Forkless! The 1993 Yamaha GTS1000 Explored New Technologies

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This 1993 Yamaha GTS1000 goes forkless and explored new technologies when first introduced

You would be forgiven for thinking this modern-looking Yamaha is a brand new machine, one that the company might be bringing to market next year.

It’s not; however. This is a 1993 Yamaha GTS1000, a model the motorcycle maker produced from 1993 to 1996. In Canada, the GTS was only available for a single year – 1993. Considered by many to be a modern classic the Yamaha GTS bristled with new technologies when it was first introduced. Not the least of which is the forkless front suspension system.

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Designed by American inventor James Parker, rights to the front suspension technology were licenced by Yamaha. Parker dubbed his front end the RADD, which stands for Rationally Advanced Design Development, and he patented it in 1985. But you won’t see RADD stamped on any part of the Yamaha. When they gained the rights to the technology in 1990 Yamaha wanted to take the design and turn it into their own unique suspension and steering system.

Yamaha refined the RADD system and built an entirely new machine to feature the front end. The GTS was the resulting motorcycle, and it also had a unique frame structure – little more than two aluminum C-shaped plates to which the engine and front and rear suspension were bolted. Yamaha called the frame the Omega, and that’s based on the fact the visible frame plates are the same shape as the 24th and final letter of the Greek alphabet –W. Two steel subframes, one up front for the fairing and dash, and one out back for the seat and bodywork attach to the aluminum plates.

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Yamaha used a detuned version of their 123-horsepower liquid-cooled FZR1000 engine, fitting it with new cams and electronic fuel injection. The machine also featured a catalytic converter and the bikes that came to North America had an antilock braking system.

Calgarian Gary Foursha rode his first two-wheeler in his hometown of Herschel, Saskatchewan. Here, the CP Rail station agent had a Vespa scooter, and every kid in the village learned to ride as they tore up and down the main gravel road. Next, Foursha got a 1968 250cc B.S.A. Shooting Star. Marriage and a family took Foursha away from motorcycling for a few years, until he got a 1981 Yamaha Seca 650. This bike, he says, got him back on the path.

That path led to a larger 1983 Yamaha Seca 900. He had this machine from 1983 to 1994. He says he rode the bike ‘very occasionally’ until his new brother-in-law found out Foursha was interested in motorcycles. There was no turning back after that. Foursha and his new wife soon had an entire stable of machines. They both ride, and add about 30,000 km a year to their collective odometers.

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Foursha wanted a Yamaha GTS after he read a December, 1992 Cycle World magazine article. But the purchase price (the GTS was $12,999 US) was more than he could afford. “I kept the Seca for so long because everything else was second best compared to the GTS,” Foursha says. “The GTS is so much different than any other motorcycle.”

Because of the price, the GTS was a relative rarity. Foursha didn’t even see one until 1995 when he was visiting local Yamaha dealer Walt Healy. But it wasn’t in one piece – the GTS he saw had been in an accident, and it was damaged. Walt Healy did have a new 1993 GTS stored away in a crate, and it was sold brand new to a Calgary owner in 1998 for $10,000.

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Any time Foursha and his motorcycling friends got together for a ride or a jaw-session just about all he’d talk about was the Yamaha GTS. So, when an ad for a 1993 GTS appeared in the Bargain Finder classified paper Foursha didn’t even need to see the ad himself. About six of his friends phoned him to tell him about the bike. Turned out the machine was the one sold in 1998 from Walt Healy, and the original owner had babied the GTS. There were 20,000 km on the odometer. Foursha bought it, and rode it home that same night in August 2004.

Reality did not dampen Foursha’s expectations.

“It was like finding a long lost love, and reality exceeded my expectations,” Foursha says. “It took me about six months to get really confident with the bike, and I’m still learning the limitations of this motorcycle.”

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Foursha really is enamoured with the GTS. He says he uses the motorcycle for quick highway jaunts and to ‘blow the Highwood Pass’, a favourite mountain and foothills route for Calgary riders. He doesn’t commute aboard the GTS, and figures he’s added some 7,000 km to the Yamaha’s total mileage.

“It’s got an excellent fairing, there’s certainly no wind up your skirt,” Foursha says. “With the front suspension and the engine mounted the way that they are the bike has a very low centre of gravity. There’s no heavy triple tree up high, and the handlebars sit atop a splined shaft – it’s very direct steering, there’s no mushiness in there at all.”

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With the anti-dive properties of the front end, Foursha is adamant that he can apply the brakes while deep into a corner without interrupting the steering. “You can’t do that on a normal motorcycle,” he says. “And, you have to steer it out of a corner, it doesn’t straighten up on its own.”

Foursha is a serious sport tourer, and that’s how the GTS was meant to be used. With a sport touring 2006 Yamaha FJR1200 in his fleet Foursha is capable of making some serious comparisons. “The FJR1200 doesn’t do anything better than the GTS – except maybe for the fuel mileage.”

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Why didn’t the GTS catch on? In Foursha’s opinion, it was too much technology and way too expensive – sure signs that a motorcycle is ahead of its time. While inventor Parker’s RADD didn’t exactly prove fruitful on the GTS, he is still playing with his own technology. There are also other manufacturers, such as Bimota, experimenting with similar front ends.

“People don’t know what they’re looking at when they see the GTS,” Foursha concludes. “Most think it’s a modern bike, and they’ll ask when Yamaha is going to bring out the machine – it’s so unique.”

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Greg Williams
After graduating from the Journalism program at Mount Royal College in 1995, Greg Williams set out to write about powered vehicles, and more specifically motorcycles – and has been doing so ever since. This isn’t a part time gig for him. Williams has written for every major Canadian motorcycle magazine, and spent ten years with Inside Motorcycles where he penned the Western Perspectives column. He now contributes the New Old Stock column to Cycle Canada, the Pulp Non-Fiction column six times a year to the Antique Motorcycle magazine, and feature articles appear regularly in American Iron Magazine and Motorcycle Classics. His On the Road column runs weekly in the Calgary Herald Driving section and also republished Modern Motorcycle Mechanics — the motorcyclist’s bible. Greg is also the recipient of the Julie Wilkinson Motorsport Journalism Award.