Monday, 2 April 2018

Yamaha TDR250


Probably the worst thing for your confidence, and indeed your ego, when posing on a shiny newish TDR250, is to drop it in front of a bus full of people on a greasy street. But, yes, after only three weeks of trouble free riding, my pride and joy was resting on its side, bleeding petrol and looking very sorry for itself indeed. To be honest, I felt a bit stupid as well, laying as I was, a couple of feet behind it.

The bike represented the sum total of all my savings, a couple of loans and a GPz305, and had, up until that point, been showing me what real motorcycling was all about. I got it off a pal who had bought it then discovered he needed the money to set up a business, after just 120 miles of abusing the TDR.

I had fallen in love with it the second I saw it and had spent the next five and a half days convincing him that his business was a great idea. In fact, a wonderful idea. In the end, he sold it grudgingly and I was sure I could see his gloating face on the bus as I was helped to my feet by the seemingly ever present old nurse type. After testing my limbs to see if they still worked, I limped over to inspect the bike.

Picking the Yamaha up, I reckoned the damage seemed mostly superficial and was, within minutes, back in my garage trying to work out how to pay for the repairs. In actual fact, the only things that really needed replacing were the front brake lever and indicator. The exhaust, footrests and bar ends were all scraped but not sufficiently bent to merit replacement and were passed over with my magic rust proofing paint brush. It was just as well, because TDR parts are not the cheapest things on the market.

With a front right-hand exhaust and protector coming in at a pretty hefty £242 and brake pedal at £55, I was thanking my lucky stars to be born sufficiently open minded not to let a couple of covered up scrapes dent my enthusiasm. Looking back, that was probably one of the biggest advantages of the TDR, you got the power and looks of a bike without the worry of a full fairing or the necessary cost of fully comprehensive insurance.

The TDR is a fast bike and can be favourably compared, in terms of speed and acceleration, to almost anything in the 600cc trials/enduro category. Its engine is the same as the race bred twin cylinder two stroke unit installed in the TZR250 and has the same power output of 50hp. I actually found it quite a similar beast to ride despite the trial bike inspired styling. Maybe that was down to the time I had spent behind the bars of various four strokes, but in direct comparison the TDR certainly didn't lose a great deal in terms of acceleration from its more conventional brother.

In all out top speed, however, the TZR takes the honours by a long chalk with the TDR managing only around 110mph flat out. And that was with me almost becoming one with the tank. I have heard that it will do another 15mph given the right conditions and rider. but I wouldn't like to chance it. as in my experience it starts to weave at anything over 100mph.

At lower speeds, however, its stability is fine with the original Metzelers performing admirably in anything the weather throws at them, even snow (yes, I am that stupid). Indeed, the TDR feels very solid and trustworthy in most situations, a fact that often encourages over use of the throttle.

The first thing that you notice when getting on a TDR is the ridiculous positioning of the tacho, stuck. or seemingly wedged, into the middle of the tank, it offers absolutely no advantage to any rider sensible enough to wear a full face helmet. Indeed. I found its location bloody dangerous, as looking down to check the revs is almost always accompanied by complete removal of your eyes from the road in front. This actually caused me a few problems, especially during the initial stages but I soon learnt the secret - don't bother with it at all; the engine soon tells you if you are going over the score, as do your underpants! Like any other frantic two stroke, the engine and exhaust give out a bony wail and, to be honest, rather satisfying high pitched scream. The noise is all part of the fun of riding a TDR, but I must admit to sometimes wishing for the cool seduction of the CBR drone or, indeed. the Harley roar (when I'm really very depressed).

Another stroker malady is the reputation for smokiness. Starting it up on a cold morning can be rather embarrassing, as it tends to produce a cloud bigger than that hovering over the nearest coal burning power station. The only time it caused me any bother, though, was when l was reproached by some cyclist for damaging the ozone. l apologised and rode off, feeling rather guilty for a minute... that's the thing about the TDR, riding it is such fun you forget about everything else.

It's light enough to be weaved in and out of traffic, tall enough for any necessary intimidation and fast enough to see off almost anything it wants (within reason, of course). The problem of smokiness can apparently be helped by cleaner two stroke oil, Shell Gemini for example. But the frightening consequences on the wallet of such a move has kept me in the market for the lower grade delights of Duckhams two stroke for the time being. Just as well, for the engine consumes a hell of a lot of oil - I find myself sticking in a litre every 250-300 miles.

Fuel economy is also poor, with just under 40mpg around town and long distance work even worse. On a recent jaunt l found myself hitting reserve after about 110 miles on a three gallon tank. That gives the bike an all out range of around 140-150 miles, probably just enough to tour if you should want to.

Other consumables on the bike seem to be equally short-lived. I found myself replacing the back tyre after around 4000 miles and the front around 8000 miles, a figure which I felt was rather on the poor side for a 250. But then again, the TDR's acceleration is quite exceptional for its capacity so I should not really complain.

One thing I would complain about is the front light, an extremely dim output did not inspire much fun during night time riding and I frequently found myself in various ditches after not registering the sharpness of an oncoming bend. The tail light is equally inadequate and adds insult to injury by being very expensive to replace. For such an expensive machine a very poor show. Even the horn is embarrassing. The switchgear, however, is very easy to use, apart from the choke which is hidden down by the engine's left-hand side.

The TDR is classed as an all terrain sports machine in the Yamaha brochure alongside its DT cousins, and it's certainly not difficult to see why. Although it’s much more chunky, sitting on the bike is exactly like sitting on any other trials bike with the usual problems. The major one in my case being its height and size as well as the enforced upright riding position. Indeed, this caused me quite a lot of pain until I got used to it.

Added to that, the frame mounted fairing really offers no protection from the elements unless you tuck right in, and doing so can be difficult to maintain on long rides. All in all, I wouldn't view the TDR as anything like a long distance bike and would prefer the comfort of a big four on any tour. The suspension is what you would expect. Telescopic fork and monocross rear end coping well with anything my rather meagre attempts at off road riding threw at it. I don't really think of the bike as a trail bike - the engine’s just too peaky.

The power valve comes in at around 6500rpm... only a rough estimate as I'm usually too busy hanging on to check the tacho. Keeping the engine above that level will be cause for no disappointment. The inflexibility and intensity of the engine can sometimes be frustrating, especially when stuck in slow moving traffic with no escape. Don't expect to use the words low down grunt when talking about the TDR, it doesn't have any, or none that I could find. Fortunately, the six speed transmission is the best I've experienced.

Since I bought the bike I have experienced no problems with it whatsoever. The 3000 mile service costs around £45. Older TDRs seem to be somewhat similar in the reliability stakes, although they are not bulletproof by any means... thrashed examples are particularly prone to shot powervalve seals and the tendency amongst owners is to thrash them to death!

Taking everything into account, I have to rate the TDR very highly indeed. Although some people hate it, I love the way it looks. It’s a strange but mean looking thing that most definitely turns heads at the lights. It's not as big as most of the high powered, large tanked Paris Dakar replicas, but could probably just about pass for one at a glance.

It's really not that kind of machine, though. it’s the kind of bike for impressing friends, keeping up with the local hot rods, throwing around town and just generally enjoying yourself upon. If you're looking for something a little more serious and sedate try a car!

I Gillan

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