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May 30, 2011

Tappin’ out to Tap in

Building a custom motorcycle takes creativity, skill and A LOT of patience.  In celebration of UFC coming to Toronto, for the first time ever, Yamaha Motor Canada and Flat Out Industries partnered to create a special, one-of-a-kind TapOut Edition YZF-R1. The idea came from Flat Out’s Sean Mance, and we’re glad he shared it with us.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, ultimate fighting is the sport right now—and Toronto can’t get enough of it (the event had a record sellout of 55,000 tickets, nearly doubling the prior record, held by Montreal’s Bell Centre). We knew it would be a great opportunity to expose our brand to new eyeballs and play a part, even a small one, in the sport’s history.

Where to start … first we had to get TapOut and Authentic Brands Group’s approval (ABG bought TapOut and thus has a major say in promotional partnerships). We needed permission to use their logos and also to display the bike inside TapOut’s booth at Toronto’s UFC Fan Expo. After getting the greenlight, Sean and I started discussing bike design and what this “street fighter” was going to look like. It wasn’t easy, as both of us, and many others, had different opinions. With a little compromising, we settled on a theme: a race replica supersport with a touch of bling!

The BodyWorks in Guelph, ON helped to “dress” the TapOut bike.

We ordered a brand new R1 and a box of performance parts. Yamaha P&A Specialist and sportbike enthusiast, Richard Irwin, secured us front and back BRAKING wave rotors, steel braided brake lines,  GYTR chain and sprockets, ASV levers, Harris Rear Sets, and a trick set of Italian Marchesini Wheels. Because this bike is a “show piece” we didn’t feel the need to alter anything internally (and hey, let’s be honest, does the R1 really NEED anymore jam?).

Once the bike arrived, Yamaha tech Matt Helmer stripped the bike down to its barebones and began installing the new parts. Meanwhile, Sean picked up the body panels, Marchesini Wheels and swingarm and delivered them to The Bodyworks in Guelph, ON for painting. It’s a small, humble operation, but the BodyWorks trio is full of talent and hilarious to work with. Unfortunately, due to lack of communication—and an actual rendering of the proposed bike—we had Bodyworks paint the swingarm twice. I’ll admit it, I’m a rookie…

We used TapOut’s NASCAR design as inspiration for …

… the TapOut Edition YZF-R1

To avoid this from happening again, we put the project on hold until we had a concept in our hands. After some debate, Yamaha’s graphic designer Nick Sang and I tossed around ideas and came up with a visual. Considering TapOut’s dark and gritty look, we used a lot of black, with red and white as our secondary colours. Sean made a good call on adding a big, white stripe down the centre of the fairing, tank cover, gas tank, and rear fender. It definitely improved the look and really grabbed your eye, even from a distance.

With only three weeks before the Fan Expo, I was getting nervous. Our big debut was almost here and there was still a lot of work to be done, not to mention marketing and promotional materials had to be created to support the initiative.

A custom engine protector, designed and machined by Sean Mance. Watch the TapOut Bike Build Process.

The team kept it pinned and Matt and I traveled down to Mance family’s machine shop in Guelph for two very late nights of work. As Sean programmed and machined custom engine and chassis components (which were then sent to RealChrome for chrome plating) and Bodyworks completed paintwork, Matt made sure everything was tight on the R1. (Matt’s a major R1/road racing fanatic, so he took great pride in this project, making sure this bike was ready to hit the track, if need be.)

Mechanic Matt was a huge help, and I’m so thankful he stayed in the fight, no matter how much we stretched his patience.

Tuesday April 26th … our last day of work before the Fan Expo … or so we think. Matt and I met with Sean in Guelph, hoping to finish the deal. Our goal was to finish up around 8pm, conduct a photo shoot and then head back to Toronto with the finished piece (move-in for the Expo took place Thursday April 28 from 12-5pm. Show opened at 9am the next day).

Like everything I touch, things didn’t go quite as planned and we didn’t finish the bike until midnight. Not a huge deal to the three of us, as we all hold great passion for motorcycles and rather enjoy tinkering on them. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the photographer or Sean’s models … I don’t think they were too thrilled to be up past their bedtime.

Matt, Sean and I show off the fruits of our labour … I wonder who would in a fight?

All of the late nights were worth it though. Once we had everything bolted on and polished up, the three of us stood back and smiled. This bike was, as a fight fan would say, “Badass!” But what about TapOut? And what about the fans? Would they share the same opinion?

Keeping things consistent, we once again scrambed to move the bike into the Direct Energy Centre (DEC) on Thursday afternoon. We arrived at the DEC moments before the doors closed. The stress of it all floated away, fortunately, as we rolled the bike into the building and everyone who walked by complimented the machine or ran up and shot a pic with their cell phone…

The bike attracted a lot of attention at the UFC Fan Expo …

… especially when the ladies joined in!

The next morning, Yamaha’s motorcycle tech specialist, Nick DiCristofaro, and I showed up at TapOut’s booth, ready to mingle with fight fans. It was quite overwhelming, really. I knew UFC was big, but I couldn’t believe how many people jammed into the Expo. Over the two day event, more than 40k fans walked through the DEC! It helped that we were located right at the entrance, inside TapOut’s booth, and parked beside TapOut’s autograph line. Punkass and Skrape signed autographs and took photos with fans over the two day event, along with their fighters, including Jake Shields, who would be fighting Canada’s own George St- Pierre that evening.

The bike was a hit, especially when a beautiful young lady (or two or three) climbed aboard. We had posters printed up of the bike and TO’s Punkass and SkySkrape were kind enough to sign them and give away to fans. Both guys loved the bike, but what’s better, is the fact that both of them ride (as did their late, former leader, Charles Lewis, aka “Mask”).  Punkass rides street, while Skrape has a garage full of WRs, YZs, and TT-Rs, and this funky R1/Hayabusa hybrid.

TapOut founders SkySkrape (fro) and Punkass (shades) weren’t so happy that their sponsored fighter, Jake Shields,  lost to GSP in Toronto’s Main Event, but they liked the bike!

The goal of the project was to partner with a cool, hip brand, like TapOut, and get in front of new potential riders. The crowd was alive, young and showed great interest in our “Ultimate 2-Wheel Sreet Fighter.” Considering that, and the positive response from TapOut and their crew, I think it’s safe to say we met our objective.

If you wish to see this bike in person, tune into Yamaha ‘s Facebook page to see where it will be next. It will be on display at many dealers across the GTA, as well the Blocko 8 sportbike rally, corporate bike shows, and many other events during 2011.


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Posted @ 3:00 pm in Authors,Commuting,Special Events,Sport   
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April 8, 2010

Destiny or coincidence?

Needless to say, our customer relations team receives some “interesting” feedback from past, present and  future Yamaha owners. It could be someone looking for general tech support, or someone is upset because the rear tire on their 1973 DT3 is already worn out … it’s never a boring job, that’s for sure.

More recently, one of our agents helped provide some tech specs to a then-and-now Yamaha rider named Lynn. As it turns out, Lynn endured some eerie coincidence on her new bike. (Looking at her pics, she’s also attained some wisdom in regards to proper riding gear :))

Thanks for sending me the detailed tech specs for that DT200.  I am comparing it to what I currently have, the WR250R, which was the bike that replaced the DT200.  I never thought I’d be able to come close to replacing that beloved DT, and to be honest, when I bought the WR and was riding it home, I got goose bumps.  Not because I was on a flashy new bike (well, that was kinda part of it) but because of the day and time I took possession.  It’s REAL creepy.

I bought that old 1986 DT200 brand new in Penticton; I was 19 and had saved up from working a whole winter up at the ski hill in Kelowna.  I absolutely LOVED that little bike.  Roll forward to 11:30 AM, Oct 23, 1988.  I wrote off my poor bike after an old lady failed to yield and decided to cut in between me and the truck in front of me.  Bike was totaled.  All I have left of that memory is a picture of me on it when I was camping at Christina Lake in the Kootenays.

I had always wanted to get another bike like the one I had.  Life took me different places and I never got the chance to get another, even though I kept my eyes open for that year of bike.  Nothing.  I ended up with an old 1977 Honda XL 250 that was a heavy tank of a bike, and didn’t enjoy it near as much (I still have that old bike)…in fact it never even could be compared.  I had numerous street bikes, the last one being a 1995 Suzuki RF600R.  Stupid fast bike.  It was a scream to ride, but every time I’d go past a trail off the road I’d want to explore it.  NOT a good thing on a sportbike.

I then went onto the Yamaha site and saw the WR on there.  I had looked at the WR250 years before, but because it wasn’t street legal I never took a second look.  I read up on the R that others own, and the responses were incredible.  A new bike, basically a dirt bike you can ride on the road right out of the crate.  I immediately thought of my old DT, and HAD to take a ride on one.  I had to wait for a demo day in order for that to happen, but once I rode it, I was hooked.  I felt I had finally found a replacement, even if the damned thing was so high I couldn’t touch the ground.  That was in July, 2008.  A month later I sold the 600.

Roll forward to Oct 23, 2009.  I’ve got the paperwork in my hands, my gear on and anticipating my first ride on my brand new 09 WR250R.  The salesman had managed to get in the very first ’09 in BC, right after the dealer demo that was held in Whistler, just for me.  They hadn’t even been released to the public at that point, but he apparently knew someone and pulled a few strings.  So at 11:30, I am on my new bike and riding down the highway.  It was then that it hit me, and why I felt a cold shiver run the length of my spine.   When I got home, I found the paperwork from the accident on the old DT.  Check this out:

Oct 23, 1988  11:30 AM :  1986 Yamaha DT200S written off
Oct 23, 2008  11:30 AM : 2009 Yamaha WR25R ridden off the showroom floor.
Last 2 numbers on the VIN are 23.

20 years later to the exact date and time, I have replaced something I never thought I ever would.

Sorry if I’ve bored you with this, but what you’ve done really means a lot to me.  I’m going over the spec sheets for both bikes, and besides the difference of the DT being a 2-stroke, the two bikes are very similar in a lot of ways.

Again, I thank you for doing this for me.  I’ve sent along some pics, just for comparison.  One of me when I was on the old DT (well it was maybe 5 months old there), me on the new WR250R, and the WR after I went to work and modified it.

What do you think? Is this all coincidence? Or was Lynn meant to be back on a Yamaha dual sport?

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Posted @ 3:49 pm in Authors,Commuting,Ladies Only,Sport   
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March 24, 2010

Left or Right?

Hugh Hutner: I ride with a number of other riders on various brands of bikes, but one day, at the cafe, we notice that the five guys who ride the R1 are all left handed. The other day we had a woman rider on an R1 join the ride from one of our affiliated social groups, and she is left handed.

So we have ages ranging from 30 to 60, both genders, all different years of R1, ethnic backgrounds are german, malaysian, chinese, african, thai and russian jew (hey, this is Vancouver, eh) and occupations range from low tech to professional. So the question is: what is it about the R1 that makes it the choice of lefties?

Bryan Hudgin: Hello Hugh!! Since I’m the PR specialist, customer service sent me your email and what a great message it was! It actually got me thinking about the people who work here. You guessed it, I’m also left handed. Both VP’s and the President are as well. There seems to be a disproportionate number of staff that I talked to that are left handed.

I’m thinking we can put this to the test on our Facebook page and the 2000+ Yamaha fans we have on there. If you have Facebook, look for us at http://www.facebook.com/YamahaMotorCanada. We’ll ask the question later today and see what kind of response we get. Something like, “Do Left-handers prefer Yamaha?” and we’ll point to your informal data as the catalyst.

As a side note, I did come across this while looking for the breakdown of handedness amongst general populations. It seems like the intelligent choice is Yamaha?  Maybe it has something to do with right brained people preferring the colour blue? Maybe it’s because left handers are the only ones in their “right” minds?  [laughs]. Have a great day, Hugh.

Two Pakistani researchers explored the effect of handedness on the intelligence level of students. The sample included an equal number of left-handed and right-handed students drawn from various universities in Pakistan, altogether 150 subjects. Subjects were assessed for both handedness and intelligence.

The researchers found no significant difference in intelligence between subjects from various educational levels, but they did find that left-handed subjects were significantly more intelligent than right-handed subjects. Results were published in the January 2007 Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

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Posted @ 10:50 am in Commuting,Sport,Yamaha Insights   
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January 27, 2010

Who would you vote for?

Our “My Yamaha Photo Contest” is well underway, with submissions coming in from all over Canada, and in reference to nearly every one of our product lines … still missing some sweet pics of sporty sport boats though.

For those of you who don’t know, the Photo Contest is being run on our Facebook page. It’s easy to enter; all you need to do is become a fan of our page, upload some sweet pics and hit “submit now” on the Contest page …


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Posted @ 1:23 pm in Authors,Commuting,Cruisers,Dirt,Racing,Scooters,Sport   
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October 26, 2009

Is it the rider, or the bike?

Ben Spies and his YAMAHA Italia Team celebrate their first ever World Superbike Championship.

It’s a question that has troubled experts and bench racers alike since the beginning of motorcycle racing: is it the rider or the bike?

Anyone with some racing background and experience, obviously says it’s the rider who ultimately determines the results. Sure, equipment is important – you need reliability, performance and confidence – but a good bike can only take you so far. A team is a valuable asset as well, but at the end of the day, it’s the rider turning the throttle.


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Posted @ 11:45 am in Authors,Dirt,Racing,Sport   
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August 24, 2009

Dan, Dan the Biker Man

Resto and FJ 025 
By Danny Brault

[In the tune of “Bicycle Race” by Queen.] “Dan Pecora wants to ride his motorcycle … he wants to ride his bike…. ” And he wants to ride it a lot! So who is Dan Pecora? He’s your average Joe kinda guy who really, really likes to ride motorcycles, and after reading an email of his where he marveled at some new Yamaha models, I decided to call him up for a few words on the blog….


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Posted @ 3:41 pm in Authors,Commuting,Sport,Travel Stories   
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June 10, 2009

Get Your Fil: I Need More!

A Column by Yamaha Motor Canada’s Bryan Fil

Well, after my successful first race weekend I was officially hooked. I was very happy with my performance. The only thing that frustrated me was the horsepower difference from my current bike to the newer bikes of the other front runners. When we hit the back straights, I was being left behind, and it took everything I had to push harder and carry more speed than the others into every corner to regain back that difference, only to lose it all over again down the back straight and have to repeat everything all over again. The decision was made to get a newer bike and upgrade–I needed more HP….


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Posted @ 3:42 pm in Commuting,Racing,Sport,Technology   
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June 8, 2009

Meet and Greet: Team Toyota Yamaha OTSFF Racers

Last week we featured a video tour of the Team Toyota Yamaha OTSFF pits and rig. Today, we’re introducing you to the racers, Kevin Lacombe, Tony Kasper, and Royce McLean. It’s a pretty unique combination we have between these guys.

Lacombe, who finished on the podium in both classes last year, is obviously our flagship rider and is the most capable of taking down the green goblin, Jordan Szoke. Flanking him is Minnesota’s Tony Kasper, an accomplished racer in AMA racing and snocross, and 14-year-old phenom, Royce McLean.

Learn a little more about these racers by watching the video below …

Thanks for watching!


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Posted @ 11:54 am in Racing,Special Events,Sport,Travel Stories   
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June 5, 2009

Cribs: Team Toyota Yamaha OTSFF (Video)

After distracting security guards with shiny things and cute puppies, Bryan Hudgin and I managed to sneak into the pits of Team Toyota Yamaha OTSFF at the opening round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championships in Calabogie, ON. Get a feel for what it’s like to be “factory” by watching the video below …

Along with our road racing team, we’ll also be following Team Toyota/Yamaha/Red Bull/Blackfoot/Fox Racing at some nationals (which kick off this weekend in Kamloops, BC), so stay tuned for some behind the scenes action from those guys as well. And if there is anything specifiic you’d like to see, hear or smell, let us know and we’ll plug it into the script.

Keep your stick on the ice!


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Posted @ 9:39 am in Racing,Special Events,Sport,Travel Stories   
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June 3, 2009

Photo Report: Calabogie Road Race

Well, it only took 25 years and 24 days, but I finally enjoyed my first, live road race. I know, I know … I should have sealed the deal much earlier, but with my past duties at RXC, my weekends were always tied up at the MX track.

Fortunately, with this swanky new job at Yamaha Motor Canada, I had the opportunity to attend Calabogie Motorsports Park on May 24 for the opening round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championships.

The trip started out in Marmora on Sunday morning, where I was picked up by Yamaha’s PR Specialist, Bryan Hudgin, in James Stewart’s truck of choice, a Toyota Tundra. During our two and half hour journey from Marmora to Calabogie, Bryan and I exchanged stories about college, road trips (we both shared some very eventful ones from our respective stays on the CMRC National MX tour, but we’ll save those for another column), and what it all means. Deep stuff, for sure [laughs].

We arrived to the track shortly after ten o’clock and received a rather unwelcoming welcome from the front gate people. It seems that our VIP badges, Yamaha wear, and heavily labeled truck weren’t enough to warrant us access to the pits. Instead, we were asked to drive down into the gravel pits and park with the public. Nice!

Other than their staff not recognizing ‘big wigs’ 😉 when they see them, Calabogie is a welcomed addition to the series. This was only Calabogie’s second year as part of the national circuit, but will probably remain on the schedule for many years. They have an impressive facility that features a 5 km track, 5-star chalet overlooking the front straight, and pristine landscape. In my very limited knowledge of RR, I thought that the track didn’t cater to the spectators very well (I know,  it’s not MX …) but I’m sure the racers love the long and fast layout, and the many unique sections and corners.

Rather than explaining every detail of my experience, let’s take a look through some pics instead. As always, feel free to offer some feedback. Maybe share with us your first road racing experience??


Quigley Down Under?
No, unfortunately, Tom Selleck didn’t make an appearance in Calabogie, but some really fast dudes did on street bikes. This section was pretty cool to watch from; it was the final corner before the finish and we saw some pretty exciting passes coming out of it. It’s kinda neat driving into the track, too. You’re driving down these back roads, in between gravel pits, feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere, and then, all of sudden, you climb over this huge hill and see a brand new racetrack. Just neat is all….

New kid in the class
For 2009, we’ve partnered with Andre Laurin and his OTSFF Motorsports Group (who we also work with in snocross racing) to attack the Superbike Championships. While some pundits are skeptical regarding our new alliance/team and experience, our potential was easily visible in Calabogie. We found the podium in both classes with our veteran leader, Kevin Lacombe, and newbies, Tony Kasper, and Royce McLean, showed signs of brilliance in their first Canadian road racing debuts. And once we have more time on the all-new YZF-R1, and the riders adapt better to its new power delivery, look out!


The Calabogie crowd
Since this was my first road race, I really can’t really say what a good crowd is, but here’s how I normally define a good crowd at a MX race. Let’s see if Calabogie makes the grade:

1. Fans interacting with racers – check.
2. Lots of attractive girls – check.
3. Lots of attractive girls who don’t pay any attention to me – check.
4. Fans surrounding the track – check.
5. Fans eating cheeseburgers and consuming beers without shirts on – check. (And nope, for once, I actually did have a shirt on.)

Boy Wonder
I’ve seen a lot of young, accomplished Canadian MX riders graduate into the pro ranks far too early (I still think our system needs to be reworked) that end up falling apart because they can’t deal with the pressures of pro racing. No matter how well you do in amateur stuff, it doesn’t mean anything when you line up against the men.

However, Alberta’s Royce McLean is a little different than most of the young guns that I’ve come into contact with. The 14-year-old is a naturally gifted rider,  who also knows how to overcome the pressures and distractions as well. McLean was never shook all weekend. He ran competitive lap times and never lost composure anywhere – on or off – the track all weekend.

While he was shooting for a top-5 finish in the 600 class, McLean settled for a 7th behind veteran Steve Crevier, and fellow Yamaha supported rider, Andrew Nelson. He even signed up for the Superbike class for extra track time to work on his bike setup, and managed to finish just outside the top-10 in 11th. Not bad.

Keep an eye on this kid as he gets more track time and experience against the pros….

Kasper “The Ghost” and “Smiley” Nick
Two more new faces at the Canadian races and under the Yamaha tent are Minnesota’s Tony Kasper (left) and Nick Cristofaro (right). Kasper has had some good results in AMA Pro Racing, and is also a top snocross racer, while Nick, who hails from Brampton, is a former MX technician for the OTSFF team and also enjoys working out and playing soccer.

Kasper’s weekend didn’t go as planned after sliding out on his R6 in the 600 final while running fifth. His goal was to finish on the podium, as he knew that would surely make Nick smile for the first time in 2009. Just hassling you, Nick.


I’ll let you create the caption for this one….052409_calabogie
Good luck to Team Toyota Yamaha/OTSFF, and to everyone who will be trying to be beat them, at Round 2 in Montreal on June 11-14!


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Posted @ 10:35 am in Racing,Special Events,Sport   
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