Once Upon a Time a motorbike
was a motorbike was a motorbike. It had two wheels, an engine,
brakes, controls, a fuel tank and somewhere for the rider to sit.
They were fun to ride, got us from A to B (well, sometimes), and
took the intrepid biker to all sorts of new and varied places.
But like all new species arriving on this planet, the motorbike
began to evolve and become specialised to better exploit a whole
new bunch of environments. And to do this the motorbike developed
new varieties with longer forks, steeper head angles, stiffer
suspension, shorter forks, longer swing arms, softer suspension,
shorter swingarms. Engines had anything from one to six cylinders,
in vee, parallel, transverse, and longitudinal layouts. But they
were all still motorbikes.
someone reasoned that to sell different types of motorbike just
wasn't enough. There had to be some way that "Joe Public"
could tell one type from the other. They needed some kind of classification.
So some bright spark got onto their marketing department and before
you say "double overhead camshaft" we had Sports Bikes
which went pretty fast, Supersports Bikes which went even faster,
Tourers for covering trans-continental distances, Traillies for
green-laning, Race-Replicas for trackday wannabe's, Cruisers for
people who like polishing things, Off-Roaders for those who don't
like roads, Commuters to go to work on (yawn), Muscle Bikes, Street
Bikes, Customs, Adventure Sport Bikes . . . . the list was endless.
However, even this wasn't enough as we then had bikes that wouldn't
fit into the marketeer's categories, so we got Sports Tourers
and Street Traillies but so far no one's come up with a Supersports
Custom Cruiser - well not yet thankfully!
Now if you're still reading this, you're probably wondering why
I'm rambling on about types of bikes? Well the truth of the matter
is that the TDM900 seems to be one of those bikes that defies
all the existing classifications. Developed from the TDM850, in
2002 the TDM got a bigger engine, a new cast aluminium chassis,
revised suspension, a whole load of useful bits from the R1-family
and a styling makeover. Yamaha's marketing people now call it
a Sports Tourer, but they do the same with the FJR1300 and the
YZF600 Thundercat, two very different bikes from the TDM.
of all the TDM900 is very much a "traillie/supermoto"
styled machine with a relatively high seat height, soft(ish) suspension
with a good range of travel. Next, it has a larger than usual
(18 inch) front wheel which isn't going to give you the turn-in
you'd expect for press-on riding. And finally, the bars are raised
to give a relaxed and upright riding position that's certainly
not associated with corner attacks, and getting down behind the
small fairing is not a real option - let's face it, you'd look
a right ******* if you tried it. So it doesn't seem to fit into
the "Sports" category. Well, what about touring? No
heated grips, only a half-fairing and small screen, and no centre-stand,
but the seat is well padded, hazard indicators are standard and
the pillion position has good hand grips and low pegs. Aha - there's
side cases and a topbox in the accessories book, as well as a
centre stand and heated grips, so I suppose it could pass at a
pinch. But that puts well over a £1,000 on the price, so
it's looking a bit pricey.
Anyway, enough of these suppositions and preconceptions. It's
time to ride. And I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised.
This is a competent and very good motorbike with a good standard
combination of wide bars, a well-padded but narrow seat and low
foot pegs gives a relaxed position that allows you to ride all
day without a twinge or an ache developing. I spent three consecutive
10 hour days in the saddle of the TDM and clocked up over a thousand
miles during the course of this test and I didn't get a single
ache - anywhere. And the half-fairing does an excellent job at
keeping the wind off. Even highly illegal three-figure speeds
don't pull your arms out of their sockets. In fact motorway cruising
at a ton-plus is a doddle, although air turbulence on the arms
does tend to make the steering twitch a little bit. But it's nothing
to get all het up about. And it's pretty good at filtering through
motorway traffic jams as well. The wide bars make it very manoeuvrable
and the high riding position gives you good advance warning of
cars changing lanes just to get another ten feet up the road.
Even bouncing off wet cats-eyes doesn't upset the handling, although
surprisingly the front wheel has a tendency to tramline in the
dry on road imperfections. It could be that 18 inch front wheel
or maybe the tyres. The TDM came fitted with Metzeler Mez4s and
I've never seen this on other bikes fitted with this rubber. The
suspension has preload and compression adjustment at the front,
and compression, rebound and preload at the rear, so probably
a bit of fiddling would dial this out.
But you need to get off the motorways and dual carriageways and
onto the A and B roads to start having some real fun with the
TDM900. It revels in being thrown about the twisties and those
wide bars are just the tools for the job. The high ground clearance
means the low pegs are in no danger of touching down, and you
can get the tyres right to the edge without any danger of grinding
off those nice shiny stainless silencers. But don't get too carried
away. Upping the pace to sportsbike levels will cause that large
front wheel to start to run wide in the corners, something that's
relatively easily corrected (most of the time!) with a bit of
The handling package is beautifully complemented by the gloriously
grunty 896cc parallel-twin engine. Yamaha have used a 270 degree
crankshaft to make it feel and sound like a V-twin, and it certainly
drives wonderfully out of corners although the noise is muted
by the 80dB silencers that everyone's having to fit these days.
The engine pulls hard all through the rev range and the fuel injection
has no glitches, even rolling on and off the throttle at low revs
and low-speeds doesn't cause the the bike to go into "lurch-mode".
The six-speed gearbox is positive and never gave any false neutrals,
although it does go in with a bit of a "ker-chunk",
especially from rest. And don't bother with clutchless upshifts,
it's not the best way to make smooth progress.
the TDM is no problem with those twin R1-spec calipers and discs
at the front. Brake action is smooth and progressive from the
span-adjustable front lever and even the rear brake with its single
disc is unusually effective and offers levels of feel that will
surprise most sportsbike riders.
instruments are also straight off the R1 and the large central
rev counter with digital clock, and the digital speedo are easy
to read. The two trips are useful for logging miles when touring
and the fuel gauge has an electronic reserve that gives you plenty
of warning when the level in the 20 litre tank is getting low.
And the good news is that you won't always be looking for a petrol
station. At one point I saw 174 miles before going on to reserve,
and the overall fuel consumption for a three day period that included
high-speed motorway blasts and quick A and B road work averaged
out at 56 mpg. That's pretty amazing. In fact I checked the figures
twice because I didn't believe them the first time.
at the practical side of owning a TDM, the finish looks good although
only exposure to a good old English winter will tell exactly just
how good it is. The exhaust is stainless throughout so that should
last the distance and the paintwork has a good, deep finish. There's
reasonable underseat storage and the toolkit includes a C-spanner
to adjust the rear pre-load making it a two-minute job to go from
solo to two-up touring mode. And there are four bungee hooks for
getting those essential six-packs back from the off-licence.
I've only got a couple of niggles. For me the chrome-plated handlebars
just don't work with the rest of the styling. They look a bit
cheap and tacky and a matt grey finish or colour-matching to the
chassis would greatly improve things. The second is the two bare
wires that emerge from the sleeved loom and connect to the switch
on the front brake lever. These look like someone forgot about
these connections when they designed the wiring loom and then
had to find a bit of old mains cable to get the brake light to
work.That's just not good enough on a bike that costs £6,349,
especially when the fix would cost pennies.
be the first to admit that I approached the TDM with a lot of
pre-conceptions and most of them were negative or just plain wrong.
So I was pleasantly surprised by how good the overall package
is. This is a bike that can do just about everything and will
surprise the pants off a lot of the sportsbike-obsessed riders
in the UK. And it will do it without too much risk to your licence.
However, while this country is still dominated by the need to
ride bikes that are more relevant to race tracks than roads, the
TDM900 is never going to be a big seller over here for Yamaha.
The rest of Europe has a much more practical outlook in their
choice of two-wheeled transport and the TDM is a good steady seller
over there. Their gain is our loss.
List price £6,349 otr
Liquid cooled 896cc 2-cylinder DOHC parallel transverse 10-valve
Cast Alloy frame.
Tyres 120/70 x 18 front, 160/60 x 17 rear on 3-spoke alloys
Kerb weight (dry) 190 kg
Seat height 825 mm
Fuel capacity 20 litres
Colours - Galaxy Blue and Silver Tech
Performance -86 bhp @ 7,500 rpm; Torque 65.5 ft/lbs (88.8 Nm)
@ 6,000 rpm
Our Rating (out of 5)
Fun factor 5
MotorBikes Today overall rating - 4