Depending on your interests, you'll either think of grand pianos or awesome motorcycles when you hear the name Yamaha. After all, it’s old news that the Japanese company has been hugely successful in both the music and motorbike industry.
Yamaha is known for powerful, high-performance bikes; machines that all teenagers of the 70s and 80s dreamed of owning. Everyone fell in love with the glamour and speed of Yamaha bikes. Today, we’ll be taking a more thorough look at some of the best Yamaha bikes throughout the company’s history. Most of these are still highly prized to this day.
10 Yamaha YD2
In tenth place, we have the 247cc Yamaha YD2, introduced in 1959. As the first bike imported to the United States from Japan, it was critically important to create a good first impression. Luckily, with a nice stocky exterior, a sleek paint job, and a top speed of 113 km/h, the Yamaha YD2 was well-loved, both in the west and the east.
This street bike also featured a twin-cylinder engine with a pressed steel frame, and for the first time ever in Yamaha history, it was an electric start. Although it wasn’t as fast or as powerful as some of Yamaha’s other bikes, fans loved this model for its reliability.
9 Yamaha YDS3C Big Bear
Ironically, the Yamaha Big Bear dual-sport motorcycle really wasn’t all that huge compared to some of the other sporting bikes out there. Sure, at around 160kg, the Bear may be a bit heavier than other bikes of its time, but the simple, classic frame and sleek style doesn’t exactly scream big and bulky.
This bike, introduced in 1965, was Yamaha’s very first successful attempt at a street scrambler. The YDS2C goes to the top speed of 142 km/h, making it a pretty powerful bike of its era. In fact, the bike was modeled after the YDS3, a motorcycle that led Yamaha to its first racing victories.
8 Yamaha YZ250
In eighth place, we have the lovely Yamaha YZ250, introduced in 1974. It differs very little from the Big Bear in terms of power and speed, with 21 bhp and top speed at 141. However, it features the mono-shock suspension system, which Yamaha used to win the world championship in the previous year.
Plus, the relatively thin, minimalist look and easy handling made the bike extremely popular with amateur riders. Owners also loved it for its bright color options, with the most popular being the blue in the image above. One thing’s for sure: the YZ250 ensured that you rode with style.
7 Yamaha RD350B
With the Yamaha RD350B, we’re actually going back a year to 1973. This bike is not only lighter than the previous Big Bear and YZ250, but it holds more power, too! Yamaha gave their engines a major upgrade with this bike and added reed valves, allowing the bike more power without added concern for blowouts.
The RD350B had a power output of 39 bhp, and its top speed was a whopping 169 km/h. For the owner’s convenience, the bike is also equipped with an Autolube automatic oil injection system. Furthermore, it was the first sports bike built in India. All of these traits resulted in an incredibly large fanbase for the RD350B, who are still enthusiastic about the model today.
6 Yamaha XT500
Remember how the Big Bear was the first street scrambler? Well, the Yamaha XT500 took that to a whole different level, and with it came a new era in sporting motorcycles. Production of this nimble yet powerful bike started in the mid-1970s, but there are still a plethora of fans out there today.
Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of this 160km/h bike, asides from its gorgeous slim appearance, is that it introduced the reliable and well-loved 4-stroke engine. Furthermore, this bike (albeit heavily modified) took several victories in various races, and even ranked during the 1977 GrandPrix final world championship!
5 Yamaha YZF-R7 (OW-02)
In fifth place today is the Yamaha YZF-R7, a more recent bike introduced in 1999. This sporting bike, featuring a 749 cc, 4-stroke, 20-valve engine, and an eye-catching exterior, was the focus of many racers of the early 2000s. With 106 hp and a top speed of about 160 km/h, the Yamaha YZF-R7 was accurately described by Super Streetbikes magazine as a top-spec racing bike.
In modern days, this bike is still highly regarded by many. In fact, famous racer Freddie Spencer rode the R7 in 2016 for recreational reasons. Although some have commented that the bike looked a bit bulky for its performance, its power and reliability more than makes up for it.
4 Yamaha RX100
The Yamaha RX100 was small, with only 98 cc and a solid top speed of 113 km/h. At this point, you may be wondering why this tiny 95 kg bike deserves a spot this high on the list. Well, it turns out that due to its light weight and amazing reliability, the RX100 is one of the most popular Yamaha bikes amongst consumers!
Not only did it attract huge attention in India, but every teenager in the 90s fell in love with this relatively affordable and extremely reliable motorcycle. Furthermore, the RX100 was highly popular in drag racing, due to the surprising amount of power that its little engine could deliver!
3 Yamaha V-Max
Not only is it known for its rather distinctive design, but the V-Max also features a powerful engine, with 1200 cc and a top speed of 230 km/h. While these bonuses do mean that the bike is a hefty 270 kg, the weight doesn’t seem to hold this cruiser motorcycle back by any means.
Owners also love the bike for its quick acceleration and classic design. In fact, the fans of the 1980s loved it so much that the V-Max was dubbed “Bike of the Year” by Cycle Guide!
2 Yamaha YZR500 (OW48)
Don’t be put off by this motorcycle’s somewhat bulky exterior! What you’re looking at here is the winner of not one, but several world championships! In fact, multiple motorcycle superstars have fallen in love with its wicked fast handling and acceleration speed (one of them being Kenny Roberts).
The Yamaha OW48 weighed about the same as previous motorcycles, but it had a top speed of 290 km/h, more than twice that of the Big Bear. This powerful bike is powered by a liquid-cooled two-stroke engine and featured an aluminum frame. Needless to say, OW48 still holds many fans around the world.
1 Yamaha YZF1000 R1
Last, but certainly not least, it's the Yamaha YZF 1000. This 1998 superbike has the reliability, speed, comfort, and looks of the others on this list, all rolled into one fantastic beast of a machine. At 190 kg, the bike had a capacity of 998cc and an astonishing speed of 266 km/h.
Yamaha originally introduced this bike to unseat its competitor (Honda Fireblade) from first place on the top charts and got way more than it bargained for. True to its reputation, the R1 was lighter, stronger, and faster, and attracted a huge fan base immediately. Although Yamaha has had many impressive successes, there’s no question that the R1 is one of their greatest creations ever.