The most exciting thing about owning a motorbike is not just the thrill of wind rushing through your body as you hurtle down the speedway in your biker gang suit. That was the real deal back in the 60s. But then, interests evolved into something else more thrilling – speed.
Granted, even biker gangs back in the 60s weren’t interested in riding slouches. Matter of fact, the first unofficial biker gang gathering back in 1947 was arranged as a motorbike race. But we are not here to talk about heavily bearded men in dark suits and intimidating tattoos.
Rather, we are going to talk about speed. But not from any other manufacturer out there in the market. For this piece, we’ll be looking at the formidable Yamaha brand. For over 65 years, this company has produced some of the most exhilarating bikes ever made in history. And that formula was cemented right from 1955 when they birthed the Yamaha YA-1, which went on to win the races it was entered into that year.
Well, today, anything with a Yamaha badge on it is bound to be one of the fastest if not the fastest two-wheeler on the road. These 10, in particular, are the ones you should be looking out the mirror for.
10 2015-present Yamaha YZF R1: 182 MPH
Forget about Lamborghinis with massive V12s or a Bentley Bentayga with 600 hp of juice. The Yamaha YZF R1, with just four cylinders, is capable of embarrassing that SUV and almost slapping the winds off a Lambo with just a third of its power. The Yamaha YZF R1 runs on a 16-valve DOHC engine that’s good for 200 hp and 182 mph in a straight line.
This was the first motorcycle in their famous R1 series. That’s why Yamaha put everything they’ve got on it. Apart from the cross-plane engine, Yamaha put in a short-wheel chassis, pure MotoGP styling, and high-tech electronics in this menacing monster of a bike.
9 1973-2002 Yamaha YZR500: 170 MPH
Unlike other Yamahas, the Yamaha YZR500 is a rather bulky machine. Thus, it makes no sense how such an elephant would go on to win world championships and stick onto the hearts of many Yamaha enthusiasts for decades. Well, the answer is in a lot of things, starting with its great balance.
When it was launched in 1973, the YZR500 was not the lightest production from the Japanese maker. However, its bulky Chromoly frame gave it an amazing balance. That is what made it the first factory bike from Yamaha to ever win a championship in 1973.
8 2016-2021 Yamaha MT-10: 165 MPH
Many Yamaha enthusiasts might argue that the revered Yamaha MT-10 is just a YZF-R1 with no body panels. And they’re not entirely wrong. This naked bike from Japan borrowed its power unit from the YZF-R1. That cross-plane engine was lifted from the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 but re-tuned to build a bit lower to mid-range torque.
As a result, that 16-valve 998cc inline-four is good for 158.2 hp and 82 lb-ft of torque that kicks in at 9,000 RPM, before waning to 72.2 lb-ft at 9,300 RPM. Put that much grunt on the MT-10, and on a straight line, the bike will give you 165 mph of top speed.
7 1999-2000 Yamaha YZF R7: 163 MPH
The Yamaha YZF R7 has been called, on several occasions, one of the most influential bikes ever built by the Japanese maker. The initial plan of the R7 was to race it in the Superbike World Championship. Thus, everything in it was built to exude top performance.
For instance, the R7 was one of the first homologated bikes to use an upgraded exhaust system and activated fuel injectors that made it a formidable force on the track. Plus, the YZF R7 was a pricy machine, given it had a limited production run of only 500 units.
6 2017-2020 Yamaha YZF R6: 161.3 MPH
This is not just a fast bike. It is one of the most affordable racing machines you can get on the market today. For slightly over $12,000, the Yamaha YZF R6 can be yours for the taking given you’ve written a solid will for your loved ones once the raw power of this machine hits you.
But the latter won’t be necessary. Yes, 120 hp on two wheels and 419 lbs of wet weight is too much. But that’s the formula needed to create a bike feared in the middleweight category. However, Yamaha still managed to tame this bike’s power thanks to a host of features that keep you and your $12,999 machine grounded.
5 2015 Yamaha FJR1300: 152.1 MPH
The 2015 Yamaha FJR1300 is marketed as a touring bike. That’s quite a tame category for a machine capable of 152 mph on the freeway. Well, given the FJR1300 runs on a sports bike frame, something makes you think Yamaha knew of this naming misdirection and chose to ride with it.
And it’s not just the sporty frame that makes this bike quite an animal in a straight line. It packs a four-cylinder liquid-cooled power unit that produces 146 bhp, matched with a non-intrusive traction control system that easily shifts this bike from a relaxed touring machine to a speed-thirsty monster.
4 2010 Yamaha V-Max: 150 MPH
There was no naming misdirection with this one. The 2010 Yamaha V-Max was built from the get-go to be a fast machine. But that was not when this machine was particularly birthed. Its history goes back to the early-to-mid 80s when no one dared build a bike with more than 100 hp. Yamaha thus shook the market with a 1200CC machine with 145 hp on tap.
That is the formula the V-Max has been built with to date, clocking 150 mph in the process and a few engine restrictions on a couple of models sold overseas since they were deemed “too powerful”.
3 2016-2021 Yamaha XSR900: 145 MPH
Turns out a mix of modern tech, retro looks, and amazing performance can give a 145 mph machine. That is exactly what the Yamaha XSR900 is. The retro looks are inspired by the classic “XS” series that took the market by storm in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The XSR900 is thus compact and sporty. And for the performance package it carries, it’s also one in a small number of motorbikes with a great value for money. The power unit is an inline-3, 847cc motor with 12 valves that is good for 113 hp of grunt.
2 2019 – 2020 Yamaha Tracer 900 / Tracer 900 GT: 140 MPH
This is yet another sport touring bike from Yamaha that offers a lot more sport from its package. Powered by an engine derived from the powerful MT-09, the Yamaha Tracer 900 tops the dyno at 113 hp, making it one of the most adventuresome touring bikes you can get from the company.
That power is enough to top the speed of the Tracer 900 or the Tracer 900 GT at 140 mph. Still, this bike is well balanced and equipped to make a long journey memorable. The 900 GT in particular has a set of hard-side panniers for secure dry storage plus other features that are great for a long-distance ride.
1 2018-2020 Yamaha MT-09: 140 MPH
Speaking of the MT-09, this is the bike that loaned its engine to the aforementioned Yamaha Tracer 900/900 GT. And calling this bike powerful will be an understatement. It doesn’t just perform. It begs you to unleash all that power underneath.
The Yamaha MT-09 can only be described as agile, sporty, aggressive, and powerful. Its 847cc CP3 engine and smart electronics make it not only menacing but also surprisingly easy to handle. Plus, it’s designed as a naked bike, which gives it very aggressive looks that sell the idea of extreme performance to anyone looking at it.
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