The Brand Drops Two Iconic Models From Their Coming Year Lineup
I read the Yamaha press release over the Thanksgiving weekend here in the States, after digesting prodigious amounts of turkey and dressing with relatives. Amidst the looming food coma, I discerned that most of the announcement pertained to new color schemes, upgrades, and accessory packages for their 2021 lineup of models. But buried deep in the memo were several sentences regarding the cessation of four models, two of which have become legendary in the Yamaha universe- the R6 sport bike, and the VMAX power cruiser. Also missing next year will be the WR250R dual sport and the SMAX scooter. The announcement about the R6 and the VMAX particularly saddened me, and while I was surprised by one, I suppose I could see the other coming.
Two iconic motorcycles, both going the way of the dodo.
Here’s the quote regarding the cessation of the models- “With deep consideration of evolving global market trends and regulations that limit production volumes on certain models, the following Yamaha models will be discontinued after model year 2020: YZF-R6, VMAX, WR250R, and SMAX.
“Yamaha understands the iconic history of these models. Regarding the future, Yamaha is continuously looking at new ideas and concepts to support and expand the market, as well as enhance our customers’ experiences.
“Consumers can contact their local Yamaha dealer on the remaining model year 2020 availability of these discontinued models.”
Rob’s 2004 “mongrel,” and the 2020 R6.
I found the news shocking and disappointing regarding the R6. I owned a beater of a 2004 R6 back a few years ago, one that previous owners had stripped for track racing, beat the crap out of, then retrofitted for street use again. I got it for next to nothing, non-running, and with the rear seat ripped off and a Power Commander having been snipped out of it. Long story short, I got it all back together and running again, and found the “mongrel” as I called it, a hilariously fun small sport bike for a guy my size. Wish I’d never sold it to the young buck who “just had to have it.” The R6 has always been a good seller here Stateside for Yamaha, since first introduced back in late 1999- early 2000. Yet many say the “heyday” of sport bikes in general was the early to mid 2000s, and that the middleweight 600 class in particular is eventually doomed. That remains to be seen, of course. I am disappointed that Yamaha will drop the R6 for 2021.
The “Kiwi” with her cross-continental beast, and the 2020 VMAX.
The VMAX is a bike I have limited experience with, and actually was not really shocked to learn of its demise. I’ve only ridden one once, that a friend owned. I still own an old 1998 Royal Star which sports a detuned 1st-gen VMax V-4 motor, and its been rock solid for years and miles. Back in Fall of 2018, I met a Kiwi named Helen who was criss-crossing the U.S. on a 2nd-gen VMAX she had shipped from her home in New Zealand. She was a die-hard fan of the model, having owned several over the years. First introduced back in 1985, the VMAX was the epitome of the “power cruiser”, and dominated the new category it created for its 35-year run. The VMAX led Harley to build the V-Rod, Ducati to debut the Diavel, and Suzuki their Boulevard M109R, among others. But nothing could touch the venerable VMAX, especially after it got a thorough overhaul in 2009. Alas, the VMAX also takes her curtain call this model year, and will be no more in the Yamaha lineup.
Sad to see these two leave the game.
It appears both the VMAX and the R6, and possibly the WR250R and SMAX, were killed not only due to flagging sales in various markets, but specifically the new Euro 5 emissions regulations. Heck, the VMAX didn’t meet the Euro 4 standards, much less come even close to the E 5 bar. Their discontinuation in Europe means Yamaha can’t justify them just for the North American market anymore. They both go out with a quiet sigh, a mere vague announcement with barely an explanation, near the bottom of a company press release. Sad ending.
And so we bid farewell to two iconic motorcycles, each in their own right- the R6, regarded by many as one of the finest sport bikes ever built, and the VMAX, their legendary V-4 street beast. I for one am grieved to see them go.
But like the revival of the Suzuki Hayabusa, maybe some day,…
*photos by author and Yamaha Motorsports