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May 12, 2010

Good Reads

I was reviewing some web stats on Google Analytics recently, and came across two articles that peaked my interest:  “The Story of the VMAX” and “Birth of the XV1900.” Normally I’m not much of a tech guy, but our MC product manager John Bayliss does a wonderful job of taking readers through the stages of developing a bike (it’s not all done in Japan!) start to finish.

I’m trying to talk him into resurrecting these great articles with a new one on the history of the YZF-R1 …maybe you blog readers could help persuade him? Because my knowledge of motorcycles isn’t even comparable to that of a legend like Bayliss, I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking the reigns. However, I wouldn’t be against bringing you the story behind Yamaha’s YZF motocross machines …. if there were enough interest.


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April 30, 2010

Miss Vicki starts the day

The big day is almost here … nope, I’m not referring to my birthday (May 31!) but International Female Ride Day! On May 7, women around the world will be riding their bikes, celebrating our great sport. It’s no secret that women and motorcycles are becoming a much more common sight on the tracks, trails and roadways.

In my personal experience with motocross racing, not long ago I could count the number of Ladies’ racers on my fingers and toes—now there are separate classes for beginners and experts and the CMRC has been running a National Women’s Championship since 2006!

As far as street bikes go, I’m sure everyone has noticed the increase of women on the road. I think it’s great. To me, there is nothing more fun than riding a two wheeler and men and women deserve to share the experience together. (In fact, Yamaha’s Facebook Photo Contest winner was a woman rider, Katrina Bryant, who owns an R1).

To be honest (not that I’d ever lie to you :)), I didn’t know much about International Female Ride Day, so I called up someone who does, the founder and extreme motorcycle enthusiast, Vicki Gray.

Bike Blog: What’s your background with motorcycles and what is MOTORESS?
Vicki: My background includes 27 years of riding, licensed back in 1983. I decided to get into motorcycling because I grew up as sort of a thrill seeker/tomboy. I’d climb trees, build rafts and ride snowmobiles. I really had an interest in motorcycling, but it wasn’t until I moved to the East Coast of Canada and was very busy with a corporate career that I took the opportunity to take the training. I needed an outlet to get away from the stress of work. I tried sailing as well, it’s nice and calm, but didn’t give me that kick I found from motorcycling.

Tell us about MOTORESS.
It’s a one-stop shop for women and motorcycling. MOTORESS didn’t just come out of the air; it’s a take-off from a brand that I had in the community called RaceGirl Motorsport in Europe. In Canada, I did a lot of riding and teaching here, but in 1989, I left and went to the Caribbean. I lived there for six years and within a year I opened my own training school. So this whole journey of MOTORESS is stuff that happened in between.

I think what spurred it on was when I started racing in Europe in 1998. Again, it’s a guy’s world there, especially in racing. I decided to start a brand and community called RaceGirl, which encouraged women into motorsports and through the non-profit organization, I gave higher skills training. I gave lessons to men as well and held track days. I worked with TT Circuit Assen during MotoGP and World Superbike. I was constantly interviewed when these races were in town, and I always spoke of women and encouraging them to get into motorsports. All of that and my passion seemed to grow like crazy! It was only a hobby but RaceGirl started to get so big. I was working in the telecomm industry at that time, which was having its up and downs. I kept changing jobs and then sat down and made a business plan for MOTORESS. To be honest, all along I searched for a way to make my passion my livelihood.

Vicki raced throughout Europe, and in the first ever European Women’s Cup, supported by the renowned Ten Kate Honda Team.

Now, you’re the founder of International Female Ride Day. What goes into creating an official “day?”
It was an idea … as you can imagine, in 1983, I was a woman riding a motorcycle and there were many women before me, but even then, I was part of the very small number of women riding. Of course, we have challenges keeping it in our lives but we really do have so many women riders out there. In North America—in Europe it’s not such a phenomenon to see a woman on a bike—yet it still gets a lot of response. I thought if we introduced a day, where women would just get out there, we’d show everyone first hand how many of us there are! The day also promotes women in motorcycling. Women are role models in themselves, and they influence other women. You have younger and older women, on cruisers, sport bikes, dirt bikes and it’s so diverse, I thought this concept, synchronized would show other women how wonderful and fun it is.

What’s your take on where women and motorcycles are at now?
It’s really evolved, just like women have. Social values and choices have changed; women buy houses alone now. The whole role of women has changed. Women go exploring other stuff, like motorcycling. Some women are terrified of them [laughs], and I meet some men who are too. I think it’s how we are brought up; generally women are not pointed in the direction of more dangerous “deemed male” activities, like the guys.

What advice do you have for those women who are shy and nervous about riding bikes?
[Laughs] Things are not as they appear. You know, that whole illusion theory and perception-motorcycling looks intimidating but once you’re sitting on a bike, have some good lessons and skills under your belt, you’ll see the other side of motorcycling that catches us all; it’s the same for racing.

Favourite bike you’ve ever owned?
I don’t have one because I love them all! They all bring something different to the road. Obviously my Ten Kate Honda race bike was exceptional, and riding that thing, on my God! Even Honda Japan would come to see how they tune their bikes. I really love the Yamaha R6. When I teach at F.A.S.T.  I often use that bike.

Where do you see women going in this sport? And what can dealers, manufacturers, anybody do to help promote women’s involvement?
I think you (the manufacturers/industry) are already doing it. You guys have ladies events, you have a great array of motorcycles that are available and you’re underlining these to women; the clothing is getting better. There isn’t much more to do, but it’s accepting the fact that women ride. For instance, when I see women at motorcycle shows, my mindset is that they are there because they ride. The goal of MOTORESS is to show women that motorcycling belongs in their life, and it should be placed higher on the priority list.

Unfortunately, for the average women, we have so much to juggle in our lives. There are big debates to that, but studies have proven, women, unlike men, can’t leave domestic duties alone for too long. After a day of work, arriving home, tending to say a partner, children, household demands … when all is said and done, if we have any time or energy remaining, what will receive the priority? With MOTORESS, we’re trying to bring it to an easier belonging, a lifestyle and make motorcycling that choice priority.

With that, what do you hope for International Female Ride Day, simply to get women on their bikes and ride?
Of course! There is so much going on around the world it’s unbelievable. I received an email from Cape Town, South Africa where women are organizing a ride day. Women riders just seem to take such pride in being a part of it. It’s awesome! This year, I even had to translate the logo into Hungarian so they could post it and use it. I would really like this to one day, similar to Mother’s Day, be recognized by the country as an official day.

Hey ladies (and guys) are you going to be out supporting In. Female Ride Day? If  so, please comment and let us know! Feel free to share your bike of choice as well!

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Posted @ 3:51 pm in Commuting,Industry Insights,Ladies Only,Special Events   
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January 29, 2008

Good times at the Yamaha Fukuroi Test Track

Riding the same course the Yamaha MotoGP team rode the day before!

By Dave Shepherd, motorsports technical specialist, Yamaha Motor Canada

I was lucky enough to find myself recently at the Yamaha Fukuroi road track test course to test some new motorcycles.


The town of Fukuroi is one train stop down the line from Iwata, Japan, home of Yamaha Motor Company. Nestled in the hillside of Fukuroi sits this famous Yamaha test track.

Built in 1969, the Yamaha Fukuroi track (known as “FookU” to us inside the company) follows some of the older designs for its 5.8 km layout. Yamaha Fukuroi is shaped in a figure-8, similar to Suzuka Circuit (the centre of Japanese motorsports and that country’s first full-fledged racing course when it opened in 1962).

The Yamaha Fukuori test track has many trees and rails in close proximity, and not much run-off room (sand traps were unheard of in those days).

The day started out with heavy rain, and I worried that the test session might be cancelled. (Apparently, being located among the hills causes problems such as rivers forming and running over the track surface.) But by lunchtime, the sun was fierce and steam was rising from the black surface.

Engaging racetrack functions… all systems go!

The first few laps on the drying tarmac were slow. That gave me an opportunity to switch on those circuits in my brain that let my body perform racetrack functions. Those include:

  • bending in a full armour racesuit
  • getting the mind up to speed to handle the blitz of bike control information
  • learning the curves and ripples of the track at the same time

In a couple of slower turns, the exit line was seriously marked with a wide stripe of rubber. Not my doing, that’s for sure!

There is something special about riding high-performance motorcycles on the track. Without the distraction of normal road traffic or the constant vigil for our police friends, it is much easier to concentrate on the task of improving one’s riding skill set. (In my case, I need all the improvement I can get!)

It’s a great moment when you suddenly slip into the “zone” and the rest of the world is a million miles away.

Inside my Suomy helmet, I hear myself think, “that’s right, I’m being paid to be here and wring out this bike.” A bug-eating grin spreads across my face, and even the fact that I just missed my brake marker doesn’t really matter. I know that some much better riders than me have been on this very same track, and may even have missed a marker or two themselves!

I finally return to the hot pit where a large Japanese contingent is waiting patiently. (see the photo here). I ask about those wide stripes of heavy wrist action; they tell me that the Yamaha MotoGP team were here the day before, testing some new engines and control systems. With the rubber laid that wide, there had to be some very sideways riding; I’m awestruck by the talent of those unknown pilots!

We spend a very full day riding seven new models, gaining an understanding of the reasons for changes and sampling new technologies in the pipeline.

I realize just how lucky I am to experience these things – it’s almost as great as watching delight on the faces of bike enthusiasts at shows back home when they first see these models for themselves.

What bikes did I ride in Japan? That’s a blog post for another day…!

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January 24, 2008

Birth of the XV 1900 Custom “Raider” – Part 2

From early ‘protos’ to clay models to road tests in America

By John Bayliss

This is the continuing story of “How the XV 1900 was born.”

XV1900 Custom BikeBehind the scenes, extensive costing and engineering studies for the newly developed XV1900 custom bike are completed. If all goes well the project will get the green light and a development code will be issued. In the case of the new XV1900 the code was “06S” and during any and all discussions, the code name will be used until the model is released to the public.

While final detail work is under way, the engineering group will cobble together a running prototype. I used the word “cobbled” because some of the early “protos” look pretty rough. (You need to remember, the protos are for testing purposes… not styling.)

Testers from both Yamaha Japan and Yamaha USA will ride the prototype and provide feedback; everything from functionality to sound to ride comfort will be assessed.

clay1.jpgfianl-clay.jpgMeanwhile, back in Japan, clay models are painstaking carved and sanded in a special studio right at the factory. (See examples of clay models here, left and right.) The clay model will be the final styling phase before measurements are taken for moulds and dies, etc.

I have been present when some minor changes are requested and believe it or not, the “artists” can manipulate the clay model right before your eyes!

After the initial stages of testing are completed, another testing “prototype” will be produced, although in a farproto2.jpg more finished state. (See right, and below.) The test unit will be shipped to the US and tested on American roads. (Yep, right out in the public view! But from my own experience most passerbys never seem to notice.)

Every aspect of the test machine is evaluated, including suspension settings geared toward North American roads. Any issues or concerns will be reported back to Yamaha Motor Canada for improvement. Testing takes proto-final.jpg place right up until the first pre-production machines start to roll off the line.

So, if you think that Star cruisers are conceived, designed and built in Japan, think again!

Our friends south of the border can and should take most of the credit for the new XV1900 Custom (“aka) “Raider”.

Let me know if you like hearing the ‘behind the scenes’ development stuff. If you do, I’ll try to dig up some stories of previous models as well as the new ones. JB

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January 22, 2008

How the XV 1900 was born

Made in Japan? Not so fast…!

By John Bayliss

On Sept. 10, Yamaha introduced a number of exciting new models for 2008. I would like to take you behind the scenes and provide some insights into how our latest Star cruiser, the XV1900 Custom bike evolved; you might be surprised…

Made in Japan right? Not so fast! Made in Japan yes, but conceived and designed in the USA. Here is how the process works.2008 XV1900 Custom C bike from Yamaha

Yamaha Motor USA (YMUS) has a full staff of product planners who attend key motorcycle events across the country. They talk one-on-one with as many customers as possible.

As they begin to develop a feel and direction for a new model, they contact Yamaha USA’s design company in Southern California, near where YMUS is based.

The design company takes the research info and produces a number of basic sketches of the new idea. The sketches are shown both internally at YMUS and to selected customers. A “whittling down” process will reduce the number of sketches from 15 or so down to the top 3 or 4.

Depending on the model, the planners will then host a focus group study for even more feedback. At this stage YMUS maysketch2.jpg stick to the final design ideas or continue to make changes based on feedback.

sketch-1.jpgAfter much internal discussion, a final sketch direction is chosen. (See left and right here for sample bike sketches.)

The sketch is taken from paper and is duplicated in real life – yes, sir, a full-size prototype model with all the bells and whistles is produced. For the record, these models do not run but can be touched and sat on (very carefully please!) … they are real motorcycles for all intents and purposes – except for the riding part.cad1.jpg

As the old saying goes; “a picture (or in this case a 3D model, see left) is worth a thousand words!”

Once the model is finished (which happens surprisingly quickly), the model is crated and shipped off to Yamaha Japan (YMC).model2.jpg

The YMUS product planners, including their in-house Japanese assistant, travel to YMC for the big presentation. Engineers, upper management and sales staff are all present at this meeting. Can you say “pressure”? Believe me, this is a stressful time for all involved!

During the meeting, the planners review their customer research, current trends in the biz, and describe their ‘target audience’. The bottom line is they make their best pitch for this new idea. Once they have everybody truly excited about the project, they unveil the 3D model. If all goes well, the engineers jump up and start checking out the model in detail!

model1.jpgAfter a period of time, the engineers will begin to assess what they can, and cannot, do. Some of the features of the 3D model may not be possible to duplicate due to mass production restrictions. It is not uncommon for other players/countries to join these presentations, too. Yamaha Europe,Yamaha Australia, and Yamaha Canada are often present, with the hope that we’ll buy into the project.

Stay tuned for part 2 to come in the next few days!

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December 6, 2007

Growing up moto – but not with cycles

How I discovered bikes and never looked back

By Carolyn Hay, marketing representative, Yamaha Motor Canada

Growing up, I was always surrounded by classic muscle cars, rail dragsters, big blocks, and four-speed manual trannys. Not too often would you find a motorcycle among the crowd.

But then, one hot July night back in 2000, something changed all that. I was at work when some friends came by to coerce me to go to a superbike race over at Mosport the following day. At that time I was like, ‘what’s a Superbike?” I was reluctant, but with a little convincing, I went.

I found out that motorcycles are a whole other world! And that was just the beginning. That summer I put in plenty of seat time as a passenger. It was official… I was hooked!

Then I decided, why should I leave all the fun to someone else? I didn’t want to be the passenger any more. So I went and got my motorcycle license in 2003. The natural progression was to get my own set of wheels, and it was the Yamaha R6 that I had fallen in love with!

The first time I got to sit on an R6 was at the Toronto Motorcycle Show back in December 2003. (Yep, that’s me in the picture (right). Pretty funny, I know… the look of pure concentration on my face is good for a laugh!)

The very next day, I applied for a marketing position within Yamaha Motor Canada.

The last four years have been a blast… now I ride R6s – heck, R1s even! But the sweetest was yet to come…

October 17, 2007 was an extremely exciting day for me; you see, I rode home for the first time on my very ownCarolyn Hay and her R6 2007 Yamaha R6!! (That’s me with my baby, right.)

No more begging for loaner bikes at work… no more Sunday mornings waking up and just WISHING I had my own bike!

The ride to work will never be the same… or to anywhere, for that matter!

What I want to know is, am I going nut’z or is this normal?

– Cal

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November 29, 2007

Memories of a Motorcycle License Test

By Bryan Fil, general services coordinator, Yamaha Motor Canada

I ride a motorcycle – that’s mandatory when you work at a motorcycle company, right, you say?

Nope. When I started working for Yamaha Motor Canada back in December 1999, I actually didn’t ride a motorcycle. I had a little all-terrain vehicle (ATV) experience on the old, big, red three-wheelers, but primarily I spent my youth growing up on the water around sailboats, cabin cruisers, ski boats and runabouts.

When I was growing up, my mother was dead-set against me ever riding a motorcycle; my biological father used to run dirt bikes through the woods up north with me as a passenger.

Two of my good friends had street bikes in their teens, and I can vividly remember the stern looks from my mom sitting on the front porch as I looked over my friends’ bikes. You can just imagine her response when I told her I got a full-time job with Yamaha Motor Canada.

Not long after that, I signed up with my girlfriend Jacquie (now my wife) to take the Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council (MMIC) motorcycle training program at a property just north of Allan Lambert Stadium Park in downtown Toronto. (Yamaha Motor Canada is a member company of the MMIC).

Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council

Well the big day – a Saturday – arrived. My girlfriend and I agreed that I would let her make her own mistakes. She’d never even driven a manual transmission car before, and didn’t really have a good concept of the clutch control that is required to keep the bike running. As the day progressed, it became more and more natural for me to ride and I caught on pretty quick.

My wife was a little slower, and I remember that she almost ran down an instructor who wanted to talk to her; she panicked when the bike began to lurch and stall so she gave it gas instead of pulling the clutch. Way to go, Jacquie – you kept the bike running! Too bad that instructor made you lose your balance.

Sunday was another spectacular day for weather, sunny but not too hot. After an evening of dissecting the information overload we had absorbed the previous day we were both ready to go and conquer the final test. Jacquie was having a little problem maintaining the turning arc and shifting at the same time, so at lunch I told her to just rev out the motor to make the time between the two points within the allotted time frame, which she accomplished perfectly. I personally was on fire and nailed the final test with no deductions!

At the end of the day we were both pleased with the big PASSED stamp on the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario paperwork. We headed home to rest up after two days in the sun in motorcycle gear.MTO handbook for motorcyclists

Next on the agenda: find a bike to ride… but that’s a blog post for another day!

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November 1, 2007

Welcome to the Yamaha Canada Bike Blog

cr-0207.jpgHi, my name is Chris Reid and I am the Senior Product and Research Manager here at Yamaha Motor Canada. If you are also a ‘sled head’, you might know me as CR over on our sister blog, Sled Talk.

We have assembled a group of Yamaha Motor Canada employees who all love to ride and have some stories to tell. We hope you’ll check in often, and read what we have to say.

(As far as I know, Yamaha is the only motorsports company in Canada to host a blog where we interact with our friends and customers.)

If you have any questions or feedback for us, you’re welcome to add a comment and we’ll try to respond to as many as we can. There are some areas that we won’t be discussing (please see our Terms of Use) but for the most part, be nice and anything motorcycle-related goes!

If you like what you see, you can subscribe (enter email address on the right) and we’ll email you whenever we add a new post, or you can add Bike Blog to your list of RSS feeds. We’ll be populating the blog with a wide selection of content over the next few weeks and we’d love to hear what you have to say about it all.

I sincerely hope you enjoy Bike Blog and if you do, please let your friends know about us.

Cheers cr

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