Number Five: Yamaha TZ750 - The FIVE GREATEST

Choosing the five most influential motorcycles of all-time is no easy task. Which is why we picked six.

1975 Yamaha TZ750 (Photo by John Owens)
1975 Yamaha TZ750 (Photo by John Owens)

Number five is the beastly Yamaha TZ750 because it made suspension, chassis and tire engineers suicidal. Their imaginations were awakened by the jangling alarm of desperation. The first try of 1974, TZ750A, was just as bad as the ghastly 1972 Kawasaki and Suzuki 750 racing Triples, which were the first wave of this revolution. Wobbling, weaving and shredding their tires, all three of these 750s were proof that skinny, hard-rubber tires, door-closer shocks with three inches of travel and broom-handle frames were finished. The challenge was to make the 100-hp motorcycle controllable. I saw men desperate, sure that their racing careers were over, as they sat white-faced and shaking in their trackside lawnchairs. It was no better at the factories as the telexes piled up, telling how their new monsterbikes were being defeated by 350cc Twins.

Suddenly, change—hated and feared—became acceptable. Long suspension travel. Triangulated chassis bays. Wide, round-profile slick tires. Suspension that was actually track-tested and continuously improved. A revolution. Yamaha’s factory 0W-31 of 1976 looked better, and a year later, the white-faced riders were given their careers back when the production TZ750D had the same features—Monoshock suspension, wide tires, the works.