Biker Bites – Yamaha’s motorcycles of future past

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.

Their latest neo-retro XSR700 is almost steampunk, achieved with a few clever tweaks of the recently launched mid-range MT-07 motorcycle to attract the younger crowd.

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.

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The new Yamaha XSR700. Note the attention to detail on every part of the motorcycle to make it look as steampunk as a mainstream motorcycle can possibly be without being impractical. There’s also a careful mix of different metallic hues in the engine area to achieve visual complexity for what is actually a very straightforward parallel-twin engine.
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The precursor to the XSR700 was this custom MT-07 built by Shinya Kimura, announced in June this year. More Star Wars than anime, if you ask me.

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.”

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A Mospeada rider could combine with his motorcycle (a Suzuki Katana-inspired design) into a powerful exoskeletal warrior.
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Mospeada was later adapted into part of the Americanized Robotech series.

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.

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Kaneda’s motorcycle in Akira
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Honda’s Vultus (NM4). Till today, nobody knows why they didn’t come up with a red version, which would have sold much better than the white or black models.

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.

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The 2015 color schemes of the MT-07, the bike which is the basis of the XSR700.
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The triple-cylinder Yamaha MT-09, the bigger and arguably more popular brother of the MT-07. For a few thousand dollars more than the MT-07, you get an additional engine cylinder, more torque and speed.
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Yamaha MT-07 Moto Cage edition with lots of nice red bits.
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The massive 1679cc Yamaha VMax, which has a small and faithful following in Singapore.
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A custom VMax “Infrared” by JVB Moto
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Another view of the VMax Infrared.
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The XJR1300 is an example of a classic bike design given a more neo-retro spin with simple additions of aluminium/silver cosmetic bits and understated, gloomy color schemes for these two models.
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Now take the previous XJR1300 bike and give it the custom spin like this “Dissident” variant to make it look totally mecha.

Of course, it’s not just about naked bikes. The latest R1 and R1M are staggeringly futuristic in not just looks but technology as well.

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The flagship R1M supersports bike from Yamaha. Totally Robocop, yet non-American!
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The R1 standard, which is now contending for the top road-legal sportsbike in the world along with other bikes like the BMW S1000RR and Ducati Panigale 1299.

Honestly, I didn’t expect the future to arrive so quickly!

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