What started as a music company in a propeller factory soon became a leader at producing very poplar successful bikes for motorcycle lovers world wide. Popular models like the YZF, FZR & YD became only more liked by the improvements which Yamaha kept adding over the years.
It all started with a music factory called Nippon Gakki which later grew into the Yamaha company. It was founded in 1955 by Torakusu Yamaha who was actually a clock maker. The factory was filled with machines used to make propellers during the second World War, but now the first motorcycle was built called the Red Dragonfly YA-1 (still an airplane name ;o)
Yamaha had a good name for light, two stroke bikes, especially the 1960 YD models from 250cc YDS and later the 350cc YR1. A whole series of models was developed with the super popular YR5 from 1970 being light, fast, reliable and nicely priced. Another famous model was the YPVS from 1983 which had an exhaust valve which improved the output by 50 percent.
Yamaha stepped into the four stroke market around 1969 with the introduction of the XS-1, a 650cc English styled road bike. The XS was so popular that the producing kept going up until the 1980s. Especially the different model choices which Yamaha introduced was a great success for the American market.
Yamaha for some time dominated the super bike market in the late eighties with the FZR1000 which was a step up from the earlier FZR750. This super bike could match the best at its time and Yamaha had once again developed a bike which was a huge market success.
Yamaha, known to keep developing their successful models improved the FZR with a bigger engine, an exhaust value system, new chassis and upside down front fork over the years which kept its success guaranteed.
Yamaha had a try at building a heavy strong 1100cc bike in 1978 called the XS but the frame, weight and huge engine didn’t do anything for the handling and the bike never became popular.
However the FJ1100 made up for that after being launched in 1984. Originally built as a super sports bike it became popular as a sports tour bike which later got an upgrade to the 1200cc in 1986. With improvements ongoing the FJ stayed poplar up until the 1990s.
A raw and huge impact into the world of bikes was the 1998 introduction of the YZF-R1. Powered by a 998cc engine, sharp handling, light weight and nice styling the R1 was unstoppable and grew very popular. Yamaha improved its success model and added styling changes and more to keep the R1 a huge hit in the super bike market. Yamaha used the success of the R1 to also introduce the YZF-R6 in 1996 a smaller engine based on the same design series as the R1. And in 2001 the roadbike version YZS1000 Fraiser was also introduced which a the same R1 engine but was slightly detuned.