Yamaha Tricity scooter gains off-road chops in the name of disaster relief

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Yamaha unveiled a concept called Tricity Rough Road that lands in an unusual niche: off-roading scooters. While go-anywhere machines are hugely popular, the design study was created for the men and women tasked with monitoring and responding to natural disasters.

As its name implies, the Rough Road isn't entirely new. It's an evolution of the Tricity, a three-wheeled scooter sold in a number of global markets — it's a common sight in major European cities. It gains off-road tires, extra lights, tubes that protect the body panels, and racks designed to hold a luggage. Yamaha envisions that riders will carry first-aid kits and medical supplies, and enthusiast website Visor Down reports that there's a drone stored in the top case. It lets rescue workers find people in need or survey areas affected by disasters.

Integrating two-wheelers into disaster relief missions makes sense; they're small and nimble so they can reach areas that are off-limits to trucks and SUVs. But, what can the Rough Road do that a dirt bike can't? According to Yamaha, the Tricity is easier to operate than a motorcycle because it's a twist-and-go model with an automatic transmission so there are no gears to shift. And, the unusual three-wheel layout makes the front end more stable than a comparable dirt bike (or a scooter with two wheels). Simplicity is the main advantage it offers.

Yamaha has not released technical specifications, but it noted that the Rough Road treatment can be applied to both the 125 and the 155 versions of the Tricity. The former is powered by a four-stroke, 125-cubic-centimeter single-cylinder engine that develops 12 horsepower; the latter uses a 155-cubic-centimeter evolution of that engine that makes nearly 15 horsepower. Both weigh about 363 pounds.

It's too early to tell whether the Tricity Rough Road will make the leap from a concept to a production model. It's based on an existing scooter, and Japan takes disaster relief very seriously, so we wouldn't be surprised to see it enter production, possibly as a fleet-only model.

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