersports powerhouse, offering some of the best sportsbikes, cruisers and off-road bikes on the market. It ranks second only to Honda as the leader among Japanese manufacturers.
Far More than a Street Bike.
What separates a YZF-R1 or YZF-R6 from the rest of the pack? Is it the reason behind one of MotoGP’s finest riders, Valentino Rossi, keeping loyal to Yamaha for 6 straight years with 46 wins? The answer is Yamaha’s pride in being first. The YZF line of motorcycles has and still are the entrepreneurs of the supersport class. They’ve stuck to their beliefs throughout the years and have raised the bars for other manufacturers’ expectations. One could write a book on every step of the way up to the amazing product you will be purchasing in the near future, but for the sake of time, and saving paper, let’s get straight to the heart of what separates your YZF from any other.
The YZF-R1 first graced planet Earth in 1998. While being built the Yamaha team had many dreams, but stayed within two big parameters. The bike couldn’t fall below 150 hp, and its weight was to remain under 180Kg (396.83lbs). Yamaha aimed to have a 1000cc supersport bike that was, at the same time, capable of handling good as or better than the 600cc supersport bikes of the time. They did and began setting the bar for everyone else as of ‘98. With an ultra short 4 cylinder engine with triangular crankshaft, DeltaBox II chassis with slant-block engine as stressed member to ensure high rigidity and low weight, and long swingarm with short wheelbase for superb handling and excellent stability they created, as time would come to call it, “The One”. Following the R1 was the YZF-R6 in 1999, and this bike wasted no time climbing to the top of the 600cc class. The R1 and R6 are monsters. But why? After all, at the end of the day, 600cc is 600cc as is 1000cc. They wouldn’t be permitted to compete had they changed their displacement. So what gave the bikes their edge? Yamaha’s technology would be the best answer. Not only have they’ve strived for lighter frames and such, but soon as you twist the throttle on your R6 or R1, your bike has separated itself at that moment. How? With YCC-T.
As of 2006 the R6 was the first production 600cc supersport bike to feature a fly-by-wire throttle mechanism. Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) was offered to every lucky consumer who decided to buy a Yamaha R6. When the throttle is twisted, instead of valves opening directly in sync, a throttle position sensor sends information (i.e. air fuel mixture) to the ECU which then determines to what extent the valves will open. This provides the smoothest and most consistent delivery of power and was another feature making the R6 the bike of choice at the time. The R1 boasts this feature as well.
The next innovative component that Yamaha installed was YCC-I (Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake). In 2007 this feature made the R1 go from “The One” to “The one to fear”! In 2008 the R6 also came with YCC-I. A Long intake funnel results in good low-mid range power while a short intake funnel results in good high RPM top end power. The YCC-I system takes 0.3 seconds to go from long intake funnels (during low to mid range rpms) to short funnels during high rpm’s. Basically you have a motor doing all that it can to make itself as powerful as possible at all times.
So far you have had a glimpse at the “power” components, but what happens when you need to slow down. Anyone who’s had an older bike and approached a sharp turn at 100 and tried to down shift will tell you that if you don’t choose that gear correctly you’ll swear you had all of your weight on that rear brake. Your tire has the potential to lock up on you and leave you wishing you just took it easy before you approached that turn, unless you have an ‘06-present Yamaha supersport. Coming stock on their super sport bikes is a blessing to any rider at any time, the slipper clutch. The slipper clutch virtually eliminates tire hop and helps maintain rear wheel contact with road surfaces. This is done by a two piece clutch boss which will separate under great back torque keeping your tire from locking/skipping. When back torque (torque on the engine from the wheel)>Engine Torque, clutch plates separate. When engine torque increases again the clutch plate spring pushes the two plates back together.
Last but not least is a feature that by itself will not make any bike better than another, but added to an already incredible platform equipped with an arsenal of high performances pieces parts will make for a champion. For 2009 Yamaha decided to take straight from the racetrack and give the street something that it will never forget, the crossplane crankshaft. The 2009 YZF-R1 had a new trick up its sleeve taken straight from its MotoGP rolemodel the M1. The main objective was to increase throttle and drive ability by reducing inertia force. Each of the crank pins (the cylindrical piece which forms the handle, or to which the connecting rod is attached, at the end of a crank, or between the arms of a double crank.) are at a 90 degree angle compared to the next. This technology was inspired by and previously only used in MotoGP bikes, and the 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 is the first production street motorcycle to offer it. As opposed to a normal inline four cylinder motor that has a firing order of 1,3,4,2, the R1’s crossplane technology four cylinder motor fires 1,3,2,4 producing the smoothest firing order possible with the crossplane structure. Accompanying the crossplane crankshaft is a mono-chamber muffler. Due to gas fluctuations being more extreme in the crossplane system the exhaust system must be more “open”. In previous years the YZF-R1’s mufflers had three chambers, now it is only one. Once again another idea taken from the race track and put onto the street. The one chamber also makes for a unique deep sound only produced by the YZF-R1.
Whether or not any of this made perfect sense to you throughout reading it doesn’t matter. If it made perfect sense to everyone as to why this was so effective, then the rest of the manufacturers would have already modified their bikes to these standards. The point that’s meant to be driven home is Yamaha is the only manufacturer on the market that can claim such individuality and unique craftsmanship. Whether it’s on an R6 or an R1, as an amateur or pro, you’ll know that you’re on something that was studied tested and built ultimately to come in first place.
From a personal standpoint the 09-present Yamaha YZFR1 is the bike to own if you’re in the market for a new super sportbike in the liter class. Riders today fall into many different classes though many are attracted to the same class of bike. There’s the cruisers- the riders that want a bike with an insane amount of power and potential, but don’t intend to really use it, or they can’t use it. This doesn’t bother them for they are more satisfied with simply having the ride. There’s the Street Dwellers – the riders that buy that bike with power and potential, and without any advanced knowledge of riding, try take the bike to the max any chance they can get. Usually the Dwellers have a hard time keeping their hobbies alive, due to insurance, medical bills and law enforcement. Then there’s the Track Riders. These people have taken extra time to get themselves out to the racetrack and start learning the real potential of the super sport bike. Though the R1 has clearly been designed for the track, it has something to give to all three of the classes.
Calling all Yamaha Lovers in the surrounding Ohio Area –
Now you can see and demo a variety of Yamaha motorcycles, including the new FZ8, during Thunder on the Strip, in Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ohio.
The powersports industry has seen some growth this year, especially compared to 2010. Most noteably, you would see exceptional growth in Scooter Sales. (Also be sure to check out our article The Scotter Uprising) Scooter growth seems to be stemming from the increase in gas prices, but I also think there is more to it then just looking for a cheaper commute. There is also people just beginning to ride that prefer the automatic transmission, or maybe the generous offering of storage space that most scooters offer. Not to mention, you may have outgrown wanting to ride a big cruiser or sportbike around and would rather just have something simple to go ‘put’ around on a Sunday afternoon. Whatever the reason may be, there is a noticeable increase in the amount of scooters on the road.