Yamaha’s motorcycle division is on a roll. Over the past few years, they’ve trotted out one futuristic-looking motorcycle after the other like no other Japanese manufacturer.
Bikes like this are quickly setting the benchmark for other mainstream motorcycles. Some say the XSR700 is a hipster design, but I think this is a bike that fits the visual zeitgeist of our times – a desire for visual rawness and mechanical detailing and yet simplistic in actual performance. Also, it’s an obvious marketing offensive against the Ducati Scrambler (which is also trying to rock the neo-retro vibe) but with more angular and aggressive lines.
I’m glad for bikes like the XSR700 because most standard motorcycles in Singapore look boring to any observer. This situation is steadily changing as more high-end Class 2 bikes roam our streets due to high car prices and the range of designs above 400cc are now staggering. That’s also why I encourage every biker to get to Class 2, instead of staying in Class 2B or 2A.
The Germans and Italians may have sexy motorcycle designs, but I believe Yamaha – the biggest motorcycle brand in Singapore – is shaping our streets to look like Future Tokyo.
While modern motorcycle fantasies may have originated with the original Batcycle and Kamen Rider motorcycles, those machines were primitive compared to the mindblowing 1980s designs of the transformable Mospeada bikes (which in themselves were inspired by the Suzuki Katana, a modern classic that still burns rubber today).
Yamaha’s current crop of designers seem to have the same ideas as the 80s animators… “let’s make them as mechanical and possible, as if they can become cybernetic extensions of the human body.”
In 1988, Akira burst onto the scene and every fan knows about Kaneda’s techno-cruiser motorcycle which in turn inspired an actual Honda Vultus NM4 motorcycle that remains a modern oddity. There are a few NM4s in Singapore but I believe it never sold well because it just looked odd and unsporty with all that excess plastic. It also didn’t come in red.
Yamaha seems to understand that the future needs less plastic and more exposed engines and hoses. Yes, the constant philosophy I’ve noticed in Yamaha designs is a desire to keep the messy bits away (unlike, say Ducatis with their funky cabling), while keeping the overall look as “robotic” as possible. BMW has “robotic” designs too (see their GS series and S1000 series), but they do pare their designs down a little to make it more palatable to their target markets.
Anyway, photos say it better than I can write. Below is visual proof that Yamaha is not only seriously knocking motorcycle design into the 22nd century, it also hires some of the best automobile photographers in the world. Some of these images can make me weep in their beauty.
Honestly, I didn’t expect the future to arrive so quickly!