Look, this bike has no forks]: The Yamaha GTS1000 represents a revolution in motorcycle design. Roland Brown wonders whether others will follow

REVOLUTION in motorcycle chassis design has been a long time coming, but it is here at last in the distinctive shape of the Yamaha GTS1000. For years, the road-going motorcycle has used telescopic forks to provide suspension and steering for the front wheel. Although modern telescopic systems work well, the design is criticised by many engineers because it introduces unwanted forces into the chassis during braking and cornering.

Two years ago Bimota, a small specialist Italian manufacturer, launched an exotic sports bike called the Tesi 1D, which broke away from the traditional layout by using a swinging arm, instead of forks, to hold its front wheel. Now Yamaha has picked up the baton, becoming the first to put alternative front suspension into mass production - on a machine that the Japanese firm hopes will match the success of its long-running sports-tourer, the FJ1200.

Yamaha's design replaces the traditional fork legs with a single-sided aluminium swinging arm, which runs from the frame - a compact, C-shaped structure - to a pivot inside the front wheel hub. A single diagonal suspension unit smooths out the bumps. A second aluminium strut runs vertically from the front wheel hub to a junction box above the wheel, from where it is connected to the handlebars to provide steering.

The rest of the bike, including the rear suspension system, with its single shock absorber, is relatively conventional. Yamaha has, however, fitted the GTS with other hi-tech features, such as fuel-injection, a catalytic converter, ABS brakes and an advanced, effective thief-resistant ignition switch.

Its engine is the water-cooled, four-cylinder unit from the FZR1000 sportster, detuned from 125 to 100bhp. The FZR's motor is outstanding for its midrange power as well as for its output at high revs. Simply opening the throttle produces a strong, smooth surge of acceleration almost regardless of engine speed.

The Yamaha is a very fast, refined motorcycle. In top gear it pulls eagerly from 40mph all the way to its top speed of around 140mph. If its five-speed gearbox is used to the full, the GTS is as quick as almost any bike on the roads. It is the Yamaha's forkless chassis that generates most interest, however. At slow speed the front suspension is unusually compliant, soaking up small bumps with eerie efficiency. One drawback is that the bulky front swinging arm restricts the front wheel's side-to-side movement. This combines with the Yamaha's weight of 550lb to make the bike feel unwieldy in traffic.

Unlike conventional front suspension layouts, the forkless system is virtually unaffected by cornering and braking forces. That helps make the GTS supremely stable - particularly under heavy braking.

The forkless system allows only single brake disc instead of the normal pair; the GTS gets round the problem with a centrally placed disc and large six-piston caliper, which incorporates a sophisticated anti-lock system. Helped by wide Dunlop tyres, the big bike pulls up swiftly and safely.

Unfortunately, not all of the GTS is as well thought-out. Its riding position is roomy and comfortable, but the fairing is less efficient than some. And with fuel consumption running at between 30 and 40mpg, the GTS's range of between 120 and 160 miles is inadequate for a big sports-tourer.

So is Yamaha's GTS1000 the face of the future for motorcycle design? The forkless system certainly has worthwhile advantages, along with some drawbacks that may be minimised given further development. Yamaha's bold push towards the future is to be applauded, but the GTS1000 disappoints in some respects and comes with a high price of pounds 9,990. In the short-term, the GTS is unlikely to trigger a host of forkless models from rival manufacturers. Motorcycling's chassis revolutionaries have not won their battle yet.

(Photograph omitted)

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
People walk through Autumn leaves in St James's Park yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits