Torakusu Yamaha founded Nippon Gakki in 1897. The firm went on to become one of the world's biggest makers of musical instruments. It branched into motorbikes in 1955. The Yamaha logo - a tuning fork - has appeared on the tanks of many millions of bikes since. Sweet music to salesmen's ears! One such model was the Yamaha YR5.
Japanese motorcycle manufacturers would introduce a degree of engineering precision hitherto unseen. Indeed, Torakusu Yamaha had himself trained as a clock-maker - prior to starting up Nippon Gakki. The first Yamaha bikes were built with machinery which had previously been used to forge aircraft propellers. That is the kind of product you want to get right!
There is no better early exemplar of Japanese bike engineering than the Yamaha YR5. It reached a top speed of 95mph - from a mere 350cc. A reed-valve 2-stroke engine set-up was key. Plus, the YR5 weighed just 330lb, wet. Forward thrust, then, was fierce - right up to 7,000rpm. There was traditionally a trade-off between 'stroker' speed and reliability. Yamaha bikes, though, soon gained a reputation for staying intact. Certainly, the YR5's handling and braking were as sorted as its acceleration. Styling-wise, the bike was pleasingly neat and tidy. When a competitive price-tag was placed on all that, sound sales figures for the Yamaha YR5 were pretty much assured.