There currently is a late burst of near summer weather. So I went for a ride to visit Yamaha in Shizuoka. Mostly highway but I detoured a couple of times to try my luck at two highly rated Mt Fuji view locations to break it up.
I would not call myself a fanboy of any one brand of car or bike or phone but I do genuinely find some makers producing things I like more than others the last 10 years. I really wanted the MT-01 when it came out but in Australia it was $21K at the time so I ended up on a Buell followed by a few other bikes when my mate instead went ahead with the MT-01 (negotiating a better deal I might add) and still has it now and can service it at home (pushrods) and says it might be last bike he buys which is high praise from someone who was a hardcore Kawasaki fan. Anyway I seem to like a lot of what Yamaha have been doing in recent years so I decided to go for a trip to see them. I visited Kawasaki in Kobe some years back when passing by and they had a rather small display but the Yamaha visitor centre or Communication Plaza as it is called is much better.
First up I had to escape the metropolis of greater Tokyo and leaving at 7am not riding inbound I still wound up grid lock in the outer areas but eventually got out to Ebina where I took a break to settle my nerves at a highway service area. Mt Fuji soon came up on my right and was clear however there was no snow at it’s peak at all despite already being October. By the time I got to Shizuoka and my first stop Miho Beach unfortunately haze had taken a strong hold on the horizon and the view was to be frank lousy so I tried a few HDR shots but gave up then rode on to my second destination the Nihondaira Parkway. Lots of bikes, the local racetrack it seems with one persons bike crashed on a curve. There is a cable car to the top of the mountain but I decided with the haze it was not worth it this time. This is photo on the way back down which is 5 exposures merged to try de-haze the scene. (update, I have started to use some decent post shoot edit software so might go back and clean up some photos)
The communication plaza has a large number of motorcycles on display, most of Yamaha’s significant models from their beginnings as well as many beautiful and famous race bikes. I will just post a few.
There is a lot of bikes, two floors of historic models and a limited number of the current range. Some are setup for you to sit on and try as there is also a R1 simulator. My knees and shoulder were ready to get off the R1 after just a short spell, ha-ha been 20 years since I crunched my body up to fit on a race bike. Another section for concepts and an off road bike area too with some Dakar stuff. Then there is a small Yamaha marine and engine section. I knew Yamaha had a couple of times in the past contributed to cars from Toyota from when I went to the Toyota museum in Nagoya (which is excellent) but that collaboration seems to have been much bigger going by the number of Toyota/Yamaha car engines here. Just the two cars on display but one just happens to be perhaps my favourite car ever the 2000GT which no doubt would be worth far more than the Lexus LFA sitting next to it (a millon dollars one in USA recently). A surprise was the on site library, free for guests which was huge and I wish I had allowed more time since it held 1000’s of interesting motorcycle books. Maybe I will go back another time when I have completed Japanese studies and spend the day in there.
There is a good cafe and a merchandise shop on site although the prices of the shirts and apparel were a bit high for me. Perhaps I would have enjoyed more audio visual, especially of their racing history, maybe it was there and I missed it. I wish Yamaha (or any of the big four makers) had a ride centre to test ride a bike like how Toyota offers you to test drive any car on private road at their Tokyo display centre. I guess dealers do this sort of thing but I am not aware of such being not able to read the language but I still loved the Toyota centre and think it must go some way to getting people to think well I have tried that model and it worked for me so why gamble with another brand that I was not able to sample. I sat on a few models and also could examine the true kerb weight of the bikes fully fueled which I wish magazines would publish rather than dry weight which is really meaningless. My FJR fully fuelled and ready to ride is a significant 296kg, no wonder I struggle at times. I guess my skill is lacking as the police here ride these like they are 250cc bikes although for me I still think it is the high COG that I find difficult in U-turns etc. Race type bikes excluded, the true light bike in the current road bike range is the MT07 with a kerb weight of just 186kg. That just happens to also be another of the current bikes I like at the moment. Well to be precise the yard build version Yamaha are calling the XSR700 which was not on display.
Basically a Yamaha take on the current shed built scene, it naturally has the same MT-07 270 degree 700cc twin which makes ample power for me on the street and I think it would be a lot of fun to ride in the country roads here however whenever I look at other bikes I am back to my old dilemma. I want the comfort of the FJR with it’s cruise control and electric screen but I also want the nimble smaller bike and more classic looks. For now I keep looking and thinking.
Well I really enjoyed visiting Yamaha today, what a great day out.