THE BIKES

This section tries to cover the good and the bad aspects of different bikes. We have tried to be impartial and go with the majority to give you an idea as to which bike may suit you best for your particular purpose. This information is constantly updated so if your bike's not there, or we've missed something, tell us. The bikes appear in no particular order.


Yamaha.


XT600.

Very respectable middle range single. Not the best long distance road bike due to a small fuel tank but will cruise happily up to 75 mph. Reasonable off road capability and reasonable reliability. Build quality is good, but not up to Hondas standards. Parts are cheep and easily available all over the world

XT600 Tenere.

The original kick-start models with a 27-litre fuel tank and no bells and whistles, are probably the best choice if you plan to cross a desert like the Sahara. They are reliable, relatively light and due to their popularity for this sort of work, parts can be sorced in the strangest of places. Subsequent models have gradually moved away from this ideal despite some improvements. Electric start, disc brakes, and in the looks department fairings and twin headlights are all welcome additions for a big trail bike, but looks aren't so important in the Sahara. Cruising is around the 75-mph mark and range is quite good due to the large tank. Makes a reasonable buy if you have a tendency towards the off road

XT600E.

Yamaha's bottom of the range trail bike, bottom of the ocean is where it should be. The eletrics are as water proof as a cotton T-shirt in a tropical monsson. You know the rains start and the indicator lights start to flash slowly, the rev limiter warning light starts to glow a demonic red, all to warn you that the engine's going to start missfiring. Just in case you throught that's not bad enough, the voltage regulator/rectifier is under the rear mudguard, protected by a feeble bit of plastic. When you look at the regulator, its easy to find the positive terminal, its the one that's rotted off. Still when it does break the indictors and rev warning lights go off along with every thing else. On the good side they're only 70 each. A joy to behold, the charging system, the positive terminal to the battery will rot. When it does you'll find that electronic ignition systems don't work with electronic regulators and no battery.

The bike also has a special relay that stops the engine if the side stand is down and the bike's in gear and all sorts of other clutch and gear combinations. It's a mircale off intertectual mind play, mine came lose and fell on the chain and got worn away. Its was the only problem with eletrics that didn't stop the engine.

So what other things happened, well the stupid bits of plastic on the tank broke one day, that was fun trying to catch it at 80mph (30mpg) on the motorway. 'O' yes and the oil filter cover is held on by a bolt that has only two turn in the alloy casing. 'O' and this bolt also holds the clutch cover on, you either strip the thread or let oil seep out of the join. Talking of oil, you put the correct amout of oil in and a little bit flows in to the air box. This can be drained using a pipe that hangs down below the engine. If, sorry when, the plug falls out it lets the engine suck unfiltered air from just above the road.

Finally mine blew the engine after a relativly unthrasted life at about 30K. While I remember the exhast header pipes rotted were they excit the engine and the steel rims rotted too.

In sumary an ideal present to any bore DIY machanic that needs/wants a bit of pratice.

Ian. ("Not a happy chap,"ed)

For a second opinion on the XT600E

XTZ660 Tenere

Fitted with one of the best singles on the market (Yamaha's five valve water-cooled lump) and integrating all the best design modifications from the past few models, this is a superior machine to all the bikes which preceded it. It's some 30 kilos heavier than the first XT but it's worth the extra weight. The engine turns out lots of torch (a little snatchey under 2000 rpm) and spins freely up to the red line. It's probably one of the smoothest singles around with effective balance shafts taking out most of the singles vibes. It cruises surprisingly well too, it will go all day at 80mph and squeeze on to just over the ton. Consumption is quite good around the 80 mark but it gets rather worse at its top speed. Two people can travel in comfort with their luggage over the middle distance with relative ease.

If you fancy the lighter weight and sharper handling of a singe, but want to do the things a twin is better suited for, this is definitely worth a long look at. Prices are realistic (insurance is a little high) and there's lots to choose from. The later twin headlight models are the most desirable mainly due to their improved looks.

XTZ750 Super Tenere

On paper this bike looks the business, 5 valves per cylinder parallel twin, good torch and bhp figures, lighter than the AT, faster than the AT. Good looks, good brakes, good price, good brochure. All of the above is the truth. But it's not an Africa Twin!

Somehow it just doesn't hang together. All the ingredients are there, but it's not as good as the promise. There's very little go under 3200 rpm and then at 4000 it goes like stink but sounds bad, then at 5000 the vibes start (which is unfortunate because this is about your normal cruising speed). Then 6000 rpm it's pulling even harder and the vibes have gone, but it sounds even worse than it did at 4000. The gear change is bad, very bad from 1st to 2nd, but bad all the way. Also it's too wide at the knees. If you stand up to do a bit of off road, it puts you in an uncomfortable stance, a bit like riding a horse. Finally the jetting is all wrong for altitude. If you venture towards, or above the 10,000 ft above sea level mark, it just won't go under about 4,500 rpm, which is more of a problem then you might think, especially off road.

All that said, it does have a lot going for it. As I said before, it is faster flat out than the A T. It's also better on fuel (be it marginally), and both my pillion and I found it slightly more comfortable than the Honda. As a high-speed mile muncher it's a very stable and safe mount, and the brakes are good for loosing the speed. It looks good and once you get used to the stance, it's a very capable off road tool.

To sum up, for the money it's good value. But if you can afford the extra dosh I'd plump for the Africa Twin. If you're not so concerned with the out and out power, the XTZ 660 has a lot to offer as an alternative in the price range. Also the Transalp, which for those in the know, is probably the best all rounder of them all.

Yamaha pics

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