It’s fair to say that the ol’ TDM was a bit of an under-achiever in the UK’s sales charts, nevertheless it’s a pretty capable bike, when you scratch the surface.
This bug-eyed beauty was first imported into the UK back in 1991 and it was a big of a trend-setter, if we’re being honest.
It was an amalgam of different parts… the frame was a Delta Box, like something you’d find on the FZR1000 EXUP of the time, but the motor was clearly based on the old Super Tenere. Those twin round headlights were pretty much ‘of the time’ but the seating position was very upright and (dare we say it) a little ‘motard.’
We over in the UK seemed to ‘get it’ for about a year. By that I mean understand what the TDM850 was about. It was hailed as a sportsbike beater by the likes of Performance Bikes and Simon Hargreaves but within a year the same journalists were calling it ‘Tedium’. Strange…
Our European cousins loved it. They’d put loud pipes and sticky tyres on the thing (and EXUP wheels) and go hooning around Le Périphérique or pull big wheelies past that Triomphe thing… Across Europe the TDM850 was the second biggest seller in the 750-1000cc category behind the Honda VFR up until the 900 came along in 2002.
The original 850 used the parallel twin from the Super Ten, so it had around 75bhp and could see more than 120mph. Changes came in 1996 when Brit designer Glyn Kerr changed the looks to something more alien and the crank was changed to a 270-degree one (from the 180 throw) which gave the bike a feeling of a V-twin. Course, this version of the motor was already used in the TRX850 which used the same five-valve head motor.
2002 saw the much-improved 900cc version come out which was pretty much an all-new bike (such was its importance in the European marketplace.) The power was up to around 85bhp thanks to a bigger capacity, fuel-injected motor, the chassis was still a Delta Box, but now an aluminium one and brakes (from the R1 no less), suspension, ergonomics and weight distribution were all changed. Rear tyre width went up from a 150 to a 160 rear-section. There was a swanky new digital LCD clock-set too and six, not five cogs in the gearbox.
Price-wise, the early 850s can start as low as £500-£800. Sure, they may be a little rough, but you get what you pay for. The updated 1996 models aren’t much more and the 900 version can be found in decent condition for £1500 or more. At the other end of the scale some chancers are asking £4000+ for late model TDM900s, but there’s no need to pay that much for a good one. What we suggest is try and buy one that suits your needs. If you commute/tour, plenty will be found with decent luggage/heated grips/bigger screens, so look around…
WHAT GOES WRONG
RECALLS: Some 850s had clutch plates replaced by dealers way back when, and on the 900 changes were made at dealer level to the ECU to help the fuel-injection system.
BRAKES: From the 900 model on (2002) Sumitomo ‘Blue-Spot’ R1 brakes were fitted. These are superb, but benefit from a clean-up every now and again. And ignore what you’ve been told about the calipers themselves… these can be stripped right back and serviced.
SUSPENSION: Forks on any model seemed to be soft from new. Try heavier 15wt oil in the forks, or go further and use linear fork springs. Owners have also dropped the forks 10mm through the yokes to speed up steering. The rear shock is also soft from new and the originals on 850s will now be passed it! Check owners’ club for what works. Sometimes they do discounted buys…
ENGINE ISSUES: On the 850 a small amount of fuel can leak into the inlet tract when the bike has been standing overnight causing misfires/backfires. Holes in the original exhaust can also cause backfires. Flat-spots in the power delivery can be thanks to worn needle jets in the carbs. Engine fans can also stick on thanks to issues with the thermostat/fan switch set-up.
FINISH: Not the best at all – by a long shot. You have been warned.
FUEL TANK: 18 litres on the 1991-1995 models, 20 litres from 1996
Yamaha TDM850 (1991-1995)
Colours: black, red, blue/grey, dark green, violet
Price new: £5279 (1991)
Comments: The original model had a Deltabox steel chassis and the Tenere-based 180 degree crank motor. Soft forks and shock but the whole plot worked very well indeed.
Yamaha TDM850 (1996-2001)
Colours: silver/yellow, red/black, black, blue, red, yellow
Price new: £7299 (1998)
Comments: A smoother all-round look: TRX 850’s 270-degree crank is used to make power feel like a V-twin. Forks increase in size to 43mm, exhaust system is also re-designed. Loom gets space for an alarm at the end of 1996 and hazard lights fitted as standard from 1998.
Yamaha TDM900 (2002-2011)
Colours: yellow/silver, black/silver
Price new: £6799 (2002)
Comments: Fuel-injection and a bigger 897cc motor as well as a host of improvements. The gearbox also gets an extra cog too. The aluminium twin-spar frame is also new, as is the new, swoopier bodywork. The instruments are now digital and all-new.