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Archive for October, 2009
The Yamaha TDM900 is a tried and true formula with an engine with it’s root stretching back to the Super Teneres of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. This new version is set to take on the Suzuki V-Strom.
Smooth power, great ergonomics, well equipped.
Too road orientated.
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Best Kept Secret
At the pointy end of the Dual Sports sales figures the V-Strom has had a clear run but now Yamaha have realised they have a weapon that will go head to head with the best in the adventure bike battleground.Photos by Lance Turnley
When Clubby and I rolled into Hillston a few months ago we bumped into Steve, Greg and Dave. Steve was on a TDM 850 which he had bought secondhand and had made a number of mods to it. Handlebars and risers, Continental tyres and a custom made bash plate just to name a few. He absolutely loved his bike and couldn’t stop raving about it. Unfamiliar with the TDM I just stood their scratching my head. Then Cheryl Muldoon from Club Y suggested I check out the latest TDM on the Yamaha web site. In the back of my mind I was wondering if the TDM is such a great dual purpose bike why are they so rare on the NSW country roads. You don’t have to go any further than the Yamaha web site to find out why. The TDM 900 is listed under Sports/Touring along side their FJR1300 models. Go to the Suzuki web site and you’ll find the V-Strom under Off-Road > Dual Purpose category along side the mighty DR650SE and the DR-Z400S.
Well, since then somebody in the Yamaha marketing department has recognised the rough diamond in their midst, convinced the powers that be to give it a bit of a polish and pointed it straight at the dual sports market. After all TDM stands for Trail Desert Master.
What is it?
Yamaha have taken their TDM 900 Sports Touring bike and made a few simple mods that has the potential to put it ahead of the pack of the road orientated end of the dual purpose market. Like the V-Strom the TDM 900 has the styling and feel of a road bike but from its standard configuration Yamaha has made some critical modifications to ready this bike for immediate off-road touring.
Lets start with the standard base bike. From the R1 inspired frame hangs its fuel injected parallel-twin engine with a proven DOHC 5-valve head on alloy cylinders delivering a broad spread of power with bottom-end grunt right through to an impressive top-end. You’d expect the yamaha powerplant to be smooth and as expected it really delivers and careful throttle application on the dirt is advised. The six-speed gearbox was a real surprise with its low first gear for technical off road riding to its tall top gear or effortless cruising on the motorway.
Pulling up the TDMs 223 kgs (fully fuelled) is it’s dual 298mm disc brakes up front and 245mm single disc at the rear with Yamaha’s potent opposed-piston one-piece callipers which provides reasonable feel on the dirt and confidence to jump on them on the pavement.
One thing I like about the TDM is its 20 litre fuel tank which makes it one of the better candidates for a long remote haul. Not as big as the V-Strom 22 litre capacity but more than other manufacturers only offering 18 litres.
Our test route only offered smooth dirt roads and the tarmac in between so we really didn’t get to give the fully adjustable suspension a total workout but it was pretty much the sort of back road country touring you’d look for with this bike. So in the handling department we had no complaints.
But it’s the simple modifications that Yamaha have added to this special edition bike that makes it worth a closer look. To get more grip on the bike Tenere foot pegs are fitted. I think a quote we heard was ‘we can’t get the bike but we can get its foot pegs’. Next Yamaha have targeted rider comfort for the long haul. They’ve started by modifying the seat by changing the foam and fitted highlift Pro Taper bars from SERCO (Pastrana bend) for a little more upright riding position along with GTYR bar adaptors. Thankfully they’ve fitted a taller screen to reduce the fatigue associated with wind buffeting.
When you ride off road protection should always be compulsory and Yamaha haven’t forgotten this much neglected area. On the bars they’ve fitted GYTR handguards and down below small engine crash bars,
For the expected dusty conditions Yamaha have wisely fitted a Unifilter foam airfilter and a luggage rack at the back for tying the odd duffel bag to. To provide some extra grip and hopefully generate some off-road confidence over the standard units Avon Distanzia tubeless dual purpose tyres are fitted. They have a chunky closed thread pattern and look and feel more comfortable on the hard stuff.
The Yamaha TDM900 is going to snatch customers away from the Suzuki V-Strom. If you are a road rider looking to do the occasional off-road touring on country back roads then this is a great option. What makes it an even better option over the competition is the special edition accessories.
Where Did We Ride It?
Our ride varied from freeway cruising and winding tarmac country roads and smooth dirt detours. We even had a tame creek crossings. Pretty much what you’d be looking to do if you’re considering this type of dual purpose ride.
Starting with the base bike, its typical Yamaha quality finish and styling. Some people might think it has the face only a mother would love but you could say that for a lot of bikes. The engine is beautifully smooth and the low first gear makes maneuvering over rough ground much easier for a road orientated bike.
The big bonus is the factory fitted accessories including the Tenere foot pegs, highlift Pro Taper bars and GTYR handguards, a taller screen, Unifilter foam airfilter , luggage rack and Avon Distanzia tubeless dual purpose tyres.
What’s Not To Like?
If you are looking at this style of dual purpose bike then Yamaha has done most of the work for you. It’s not what’s not to like but what’s missing. Engine protection has to be a priority and a bashplate is a necessary touch. Also the engine protection bars that Yamaha have fitted look bit inadequate. The luggage rack is minimal but its better than nothing. Looking at the bikes design the rear exhausts are extremely vulnerable and need to be tucked in and under the rear.
The Final Word?
If your not a hardcore adventure rider or your graduating from the road bike ranks looking to explore further a field then the TDM900 Special is definitely worth a look. It’s very comfortable to ride and you can’t go past the smooth 900cc inline twin powerplant. Yamaha has fitted most of the accessories already that you’d normally fit yourself saving you time and money.
Off Road Explorer.com test the new Yamaha Tenere in Australia