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The History of Yamaha Motorcycles

May 21, 2021 ·

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The history of the Yamaha Corporation dates to the late 1880s. The company is now a multinational corporation that produces many different products for a range of markets. The Yamaha Motor Co. was established in 1955, when it started producing motorcycles and marine products.

Over the years, Yamaha has continued to produce iconic motorcycles and make a name for itself in the industry. Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) is proud to have developed a relationship with Yamaha that led to the formation of the YamaPro® program in 1987.

Keep reading to find out more about Yamaha motorcycle history as well as the details about the YamaPro specialized training offered at MMI campuses.

Early Days

The Yamaha Corporation dates to 1887, when founder Torakusu Yamaha began producing reed organs and, eventually, pianos. The company was known solely as a musical instrument manufacturer for many years.

Genichi Kawakami joined the Yamaha Corporation in 1937 and was named president in 1950. In 1955, he introduced motorcycle production, which resulted in the establishment of Yamaha Motor Co.

The company’s first motorcycle, the YA-1, featured a single cylinder. It was an immediate success, winning the 125cc class at the Mount Fuji Ascent race in 1955. The YA-1 also took all three places at the All Japan Autobike Endurance Road Race that same year.

The success of Yamaha’s first motorcycle helped set the brand apart and gave it momentum to continue producing high-quality bikes for the racing and performance segments and beyond.

Models by Decade

Going through all the Yamaha motorcycle models by year would take some time, so we’ve broken it down into decades to highlight what was produced by the brand after the release of the YA-1.

1950s Yamaha Motorcycles

1957 YD-1: A 250cc, twin-cylinder, two-stroke street bike, the YD-1 was the first racing motorcycle produced by Yamaha to participate in the second Asama Highland Race.

1959 YDS-1: This release was built on the sporty performance introduced in the YD-1. The street bike gained a reputation for outperforming other 650cc vertical twin-engine models at the time.

1960s Yamaha Motorcycles

1960 YA-3: This 125cc, single-cylinder, two-stroke street bike was one of the first Yamaha models sold in the United States, along with the YD-2 in 1958.

1965 Big Bear Scrambler: Also known as the YDS-3C, the Big Bear Scrambler was designed in the U.S. to meet the demands of the country’s consumers. It became known for its style and loud exhaust.

1970s Yamaha Motorcycles

1970 XS-1: The XS-1 was the first Yamaha four-stroke model and featured a 650cc engine. Its reputation for reliability made it widely popular.

1973 RD350: This model marked the first use of reed valves in two-stroke street bikes.

1975 YZ250: Yamaha created the first single-shock production motocross bike with the YZ250, helping to change the motocross industry moving forward.

1980s Yamaha Motorcycles

1980 Maxim 650: A high-performance cruiser, the Maxim 650 had a four-cylinder shaft drive. The vehicle became very popular and was a favorite in showrooms.

1984 RZ350: Yamaha introduced its final street-legal two-stroke motorcycle.

1984 FJ1100: This model featured 125 horsepower and weighed 500 pounds, making it an ’80s Yamaha motorcycle with unparalleled power-to-weight ratio in the superbike class.

1985 FZ750: The FZ750 featured the first use of Yamaha’s five-valve Genesis technology and lay-down cylinder configuration.

1987 FZR1000: The FZR1000 was the first model to utilize the company’s aluminum Deltabox frame.

1990s Yamaha Motorcycles

1993 GTS: This ’90s Yamaha motorcycle was the company’s first fuel-injected model. It was also the company’s first motorcycle to feature a catalytic converter.

1996 Royal Star: This model was the first in a long line of Star models for Yamaha. It featured a traditional cruiser design with inspiration drawn from an iconic motorcycle brand, Indian Motorcycles.

1998 YZF-R1: The R1 was the first of Yamaha’s R-series bikes, setting the stage for the modern era of the brand’s sport bikes.

1998 YZ400F: This bike was the first modern production four-stroke motocross machine.

2000s Yamaha Motorcycles

2000 TT-R125L: The introduction of the TT-R125L helped Yamaha round off its off-roading line and put it on the map in that category of motorbikes. It featured a 125cc, four-stroke engine.

2001 YZ250F: Yamaha produced the first four-stroke, 250cc motocross bike.

2007 YZF-R1: This model featured Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-I), which was the first electronic variable intake system on a production bike.

2010s Yamaha Motorcycles

2013 Bolt: The Bolt was introduced as a cruiser and lightweight motorcycle optimized for speed and handling. It featured a four-stroke, four-valve, air-cooled V-twin engine. It’s known for being a customizable platform.

2018 Star Venture: This touring bike debuted with a fresh design and an air-cooled V-twin engine that differed from V-4 engines on previous models.

For more than 60 years, Yamaha has been producing quality motorcycles. You could learn to work on Yamaha motorcycles by taking the YamaPro program offered at MMI.

Yamaha YamaPro Program at MMI

Endorsed by Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, in 1987, the YamaPro specialized training program gives students the opportunity to further their training at MMI and work specifically on Yamaha products.

Students are eligible to apply for the course after completing the core Motorcycle Technician Prerequisite (MTP) program. The 12-week YamaPro program is split into four different modules:

  • Module 1: Students become familiar with Yamaha service management procedures. They also learn about electrical fuel injection (EFI) systems.
  • Module 2: Students get to work on suspensions and perform Yamaha and Star motorcycle maintenance. Also covered is camshaft inspection, and timing and valve clearance.
  • Module 3: This set covers the different service technologies for ATVs and side-by-sides, along with snowmobiles.
  • Module 4: The final module of the elective covers personal watercraft service technology and generator service technology.

Program Benefits

Eligible students can choose to enroll in the YamaPro program, which is offered at two MMI campuses. There are several benefits for those who complete the elective, including:

  • Becoming certified: One of the biggest benefits to enrolling in specialized training is the opportunity to earn specific certifications. YamaPro students can earn Yamaha Bronze and YTA silver certifications levels.
  • Vehicle variety: Not only does the program cover motorcycles, students also get the chance to work on other Yamaha machines, like generators, side-by-sides, ATVs, watercraft and snowmobiles.
  • Updated curriculum: The information and curriculum presented in the YamaPro program at MMI is developed with the support of Yamaha. It is updated to reflect the most current in technology and industry standards, so students get the most up-to-date education possible.

Specialized Yamaha Training at MMI

Does working with Yamaha as a motorcycle technician interest you? Take the next step in furthering your education by enrolling in the YamaPro program at MMI. Specialized training can help make you stand out when you’re applying to entry-level positions at Yamaha dealerships.1

Find out more about admissions requirements and the program by visiting us online. You can request more information here or by calling 1-800-834-7308.

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1) MMI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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