10 Classic Yamaha Motorcycles With Impressive Power


Summary

  • Key takeaways:
  • Yamaha motorcycles from the 80s and 90s were loved for their solid performance and simple technology.
  • The Yamaha RD400F Daytona Special, TZR250 SP, and RZV500 were iconic bikes from that era that had high power and torque.
  • The Yamaha R7 OW07, XJR1300 SP, R6, FZR750R OW01, VMAX 1200, FZR1000 EXUP, and R1 were also standout models known for their power and performance.


Yamaha has been synonymously associated with motorcycles and musical instruments. When it comes to motorcycles – the R, RD and RZ series have long been known to be some of Yamaha’s finest ever two-wheeled creations, inspiring other manufacturers as well at certain points in time. With a strong, ongoing fan following across the globe, Yamaha may not currently have the same widespread portfolio of performance bikes that they used to sell, but they continue to sell today thanks to their glorious past.

In this list we look at some of the older Yamaha’s from the 80s and the 90s, that were loved by enthusiasts for their solid performance, considering the simple technology that was available back then. Most of the entries on this list are also highly collectible and iconic in their own special way.

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In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Yamaha and other authoritative sources, including MotorcycleSpecs.com. The entries on this list have been ranked on the basis of power and torque, from lowest to highest.


10 1979 Yamaha RD400F Daytona Special

Max Power: 44 HP

Yamaha RD400 Daytona Special
Mecum Auctions

Consider the 1979 Yamaha RD400F Daytona Special as a swansong to Yamaha’s renowned RD series of two-strokes. The RD400 was and felt significantly faster and more powerful when compared to the RD350. This offered a near-perfect combination for an aspiring young buyer at the time – someone who wanted loads of power but could not necessarily afford a larger liter-class machine. Combined with its approachable and predictable handling, the RD400F was a hooligan that could easily worry other sub-liter four-stroke riders, while being manageable enough to ride in the city.

1979 Yamaha RD400F Daytona Special Performance Specifications

Engine

399cc, air-cooled, parallel-twin two-stroke w/reed valves

Horsepower

44 HP

Torque

72.3 LB-FT

Wet Weight

529 lbs

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

9 1991 Yamaha TZR250 SP

Max Power: 45 HP

1991 Yamaha TZR250R
Rainmaker47, CC BY-SA 4.0 < via Wikimedia Commons

Considering its size, weight, and power for its displacement, it’s quite fair to say that the TZR250 SP accelerated like it was falling off a cliff. Although the power was restricted, it still managed to be an exciting and involving machine to ride, thanks to the way it was tuned for low and mid-range acceleration.

There was no compromise with the handling, as expected by the way it looked and felt to ride. With its almost extreme riding position, it was not meant to comfort and cocoon the rider, but rather bring the best out of him or her on the track.

1991 Yamaha TZR250 SP Performance Specifications

Engine

249.7cc, liquid-cooled, V-twin two-stroke reed valve

Horsepower

45 HP

Torque

29 LB-FT

Weight

277.8 lbs (dry)

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

8 1985 Yamaha RZV500

Max Power: 88 HP

1985 Yamaha RZV500
Mecum Auctions

The RZV500 was a genuine redeemer for Yamaha to bring back excitement in the then-dying two-stroke realm. Four-strokes, especially road racers and lightweight motocrossers, dominated the motorcycling consumers’ consciousness – and yet the RZV500 was special and competent enough to make keen buyers part with their wallets at the very sight of this machine.

Based on the legendary RZV500 race bike, and being the first production two-stroke to be equipped with a V-4 engine, power was restricted to meet the under-100 HP limits – however, it was potentially a simpler matter to have it derestricted. In addition to that, it was over 20 pounds lighter than its RD cousins.

1985 Yamaha RZV500 Performance Specifications

Engine

499cc, liquid-cooled, reed-valve V-4

Horsepower

88 HP

Torque

49.9 LB-FT

Wet Weight

436.5 lbs

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

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7 1999 Yamaha R7 OW07

Max Power: 106 HP

1999 Yamaha R7 OW02
Mecum Auctions

Originally meant to be a homologation special for use in the WSBK and endurance racing, the R7 or the OW-02 was manufactured for just two years for a limited run of just 500 units to meet homologation. It was powered by a 749cc, liquid-cooled five-valve four-cylinder engine that was limited to producing just over 100 horsepower and 53 pounds-feet to comply with regulations for sale internationally.

But this was a major downside. As the bike was already expensive, owners did not want to spend a considerable extra to make the bike competitive enough for the class that it raced in.

1999 Yamaha R7 OW07 Performance Specifications

Engine

749cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four

Horsepower

106 HP

Torque

53.1 LB-FT

Weight

338 lbs (dry)

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

6 1998 Yamaha XJR1300 SP

Max Power: 106 HP

1998 Yamaha XJR 1300 SP
Cjp24, CC BY-SA 4.0 < via Wikimedia Commons

 

With its eye-catching SP color scheme, generous amounts of displacement on offer from the inline-four, potent performance and relaxed ergo’s, the 1998 XJR1300 SP certainly deserves a mention on this list as one of Yamaha’s sweetest riding and fun nakeds.

The engine is an old-school classic four – air-cooled, with a characteristically relaxed power delivery that is more suited to cruising than spirited riding, but never feels short on oomph. The Öhlins suspension is plush and comfortable, making this an easy-riding motorcycle that can do a good amount of touring as well if so desired.

1998 Yamaha XJR1300 SP Performance Specifications

Engine

1,251cc, air-cooled, DOHC inline-four

Horsepower

106 HP

Torque

72.3 LB-FT

Weight

529 lbs (wet)

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

5 1998 Yamaha R6

Max Power: 108 HP

2006 Yamaha YZF-R6S side left shot
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The Yamaha YZF600 R6 was meant to be the R1’s smaller-displacement, track-focused alternative. Launched in 1999, it was the first 600cc production sports bike to break the 100 HP horsepower mark, using an all-new design that Yamaha claimed produced 108 HP on the crank, revving over 16,000 RPM.

A promising start to one of the earliest and greatest 600’s ever made, the R6 performed akin to its older brother, the R1, dynamically speaking, and also looked as graceful as its older brother. It was only in 2006 that the R6 was taken to a whole new level, with a true screamer of an engine, reaching 17,500 RPM.

1998 Yamaha R6 Performance Specifications

Engine

599cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four

Horsepower

108 HP

Torque

72.3 LB-FT

Weight

373 lbs (dry)

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

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4 1989 Yamaha FZR750R OW01

Max Power: 121 HP

Yamaha FZR750R OW01 Motorcycle
Rainmaker47, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The FZR750 was a rather successful road bike for Yamaha, and following homologation rules, the OW01 was created. This heavily race-inspired version of the FZR750R came with a revised frame and steering geometry, and was endowed with trick bits from the FZR1000 and FZR750R endurance bikes.

Take for example the EXUP exhaust power valve, which compensated for an engine design that was highly strung and prone to suffering from low and mid-range power losses. Apart from that, the Ohlins rear suspension and meaty four-piston Nissin brakes were certainly up to the race-ready demands that this bike would eventually see from most of its owners.

1989 Yamaha FZR750R OW01 Performance Specifications

Engine

749cc, liquid-cooled, 5 valves per cyl, DOHC inline-four

Horsepower

121 HP

Torque

51.3 LB-FT

Weight

412 lbs (dry)

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

3 1985 Yamaha VMAX 1200

Max Power: 145 HP

1985 Yamaha V-Max 1200
Mecum Auctions

A motorcycle conceived for the sole purpose of laying down strips of rubber on the drag strip, more than for cruising, resulted in one of the first-ever muscle cruisers to hit the global market in 1985. The V-Max remains relevant to this day and is well-known for being quite a handful to ride fast and from a standstill – thanks to the acceleration and torque on offer.

At the same time, however, it’s this character of the bike that people really love and appreciate. Although the second-gen model of this bike vastly overshadows the original, it would simply not exist if not for the success of its predecessor.

1985 Yamaha VMAX 1200 Performance Specifications

Engine

1,198cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC V-4

Horsepower

145 HP

Torque

83.1 LB-FT

Weight

604 lbs (wet)

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

2 1988 Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP

Max Power: 148 HP

Yamaha FZR1000
ruotedasogno.com

The FZR1000 was born as a flagship sport tourer that Yamaha based off of the FZR750, with the Genesis engine design, canting the engine 45° forward. This was done to ensure that there was enough space for the downdraft carbs to be positioned optimally, and keep the overall width as narrow as possible. By 1989, it featured the EXUP exhaust valve and increased power, and it was a real hoot to ride.

Oddly, it was equipped with a five-speed gearbox as opposed to a six-speed that came with the 750. Nonetheless, the bike was significantly powerful and felt almost as nimble as its 750cc counterpart, thanks to the Deltabox frame and a suspension setup that was a great trade-off between sporty handling and comfort.

1987 Yamaha FZR1000 Performance Specifications

Engine

1,003cc, liquid-cooled, 5 valves per cyl, DOHC inline-four

Horsepower

148 HP

Torque

80.4 LB-FT

Weight

497 lbs (wet)

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)

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1 1998 Yamaha R1

Max Power: 148.5 HP

A parked 1998 Yamaha YZF-R1
Rainmaker47 via Wikimedia Commons

The OG, 1998 Yamaha R1 evoked an earth-shattering gasp of shock upon the time of its launch, redefining and pioneering the twin-headlight design language that almost all manufacturers emulated in their own designs, shortly after the R1 was launched.

Not only blessed with staggeringly good looks, the R1 was a sublime machine to ride as well, treating the rider as its own and providing great feedback and confidence in the process. It was lighter than most of its competition, fulfilling its design purpose of a liter-class bike but with a 600’s agility.

1998 Yamaha R1 Performance Specifications

Engine

998cc, air-cooled, DOHC inline-four

Horsepower

148.5 HP

Torque

79.87 LB-FT

Weight

423 lbs (wet)

(Specs sourced from MotorcycleSpecs)



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