Yamaha Thailand showed an interesting concept bike in Bangkok earlier this week. It's a scooter, but it has been ruggedized, given higher quality and longer travel suspension, extra luggage facility with provision for much more, and a vastly strengthened frame. Thailand's floods led to calls for a scooter with greater off-road capability, and Yamaha has delivered something that just might catch on.
Most of the world's scooter sales are in countries where unmade roads make up a significant proportion of the road network and road conditions are the speed limit.
The base scooter used in the TTX Adventure is the new Yamaha TTX 115i, a scooter with an automatic, fuel injected 115 cc motor with a sporting bent and a host of small changes that make it particularly suitable for customization.
Thailand sells around two million motorcycles per year, so finding a substantial niche in Thailand probably means finding similar niches in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines - all similarly large motorcycle markets.
In Yamaha's press documentation for the new TTX, it reports, "Among young male Thai customers in their 20s, a new type of motorcycle culture has taken root where they enjoy customizing their motorcycles to suit their personalities or use them as tools for self-expression."
Hence Yamaha intends to be the first to offer ready-made customisation options, and the appearance of the TTX-based Adventure is likely to be the first of factory-made examples of what you can do with the blank canvas.
Last year, large tracts of Thailand were underwater for months, including many foreign factories located there. As luck would have it, Thailand's thriving capital city, Bangkok, is in the center of a flood plain. The resultant flooding problems put a large number of international manufacturing facilities offline, and the damage to local business must have been horrendous.
The Thais are a resilient lot, though, and the vitality of the Thai Motor Show bears testimony to that. Moreso, the Yamaha TTX concept indicates just how acutely aware motorcycle manufacturers are becoming to the local needs.
The amount of time during the floods that scooters had to spend on Thai roads which were both unmade and partially submerged, led to calls for scooters with greater off-road capabilities from the Yamaha dealer network, and Yamaha Thailand decided to test the market with the TTX Adventure based on the new TTX.
From discussing the model with Yamaha Public Relations staff on the stand, I gathered the distinct impression that the presence of the TTX Adventure is much more a testing of the need for a "dual-road scooter" than an Adventure scooter.
What a production version might look like is questionable. I seriously doubt that there's a large enough market for Adventure scooters, and while I'm a proponent of the "lighter weight and lower power" mindset, I cannot imagine a sound reason for choosing a scooter if I were going on an adventure. Personally, and I think I speak for 100 percent of motorcycle enthusiasts here, I'd be choosing something a little larger if I was heading off on a long road and wished to be kitted appropriately for all conditions.
I actually did some long distance riding on a 100 cc motorcycle once, and I can tell you that the road seems a lot longer when you're in the middle of nowhere and progressing at what seems like a pedestrian top speed.
With a bit of weight on board, I'd suggest the top speed of the TTX Adventure would be lower than the open road speed limit in many countries.
There's a reason why the capacity of adventure bikes is usually north of 1000 cc, and that's because you need to carry everything you need. Starting out on a scooter might jeopardize the whole adventure. It might do the job, but you'd be much more comfortable with a 250 cc motor or more.
Yamaha caters for this market already with two much larger machines in the XT1200Z Super Tenere Worldcrosser and I think the TTX Adventure is really a preview of a dual-purpose scooter with (maybe) ruggedized features.
Having traveled extensively through Asia, I have seen some of the most remarkable home engineering efforts that began life as scooters, that I think Yamaha's new fuel-injected TTX is being pitched as a base machine for the hundreds of thousands of customization projects and custom-built commercial two and three wheelers.
One of the barriers to customization in general, and for off-road application in particular, is the removal of the headlight nacelle from the handlebars, which makes a TTX a great starting base. Having the Adventure as such a base, with its better suspension, external protection and economical engine, but without the luggage, would be ideal for so many projects.
The TTX uses Yamaha's YMJET-FI (Yamaha Mixture Jet-Fuel Injection), which has an auxiliary air intake passage besides the main passage that Yamaha claims offers "more efficient mixing of the air and fuel that helps improve fuel economy in the practical use range." Honda introduced fuel injection to this class in Thailand four years ago and has been doing very well with its PGM-FI (Programmed Fuel Injection) scooters.
No details were available on the machine, but apart from the braced frame, the TTX Adventure clearly has significantly upgraded, longer travel suspension and a set of trials universal tires designed to give reliable traction on muddy, potholed roads.
Like all successful organisms, the scooter is adapting and may soon be able to go where less adapted members of the species fear to tread. There are a lot more detail images in the image library.
The TTX will begin deliveries in Thailand in April.