Yamaha Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide
The origin of the Yamaha brand dates back to the late 1800s, when founder Torakusu Yamaha turned a fascination with reed organs into Japan’s first piano manufacturer. The company gained a reputation for quality and began producing other products in the years after, including harmonicas, phonographs, and guitars. It wasn’t until 1955 when Yamaha took its biggest leap though – building motorcycles. This was the start of the Yamaha Motor Company, and it’s safe to say it was a good bet.
Today, Yamaha offers a full line of motorcycles – from rugged dirt bikes to high-performance touring bikes – as well as ATVs, snowmobiles, golf carts, and a dozen other products. Read on to learn more about the current Yamaha motorcycles, their prices, and what type of bike is right for you.
Types of Yamaha Motorcycles
Yamaha offers a wide variety of motorcycle styles to choose from. These include standards, cruisers, touring motorcycles, and scooters. The brand is perhaps best known for its sport and off-road motorcycles though, such as the corner-carving YZF-R1 sportbike or the barebones TW200 dual-sport – a bike that Yamaha has sold in the U.S. market since 1987.
Yamaha Motorcycle Prices
The 2019 Yamaha motorcycle lineup ranges in price from around $2,600 to $27,000. The average price is about $10,400. Overall, these prices are on par with what many competitors offer. The least-expensive model in the 2019 lineup is the Yamaha Zuma 50F scooter, which starts at $2,599.
2019 Yamaha Motorcycle Lineup
Yamaha’s motorcycle lineup is pretty extensive, so we’ll break it down by category to make things simple. The 2019 lineup includes four sportbikes – YZF-R1M, YZF-R1, YZF-R6, and YZF-R3. The number in each name indicates the bike’s engine displacement. In this case, the R1 has a 998 cc engine (or close to 1,000 cc), the R6 has a 599 cc engine, and the R3 has a 321 cc engine. This pattern applies to most other models in the Yamaha lineup as well.
There are eight standard motorcycles – Bolt, Bolt R-Spec, MT-07, MT-09, MT-10, VMAX, XSR700, and XSR900. These bikes are recognizable by their minimalist bodywork and upright riding position. There is one cruiser – the V Star 250 – which was previously sold under Yamaha’s Star Motorcycles sub brand. The lineup also includes six sport-touring models – Tracer 900, Tracer 900 GT, Niken, Niken GT, FJR1300A, and FJR1300ES – as well as four scooters – Zuma 50F, Zuma 125, SMAX, and XMAX.
Yamaha’s largest segment is its off-road motorcycles. These include street-legal, on-off road models like the TW200, WR250R, XT250, and Super Ténéré, as well as over a dozen dirt bikes for recreational and competition use.
Yamaha Cruising Motorcycles
A cruiser is a good choice if you want a motorcycle for leisure riding or everyday commuting. Cruisers have a relaxed foot-forward riding position and a low seat height, making them pretty comfortable on longer trips. Cruisers typically have a softer suspension as well, which helps to soak up the bumps and dips of uneven pavement.
Yamaha offers only one cruising motorcycle: the V Star 250.
Yamaha V Star 250
Starting at just $4,349, the V Star 250 is one of the least-expensive models in the 2019 Yamaha lineup. It’s also one of the best options for beginners. The V Star has a 249 cc air-cooled V-twin engine, which provides enough muscle for everyday riding, but delivers that power in a way that isn’t overwhelming for new riders. Yamaha rates the bike’s gas mileage at a very efficient 78 mpg. The V Star is fairly lightweight at 326 pounds as well, making it easy to keep steady when stopped or in slow traffic.
Standard equipment includes a five-speed transmission, a 2.5-gallon fuel tank, analog gauges, an electric starter, front disc and rear drum brakes, and staggered 18- and 15-inch wire wheels. The V Star’s appearance is very retro-inspired, and it’s capped off with a sleek silver-and-blue paint scheme and lots of chrome accents.
Yamaha Sport Motorcycles
The sport bike is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the cruising motorcycle. Sport bikes are designed for slicing along twisty roads and blasting down racetrack straightaways, and they are recognizable by their aerodynamic bodywork. Another sport bike hallmark is a hunched-over riding position, which provides good control over the motorcycle but can also be uncomfortable for anything longer than a 30 minute trip.
For this reason, sport bikes aren’t a great option for commuting. Sport bikes aren’t very beginner-friendly either, due to their sensitive throttle response and sharp braking.
Yamaha offers four sportbikes to choose from: the YZF-R3, YZF-R6, YZF-R1, and YZF-R1M.
The YZF-R3 squeezes sport bike performance into an affordable $4,999 package. The R3 has a high-revving 321 cc parallel-twin engine and a six-speed transmission. It weighs in at just 368 pounds as well. Standard features include a 3.2-gallon fuel tank, electric start, a digital gauge cluster, disc brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, and an adjustable rear suspension. ABS is optional.
The YZF-R6 is pricier at $12,199, but it boasts a few key upgrades. The R6 is outfitted with a 599 cc four-cylinder engine, a six-speed transmission, and a larger 4.6-gallon fuel tank. It also adds an adjustable front suspension, dual front disc brakes, ABS, and traction control.
The YZF-R1 pushes its performance into superbike territory, and it’s priced like one at $16,699. The R1 has a 998 cc four-cylinder engine and a six-speed transmission. Additional standard features include a lap timer and a more-advanced engine computer (ECU) with launch control, wheel lift control, and slide control.
The racing-inspired YZF-R1M variant ($22,999) looks as if it just rolled off a MotoGP circuit. It features the same engine and transmission as the standard R1, but with the addition of carbon fiber bodywork, an electronically adaptive suspension, and a data recorder with built-in Wi-Fi.
Yamaha Standard Motorcycles
The standard motorcycle has a nice balance of cruiser and sport bike qualities. Standards have an upright riding position that is comfortable for commuting and longer road trips, yet they also provide nimble handling and eager acceleration. These are good do-it-all bikes. You may hear someone refer to a standard as a naked bike as well; this is due to their minimal bodywork.
Yamaha offers eight standard bikes: the Bolt, Bolt R-Spec, MT-07, MT-09, MT-10, VMAX, XSR700, and XSR900.
The Bolt starts at $7,999 and it has a 942 cc air-cooled V-twin and a five-speed transmission. It also wears short “bobbed” fenders and a blacked-out paint scheme, giving it an aggressive and custom-built look. Standard features include a 3.4-gallon fuel tank, electric start, a digital gauge, front and rear disc brakes, and staggered 19- and 16-inch wire wheels.
Yamaha Bolt R-Spec
The Bolt R-Spec variant – starting at $8,399 – is a more modern take on this bobber recipe. The R-Spec shares the same powertrain as the standard Bolt, but with alloy wheels, sportier remote-reservoir rear shocks, and silver paint.
The Yamaha VMAX ups the performance ante even higher. This powerful bike starts at $17,999 and it packs a 1,679 cc liquid-cooled V4 engine, as well as a five-speed transmission. The VMAX also has a 4-gallon fuel tank, electric start, analog and digital gauges, matte-black paint, an adjustable suspension, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), dual front disc brakes, a single rear disc brake, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
As the entry-level bike in the MT line, the Yamaha MT-07 starts at $7,599 and is equipped with a 689 cc parallel-twin engine, a six-speed transmission, and a 3.7-gallon fuel tank. Yamaha rates the fuel economy of this setup at an estimated 58 mpg.
Standard features include an LCD gauge cluster, dual front disc brakes, a single rear disc brake, ABS, an adjustable rear suspension, and 17-inch alloy wheels. A trunk and saddlebags are optional for a few hundred dollars each, giving the MT-07 some genuine cargo-carrying ability. Both are also available for the MT-09 and MT-10 models.
The MT-09 ($8,999) looks a lot like its MT-07 sibling and it’s similarly equipped, apart from a few upgrades. The MT-09 has an 847 cc three-cylinder engine, plus an adjustable front suspension and traction control.
It’s a similar story with the MT-10, which starts at $12,999. The MT-10 has a 998 cc four-cylinder engine and cruise control, plus all of the features of the MT-07 and MT-09 models.
The Yamaha XSR700 ($8,499) has a more vintage look than the MT models. This is largely due to its rounded headlight, flatter seat, and smooth-sided fuel tank with retro graphics. Otherwise, the XSR is mechanically similar to the MT-07. It shares the same liquid-cooled 689 cc engine, six-speed transmission, and standard features.
The XSR900 starts at $9,499 and it follows this recipe too. It mirrors the classic styling of the XSR700, but with the features and 847 cc three-cylinder engine of the MT-09 model.
Yamaha Touring Motorcycles
If you’re thinking of riding across the state – or across the country – a tourer is the best bike for the job. Touring motorcycles often have large fuel tanks to maximize driving range, big engines that can accelerate quickly and keep pace with highway traffic, and tall windscreens that reduce rider fatigue. Tourers are usually offered with saddlebags and trunk boxes as well, which can pack away a significant amount of cargo.
Yamaha has six sport-tuned touring bikes (sport tourers) in its 2019 lineup: the Tracer 900, Tracer 900 GT, Niken, Niken GT, FJR1300A, and FJR1300ES.
Yamaha Tracer 900
The Tracer 900 has a $10,699 starting price, making it the most affordable option of this group. It’s outfitted with an 847 cc three-cylinder engine, a six-speed transmission, and a 4.8-gallon fuel tank. Standard features include a windscreen, an LCD gauge cluster, a 12-volt outlet, disc brakes, ABS, traction control, an adjustable suspension, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Optional extras include heated seats, heated handlebar grips, hard saddlebags with 22 liters of cargo space, and a trunk box with up to 50 liters of room.
Yamaha Tracer 900 GT
A Tracer 900 GT model is also available for $12,999, and it bundles together some of the bike’s popular options. These items include heated grips, cruise control, and saddlebags.
The Yamaha Niken three-wheeler is arguably the most unique motorcycle that the brand sells. The Niken ($15,999) has two front wheels that are positioned 16 inches apart. This wide track gives the Niken more stability than a traditional motorcycle, which can come in handy on twisty roads and in wet weather. Otherwise, the Niken is mechanically similar to the Tracer 900.
Yamaha Niken GT
The Niken GT model ($17,299) adds to the Niken model with standard saddlebags and heated grips.
Upgrade to the Yamaha FJR1300 if you want a long-distance motorcycle with serious muscle. The FJR1300A starts at $16,399, and it packs a big 1,298 cc four-cylinder engine, a six-speed transmission, and a large 6.6-gallon fuel tank. It also comes equipped with a power-adjustable windshield, a glovebox, heated grips, and hard bags, plus all of the Tracer 900’s standard features.
Yamaha FJR1300 ES
The FJR1300ES variant ($17,999) is similarly equipped, but it also adds an electronically adjustable suspension and adaptive headlights that help illuminate the inside corner of a turn.
Yamaha Off-Road Motorcycles
Yamaha has an extensive line of off-road motorcycles. To keep it simple, we’ll split these into two categories – bikes that are street legal (dual-sport or on-off road) and those that are not (dirt bikes). The 2019 Yamaha lineup includes four dual-sport motorcycles: TW200, XT250, WR250R, and Super Ténéré ES.
The TW200 is the best all-rounder in this lineup. It’s also the most affordable pick, at just $4,599. The TW has a 196 cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine, a five-speed transmission, and 6 inches of suspension travel. The bike’s appearance is unmistakable thanks to its oversized tires, which are designed to grip onto loose surfaces off the road, as well as provide a smooth and controlled ride on the road. Yamaha estimates the TW200’s fuel economy at an excellent 78 mpg.
Additional standard equipment includes a 1.8-gallon fuel tank, electric start, an analog gauge, front disc and rear drum brakes, and staggered 18- and 14-inch wire wheels.
The XT250 looks and handles more like a street-legal dirt bike. It’s priced at $5,199 and it has a 249 cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine, a five-speed transmission, long fenders, and beefy shock absorbers with up to 9 inches of front suspension travel and 7 inches of rear travel. Its skinny tires are well-suited for carving along rough terrain. That said, they won’t track as straight on-road when faced with grooves in the pavement. Stick with the TW200 if you plan to ride on the street more often than in the dirt.
Standard equipment includes a 2.6-gallon fuel tank, a digital gauge cluster, electric start, disc brakes, and staggered 21- and 18-inch wire wheels.
The WR250R ($6,699) is the most capable off-roader in this lineup. It features a 250 cc liquid-cooled single cylinder, a six-speed transmission, and over 10 inches of suspension travel. Both front and rear shocks have adjustment settings for spring compression, rebound, and preload as well, allowing riders to tailor the bike to their exact preferences. Additional equipment includes a 2-gallon fuel tank, electric start, a digital gauge, disc brakes, and wire wheels.
Yamaha Super Ténéré ES
The Super Ténéré fits a slightly different mold. It’s an adventure touring bike, and it combines the rugged suspension and ground clearance of a dual-sport bike with the refinement and cargo-carrying ability of a touring motorcycle.
The Super Ténéré ES ($16,199) is powered by an 1199cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine. Standard features include a six-speed transmission, an electronically-adjustable suspension with 7.5-inches of travel, a large 6.1-gallon fuel tank, electric start, a windscreen, cruise control, disc brakes, ABS, and wire wheels. A top case and hard saddlebags are optional ($400 and $500, respectively), giving the Super Ténéré over 3 cubic feet of cargo space.
Yamaha Dirt Bikes
Yamaha has 15 dirt bikes in its 2019 lineup:
Deciphering these model names isn’t as tricky as it may seem. The numbers indicate engine size, in this case – ranging from 50cc to 450cc – and an ‘F’ indicates a four-stroke model. The PW and TT models are designed for recreational trail riding. The YZ and WR models are built for motocross and off-road endurance racing (often called enduro).
Two of the most appealing models for beginners and young riders are the Yamaha PW50 and TT-R50E. These child-sized dirt bikes are outfitted with small two-stroke engines. The PW50 ($1,499) has an automatic transmission, a low 19-inch seat height, and it weighs just 90 pounds with a full tank of fuel. The TT-R50E ($1,699) has a three-speed transmission with an automatic clutch, a 22-inch seat height, and it weighs 126 pounds.
It is worth noting that none of these dirt bikes are road legal because they lack federally-mandated safety features, like turn signals, brake lights, mirrors, and DOT-approved tires.
If you’re looking for cheap urban transportation, you’re probably better off with a scooter rather than a motorcycle. Scooters are inexpensive to buy, maintain, and fuel up. Their small size and relatively light weight make them easy to maneuver on narrow streets, and their step-through design enables a very comfortable seating position. Most scooters are equipped with automatic transmissions as well, making them very user-friendly for beginners.
Yamaha’s 2019 lineup includes four scooters: the Zuma 50F, Zuma 125, SMAX, and XMAX.
Yamaha Zuma 50F
The Zuma 50F is Yamaha’s most affordable scooter at just $2,599. It’s also the lightest model at 205 pounds. The 50F has a liquid-cooled 49 cc single-cylinder engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and a 1.2-gallon fuel tank. Standard features include electric start, a 23-liter storage compartment, front disc and rear drum brakes, and 10-inch alloy wheels wrapped in oversized tires. These thick tires help to soak up the bumps and dips of uneven road surfaces, which tend to be more noticeable on bikes with smaller wheels. A trunk case with 30-liters of cargo room is optional.
Yamaha Zuma 125
Upgrade to the Zuma 125 ($3,399) if you want a bit more power for cruising around town. The Zuma 125 has an air-cooled 125 cc single cylinder, a CVT automatic, and a 1.7-gallon fuel tank. It also adds larger 12-inch wheels, a rear disc brake, and a slightly bigger storage compartment. A trunk case is optional.
The SMAX ($3,699) adds a bit more refinement. It features a windscreen, a mix of analog and digital gauges, and larger 13-inch alloy wheels. It’s outfitted with a liquid-cooled 155 cc single cylinder, a CVT, and a 2-gallon fuel tank. As before, a trunk box is optional.
The XMAX ($5,599) is about as close to a motorcycle as scooters can get. It has a relatively large 292 cc single-cylinder engine, a CVT, and a 3.4-gallon tank. The XMAX is also outfitted with keyless start, a 12-volt outlet, anti-lock brakes, traction control, 15- and 14-inch wheels front and back, plus all of the SMAX’s standard features. A top case is optional, but you may not need one. The XMAX’s big under-seat storage compartment can fit two helmets.
Yamaha Motorcycle Warranty
Yamaha covers its street-legal motorcycles and scooters with a one-year/unlimited-mileage warranty. The brand’s dirt bikes are covered by a shorter warranty period – 90 days for recreational trail bikes, and 30 days for racing-compliant motocross and enduro models.
Yamaha vs. Honda
You can find a lot of similarities between the Yamaha and Honda motorcycle brands. Both offer a variety of bikes in the same categories, including cruisers, sport bikes, standards, tourers, dirt bikes, dual-sports, and scooters. Both have similar one-year warranties for their road-going motorcycles as well, though Honda does back its Gold Wing model with a special three-year warranty. Both brands also compete closely on price, with a slight advantage going to Honda in the standard and cruiser segments.
The differences are a bit clearer. The Honda lineup includes mini bikes like the Monkey and Grom, which provide pint-sized motorcycle thrills for less than $4,000. On the other hand, Yamaha offers unique models like the three-wheeled Niken. Make sure to check out both of these popular Japanese brands.
Yamaha vs. Harley-Davidson
The Yamaha motorcycle lineup is a lot more diverse than the Harley-Davidson lineup. Harley doesn’t offer any sportbikes, off-road models, or scooters, and it only has one bike – the Street 500 – that could be considered a good option for beginners. Harley’s prices aren’t quite as low either. Stick with Yamaha for better value and variety.
That being said, you’ll want to opt for a Harley-Davidson if you’re in the market for a cruiser or a touring motorcycle with big power, vintage styling, and long-haul comfort. Harley offers nearly three times the number of cruisers and tourers as Yamaha does, and it backs these models with a longer two-year/unlimited-mileage warranty.
Yamaha vs. Kawasaki
The Yamaha brand is an excellent choice, but we suspect most shoppers will find better options at their local Kawasaki dealer. Kawasaki competes closely on price with Yamaha, but the brand offers more sport bike models, more touring bikes, as well as a few more starter bikes in the standard and adventure touring categories. Kawasaki also backs a number of its models with a longer warranty, including a six-month warranty on dirt bikes, a two-year warranty on light touring (LT) motorcycles, and a three-year warranty on large touring bikes, like the Concours.
It isn’t a one-sided comparison though. Yamaha still offers more options if you’re shopping for a dirt bike, scooter, or dual-sport motorcycle.