Date Line: 2015
On our recent trip to the Japanese World Trials Championship round in Japan we were very excited at the sight and sound of the four-stroke Yamaha TYR250F in the hands of Japanese rider Kenichi Kuroyama. Travelling with me was Andy Blackman and his initial reaction was, for me, a strange statement – ‘Trials Porn’. My thoughts were that we need to test this for the magazine! I politely asked who was in charge of the team and who I would need to speak to ask if we could test it; and in a strange twist of coincidence found myself speaking to the same person who, many years before, I had been introduced to at the John Shirt trials empire at the old Stable Lane premises near Buxton: a Japanese guy named Haruo Kimura who was working on the Yamaha mono-shock project with John Shirt Snr – bingo!
Words: John Hulme with Andy Blackman and Billy Bolt
Pictures: John Hulme
Kimura explained that we could not test the machine of Kuroyama but he was more than happy to let both Andy and Billy Bolt, who was riding a Scorpa in Japan at the WTC, have a ride on the machine of one of the Japanese national championship riders Matsumoto Ryuji.
A Quick Story
The Yamaha four-stroke trials machine started life in 2006 as a Scorpa SY250F with the Yamaha motor fitted, and was launched at the French World round in a blaze of glory. The interest in four-stroke trials machines was coming from both Beta, Montesa and Sherco, who all had a production machine, and Gas Gas who had played with the side-valve model which never made production. The Scorpa was produced from 2007 but was not very popular, as the truth was that the engine was from a motocross machine modified for trials and it did not work – fact! The idea was that it would replace the two-stroke model in the Scorpa range which also used a Yamaha engine from the water-cooled TYZ, but the transition for the buying public never came about and by 2009 the four-stroke model was finished. In Japan they evolved the machine, which is still the base point for the model we see here today albeit heavily modified for 2015.
The machine we were kindly allowed to let our test riders have a ride on was, in reality, covered in secrecy. When I started to ask questions about the specifications of the machine we struggled a little with the language barrier, and when I pushed on the question of its weight I kept being told that it was very light – “Yes but how light” “very light” was the answer with a polite smile, which I respected. What was obvious was the fact that someone had gone to as much trouble as possible to shave off any unwanted weight, and many of the parts were evidence of this exercise having been carried out by someone very talented. The motor is still quite tall, standing very proud in the steel frame, and carries a five-speed gearbox. The exhaust system and silencer dominates the rear of the machine, and when they went to make some adjustments we were once again very polity asked to step outside for a few minutes. The next noise we heard was the sound of some pure ‘Trials Porn’ and, more to the point, led to the opportunity to ride it!
“Yes, I was very excited to say the least. We had watched Kuroyama practise on his machine and the exhaust note from his machine genuinely gives me an adrenalin rush like never before. I was passed the test machine and threw my leg over it, and a quick prod on the kick-start lever had the machine fired up and into life. The gear selection and clutch action is excellent but the thing that hits you the most is the strong power. I was soon doing as I was told by John, who had me putting the machine through its paces over some man-made obstacles. Both the front and rear suspension is 100% not production; the action at the front and rear is so smooth and consistent. What is amazing for a four-stroke motor is how high it will rev while at the same time remaining very smooth. In action the weight factor was not there; it looks quite a large unit but once on board this is soon put to the back of your mind. Would I buy one? 100% yes every time.”
“This is the machine I need for myself, and not just for the strong performance from the motor but for the exhaust note – boy does it give you that feel good factor! I agree with Andy, that the suspension and the smooth progressive action is the highlight of the machine. I felt at home on it straight away and very comfortable with the handling. Yes it does appear quite a tall engine, but such is the performance that you soon lose sight of this. I am used to riding an Ossa and in Japan I rode a two-stroke Scorpa, but I believe with some practise I could achieve equally good results on this four-stroke Yamaha. The only downside to the test was that it was on man-made hazards but I would have loved to have tried it on some steep banks, and I would imagine on the big hills found in the South of England it would be in its element.”
The Million Dollar Question
I felt very relaxed talking to Kimura, as he comes across as a very warm and genuine guy, and he was happy to talk about Yamaha and the trials project. He explained that the Yamaha trials team in Japan is always testing new parts and ideas on both two- and four-stroke engines. They are now working with a two-stroke Yamaha trials machine using a very popular and current engine from a European manufacturer, in a very similar arrangement to the one they had with the French brand Scorpa when they supplied the TYZ motors. With his enthusiasm for the projects evident I decided it was time to ask the million dollar question: “When will Yamaha have a new model and return to trials production?” He looked at me with that mysterious look of someone when you think you are going to be told something you want to hear and his answer was: “The Yamaha trials project is alive and well in Japan”. With that answer I shook hands and bowed to him to show my respect, and I walked away thinking to myself that maybe, just maybe, we will soon see a new Yamaha trials machine – who knows?