Yamaha Tribute: 15 Greatest Yamaha Motorcycles Of All Time

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If you were born in the 70s or 80s, chances are that you'd have owned, ridden or noticed a Yamaha Rx100, RD350 and RX135 zoom across Indian roads.

Traffic has built up since then, and riders are now less inclined to actually pick up a wrench and visit a garage to get their hands dirty.

Times have changed. Today's riders are about owning a great riding outfit and instagramming their rides. Let's not forget why we are all here and how some of the greatest motorcycles manufactured by Yamaha cemented us (riders) all together.

Here is a list of the Top 15 of the meanest Yamaha machines ever created. If you have owned or ridden any of these gems, do drop us a line sharing your experience.

Yamaha YD2

  • Model: Yamaha YD2
  • Year Introduced: 1959
  • Capacity: 247cc
  • Power Output: 14.5 bhp
  • Weight: 140 kg
  • Top Speed: 113 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Classic Motorbikes

Yamaha YD2

The Yamaha YD1 was Yamaha's first two-stroke twin cylinder motorcycle. Heavily inspired by the Adler MB, it was replaced by the YD2 in 1959. The letter ‘D' indicates its a 250. This was Yamaha's first motorcycle to be exported to the west. The YD2 featured an enclosed chain, combined dynamo and electric starter unit, and deep valanced mudguards.

Photo Credit: Yamaha Community

Yamaha YDS3C Big Bear

  • Model: Yamaha YDS3C Big Bear
  • Year Introduced: 1965
  • Capacity: 246cc
  • Power Output: 21 bhp
  • Weight: 159 kg
  • Top Speed: 142 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Bonhams

Yamaha YDS3C Big Bear

Yamaha was quick to drop the heavy, bulky look and introduced the YDS3C Big Bear in 1965. This trials bike, which Yamaha made by adding high level exhaust pipes to road bikes, was the company's first street scrambler. This motorcycle was based on the YDS3, which was the first Yamaha two-stroke motorcycle to feature an automatic oiling system. The YDS3 also helped Yamaha win its first Road Racing World Championship in 1964.

Photo credit: Bonhams

Yamaha TR3

  • Model: Yamaha TR3
  • Year Introduced: 1972
  • Capacity: 347cc
  • Power Output: 58 bhp
  • Weight: 107 kg
  • Top Speed: NA
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Wiki Commons/PekePON

Yamaha TR3

During the late 60s, many factory teams from Japan began to withdraw from international competitions. This also paved way for the Yamaha two-stroke twins to dominate the races. The TR3 earned the title of being the smallest capacity motorcycle ever to have won the Daytona 200. The motorcycle was ridden by Don Emde, who raced it against full blown 750s.

Photo credit: Bonhams

Yamaha YZ250

  • Model: Yamaha YZ250
  • Year Introduced: 1974
  • Capacity: 246cc
  • Power Output: 21 bhp
  • Weight: 159 kg
  • Top Speed: 141 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Yamaha YZ250

Yamaha, after winning the Motocross World Championship in 1973, introduced the mono shock suspension system on all its road and competition motorcycles, including the YZ250. As a result, the YZ250 became one of the best production motocross motorcycles during that time and was very popular with amateur riders.

Yamaha RD350B

  • Model: Yamaha RD350B
  • Year Introduced: 1973
  • Capacity: 347cc
  • Power Output: 39 bhp
  • Weight: 154 kg
  • Top Speed: 169 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Wiki Commons/Bergfalke2

We knew from the outset that this section would warrant an early ‘centrefold' for this special story. In 1973, Yamaha upgraded it two-stroke twins that ranged from 124cc to 347cc and gave it the ‘RD' prefix. Yamaha also introduced Reed Valves throughout its range. This allowed the engines to run at higher crankcase pressure, without the risk of any blowbacks. This increased the performance of the motorcycle, to outperform bigger displacement bikes as well.

The motorcycle was a massive hit even in India when launched in 1983 since this was the first pure performance motorcycle on our shores, which has a massive cult following even till date. The RD 350 in India however, was detuned to extract better fuel economy and was launched as a High Torque (30.5 bhp) and Low Torque (27 bhp). Parts were imported for the first couple of years and were then locally assembled. It retailed at INR 18,000 when it was on sale here, till production stopped in 1990.

Picture Credit: Satish Rao

Yamaha TZ250

  • Model: Yamaha TZ250
  • Year Introduced: 1973
  • Capacity: 247cc
  • Power Output: 53 bhp
  • Weight: 108 kg
  • Top Speed: 225 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Bonhams

Yamaha TZ250

The water-cooled TZ racers were introduced in 1973 to replace the air-cooled TD models. These motorcycles were essential for private racers looking for success in racing. These parallel twin-cylinders had a 108 degree crankshaft. Yamaha continuously kept improving the TZ to maintain the competitive edge. Heavily modified machines were used for races, like the one Dieter Braun rode to win the 250 World Championship in 1973.

Photo credit: Bonhams

Yamaha OW48

  • Model: Yamaha OW48
  • Capacity: 498cc
  • Power Output: 130 bhp
  • Weight: 145 kg
  • Top Speed: 290 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Yamaha

Yamaha OW48

This is the motorcycle that won multiple world championships for Yamaha at the hands of motorcycle legends such as Giacomo Agostini and Kenny Roberts. This in-line two-stroke, four cylinder motorcycle with twin Mikuni Carburettors and a six-speed gearbox was able to hit a top speed of 290 km/h.

Photo credit: Wiki Commons/Rikita

Yamaha RD250 LC

  • Model: Yamaha RD250 LC
  • Year Introduced: 1980
  • Capacity: 247cc
  • Power Output: 35 bhp
  • Weight: 139 kg
  • Top Speed: 171 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Yamaha RD250 LC

The RD250 LC took the monoshock suspension and the liquid-cooled power plant from the TZ series race bikes and offered it for the road. The LC was every teenager's dream motorcycle during the 80s and many Grand Prix racers started their careers on LCs.

Yamaha RZ500

  • Model: Yamaha RZ500
  • Year Introduced: 1984
  • Capacity: 499cc
  • Power Output: 87 bhp
  • Weight: 180 kg
  • Top Speed: 216 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Flickr/Mitch Mcpherson

Yamaha RZ500

The Yamaha RZ500 was the ultimate race motorcycle version for road use. This liquid-cooled, V4 two-stroke engine was derived from Yamaha's early race motorcycles. The RZ500 was sold in different parts of the world in various forms. It was sold as the RZV500 in Japan, RZ500 in North America and as a RD500 in Britain. The motorcycle featured an exhaust on either side of its rear wheel and two tucked under the seat.

Photo credit: Flickr/El Caganer

Yamaha V-Max

  • Model: Yamaha V-Max
  • Year Introduced: 1985
  • Capacity: 1198cc
  • Power Output: 145 bhp
  • Weight: 270 kg
  • Top Speed: 230 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Yamaha V-Max

The Yamaha V-Max was designed by Atsushi Ichijo in a team led by Akira Araki with input from Ed Burke and John Reed. This motorcycle was known for its quick acceleration but very poor handling. It had a massive V4 liquid-cooled engine and the power output had to be cut to 95 bhp in some markets like the UK. Since its launch, the V-Max was sold with only minor modifications from the 1985 model year until the 2007 model year.

Yamaha FZR1000

  • Model: Yamaha FZR1000
  • Year Introduced: 1987
  • Capacity: 1002cc
  • Power Output: 125 bhp
  • Weight: 240 kg
  • Top Speed: 269 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Wiki Commons/Kuro8124

Yamaha FZR1000

The Yamaha FZR1000 was the company's largest capacity supersports bike when launched. In 1989, Yamaha introduced the FZR1000 Exup (Exhaust Ultimate Power Valve), which had a wider spread of usable power. Power was delivered from its liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder engine through a six-speed gearbox.

Photo credit: Wiki Commons/Marcos 88

Yamaha GTS1000

  • Model: Yamaha GTS1000
  • Year Introduced: 1993
  • Capacity: 1002cc
  • Power Output: 100 bhp
  • Weight: 251 kg
  • Top Speed: 213 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Bonhams

Yamaha GTS1000

In 1993, Yamaha came up with the GTS1000, the first mass produced Japanese motorcycle with hub-centre steering instead of the traditional forks. This gave the motorcycle a very steady ride, but made the steering heavy. It also featured the ‘Omega Chassis' that had a single sided front swingarm. The water-cooled, in-line four-cylinder featured fuel injection, and the motorcycle had ABS and a catalytic converter as well.

Photo credit: Bonhams

Yamaha YZF600 R6

  • Model: Yamaha YZF600 R6
  • Year Introduced: 1998
  • Capacity: 599cc
  • Power Output: 98.7 bhp
  • Weight: 169 kg
  • Top Speed: 250 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Yamaha YZF600 R6

When 600cc motorcycles had attained massive importance during the 90s, Yamaha introduced the R6. It was created with a ‘No Compromise' philosophy and the result was a 600cc, four-cylinder motorcycle that brilliant performance and handling. The motorcycle has seen development over the years and recent models have been tweaked to produce over 122 bhp, from the same engine capacity.

Yamaha YZF1000 R1

  • Model: Yamaha YZF1000 R1
  • Year Introduced: 1998
  • Capacity: 998cc
  • Power Output: 150 bhp
  • Weight: 190 kg
  • Top Speed: 266 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Yamaha YZF1000 R1

Designed keeping the ‘No Compromise' philosophy in mind again, Yamaha launched the ultimate sportbike, the R1 in 1998. It was designed to take the Honda Fireblade off the top and Yamaha did it by making everything lighter, stronger and faster. Currently, the R1 that is on sale has a power output of 200 bhp and the design has seen significant changes since its launch.

Yamaha RX100 (The bike that started the performance cult in India)

  • Model: Yamaha RX100
  • Year Introduced: 1985
  • Capacity: 98cc
  • Power Output: 11 bhp
  • Weight: 95 kg
  • Top Speed: 113 km/h
  • Country Of Origin: Japan

Photo credit: Capt. Das

Yamaha RX100

Launched in 1985 and in production till 1996, the RX100 kick started the performance motorcycle segment in India. The peppy, reliable two-stroke single-cylinder engine was the first choice of any racer. It retailed for INR 16,000 while being sold. The engine could be tuned to a great extent. Any teenager brought up during the 90s and early 2000s has either ridden or owned one. Many major two-wheeler accidents that took place during the 90s involved the RX100, because of its performance and poor braking. But this never swayed its massive following, who still think the RX100 is a very special motorcycle.

Photo credit: Capt. Das

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(With inputs from Jobo Kuruvilla)

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Story first published: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 17:14 [IST]
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