Back on issue 318, I mentioned in the“Fast Forward to the Past” editorial that “I think Yamaha is using the SR400 to test depth and potential of the retro/café/classic bike market that has been steadily growing for the past 5 years.” Prophetic words, as it turns out.
Since 2004, Yamaha launched a few models under its (new) Sport Heritage line, including the XSR900 and the SCR950, both featuring modern water-cooled fuel injected engines (in-line triple and Vtwin respectively) and conspicuously chasing the XS1 look.
On May 11th, Motorcycle.com “poked the tiger with a short stick” by asking Shun Miyazawa, Motorcycle Project Coordinator at Yamaha about a 650 twin revival. I’ll let you read the interview on your own but, in a typical tight-lipped corporate fashion, Miyazawa-san did not confirm or deny that an updated, water-cooled and fuel-injected XS650 (or 750+) was in the works. Motorcycle.com went even further and drew a concept on how the bike would look like.
Well, that made me raise an eyebrow. A friend of mine, who is one of the most prominent bike builders in the US today, has been working on a “special project”, commissioned by Yamaha, to modernize an XS1/XS2 so they can put the bike on the show circuit and collect customer feedback.
According to the builder, Yamaha is particularly interested in the “feelings and first impressions” that the old twin brings up on people. In other words, they want to understand why we love that mechanical icon so much.
As I predicted, Yamaha is following Triumph very closely, trying to understand why their “neo-classic” (Bonneville, Thruxton, etc.) models outsell the modern ones. It’s clear that “heritage” sells. The question is how.
One thing is unquestionable: the XS650 is the only model that Yamaha can compete with Triumph (or anyone else for that matter) in the hearts and minds of us baby boomers. Now you know why Polaris paid good dollar for the Indian name. Nice to know that the Millennials haven’t killed us yet.
Check out the story and the color concept drawings on Motorcycle.com
John Chaves – firstname.lastname@example.org