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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Friday bike

Sometimes a bike is launched to much fanfare, but never really catches the public's imagination. This usually results in poor sales, a short production run, and it quickly disappearing from people's memories. One bike that fits into this group is the Yamaha TR1.

Launched in 1981, the TR1 was a 1000cc V twin styled to look similar to other bikes in Yamaha's range (XJ650, RD 350, etc). It was Yamaha's first four stroke bike with single shock rear suspension, and was touted as a 'sports tourer'. I particularly remember it as I had an SR 500 at the time, and the TR1 was (in concept if not mechnically) 'two SR 500s'. Its 'unique selling point' was an MZ 2 stroke like fully enclosed rear chain, aimed at increasing chain life.

In many ways it was almost a 'Vincent of the 80s' - large V twin engine, triangulated rear suspension, minimalist frame, but unlike a Vincent it was also quite cheap. You would think that this would have been an attractive package to buyers, but it sold in very small numbers. I think I only saw 1 or 2 at the time (probably at shows), and didn't see another one until about 2 years ago. I remember at the time there was the story in the press that unsold TR1s from the UK ended up being sold cheaply to the Greek Police, but I'm not sure it that's true.
Interestingly, it had a slight restyle very early in the production run. In the top picture the bike has a rather truncated rear end and a 'hugger' style mudguard, but later ones (all the one I've seen), had a more conventional setup.

The engine eventually ended up in the Virago custom models (possibly the ugliest bikes Yamaha ever built), and the TR1 disappeared into history.
Talking of a 'Vincent of the 80s', looks like someone had that idea!

More reading here, and there's an owners' website.


  1. Norman

    That's spooky as I've been looking at the TR1 a lot recently as it's a bike I've always fancied as it ticks quite a few items on my wish list for a bike.

    1. There's 2 on Ebay at the moment - one good and one not so good!

  2. Was just reading an article in 'The Classic Motorcycle' magazine...about Billy Joel's Vincent inspired Yamaha build. That is an engine that has always intrigued me.Once in awhile I'll see one over here.

  3. When they were launched Yamaha had test bikes doing the rounds, and I took one for a test, first chance to open it up and the rear head gasket blew, this turned out to be a problem with the first bikes.

    Must be sorted now though.