Jul 24, 2008

My Top Ten Bike List #5: Yamaha 850 TDM

One of my favorite bikes, ever, happens to be one I owned, twice: the 1992 Yamaha 850 TDM.

This bike had everything I ever wanted in a motorcycle, almost. I've written about it before, on my home website: http://home.comcast.net/~twday60/850tdm.htm. So, there isn't a lot of point in restating words from my past.

When the TDM first arrived in the US, practically every bike rag said ugly things about the bike's appearance. They called it "bug-eyed," "ungainly," and "a collection of assorted spare parts." 15 years later, every Italian manufacturer is making a bike that owes most of it's lineage to the Yamaha TDM and it doesn't seem to bother anyone that these bikes could easily be mistaken for the TDM. Yamaha didn't give up on the TDM, they still sell a version of the bike in Europe and Japan. However, they gave up on the US market in 1993 and we haven't seen anything as interesting from Yamaha TDM 850 since.

One of the cool side-advantages of picking the TDM is that I get to include it's relatives: the Super Tenere' and the TRX 850-900. Both of these near relations are Europe-only releases, so like the majority of the coolness that the TDM represents (years 1994-present), the US wasn't cool enough to be part of the show. Regardless, I think the XTZ 750-900cc Super Tenere' is one of the hippest DP bikes ever made and the TRX is a prototype of the kind of all around standards/sport bikes that Europe would be copying for the next two decades.

Hyosung GV650 Avatar stuff

The review is out, last month in fact. As of this writing, it's not on the Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly webpage, but I'll update this blog when it is. I'm getting a fair number of email comments about the article and it has been interesting. The guys on the TC-DualSport list had some interesting things to say and one of the spurred a response from me: --- In TC_Dualsport@yahoogroups.com, pdstreeter@... wrote: > > I read that review, it seems to me Tom would have panned any cruiser, the > Hyosung just happened to be the one he was reviewing at the time. It's true that it would be impossible for me to love a cruiser. I wrote the intro to make it clear that "love" wasn't in the cards. It was a lame attempt to lighten up the otherwise panning of the bike. However, I think the Hyosung GV650 is a POS. Everything about the design screams "unfamilair with the concept" of motorcycle design. From the dumbass ignition key location to the goofy riding position, to the pitiful suspension, to the cobbly finish, to the godawful and unpredictable clutch just reeked "made in Korea without Japanese supervision." The motor had power, but I wouldn't trust it out of town. It was clattering like a tractor at the end of the most miserable 140 miles I've ever spent on a motorcycle. That history includes 150 miles of the 1973 Canadian River X-Country on a 1971 Kawasaki Bighorn that finished with 2 working gears (1 & 2) and a seized front fork and one busted rear shock and a hole in the right side case that sucked sand through the motor for 20 miles. I miss the Bighorn, I would set fire to the Avatar, if it were mine. The manufacturer (Hyosung) already banned Cycle World from ever riding one of their POS bikes. Now, MMM is in that fine company. The Hyosung marketing goof went ballastic when he saw the review. I'm going to post his letter, soon, on my blog. If you think Paul thinks I'm evil, you ain't seen nothing yet. ;-)

Selling Garage Candy

Here is my list of wild and crazy motorcycle adds. Feel free to add your own collection of nuttiness to this list:

"Harley Davidson Sportster 1200: Pearl white, fuel injection, removable windshield, 86 actual miles, warranty, brand new bike."

"Harley Davidson Softail Custom: 2K miles. PM wheels, driveside brake, 240 Phatail kit, HD chrome covers, HD Deuce chrome lowers, Hi-flow intake, 9.6:1 comp, Crane Hi-4TC ignition, coil, 310-2 cams, and pushrods – over $38K invested."

"Invested" would not be the term I would use. "Wasted," "flushed," or "foolishly squandered" would be more along the lines I'd consider appropriate. $20/mile is a long way from an investment.

"2005 30th Anniversary Goldwing: beautiful Black Cherry color, 1832 cc six cylinder, 5 speed, cruise control, adjustable windshield, great sound system and more. The bike has driver's backrest, highway pegs, drink holder, power outlet, wing foot boards, and low miles (7200) - this is the ultimate road bike - like new and ready to ride!!!"

"1980 Yamaha XS 850 Special with only 3,500 miles like new condition, it has been stored since 1982. It has been gone through from top to bottom so its ready to ride."

For the kind of money this owner is asking, the XS ought to ride itself. However, having been store since 1982 is a long way from being "like new." Like new plus rust, varnish in the fuel system, contaminated lubrication stuck in every small port in the engine, and well oxidized finish, maybe.

"2001 Bourget Low Blow Chopper, 5700 actual miles, 113 S&S, Jims 6-speed, polished stainless everything, awesome custom paint, fast and fun and gets 40 mpg!!!! May consider partial hotrod trade. This bike was $33k new. Buy it for $17,900. Turns heads everywhere you go. I cannot respond to e-mails as our computer is messed up........"

More than just your email is messed up, buddy. People are turning their heads as if they were oggling a gory crash. You probably think they are covering their ears so they can focus on how cool you look on your hippobike.

"2005 Good big bear chopper;s&s mtr polish,96 cui;morris magneto;5 speed trans rivera;bb springer;240 rear tire;custom paint , $28,500 OBO"

"2001 Harley-Davidson FXST SOFTTAIL Ajustable Lowering Kit. New 2 tires, Sampson2 pipes, Drag bars, Custom tail blinkers, Lots of Chrome- Low miles. Looks & SOUNDS great. Very Loud. $10900.00 offer"

“SOUNDS great” as in irritates everyone within a few miles of the chrome plated junker?

"1999 HARLEY DAVIDSON Excellent rebuilt engine, 3600 mi, excellent condition. am/fm stereo , $10,500 OBO"

" Showroom Condition 2005 Big Dog Ridgeback with 56 orig miles. Originally $31,600 MSRP. This Bike Was Not Only Voted Most Dependable V-Twin Back To Back But This Ridged Chopper Also Offers Tons Of Power With It's 117 CI S&S Motor, A Bulletproof Baker 6 Speed, And A Fat 300MM Rear Tire. This bike Is Right Side Drive So It feels lighter and is well balanced."

I had no idea that swapping the drive side would make a machine lighter. Of course, this hippo bike feels light in comparison with a steam locomotive.


Jul 12, 2008

My Top Ten Bike List #4: Yamaha SRX Series (250, 400, & 600)

I'm pretty sure I'll hear that I should be embarassed about this selection: Yamaha's SRX Series (250, 400, & 600cc) .

The 1988 600cc version is pictured on this page, but I love 'em all. Probably, knowing my state of motorcycle perversion, I loved the 250 the most. The single-cylinder, balance-shaft-smoothed, single overhead cam motor has a kind of mid-tech simplicity that really tripped my trigger. The two stage carbs (like the XT dirt bikes of that period) was a bit of high (for the time) tech engineering that added bandwidth and performance to the SRX bikes. The sturdy but lightweight metalic-painted steel frame and cool looking alloy wheels created a striking, functional bike that has yet to be beaten for trick-ness. I'd buy one today if I could find one. In fact, when I was unemployed a few years back, a 600 SRX showed up on Craig's List and I went after it as if I actually had money. I still regret that someone beat me to it.

Yamaha made the SRX models from 1985 until 1997, but the 400 barely appeared in the US and the 250 was only bootlegged here. The 600 was available (and ignored by the buying US public) from '85 to '89, sort of. The dealers I knew had '86 bikes until '89 and relabeled them if they bothered to try to move them at all.

The specs are underwhelming:

Detailed Specifications:
Type: 4-Stroke, SOHC, 4-valve, Single Cylinder
Displacement: 595 cc
Bore and Stroke: 94.0 x 84.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
Maximum Torque: 34 ft·lbf @ 5500 rpm
Maximum HP: 40 hp (30 kW) @ 5700 rpm
Carburetion: 2KY27PV
Oil Capacity: 2.5 Quarts
Transmission: 5 Speed

Overall Length: 82.1 inches
Overall Width: 27.8 inches
Overall Height: 41.5 inches
Wheelbase: 54.5 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.7 inches
Seat Height: 30.3 inches
Dry Weight: 329 lb.
Wet Weight: 375 lb.
Fuel Capacity: 4 Gal.

But the bike outperformed the sum of its parts. Anyone who owned one expected a fortune in exchange for a title. The SRX6 sold for $2495 list in 1988, but if you can find one for less than $3k today, you are scoring a big one.