Hey kids. Who wants power steering on their dirt bike? You? Good news, then—Yamaha is working on exactly that!
According to a press release from Yamaha Australia (uh, that’s unusual), Yamaha is testing what it calls “a unique new steering support system” for motocross bikes. How does it work? According to Yamaha, “The prototype steering support system uses a torque sensor, magnet technology and an actuator that result in steering damper benefits at high speed and steering assist input at low speed.”
Sounds like a very good all-around solution then, especially as it doesn’t sound like it adds much weight. Yamaha says the magnetorestrictive system feels completely natural while riding, just like a conventional steering damper, and reduces fatigue at high speed and in rough conditions.
And get this: this steering assist system actually comes from Yamaha’s e-bike line. It’s rare to see technology flow upstream from e-bikes to the world of gasoline-powered motorcycles, but that’s what’s going on here. Yamaha says “This is the first step by Yamaha into a new area of electronic assistance designed to improve motorcycle stability and agility. The system has been developed under the Transforming Mobility focus area of the company’s long-term vision of ART for Human Possibilities.”
Yamaha’s actually got Australian MX racer Jay Wilson testing this tech for the All Japan Yamaha Factory Race Team, with the power steering fitted to YZ450FM and YZ250F motocrossers. The engineers figure that race conditions are the best way to conduct real-world testing; Yamaha’s engineers can take notes and figure out how to improve the system, potentially introducing it on a bike available to customers.
Or maybe not. Yamaha’s not afraid to take the wraps off really cool technology, test it, and then walk away from the idea of commercial availability. Remember the 2-Trac systems of about 15 years ago, which Ohlins developed and Yamaha examined? That two-wheel-drive system ultimately never went anywhere, at least not with Yamaha. More recently, we’ve seen plenty of electric motorcycle tech teased at the Yamaha booth throughout the mid-winters Tokyo show, but very little has come to market. The press release does say that “Yamaha aims to equip a cross section of its motorcycles with innovative EPS systems to provide riders with greater levels of fun, safety, and comfort,” which does sound like the company is pretty serious about this idea, at least.