Japanese-based Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd was founded by Genichi Kawakami on May 1, 1955. Its headquarters are located in Iwata, Shizuoka, Japan. The company is best known for a variety of machined products that include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), aquatic vehicles, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles. In addition to these, there are a number of gadgets that rely on some form of automation. This includes the infamous Yamaha Grizzly, which they first brought to the ATV scene in 1998.
1998-2022 Yamaha Grizzly Timeline
Priced at $11,299 USD for a base model, the 2022 Yamaha Grizzly XT-R edition boasts it is ready for extreme adventure, thanks to its patented WARN Winch, Maxxis ‘Zilla tires, and a color-matching color scheme to blend with this particular motorcycle’s paint job. Since November 2021, this special edition lineup from Yamaha Motor Co. has paraded itself as an all-black with carbon metallic ATV that promises to carry on with the proud name the Yamaha Grizzly series has been known for since they introduced the Grizzly 600 in 1998. The 1998 Yamaha Grizzly has been a focus of its own fan clubs, as well as the central influence of a subculture, not to mention a big part of American and Canadian outdoor life. The original Yamaha Grizzly was, and still is, one of the pillars in the development and evolution of all-terrain vehicles. It’s hard to believe prior to 1998 that there was a world that existed without any kind of ATVs that come even close to the caliber of performance the Yamaha Grizzly series was known for. Although ATVs have been around before 1998, the stigma they had to endure from the mixed opinions of lawyers, legal departments, and mainstream media seemed to be a curse nobody in the industry could shake off. According to ATV enthusiasts, they’re amazed the Yamaha Grizzly 600 managed to move beyond anything past the imagination stage. However, not only did it reach the drawing board but through the production line and into an actual machine for all to see. Surprisingly, there was not much of a corporate struggle to bring forth the Yamaha Grizzly 600 in 1998. When it was first introduced, it was considered a Mega ATV as it seemed to topple all the boundaries and restrictions that were in place beforehand.
Starting in 1985, the concept behind the design of 4×4 all-terrain vehicle units was initially applied to the ATV market when Honda was the first company to make its sales pitch. Polaris was the second to do this, who was then followed by Suzuki. In 1987, Yamaha comes forth with the Big Bear 350. This marked the official beginning of four-wheeled ATVs while at the same time, an end to the three-wheeled versions. It was conceived at the time this marked the end of bureaucratic interference where the enthusiasm of outdoor sporting vehicles was concerned. However, this was not the case. In 1987, a lawsuit was filed by the US Department of Justice against Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Suzuki, and Yamaha for marketing a hazardous product through their 4×4 ATVs. An agreement between the government and these companies had it where there would be a list of conditions that must be followed. Although there were no actual consent decrees regarding the size of the 4×4 units at the time, the entire incident scared the entire ATV industry into what seemed like a corporate coma. As the years went by, the presence of the sporty ATV units was thinned out, except for models made by Yamaha. At the time, there weren’t many options for a quad. However, when Yamaha decided to get back into the production of the four-wheeled ATVs, they did so with a bang. Starting in 1993, the Kodiak made its official introduction to the consumer market. It was then followed by Polaris and its 1996 Sportsman 500. As impressive as these machines seemed to be at the time when Yamaha brought forth the Grizzly 600 in 1998, this changed everything.
There were already test riders of the Yamaha Grizzly series during the spring of 1997, which gave ATV enthusiasts a bit of a glimpse of what was coming. There were rumors of a badge showing the number, 600, on it that made the curious wonder. When the official announcement was made about a 600 ccs bear coming from the Yamaha lineup, this was a piece of news that was hard to swallow at the time. With the Yamaha Grizzly 600, the model sported dual carburetors and a 40-millimeter Mikuni CV carb. There was also a one-way clutch that allowed the ATV to brake as if a normal vehicle. In the industry of ATV quad units, this was a huge breakthrough. Despite this breakthrough, there were safety concerns such as the four-wheeled ATV’s weight. At the time, it was said to weigh 639 pounds, which was the first time a quad broke the 600-pound plateau. There were a number of features on the Grizzly 600 model that added to its overall appeal, including a push-button start, plus a towing capacity that performed better than some automobiles. It also had a rather large oil cooler. When Yamaha brought forth the Grizzly 600 in 1998, it blew open the door for the likes of Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Suzuki, and even some newcomers to get in on the new and exciting world of 4×4 ATVs and what sort of creations they can come up with.
Keeping the Grizzly Growl
At one time, the Yamaha Grizzly 600 was the king of the 4×4 ATVs for the first four years since 1998. This sparked a movement of fans who simply loved these quads to develop groups all over the US and Canada. Once upon a time barely acknowledged all-terrain sports events now started to receive more attention. The Highlifter ATV Mud Nationals owe its very existence to what Yamaha started in 1998. Despite the fan appeal, there was an issue with the Grizzly 600 series as the suspension was not as optimal for an ATV as it should be. With the competition from the likes of Bombardier, Kawasaki, Polaris, and Suzuki threatening to topple Yamaha and its mighty Grizzly, it was straight to the drawing board to come up with something better. The Grizzly 660 made its debut in 2002 and had an entirely new chassis that showed off all the improvements it needed to remind the competition that the mighty Grizzly still has its growl. Since then, Yamaha has continued to upgrade the Yamaha Grizzly series, and remains a solid favorite among fans of ATV units and Yamaha products, regardless of what it is.
Owning a Yamaha Grizzly
Regardless of what year the Yamaha Grizzly happens to be, whether it’s the grandfather from 1998 or the 2022 newcomer, everything an owner of these 4×4 ATV units is covered within the manual that belongs to it. Although much has changed over the years due to the advancement of technology, there are still key areas where things really haven’t changed all that much where the Yamaha Grizzly models are concerned. For starters, even though they’re classified as all-terrain vehicles, they are initially designed to serve as off-road machines that typically operates louder than a regular automobile. Driving these things on the road is considered illegal, not to mention unsafe. It doesn’t matter if it’s a highway or a community street, these machines were not designed to take it to a shopping mall. They’re designed to either enjoy it in the wild or use it as part of a job that requires a smaller vehicle that can handle the rough terrain conditions. Each county and state (or province) has its own list of laws and regulations regarding all ATV units, including the quad. Should you own one, whether it’s a Yamaha Grizzly or another make or model, getting to know those laws is to your advantage.
Each owner’s manual will have schematics of your ATV unit. Yamaha is very thorough with the labeling of all their Grizzly ATV units. Currently, the front load limit for a Grizzly 700 series is 99 pounds (45 kilograms) while the backload limit is at 187 pounds (85 kilograms). This lineup has a 5,390 Newton to 1,212-pound-force conversion maximum towing ability with a tongue weight of 147 Newton to 33-pound-force conversion. Just like a regular automobile, the Grizzly needs to come to a complete stop before changing moving the gear transmission. Failure to do this will likely result in severely damaging your unit.
For all Yamaha Grizzly units, as is the case with other 4×4 ATV brands, this is a one-person-only ride. An extra passenger will make controlling these machines more difficult, not to mention make it unsafe. It is also illegal for anybody under the age of sixteen years old to operate an ATV unit. These machines, just like a regular automobile, requires proper handling that puts safety first and the need for speed out of one’s mind. Treating a unit such as the Yamaha Grizzly as if it’s a toy is a recipe for disaster that can lead to injuries, as well as death. Riding any ATV unit such as a quad requires the rider to properly wear a safety-approved helmet. It is also recommended to wear eye protection as there is no windshield in front of you to block debris. While riding an ATV, you need both hands on the handlebars at all times, just like if you’re riding a motorcycle. In fact, both the discontinued three-wheeled ATVs and the vast majority of four-wheeled ATV units initially got their designs from the basic mechanics of motorcycles.
Although you may have the protective gear on, when driving off-road there are more risks of encountering unexpected terrain conditions that can easily turn an easy, run-of-the-mill ride into something at least a bit more treacherous. When in unfamiliar territory, greater caution needs to be exercised not to drive too quickly, nor with a false sense of confidence that you can handle whatever nature wants to throw at you. Even if it’s a job-site environment where ATVs are part of the fleet, failure to expect the unexpected has been known far too often to become a tragic mistake that could have otherwise been avoided. With this being said, there’s also insurance. While ATV units don’t share the road like automobiles do, insuring an ATV takes care of a number of issues as accidents do happen. Just like automobiles, the Yamaha Grizzly has its own Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which for their units is stamped in the frame at a location the owner’s manual illustrates. There is also a model label, which serves as your reference point when you need to order parts for your Yamaha Grizzly.
The Yamaha Grizzly series have a four-wheel-drive (4WD), which means power is supplied to the front wheels as well as the rear wheels. Some models have the differential gear locked where the power distribution applied to the wheels can be determined by having it off or on. When locked, power is extended to all four wheels of the ATV. Unlike the regular FWD, the 4WD-LOCK can have all four wheels move at the same time. Operating and maintaining an ATV unit like the Yamaha Grizzly is just like doing the same with an automobile. Always check before starting the engine that there’s nothing out of the ordinary with the machine that can potentially make driving it to become a hazard. Checking the fuel and the oil is the best form of preventative maintenance you can do for the Yamaha Grizzly. As strong as these ATV units are, they’re not without their own set of vulnerabilities. There is actually a hotline that has more information about the Yamaha Grizzly units, as well as all forms of ATVs with the Consumer Products Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772, as well as the ATV Distributor’s Safety Hotline at 1-800-852-5344.
Transporting the Yamaha Grizzly
Whenever there is a need to transfer a Yamaha Grizzly unit, whatever transportation method is used to do so needs to have the ATV kept in an upright position, as well as the fuel cock in the OFF position. Failure to do this may result in fuel leaking out of the tank, or the carburetor.