Next Yamaha R6 and R1 will be triples

675cc and 1100cc three-cylinders planned from 2014

Posted: 18 October 2012
by Visordown News

SOURCES close to Yamaha in Japan say the three-cylinder concept engine shown at Intermot earlier this month will lead to replacements for both the R1 and R6 as the firm makes a clean break from its four-cylinder heritage.

Yamaha was bold in its admissions during the concept's presentation that the firm hadn't made enough exciting bikes in recent years, and said the triple would “shape Yamaha's future motorcycle line-up” but stopped shy of spelling out exactly which models the motor would appear in.

It's now becoming increasingly clear that triples could become the dominant layout in future Yamahas, covering everything from scooters – the firm both patented and tested a 750cc three-cylinder T-Max derivative several years ago – to superbikes. Our sources say that several different three-cylinder engines are under development, in a range of sizes, to cater for the wholesale change in the firm's line up.

With the current R6 able to trace its heritage back seven years to the 2006 model, launched in 2005, and the existing R1 basically unchanged since its move to a cross-plane crankshaft in the 2009 model year, both are starting to look old in comparison to their nearest rivals. Yamaha is already understood to be lobbying for changes in WSB regulations to allow for triples to get a capacity allowance between the existing 1000cc for fours and 1200cc for twins (at the moment, triples would effectively be hamstrung by having to stick to 1000cc, the same as higher-revving four-cylinder motors).

Interestingly, Yamaha's move to triples comes hot on the heels of Honda's announcement that it will make a new V4 superbike – a layout that was once synonymous with the firm. The sheer performance of modern bikes has reached a point at which it's hard to persuade buyers to trade up to the latest model – many find their existing machines are already more than fast enough, so the lure of a handful of extra horses isn't the temptation it was a few years ago. Honda, and now Yamaha, have recognised that by giving their machines a distinct character – without sacrificing performance – they stand a better chance of distinguishing themselves from their rivals.

Yamaha's triple move may, however, be even sharper than Honda's shift back towards V4s, as it could help address the ever rising cost of modern bikes. While developing new engines is enormously expensive, the simple expedient of reducing the cylinder count can offer cost savings when it comes to production. Cylinders, valves, con-rods; when all else is equal the number of parts in an in-line triple is smaller than in a four. Of course, Yamaha has yet to explain how its “cross-plane” crank works in the triple – it could involve extra balancers, whether shafts or reciprocating weights, that would start adding to the overall component count again. If it's just referring to a conventional 120 degree triple – arguably “cross-plane” since it's not “flat-plane”, although others will argue it doesn't meet the definition since its journals aren't at 90 degrees to one another – then the component count should be lower than a four-cylinder's.

Although it's been a long time since the firm made a three-cylinder bike – the XS850 – the firm does have recent experience with the layout. Its snowmobile range includes the 1050c Nitro, Venture and Vector triples as well as the Viking 973cc three-cylinder, and it's also made several three-cylinder Waverunners over the years. It also offers a 750cc three-cylinder outboard motor, albeit a low-revving, SOHC design, and Yamaha's engineering arm has been involved in many engine-development projects for other firms, with virtually every imaginable cylinder layout.

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Discuss this story

Triumph is growing whilst other brands are shrinking... could also be a factor?

Posted: 19/10/2012 at 01:27

t j
I like that yamaha are throwing out their inline 4 600 and 1000 cookie cutters. Making something different to set it apart from the other manufacturers.

Posted: 19/10/2012 at 05:24

I'd love a 500cc triple to commute on; 70hp, 165kgs.

Posted: 19/10/2012 at 11:17

Sooner or later someone is going to crack and license or buy engines from another marque. Look at the car market, where (for example) VW, Audi, Skoda and SEAT all use the same engines even though they're (notionally) independent marques within the same group.

As more and more production moves into China, India, Malaysia, Thailand et al, and a Japanese or European badge becomes just that - a badge - surely someone is going to jump at the opportunity to save themselves the cost of developing a cheap commuter engine.

I'm surprised it hasn't happened already, but I wonder if Euro 4 and 5 emissions are going to force anyone's hand.

Posted: 19/10/2012 at 11:39

Sounds like they may be going to adopt the crank layout of the Laverda 180 triples, middle piston up and outer two down. I miss my Jota,it had a great exhaust note, lots of torque and tons of character!

Posted: 19/10/2012 at 13:28

If you want a triple buy a Triumph the're bloody fantastic

Posted: 19/10/2012 at 14:01

I can't understand how they will make a triple with a cross plane crank, unless they are calling a traditional 120 degree triple crank cross plane. Any dummy cylinders etc will just add friction, weight and cost to the build as well so don't really see that happening. Hope they can come up with something different though just to spice things up a bit.
I hope that Triumph are watching this as well, I'd love a 1100 Daytona to go with my Speed Triple.

Posted: 19/10/2012 at 14:10

Motorcyle engines with four cylinders are old hat in fashion terms, better fuel mileage can be achieved with 2 or 3 pots, as proven by BMW, KTM ,Aprilia, Triumph, royal enfield,all the Italian factories, and the big four when they put their minds to it !! on a bike, four pots add unnessary weight and add to servicing costs, having said that I've owned my share of UJM's !

Posted: 20/10/2012 at 22:07

Rogerborg - It has happened already, look at the Piaggio Group scooters share engines, the Aprilia RS4 125 and Derbi GPR 125 are basically the same bike, Husqvarna use BMW engines....

Posted: 22/10/2012 at 13:56

In response to Rogerborg:
Motorcycle manufacturers borrowing engines -
Kawasaki used the Suzuki DRZ400 (in fact I think it was the whole bike, only in green obviously).
BMW - Rotax.
Aprilia - Rotax
CCM - Rotax, Suzuki
Er, Bimota...

Posted: 22/10/2012 at 16:20

Not convinced about the 'cheaper eengine' argument - Triumph prices are very similar when compared to Japanese bikes of the same spec, and by inference Ducati should be rock-bottom prices! Clearly, the cost of the bike is about how much development, workmanship, exotic material, etc goes into each, whatever the cylinder count (and let's not forget market forces/whatever the customer is prepared to pay).

Posted: 26/10/2012 at 07:19

The new Yamaha tripples are going to have to be something really special to persuade me to part with my 07 790cc bonneville. I once owned a Laverda 1200 mirage and found it pretty good if a little boring [still wish I'd had a Jota] and I still think the best tripple ever by a country mile [whatever one of those is] was my Kawasaki Kh500 but then it WAS a 2 stroke and they were the dogs pods.

Posted: 28/10/2012 at 08:05

I disagree with the statement that KTM twin are good on fuel.My CBR1000 is 3 to 5 bucks better off every fill .

Posted: 19/03/2013 at 07:37

Yes I love my Triumph Speed Triple, but I bought it because it's a triple not because it's a Triumph. If Yamaha makes a bike similar to the Triumph I'll definitely be considering it as replacement for my 07 Triumph.

Posted: 05/05/2013 at 06:29

I bought my 2011 r1 for one reason, performance. I will be shocked if Yamaha can deliver the same range of power band that makes my r1 worth the price tag. Personally, I'm crossing my fingers for a new exhaust system that will take the pipe out from under my arse and a redesigned front fairing that looks less like a crosseyed Martian and more like a streamlined road demon. PS lets get that intake between the lights like smart people!

Posted: 23/08/2013 at 20:13

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