Sep 22, 2017
 in 
Motorcycles

Motorcycle Timeline: The History of Yamaha Motor Company

 By 
RumbleOn Road Captain

The Timeline and History of Yamaha Motor Company

The Yamaha Motor Company (ヤマハ発動機株式会社 Yamaha Hatsudōki Kabushiki-gaisha) is perhaps one of the most famous Japanese manufacturers of motorcycles. They have brought us everything from fun and torquey street bikes such as the XSR700 and Yamaha XSR900, to off-roading and tough powersports like the YZ450FX. And let's not forget about their line of impressive sports bikes like the YZF-R1.

Along with powersports vehicles, they also produce water pumps, wheelchairs, boats, electrical generators, A.I. machinery, snowmobiles, scooters, and even industrial unmanned helicopters.

But how did this company of many talents get its start? Let's take a look at some of the early Yamaha motorcycles and how much this company continues to progress over time.

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1955: The founder of Yamaha Motorcycles, Genichi Kawakami, leads the company in the production of the first Yamaha motorcycle made. It was the YA-1, a 125cc, 2-stroke single-cylinder street bike that was a racing competitor from the start. It won the 3rd Mount Fuji Ascent 125cc Race along with many other races in Japan.

1958: The first Yamaha motorcycles were sold in the USA by an independent distributor, Cooper Motors. These models were a 50cc, 2-stroke single-cylinder street bike called the MF-1, and a 250cc, 2-stroke twin-cylinder street bike called the YD1.

1960: Yamaha, now an international corporation, begins selling motorcycles in the USA.

Video source: Pete Delaney


1968: The world's first dual-sport motorcycle, the DT-1 Enduro, was introduced. The bike had on- and off-road abilities and was hugely popular in the US. This same year, the first snowmobile produced by Yamaha was released. The SL350 was a 2-stroke twin-cylinder snowmobile that was the first of its kind to have slide valve carburetors.

1970: The company introduces the 650cc vertical twin XS-1. This was Yamaha’s first 4-stroke motorcycle model.

1973: Yamaha begins testing new markets with their newly-introduced ET1200 Generators. This same year, the RD line and the TX500 was released.

Video source: Z1RD1


1977: To appeal to their American market for motorized products, the Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, was founded as a separate identity from music and electronics.

1978: The four-cylinder, shaft drive XS1100 motorcycle and the XS650 Special, the first Yamaha production cruiser, were introduced.

1979: The fuel-saving engine system, YICS (Yamaha Induction Control System), was developed for 4-stroke engines.

1980: Yamaha opens a corporate office in Cypress, California, and the first 3-wheeled ATV, the YT125, was sold in America. This same year, the XV1000 and XV750 Special were released.

Video source: Lottoman17

1983: Yamaha releases their FJ1100 to the sports bike market.

1984: The FZ750 motorcycle debuted the first production 5-valve per cylinder engine. This same year Yamaha introduced their RZV500R and the YFM200, which was first 4-wheel ATV in the US.

1985: Yamaha releases their V-Max 1200 musclebike.

Video source: Superbikeplanet

1992: Yamaha debuts the GRS1000 sports bike.

1996: The First Yamaha Star Cruiser was introduced with the 1300cc V4 Royal Star.

1998: The first 4-stroke motocrosser to be mass produced hit the market with the YZ400F. This same year, the introduction of the YZF-R1 set the standard for open class sports bikes.

1999: The Venture Royale, which had been in production from 1983 to 1993, becomes the Royal Star Venture touring motorcycle.

2000: Yamaha debuts the first ATV with camouflaged bodywork: The Buckmaster® Edition Big Bear 400 4x4. The XV1600 RoadStar and XVS1100 Drag Star make their debut.

Video source: Yamaha Motor Europe


2005: Yamaha captures the MotoGP triple crown. They had the winning rider, manufacturer, and team titles. In 2005, the MT-01 was introduced.

2006: The Star Motorcycle becomes its own company. However, Yamaha handled all the production and distribution of the cruiser motorcycles.

2008: For the second time, Yamaha wins the MotoGP triple crown. The V Star 950, and V Star 950 Tourer were released.

2010: Yamaha wins the MotoGP triple crown for the third consecutive year.

2013: The Yamaha Bolt is introduced, this bike currently has 11 generations as of 2018.

Video source: Yamaha Motor Canada


2015: Yamaha unveils the MT-25, FACTOR150, and XVS950CU Bolt-C.

2016: The Yamaha  XSR models such as the XSR900 and XSR700. Yamaha decides they will go back to producing Star Motorcycles under the Yamaha name.

2017: Yamaha debuts its concept MOTOROiD all-electric and smart motorcycle at the Tokyo Motor Show.

2018: The Yamaha Star Venture, a top-of-the-line transcontinental V-twin tourer is released.

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