Top 10 Yamaha concepts that didn't make it

The world would have been different if these had got the green light

YAMAHA has a pretty strong record of turning concepts into reality – the latest V-Max, the Super Tenere, the MT-01 and MT-03 all started out as concepts, even if they had probably already been given the go-ahead for production before the ‘concept’ versions were even made.

But there are plenty of other ideas that disappeared without trace. This rundown of the firm’s 10 greatest concept bikes shows what might have been.

10. Deinonychus, 2005

With electric bikes starting to be taken a little more seriously these days, this nine-year-old concept shows that Yamaha could have been well ahead of the curve – not only using electric power but taking advantage of its flexibility to create something a bit out of the ordinary. Unhindered by the need to use a conventional power train, and with hub mounted electric motors, the Deinonychus was two-wheel-drive and had a frame that could be altered to radically change the geometry, allowing it to be stretched out like a chopper or compact and quick-steering like a sports bike. And those BMX-style extra pegs on the wheel spindles suggest its designers had stunts in mind, too. The problem is that those tiny batteries probably wouldn’t get you off your driveway before they needed recharging…

9. Y125 Moegi, 2011

Normally, 125cc bikes can be pretty hard to get excited about, but the Moegi showed a refreshing, simplified take on the idea that a bike can be elegant and unthreatening without being cartoonish or blobby. More like a classic bicycle with an engine fitted – the pure essence of a ‘motor cycle’ in its most original sense – it promised to be lightweight and easy to ride.

8. Chivicker, 2003

Yamaha has always had a flair for small-capacity concept bikes, allowing the design to do the talking rather than relying on huge power or performance promises. The Chivicker, which also continued a lasting trend for ridiculous names on Yamaha concepts, was a mere 50cc, and a four-stroke at that, so would have been painfully slow, but its BMX-inspired styling meant it looked a lot of fun nonetheless. Its sister concept, the 125cc Tricker, spawned a production machine, but the Chivicker remained nothing more than a show bike.

7. HV-X, 2009

Hybrid production cars, with electric motors backing up their petrol engines, have been around since before the turn of the millennium, but the HV-X was the first convincing hybrid motorcycle. And for a while it looked like it might be destined for production, too. The bike worked on much the same basis as the Toyota Prius, with a clever CVT gearbox that juggled the power from the electric motor and the petrol engine as well as reversing the motor to charge the batteries when they went flat. Yamaha showed the bike in 2009 with a mysterious lack of fanfare, and nothing has been heard of it since. Which either means its dead and buried or there’s still a chance it will see production in one form or another.

6. Maxam 3000, 2005

Okay, forget all that stuff about Yamaha making subtle, small concept bikes. The Maxam 3000 was a ridiculous creation, and all the better for it. Most scooter concepts are pretty dull, but by making one that was three metres long (hence the ‘3000’ bit in its name) and inspired by American land yachts of the 1950s, Yamaha could at least guarantee to turn heads. We’re not even going to talk about performance or handling here, this bike was all about appearances, and while you’d have to be pretty flamboyant to want to be seen on one, there’s definitely something interesting about the long-and-low approach.

5. Tesseract, 2007

Four wheels really shouldn’t make for an interesting concept bike. But throw in a big V-twin and superbike-derived styling and things perk up a bit. The clever leaning system promised handling like a normal bike, allied to double the amount of rubber on the road to give ridiculous levels of grip. Plus, of course, if it started to slide, even a complete numpty would have stood half a chance of catching it. The concept hasn’t been entirely in vain. Yamaha’s new Tricity three-wheeled scooter comes from the same set of ideas, even if it uses a totally different suspension system and lacks the Tesseract’s high-performance appeal.

4. Gen-Ryu, 2005

You can see that Yamaha was feeling confident back in 2005, as the Gen-Ryu (keep those crazy names coming!) appeared alongside the Maxam 3000 that we’ve already mentioned. And if anything, it’s even madder-looking. This time, though, there was technology as well as arresting looks. The bike featured a 600cc four-cylinder engine – basically an R6 unit – plus an electric motor, using an early version of the transmission that would later appear in a more real-world form on the HV-X in 2009. It was never going to reach production, and we’re not saying that anyone would actually buy a bike that looked like the Gen-Ryu, but at least it was different, and isn't that the point of a concept bike?

3. Morpho 2, 1991

Yamaha’s two Morpho concept bikes, the original in 1989 and the Morpho 2 in 1991, are legends of the genre. The Morpho 2 shared the original’s variable riding position idea, altering on the move to suit the rider’s mood, but allied it with active suspension and, weirdest of all, two-wheel-steering, which all carried outlandish claims at the time of huge performance improvements. Unlike the original, 400cc Morpho, the 2 was a 1000cc machine, and its styling was clearly related to the TDM850 that appeared around the same time, so it wasn’t entirely in vain.

2. XS-V1 Sakura, 2007

Funnily enough, when it first appeared, the Sakura didn’t make much of a splash. Sure, it looked nice, although perhaps a bit too pink for most, but other than that it was just another retro bike. But looking at it again, seven years on, the styling seems eminently production-viable and the idea of a torquey, simple, 1000cc air-cooled V-twin in a retro-styled machine is more appealing than it was back then. Imagine it going up against the Bonneville, W800 and Guzzi V7 today – the Sakura would surely make a decent case for itself. At the time, though, Yamaha had already been burnt by the MT-01 (big air-cooled twin, lots of torque, very few sales and itself derived from a rather lovely concept bike shown back in 1999) and most onlookers realised that if the Sakura ever was made, it would probably have been priced way higher than its rivals.

1. Morpho, 1989

The Morpho is one of those concept bikes that manages to stick in the mind, despite being a mere 400cc and not really able to lay claim to having huge influence. That front suspension reappeared later on the GTS1000, but the Morpho’s signature piece – its ability to morph into different shapes to suit the rider – has never reached maturity. The seat went up and down, the footpegs did the same and the bars, screen and instruments rose as one when the bike switched into sit-up-and-beg status. Think of it as an analogue version of the electronic trickery that allows many modern bikes to offer multiple riding modes. The Morpho appeared alongside Honda’s original NR750 concept bike back in late 1989. The fact it got more attention than the oval-pistoned Honda race-rep speaks volumes for its unrealised potential.

Want more?

Top 10 Women racers: Part Two

Visordown readers' Top 10 customs

Top 10 greatest TT races

Top 10 Suzuki concepts that didn't make it

Join the conversation!

Let us know what you think, just sign up for a free account, leave a comment and get involved!
Register Now

Comments

Loading Comments...