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Yamaha TW200 review... no really - - (beware, long)

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BACKROUND INFO:

Before I start this, I just wanted to say 'hi' to everyone. I guess I'm technically a newbie here... But I've been lurking for months, I've been riding motorcycles of all types for 15+ years, I've worked in a few motorcycle shops back in the 90's, and I've been a moderator on a techboard for turbocharged motors and drag racing for 4-5years. So I'm no newbie to motorcycles or performance... this just happens to be my first post.

I've been doing the dual-sport thing for close to 10 years now. I've been trying to buy a 'newer' bike in the fall while holding onto the 'older' bike until spring and sell it for what I payed the year before. That way I have a different bike every year, they never get so clapped out they aren't worth anything, they are really easy to maintain (only requiring basic lube and filter jobs), and I pretty much sell them for what I payed after a year of hard use.

Anyway - I got caught in the lurch this year. I was looking into buying a house so I had to unload the toys during fall and winter. I talked to my old boss at the cycle shop and located a clean low mileage DR350S for a steal. I gave him a down payment and said... "I'll pick it up in the spring after this house business is squared away".

Winter comes and goes...I go the balance of the money to pick up the DR350. "Oh - sorry about that, I sold it to a friend". &%$#@! was the downpayment for then... it wasn't a beer money - we had an agreement!? You've got to be kidding me! So here I am in the sweet spring weather with no bike and every dualsport I call for was sold within a day or two of being for sale :)

I was looking any of the popular bikes: DR350, DRZ400, KLR650, XR650L, DR650, KTM 640,etc,etc. I even was willing to take a chance on a some of the 400-600cc enduro bikes converted to dualsport with 'grey market' DOT titles. At this point, they all fit the bill - even at rip off spring time pricing... but EVERYTHING I called for was sold. I was reluctant to buy a brand new bike because I don't like payments, I didn't have enough cash on hand to buy a $5-7k bike outright, and I have a really hard time riding a brand new bike hard... I just feel guilty. Dunno why

WHAT I ENDED UP DOING:

So I saw an ad for a 2003 TW200 with 250 street driven miles, all new gear IN THE BOX, and a really fair asking price that was what I would expect to pay for a downpayment on a new bike. I would normally have never given it a second glance... when I worked in the business they were referred to as 'Turkey Whistle 200's'. Written off as good for motor vehicle rider tests or worth borrowing when the girlfriend/younger sibling wanted to tag along. I'd honestly never ridden one myself... why would I? I am an experienced rider with a motorcross and enduro backround that is six foot tall weighing in a 190 pounds!

I agonized over whether to even go LOOK at it for a few days. Finally, after hearing 'sorry it's been sold' for the 8th time in an hour of calling... I gave in and called about it. It was still for sale, the guy was motivated to sell, and he swore it was garage kept and flawless top to bottom. I took a few hundred less than asking price out of the bank as my personal limit to keep my dignity... and figured if he would take that, I'd have something to ride for the summer and I could sell it to a new rider or kid for what I payed and pick up a lightly used DRZ400 in the fall.

I got there... the thing was in showroom condition down to the little 'nubs' on the factory tires. The guy lived just outside Baltimore and used it for town touring once or twice. I told him how much cash I had with me and that it was the best I could do for that bike. He agreed and we loaded it up. At this point, it was sunny and 80 degrees... I was happy to have a bike... ANY bike. I brought it home and got it insured and tagged first thing the next morning.

WHAT I THOUGHT:

After riding this thing hard for a weekend... I am REALLY impressed - it is a kick ass little bike! As long as you acknowledge that it isn't a motorcross bike with tags or a bmw touring bike... it is a load of fun for dirt cheap. I put 250 OFFROAD miles on it in one weekend. And I don't mean railroad beds or gravel roads. I mean 2 track Jeep trails, whooped out 1 track enduro trails, really tight firetrails/breaks, and more than a few 'make your own trail' type situations.

I started out treating it like I was riding a kids bike and if I pushed it hard it would break in two. After Saturday, I realized I was spending alot of time at less than 1/2 throttle and only using a fraction of the suspension travel. For Sunday, I did a quick lube job on the bike and loaded it up for the day... I hit toughest trails I've come across without mercy - just to see if it could hack it. And hack it the bike did!!!!

On 2 tracks the super wide 130 and 180 series tires meant I could push the bike really hard (for a dual-sport) in the corners and it didn't even flinch. The super light weight, wide tires, and low seat height meant I would WHIP the bike down bar-wide fire trails... jumping logs and stumps like they weren't even there! When things got really tight I would find myself in situations were I would've easy gotten caught off guard and layed a topheavy 650 on it's side... on the TW I just drop both feet and stop the works... if I couldn't go forward anyfurther... there was more than one occasion where I planted my right foot, pointed toward the berm of the firetrail, popped the clutch, pulled the front wheel up and did a 180 degree turn in one move and one spot just like I was on a BMX bike lol. On other occasions, I would hit a deep bike or truck rut and wedge the bike in there by it's case and footpegs... which happens all the time in the pine barrens. The only way out was straight up... which with a 650 would normally be a two person job, but with the TW200 I could break it loose, yank it up myself, and be on the trail again in seconds.

On hills, I was impressed. At one point I went down a hiking trail to a stream with a bunch of log breaks to prevent erosion... toward the bottom the logs were EXACTLY wheel length apart and I was dragging the skid plate over them. No way in hell was any type of motorcycle getting back up that... unless you happen to be running the pine barrens on a trials bike lol. So I found myself at the bottom of a washout ravine with sand walls on one side and deep water on the other.... not enough room to get more than a second gear running start. I was beginning to wonder if I'd be carrying the bike back up the trail one terrace at a time. 'Oh what the hell'... I lined up the wall of erroded of sand next to the trail, backed up as far as I could, and got a second gear running start. I was way over the bars trying to keep from going over backwards. I got all the way to the top (it was a long climb for being in the pinebarrens) before loosing traction... at which point I shifted back on the seat a little, the WIDE rear tire grabbed the sugar sand, and I carried the front tire over the crest with a second gear 'thumper chug' wheelie. I've NEVER owned a dualsport that would've made that hill on stock tires... if at all.

Later that day, I found myself taking crazy medium speed sidehill lines in the pine barrens 'beach consistency' sand. Lines that would've washed out the front tire on any other bike... different it definitely the word! Sand and gravel corners were different to... it was not race bike by any means... but once I realized I could use the outstanding traction to lean and bank through corners rather than darting through them like I normally would it was alot faster than an average dualsport. I didn't have power to do the trail brake in and power out drill, but it DID have a ton of tire. By the end of the day I realized I could enter a fairly tight corner at the top of third and roll out at the bottom of third gear carrying my speed like I would while open-tracking a streetbike or road race car. On tight fire trails these days, my speed is limited by my ability to weeve the bars through the trees and avoid obstacles with the front tire... so I was back to the style I had when I preferred two-stroke enduro bikes (as long as the didn't hit hairpin corners.

WHAT I DID LIKE:

- super light weight - it does things i would only expect from a two stroke or BMX bike

- super wider tires with SIDEWALL LUGS mean outstanding traction in all conditions while still having tread with really good street manners (good thing because they are the only tires available for the bike)!

- low seat height kept me upright in slow speed, offcamber, sandy situations where I would been playing gopher on any 650 I've ever owned.

- simple, proven, air cooled motor suggests great durability and low maintenance.

- low first gear meant I never had to work the clutch hard... ever.

- cheap buy in... one of the cheapest bikes on the market in ANY catagory.

- great mileage! 225miles... less than 2.5 gallons... you do the math :D

- looks... i'm usually a function over form kind guy... but the wider tires, black frame/rims, and white/black/silver/yellow paint scheme gets alot of compliments, which is rare for a dual sport. here a link for factory pics for those of you that aren't keeping up with yamaha's sorry line of dual sports lol: http://www.yamaha-motor.com/product...cy&cid=6&mid=10

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:

- no 6th gear... didn't like to cruise (comfortably) above 55mph... luckily first gear is rediculously low and I could easily get away with an extra tooth on the front sprocket - I'll I may even add two if it can hack it. Here in *South* Jersey most roads are two lane roads without ANY traffic or lights... and everyone drives 10-15mph over the speed limit - so 55mph makes you a road hazard. I'm sure it'll pull 65 with more gear.

- weak power - enough that it is still fun offroad and i never expected it to be fast so i can't say i am disappointed... just realistic and honest.

- fair suspension... it looks weak on paper... but honestly it isn't any worse than an *average* stock japanese dual-sport suspension. It could handle the rolling over whoops in third gear without bottoming. if spaced correctly, you could even pull the front tire and skim through them in 4th gear motorcross style if they were spaced JUST right. IF they weren't space right? well it would bottom out, overwhelm the suspension and let you know... but it never felt violent like I was going to hurt it. The only reason I file the suspension under 'dislikes' is because there really isn't a way to upgrade it without custom fabrication.

- small tank... 1.3gallon ouch! I mean that is still a 150 mile range offroad... and it keeps weight down... but that is tiny. No big deal... two bungie cords and a $1.95 gallon fuel tank strapped to the tail fixed that.

- no kickstarter... but hey, with 250 pounds and a small motor - it push starts like a dream.

WHAT I WOULDN'T USE IT FOR:

- high altitude (west coast) rides will probably make the motor feel even more inadequate. ouch. I'll try some east coast mountain rides this summer... I expect it'll fair well with the gearing set back to stock - but still not a powerhouse.

- motorcross or competition enduro riding styles... true to it's name - it's a trail bike and nothing more.

- high speed on-road touring or desert/dune/quarry running... I could only imagine it would be frustrating, between no power and a low speed suspension.

WHAT I WOULD USE IT FOR:

trail riding in tight woods conditions with alot of DEEP sand and/or mud good for those looking for a tax refund purchase price and maintenance/operations costs for less than the cost of a six pack of beer :D I never thought I could have so much fun on $3 of gas.

Needless to say I'm impressed. It is cheap thrills and reminds me why I started riding trail bikes in the first place. Considering what it cost me... it may be the first bike in years to have a permanent home here. If I do keep it for a few years and it gets worn out - you can bet I'll be using my race car fabrication skills to swap an enduro suspension and wedge a worked 350+cc engine in there... I love frankenstein contraptions :D.

But for now the plan is an aftermarket rear luggage rack, soft saddle bags, a 1 tooth larger front sprocket, hand grip guards, a tank bag, and a FUN summer. I may even try using my hiking gear to go camping off of it for a weekend excursion or two.

GREG.

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Turbo, great write up. I've always liked the TW. My friend found one for 1600.00 a few weeks ago. It was in great shape. We both considered buying it just to have around the camp. We passed after debating for a while. Too many other projects. I like the later models having the disc brake.

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You probably push to the max of the engineering limit on that bike.

Glad you like it :D

It is not what you have but what you can do with it, Eh?

:)

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My wife rides a DR200. I picked it up for just over a song. It had 90 Mi. on it. I have seen a less skilled rider then I take that bike up some pretty big hills easer then I get my DRZ 400 up. It is slow, under powered, under suspended and a real blast to ride.

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You guys pretty much hit the nail on the head. I push everything I ride/drive to the 'engineering limit'. I was a little concerned that maybe I was expecting too much from it, so stopped to see some friends of mine that have worked at the local Yamaha shop for over 10 years. They say they've see many TW200's come in for maintenance that were being used exactly how I intend to. Never seen a major failure. Some of the bike have been ridden as hard, or harder than I ride, and very poorly maintained. The only one they ever saw that looked like it wasn't going to last much longer was the guys only bike... on which he 'attempted' to ride enduros on a regular basis as well as drive it at freeway speeds - that and it have 45k miles on it :thumbsup: I think that would tear any bike up, let alone a TW200 :awww:

I was originally looking at DRZ400's... and I may still pick one up next season. But the fact of the matter is - I would've paid twice as much and ridden it to it's limit as well... which also means that single track 'errors' would have been much more painful for me and the bike, probably more frequent too.

I don't take a hit quite as well as used to so it works out well... So I was looking for something that was cheap, low maitenance, trail worthy, and just all around fun. I think I'll probably be riding middle of the pack with the groups I ride with. I will probably be faster than the inexperienced guys on the bigger bikes... and in really tight conditions maybe occasionally faster than the experienced riders too. Fact remains - when push comes to shove... it is rider skill that often prevails, especially on tight trails. The guys that could out run me on a woods trail could probably outrun me no matter what I was riding. :lol:

If I did more truly open-trail/high speed two-track stuff or anything more 'motorcross style'... I'd have picked a different bike for sure - but that isn't what I do.

In the end, it is like a screwdriver. Stupid, simple, and effective... it'll never let you down as long as you don't use it for things it wasn't designed for... like hammering or prybar duty :lol:

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thanks for the write up. i'm currently turning mine into a budget flat tracker motard toy thingy. inspired by this!

http://www.rckoshien.co.jp/custom/tw200_2.html

tires come this week. i'm sooo excited by this stupid little bike!!! i swing a leg over it whenever i get a chance. my wr400 motard is getting jealous...

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Ya - my first dirt bike! Picked one up for 700 bucks, 1987 with 700 miles from a female rider in 1990. Rode that thing for 16,000 before I sold it! It chugged up hills, through mud, water, crossed all the Mojave desert, a fair chunk of Moab, Elephant hill, the Pauite ATV trail, some of the Sierras...never let me down except for a flat tire. Climbed hills .....Buy the rack - carries tons of crap! I've camped off this for 4 day stints at a time... :):)

It made a great combo with the diesel f350 4x4 and pop up viking camper. I welded a receiver hitch on the front and I used to roll up someplace, camp and explore with this little bike! After I bought others - dr350 and a drz400 I finally let it go....

It's more fun than ya'd think, huh? You might be keeping it much longer than you suspected as well! Makes a great spare bike for friends as well...

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turbonotch:

Is there anyway to put a small turbo on one of these? Maybe from a small deisel or something? Know a guy who has one who may not want it any more in a year or two and would be a great project! also, needs wiring, any idea where I could get a diagram or schematic?

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Great write up, I have thought about getting one of these for my wifeor guest who seldom ride. Or even one of the kids who really isn't into ridding, but would tag along occasionally. I have seen them dirt cheap. So thanks for the impressions. :)

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I am having a similar experience on a small dual sport, following my prior bikes, a DRZ400S and KLR650.

my page

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