TopSpeed 2020 Yamaha Buying Guide
See what Yamaha has in the lineup for 2020by Allyn Hinton, on LISTEN 14:19
Yamaha rolls into MY2020 with a range of cosmetic tweaks and expanded electronics suites to keep up with the times and remain competitive on the world stage. It boasts both new electronics and electronics freshly trickled down from higher up in the model ranges.
The Yamaha umbrella is fairly large and includes a multitude of industries, but mostly the Yamaha Corporation is known for quality musical instruments; a fact alluded to in its official icon that contains a trio of tuning forks and is borne out by Yamaha’s nickname as “The Tuning Fork Company.” The part of the company that is most of interest to riders is, of course, the Yamaha Motor Company that split from its parent company to become its own entity, and the rest is motorcycle history.
With Mr. Genichi Kawakami at the helm, the newly-minted motorcycle maker led off with the 125 cc YA-1 in 1955. Back then, if you wanted to sell bikes you had to win races, and the marque quickly proved itself with a gold showing at the 3rd Mount Fuji Ascent Race. The factory would add outboard motors to the menu a few years later, and I can tell you from personal experience the Yamaha outboards are the preferred drives for commercial fishermen who work from small boats, so that venture worked out rather well for the marque.
Throughout the Sixties, Yamaha honed its racing chops with an entry in the 250 cc category and a 305 cc engine – two stroke like everything else so far – that eliminated the need to premix your fuel and oil through the use of an oil-injection system in the fuel supply. The end of the decade saw the first four-stroke, twin-cylinder offering in the 650 cc XS-1, and the marque joined the off-road contest and 750 cc streetbikes in the Seventies. Since then, it’s been a tit-for-tat game of inches with the other three members of the Big Four.
In 1985, the FZ750 set the tone for the industry with the first five-valve motorcycle engine to hit the scene. In the big road-bike category, the marque boosted its lineup in 1998 with the YZF-R1 that carried even more first-time technology. Yamaha would go on to become a household name with models that crossed the millennium and are both currently still in production and an industry standard for a street/race liter superbike. Currently, Yamaha Motors covers the full spectrum of motorcycles from tarmac to turf and everything in between with a strong racing presence throughout.
Crossplane Crankshaft: A crankshaft design that places the outboard con-rod throws 90-degrees out of phase from the adjacent inboard throw to mitigate the inertial torque in the system.
D-Mode: Yamaha’s proprietary variable power-delivery electronics. Comes in T-Mode for cruising/touring and an S-Mode for a sportier throttle response.
Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle: (YCC-T) Yamaha’s proprietary ride-by-wire system that works with input from the inertial measurement unit to enable a number of higher electronic functions and uses the new Accelerator Position Sensor with Grip feature to eliminate the need for mechanical throttle cables.
Communications Control Unit: (CCU) GPS-supported data-logging system that networks with your smartphone through the Yamaha Ride Control (YRC) app.
Engine Brake Management: (EBM) This feature allows you to dial in the desired engine-brake effect through a trio of preset profiles so you can tune your corner entry to suit conditions or personal preferences.
Power Delivery Mode: (PWR) Comes with four preset profiles that let you tune the engine throttle response and power delivery to suit.
Slide Control System: (SCS) Detects slides in the corner through input from the IMU and modulates the power delivery to maintain traction as you accelerate past the apex.
Lift Control System: (LIF) Comes with five settings to dial in the level of wheelie intervention. It works through the IMU and ECU to detect the moonshot and intervene to keep it manageable.
Sure-Park System: Provides tractable power via a push button-controlled electric motor that works in both forward and reverse for stress-free parking lot maneuvers.
Yamaha started its fully-faired supersport family in the late ’90s, and it has since grown to cover a wide range of displacements. At the bottom of the range is the 321 cc YZF-R3 that sports all the body panel coverage as its bigger brothers, just in an entry-level package. One major difference in the forward fairing concerns the intake duct in the center. Instead of serving as part of the intake tract like with the larger YZF-R models, the R3’s port is mainly to funnel cooling air through the engine compartment. An optional ABS feature serves as the only safety electronics.
Next up in the food chain is the YZF-R6. A proper supersport, the R6 rocks a 599 cc four-banger. It ups the ante with variable-length intake funnels that broaden the powerband – mostly downward into the low rpm range – and is supported by the Exhaust Ultimate Power Valve that also further expands the useful power range in both directions. The chassis benefits from Yamaha’s extensive MotoGP experience with advanced suspension and mongo brakes, plus it carries the YCC-T, a tunable traction control, and D-Mode feature.
If proper street/race bikes that can truly do either are your thing, the YZF-R1M pulls from the top shelf with lightweight carbon-fiber bodywork and the best electronics the marque has to offer.
|YZF-R3 Monster Edition||$5,599||321 cc|
Yamaha Hyper Naked
Long labeled as the FZ in the U.S. Market, Yamaha’s family of hyper-naked models has had the overseas MT applied evenly across the board, but this is still the much-beloved Fizz, just under the moniker that’s more familiar to the rest of the riding world.
Like the YZF range, the MT family starts out with a 321 cc engine in an equally entry-level friendly chassis, just without all the bodywork. This leaves little to the imagination as far as the drivetrain is concerned and it establishes the look that carries on up through the “Master of Torque” range.
The MT-07 ramps things up a notch with its mid-size 689 cc powerplant, but in a move to keep the sticker shock and complexity down the factory steered clear of the higher electronics with ABS as the only electronic safety feature.
Next up is the MT-09 with its 847 cc in-line triple, and here we start to find the ’lectronic goodies. The ride-by-wire YCC-T system supports a variable traction control feature and Yamaha’s D-Mode throttle map feature. Fully adjustable suspension components add another layer of ride-quality control to the package.
At the pinnacle is the MT-10 model, and here things get serious in a hurry. It rocks a 998 cc, Crossplane Crankshaft, four-cylinder engine with a 12-liter airbox to feed it. All of the above electronics make it onto this model, and the factory adds its Quick Shift System to sweeten the deal. If you’re into that sportbike life but like the industrial look of a stripped-down naked, this bracket should be on your short list.
Yamaha Sport Heritage
Yamaha pays homage to its own deep historical roots with its sport-heritage line designed around Yamaha’s “Faster Sons” philosophy. The range starts out with the XSR siblings that borrow details from the classic UJM streetbikes generally associated with the Seventies, and manages to make them look like a natural evolution.
A sporty, yet relaxed, rider’s triangle delivers an upright riding posture with room to tuck in for speed if you like. Power comes from a liquid-cooled, Crossplane Concept engine with a 689 cc twin in the XSR700 and an 847 cc triple-banger in the XSR900. ABS is a constant between these two, and the larger of the pair rocks a D-Mode throttle control system to wrap up the electronics package.
The Bolt brothers fill in the American-style cruiser category with undeniable genetic markers plus liberal blackout treatment to make a connection to the custom culture of old. Bobbed fenders sell the look, and both the Bolt and Bolt R-Spec mount a 942 cc V-twin, because what else would you use for an American-style bike.
The VMAX takes the top slot with its astonishing 1,679 cc V4 engine that really puts the “sport” in sport-cruiser and a neutral rider’s triangle that lets you switch freely between both worlds.
|Bolt R-Spec||$8,399||942 cc|
|V Star 250||$4,349||249 cc|
Yamaha Transcontinental Touring
Yamaha keeps to the American style for its big-bag tourbike, the Star Venture. This ride is the epitome of the full dresser style with fixed front fairings and windscreens to protect the pilot. A stock Sure-Park feature ensures that you’ll have an easy time negotiating the parking lot and a robust infotainment system delivers all your music with weather/traffic/navigation support built in.
Electrically-locked hard bags and a top case provide 37.3-gallons of secure, dry storage in support of long-range touring or serious grocery-getting missions. An air-cooled, 1,854 cc V-twin delivers the power, and if you’re into cold-weather riding, the heated grips, seats, and backrests keep both yourself and your passenger comfortable under way.
|Star Venture||$24,999||1,854 cc|
Yamaha Adventure Touring
Yamaha built its Super Ténéré ES to take on both the blacktop and the brown. Built ostensibly as a globetrotter model, the Super Ténéré ES acquits itself admirably as both a street tourbike and an off-road adventurer, but it also makes a dandy commuter bike and is frequently used as such.
An 1,199 cc parallel-twin engine runs with a 270-degree out crankshaft that makes a pleasant burble at idle and generates tractable power under the guidance of the YCC-T system and D-Mode feature. Traction control limits rear-wheel spin on acceleration, and when it comes time to stop, Yamaha’s Unified Brake System and ABS prevent loss of traction, even on tricky surfaces.
|Super Ténéré ES||$16,299||1,199 cc|
Yamaha Sport Touring
Yamaha’s sport-touring line is built for folks who like that sportbike ride but want comfort and protection from the elements for long-distance trips. At the bottom of the range is the Tracer 900 GT that rolls with windshield, handguards, and heated handgrips, plus a partial front fairing to complete the forward coverage. Integral bags finish out the touring/commuter gear. An in-line triple provides the power with 847 cubes packed away within.
Yamaha’s flagship sport-tourer model is the FJR1300ES that extends the front fairing protection down to protect your legs and rocks hard panniers for some storage space. Helical-cut transmission gears reduce the meshing noise to mitigate that tiresome racket. Adjustable suspension, ABS protection, D-Mode, and torque control round out the electronics, and power comes from a 1,298 cc four-banger mill.
|Tracer 900 GT||$12,999||847 cc|
Yamaha Dual Sports
Whether you like to ride on public streets to your favorite jump-off point or just want to make your own roads, Yamaha has you covered with its dual-sport range. It kicks off with the TW200 that rocks fat, dual-purpose hoops with a 196 cc thumper for power and mid-range suspension travel to soak up the abuse of off-road work.
Next up is the XT250 with dirt-biased rubber and adjustable rear suspension. It relies on power from the 249 cc plant and, while it seems more tuned for off-road riding, it does sport all of the necessary lighting and equipment for legal road use.
Yamaha calls its WR250R an “advanced” dual sport, and it holds up to that moniker through the power from the motocross-derived engine, plus adjustable suspension fore and aft with 10.6 inches of travel all around. The knobby tires and street-legal lighting allows you to traverse paved roads, but this machine comes alive on softer surfaces. Power comes from a liquid-cooled, 250 cc engine with a six-speed transmission that’s geared for the off-road work.
Yamaha offers a trio of scooter models for the 2020 model year. The entry-level Zuma 125 starts things out with a dark, stealthy finish and an almost militaristic look. A 125 cc thumper and CVT transmission delivers twist-and-go operation, and stopping power comes courtesy of the front-and-rear disc brakes; an unusual feature out back for such a small displacement.
In the middle of the range is the 155 cc SMAX that veers sharply into urban commute territory with a large vented windscreen and metro-looking mien. A total of 32-liters of secure dry storage can be found under the seat to expand its utility as basic transportation.
The XMAX takes it to the max with even more of what makes the SMAX an attractive ride. A liquid-cooled, 292 cc engine delivers the goods with the same CVT operation as its siblings. Yamaha puts the icing on the cake with all-around ABS protection and a traction control feature that, together, will go a long way toward helping you keep it dirty-side down.
|Zuma 125||$3,499||125 cc|
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