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Yamaha Motor traces its roots back to 1897 when Torakusu Yamaha launched Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. as a piano and organ production company. This musical foundation is where the brand gets its Tuning Fork logo, a recognizable version of which was trademarked in 1916. It would be another few decades before Yamaha ventured into the growing powersports market, 1955 to be exact, when it introduced the brand’s first-ever motorized product, the YA-1. This 125cc two-stroke was nicknamed “The Red Dragonfly” and became a hit in Japan after winning the first race it was ever entered to contest, the Mount Fuji Ascent Race in 1955.
Its motorcycle division expanded in subsequent years and in 1958 the YD1 and MF-1 became the first models imported and sold in the US by an independent distributor, Cooper Motors. By 1960, Yamaha International Corporation began to sell motorcycles directly in the States. In 1961, Yamaha made its debut appearance in World GP racing in France, and by 1964 Phil Read earned Yamaha its first-ever World Championship crown in the 250cc class. The XS-1, a 650cc twin, marked Yamaha’s first entry into the four-stroke world in 1970 and in 1972 the brand took top honors at the Daytona 200. Yamaha was a force in racing series worldwide, with legendary riders like Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Hideo Kanaya, and Johnny Cecotto earning race wins and titles in various series and classes throughout the ’70s. The 1973 RD350 was another notable motorcycle during that era.
Milestones in the ’80s include the debut of the air-cooled V-twin Virago 750, the FZ750, as well as the V-Max 1200. During the ’90s Yamaha created its first-ever electric bike and then rounded out the decade with the debut of its now iconic YZF-R1 superbike. The brand remained a force in world racing, with riders like Valentino Rossi earning multiple GP titles aboard Yamaha racebikes, and it continued to expand its catalog of machines. Today it has a diverse range of machines, from a full selection of off-road and dual sport bikes, to various options in the sportbike, streetbike, adventure, cruiser, and scooter segments.