Yamaha 3 Cylinder Crossplane Concept Engine

Yamaha crossplane 3 cylinder engine concept

Yamaha crossplane 3 cylinder engine concept

Yamaha just introduced their concept of the way forward in engines with a crossplane 3 cylinder engine. Like the engine in the current R1, the crossplane configuration delivers smooth application of power with a distinctive, and most would say, very satisfying exhaust note.

As a 3 cylinder, they open the way to new, smaller displacement motorcycles, though no mention of what displacements might be in the offing were made. The engines are lighter and more compact than the current inline fours so a whole new small and mid range series of bikes is possible.

The introduction was long on generalities and short on specifics, so where they'll take this is open to speculation, which is sure to be plentiful. I hope we'll see it deployed soon.

Link: Yamaha

Yamaha crossplane 3 cylinder engine concept

Yamaha crossplane 3 cylinder engine concept


  1. B50 Jim says

    A 3-cylinder has less internal friction than a 4 of the same displacement, and makes smoother power than a twin of the same displacement — a good compromise between twins and fours. As for the exhaust note, those of us who can recall the BSA/Triumph triples will attest that they were the sweetest-sounding motorcycle engines we’ve ever heard. If Yamaha can get the same sound from the crossplane 3, they’ll have a winner.

    As for the bodywork, I don’t think wire and plexiglas will withstand the stresses. OK, I know it’s just a styling cage. Can’t wait to hear this one run!

  2. Hooligan says

    Obviously taking a page out of Triumphs very succesful book. I think a 3 cylinder engine is a good configuration of power, weight and size (if not the best). What I love about my Street Triple R is that the power is everywhere in that 675 engine. It is so flexible and smooth and the howl from my unbaffled zorsts is exhilarating and frightens old ladies at half a mile.
    With a product line of triples from 675 to 1200 Triumph and everything from Sportsbikes and naked funmachine roadsters like the Street and Speed to the huge adventure barges they have certainly got most of the market covered. And are selling large numbers of them, certainly more than Ducati do for example.
    So interesting to see the Japanese copying them. Yamaha do have a problem though, their bikes are just too expensive these days.

  3. Scott says

    I seem to recall Yamaha HAD 3 cylinder bikes back in the late 70s or early 80s, I don’t see the excitement….?????

    • Hooligan says

      Yeah, they dabbled with it, wasn’t it called the XS?
      Dull as ditchwater, but now a minor cult classic.

      • John S says

        The 1970s bike was a Yamaha 750 triple, later increased to 850cc. An air-cooled shaft drive bike with a very handsome engine as I remember. I also remember the motor had longevity problems, at least compared with a Honda CB 750.

        • Mark in Sydney says

          I remember these as being very fine bikes. Great GP bikes with a nice shaft drive that had not as much torque reaction as the other shafties of the time.

          I also recall that Yamaha had some issues with the design of their DOHC heads at that time. I know it was the case with the TX500 but I thought they had sorted that out by the late 70s.

  4. BenK says

    Not quite sure what all this ‘crossplane’ business is about. All even-firing triples have crossplane cranks, with the pins set 120 degree apart. The only three I can think of with a flatplane crank is the early Laverda lump, as used in the Jota. Unless Yamaha are doing something very strange indeed, they’re simple building a triple.

      • Justin says

        Laverdas were made with 180 degree cranks (flatplane) and later with 120 degree cranks. I suppose it depends what you mean by crossplane, two planes forming a 90 degree cross or crossing planes.

  5. Justin says

    Did I miss something? How do you make a “crossplane” 3 cylinder crank? 120 degree and 180 degree cranks I can get but surely a 90 degree crank on a triple would need all sorts of balancers. Or is this just a way of disguising the fact that Triumph are selling a shedload of triples and Yamaha want to copy them in the hope of increased sales?

      • Rich says

        Yes they do. Is this a marketing exercise? Has the moniker “crossplane” garnered enough cachet to now be used where it is merely redundant? One can think so.

  6. rohorn says

    If the outer cylinders fire 360 degrees apart (crank pins in line) – and the center cylinder fires 90/270 degrees apart (i.e., crossplane), you can get a very well balanced engine without extra balance shafts.

    Dynamically, it would be similar to the Ducati Supermono or BMW F800 engines using a dummy rod 90 degrees out for balancing. Or a V3, but with only one cylinder head.

    • says

      The BMW balancing connecting rod in the parallel twin came to mind prior to reading this post, so I’m glad to see your comment.

      That balancing connecting rod could form the theoretical ” + ” that gives the cross plane its name. The balancing conrod pin is in place of the “missing” piston crank pin.

      Note: the display has a pronounced 3 pointed shape and the counter balancing engines, hanging off at the top and bottom. The bottom motor being the current cross plane R1 4 cylinder.

    • BenK says

      I’m pretty sure your suggested configuration would suffer the same second order imbalance as a 270 twin. The difference with the BMW and Ducati is that the dummy conrods are in a different plane to the cylinders. This is why a 270 twin still requires a balancer running at twice crank speed, even though its firing order is the same as a v twin. Ultimately, if a 0-90-360 crank meant no balance shaft was needed then surely Triumph, MV and all the rest would be using it.

      • rohorn says

        The problem with the 270 twin is the rocking couple due to the crank pins being so far apart. A 0-90-360 crank would have the same balance factor as a 90 degree V(L?) twin – but without the twin’s milder rocking couple – which, in theory, should result in an extremely smooth engine that happens to sound great and have a great power delivery.

        Why the others don’t do that is a mystery to me – I think it is part of a long list of “That’s just not proper!” in the realm of motorcycle design.

        I have no idea if Yamaha is doing the 0-90-360 crank or not, but they could, and it fits in with marketing’s R1 crank buzzwords.

      • says

        Aren’t the BMW’s crank pins in the same plane as the balancing conrod pin? I thought they were 180 from one another?

  7. Justin says

    A v3 with one inline cylinder head is an inline three….., and the extra conrod in an F800 is 180 degrees from the other two conrods with a balancing action similar (but not identical) to a boxer engine (see what BMW did there?). The Ducati Supermono simulated a balanced V-Twin (see what Ducati did there?)with a dummy conrod at 90 degrees. I can’t see how any of this applies to a crossplane triple, but I’m probably hopelessly wrong.

    • rohorn says

      You missed the v3 point – I was describing an inline 3 as having the same balance vectors as a V3.

      But you are right about the F800’s balancer being 180 degrees out instead of 90 degrees (as on the Supermono).

      • Justin says

        You would get the same firing order and angles as a v3 but that isn’t the same as the balance. Maybe Yamaha are looking for a sort of ‘big bang’ effect as in the R1, but the R1 needs a specially designed balancer system to counteract the unusual vibration from a crossplane crank.

        • rohorn says

          I figured that the 3 wouldn’t need the balancer the 4 needs.

          Either way, I’m curious how this all shakes out. There will be plenty of media buzz about it.

  8. todd says

    Scott beat me to it. I also seem to recall Yamaha triples way back when, as well as Laverda, Suzuki, Kawasaki… I think BSA/Triumph takes the cake. My BMW triple is the smoothest bike I’ve ever ridden – pretty much like an electric bike with gears and much greater range.

    Don’t worry, I know it looks small but I’m sure Yamaha won’t wait long to turn it into a 1200cc, 600 lb “Adventure bike”. However, I do have great hopes for something more interesting and innovative than that, Yamaha is my favorite brand, after all.


      • todd says

        That’s one of the primary reasons (that and perceived weight loss) why the K75 is preferred over the K100. I love my K75S though I wasn’t at all interested in them when I first tried them out when they were new – too smooth, too sewing machine perfect. Now I appreciate those characteristics, well as long as I have other bikes brimming with “character” ready to ride parked next to it in the garage.

        It will be interesting to see if Yamaha goes the smooth, sewing machine route with this motor or the “character” route a’la Laverda. My model line-up preferences would be a 400 triple, 800 triple, and I guess a 1200 for the people who don’t like to shift gears.


        • Klaus says

          I bought some used K-bikes in the early nineties, fixed them up and sold them or parted them out – high demand on BMW parts!
          The triples felt totally different from the fours (I had five of each) and while the fours had more power they seemed way more heavy. The triples were lighter and even though they had less power I’d ride them faster. The K75S ABS was by far the best, followed by the K100RS.
          Unlike old Triumphs the K75 never sounded like a Porsche.

  9. Mike says

    I don’t care if its cross-plane, flat plane, or aeroplane, I’d love to see a midweight standard triple from a larger manufacturer. 80 hp, 440 lbs, adjustable front and rear suspension, comfortable riding position, and a bikini/quarter fairing. I love the Street Triple and the Tiger 800 and 800XC, but I keep having the feeling it’ll leave me on the side of the road looking for a tow 450 miles. I dunno if the Triumph reliability is actually that low, but its a concern.

    • Hooligan says

      You are describing the Street Triple R. But that has bhp in the upper 90’s.
      The Tiger/XC engine is great. Torque galore, smooth gearbox. Just a bit too large for my liking.
      Strip the Tiger/XC down, get rid of the headlights and screen. chop off the ugly rear. Put a decent exhaust on it then you have a interesting bike. Though I do prefer the revs of the Street.
      Triumph reliability is fine.

      • Joe says

        I wouldn’t say the reliability is fine. In my 7 years riding and dozens bikes the only new bike ive had fail on me is a 2010 triumph 675, it finally killed itself by throwing a con rod, that punched holes in the crankcase, this was after a rectified failure, gearbox selector fork recall and cracked weld on exhaust manifold. All at 4500 miles and 4 months old. I could forgive the reliability for the engine and handling but the dealer support and attitude was terrible. The dealer seemed in no hurry to make the warranty claims and the uk warranty dept seemed to think id 2 months was acceptable length of time to have no bike.. I can accept that maybe i got “a bad one” but as i said its the only unreliable new bike ( out of 5 ) I’ve had so im still a bit sore about it.

        • Hooligan says

          You do seem to have suffered badly there. I have not come accros such a catalogue of problems in one bike before.
          The R&R was a weak point which is why Triumph have just been replacing them all under warrenty, even on bikes out of warrenty.
          I cannot comment on the US dealers but the UK ones seem more friendly though of course there is always going to be one that is unhelpful.

  10. Wiregrass Steve says

    Mike, I’ve had a triumph Tiger 1050, an ’07, for nearly 5 years and it has been every bit as reliable as any Asian or German bike I’ve owned. The Triumph triples are awsome with power from right off idle to redline. And the sound….awsome.

  11. Tin Man says

    Modern Triumphs have no reliability issues, just as modern Yamahas are much better than the troubled 750 triples of their past, or the Honda stator problems that ran through the 70s. I find the select memories of many vintage bike guys most amussing.

  12. JR says

    I have an xs850 with 30k miles and I haven’t had many problems ( a few electrical issues). It hasn’t had any engine problems since I’ve owned it.

    Gotta love the triple howl…. and I’m very excited