Now over shadowed by its bigger capacity successor it is easy to forget just how good the original formula really was, and still is. We take the TDM850 for a trip down memory lane.
Based upon the XTZ750 Super Tenere of the late 80’s the 5-valve per cylinder Yamaha engine is a great piece of engineering to work with. The original 360-degree crank design was updated in 1996 to a smoother 270-degree item, this creates a real push in the acceleration department allowing the power strokes to be closer together and making the big yam feel much more like a V-twin than an inline motor ever should. The engine want the only area that came in for improvement, the forks were made beefier expanding to 43mm, while the radiator shrunk in size to reduce the frontal area, and the tank grew to a full 20-litres. The latter helping the bike to become an even better tourer thanks to its low fuel consumption when ridden steadily, owners have reported as much as 55 to the gallon on occasions, giving the TDM a great range between fill ups.
With such a range it is crucial that the bike doesn’t urge you to stop before the need to arises, a steep leg down riding position allows plenty of room on board and little rider fatigue too, especially during long hauls, when the TDM feels more like a comfy armchair than a motorway muncher. Although not the prettiest of bikes the TDM can lay claim to being one of the most useful, able to speed along and impressive rates thanks to its sweet chassis, commute in the urban jungle or load lug too. Those big wide bars allow the big yam to take on a nimble, traffic-dodging role when required, while the narrowness of the engine, and bike in general, certainly help it in this task. Even with such lithe proportions the fairing and screen do work well up to and a shade above the legal limits, keeping much of the wind blast off the rider and reducing any long term fatigue even further still. The mirrors are quite unique in modern motorcycling as they actually give a good view of what’s behind you, not that much will be on the right road. Trying to find a machine that does what the Yam does is tough especially at the sort of price you can get a decent TDM for, the Honda Varadero is a well over egged pudding, feeling a good deal heavier, both on the move and standing still. The Honda comes with a high price tag too, ok the build quality is a shade better but performance wise the Yam runs rings around the bike from the mighty H. when buying a used TDM do keep a good look out for any plastics damage, the mid 90’s model did suffer from cracking around the mounting holes. Short of that, the usual crash damage should be avoided like with any used purchase unless the price reflects any impending repairs, likewise with the exhaust down pipes and rear shock unit, these do get a good blast from the front and rear wheels respectively and will suffer with time.
The only fault I have ever found with the 850 version is the rear suspension, its too soft and fails early on in its life too. Replacing this errant device with an up rated one is a must do for most rider and the improvement is stunning, all of a sudden the chassis takes on a different personality and the front end becomes sharper and a darn sight more predictable. Of course Yamaha did away with the 850 in 2002 when the all-new 900cc version arrived, with a 6-speed box and trendy alloy frame the later model is a better bet on paper but for those on a budget it can be well worthwhile trying out the way things used to be, you might be in for a big surprise, as even today over a decade since the TDM came of age the type is still a capable tool and fun to ride too.
Yamaha TDM850 Specifications
Engine – 849 cc liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, twin
Bore & stroke – 89.5mm x 67.5mm
Power – 80bhp @ 7500rpm
Torque – 56 ft-lb @ 6000rpm
Transmission – 5-speed chain final drive
Frame – steel twin spar
Brakes – 2 x 298mm discs 4-piston calipers, 245mm disc 2-piston caliper
Wheels – 110/80 x 18, 150/70 x 17
Fuel capacity – 20 liters
Dry weight – 201kgs
Top speed – 130mph
Yamaha TDM850 Gallery