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Profile - Yamaha YD1 & YDS-1

by Guy 'Guido' Allen; pics by Yamaha (June 2020)

The bike that launched Yamaha into the big time

Yamaha's early efforts with two-stroke motorcycles followed the well-trodden path (for the 1950s) of picking up what German experts  Adler and DKW had been doing and emulating it.

Yamaha yd1

The big break-away moment happened when a young team of engineers developed a twin that was more original work (though you could see strong Adler influences) and from that produced the YD1 road bike (above) - a 250cc unit running a single carburettor and claiming around 18 horses. That may not sound like a great deal, but it was enough to give the machine respectable performance and formed the basis of some successful road racers for domestic competition.

Early versions suffered reliability issues, but Yamaha is said to have got across them quickly and see the model go to modest sales success.

Yamaha YDS-1

Move on to 1959 and the company, embolded by its racetrack success with competition versions of the YD1, has branched out with a more sophisticated twin--carburetor version, released July 1959. Originally known as the YDS, and then YDS-1 (top and above) after the first 3000 units, it was a huge success.

Claiming more like 20 horses at 7500rpm, it was also good for a 140km/h top speed.

yamaha yds1 racer asama spec

Yamaha quickly made club racing versions of the machine - known as Asama Spec (above) - after a famous local road event the company had been dominating. The kit included clubman seat and long-range tank, plus a screen, along with some engine modifications. It claimed more like 25 horses at 8000rpm - a substantial jump.

By 1960, Yamaha had established a commercial beach-head in the all-important USA market and was soon offering three variants (below): a four-speed De Luxe in black or red with electric start, the five-speed Grand Prix Sports Twin in metallic gold and white, or the five-speed Grand Prix Scrambler Twin in the same paint scheme. The Scrambler also claimed the powered-up 25hp version of the engine, helping to explain why it was priced the same as the Sports.

And the price? Back then, up to $660!

yamaha yds1 ad

See our Yamaha YR-1 profile here.




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