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vintage bike of the day | yamaha ya-1

This was Yamaha’s first motorcycle; the YA-1. The first, built in August of 1954, was a 125cc two-stroke single with a four-speed that quickly became renowned as being a fast and agile bike.

ya-1, the first yamaha motorcycle

The YA-1 had a simple form, copied from the popular German workhorse, the DKW-125. Other manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson and BSA had copied the bike practically part-for-part by 1948. The differences in the Yamaha were it’s suspension designs of both the saddle and the frame, the light weight parts manufactured from their understanding of piano and organ metals, and the desire to live up to their President’s creed; “If you are going to make it, make it the very best there is.” With that in mind, the company ran their first motorbike in a rigorous 10,000 kilometer/6200 mile endurance test to insure the ruggedness of the series.

1956 dkw rt125

In those days most motorbikes were painted black and the chestnut red coloring of the YA-1 became known by the nickname “Aka-tombo” (the Red Dragonfly). The little beast demonstrated its performance abilities by winning the Mt. Fuji Ascent Race in July, 1955. It then swept the top trophies in the ultra-light class of the 1st Asama Highlands Race of the All Japan Endurance Championships.

1955 ya-1 | yamaha

The thing has none of the extraneous bullplop found on modern bikes. All one would need to do to chop it is take off the front fender, chain guard, rack, cut the rear fender, and put on a straight pipe.

that's right | *************!

Did I just hear the thud of a purist passing out?

As previously mentioned, Yamaha’s first international success was based off their license of the original DKW125. There are no more DKW’s being manufactured. There are no BSA’s. Harley only makes big v-twins. The success of the YA-1, and Yamaha in general, is a testament to taking something good and making it better.


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