Yamaha Trailway 200 | Cycle World | SEPTEMBER 1987 (2024)



A new idea tried once again

THERE'S A STANDARD QUESTION THAT MOTORCYCLE people ask any time they encounter a brand-new mode! of bike: "How is it?" But when confronted with Yamaha's radical-looking new Trailway 200, most people ask, “ What is it?”

Indeed, the TW200’s 5-inch-wide, semi-knobby front tire and equally cleated 8-inch-wide rear seem to say “dirt” loud and clear, while its .full lighting and turnsignals strongly suggest street-legality. So it’s no wonder the TW200 leaves unknowing observers more than a little confused. It looks a lot like Yamaha’s off-road-only Big Wheel 200, the innovative bike introduced in 1985 that offered a new way to think about dirt riding, but the TW's lighting equipment and truly weird overall appearance throw most people a curve.

But that similarity is the key to understanding the TW200. Just as the BW200 was to off-road playbiking, the TW200 is Yamaha’s attempt to inject some fresh thinking into the stagnant dual-purpose segment of the market. Honda tried to stimulate sales in that area last year with the Reflex, a trials bike converted into a dual-purpose machine. And with the TW200, Yamaha has taken a shot at that same market by building, in essence, a street-legal version of the ultra-fat-tired BW200. The idea is to retain the go-anywhere, do-anything character that once made dual-purpose bikes some of the world’s most popular motorcycles. but to do it in a way that hasn’t been tried since the fat-tired Suzuki Tracker 125 two-stroke of the early Seventies.

There’s no question that the TW looks a little strange, but when you sit on it and putt around a little, it feels like a fairly ordinary motorcycle. Its 200cc, sohc, single-cylinder four-stroke engine has electric starting—unique among entry-level dual-purpose machines; and with a wide, soft seat that’s not too far from the ground, a wide handlebar that provides lots of leverage, and spacious rider accommodations, the TW200 has the basic feel of a conventional dual-purpose motorcycle.

But of course, it is not conventional, a fact that the chubby tires seldom let you forget. They’re quite a bit smaller than the ATV-type flotation tires used on the Big Wheel, which helps explain why they offer pretty good traction on pavement, allowing surprisingly high lean angles without sliding. And on dirt, the rear tire provides tremendous traction when the air pressure is up around 18 pounds. Pressures much lower than that put too much rubber on the ground, making the rear wheel too difficult to spin in certain low-speed situations where a little reartire slippage is desirable. The front tire, however, doesn’t work as well on as wide a variety of terrain, and tends to slide out before the rear.

But this is not a machine intended for fast, aggressive riding either on or off the road. Its engine, aside from the electric starter, is virtually a replica of the BW200’s, and is tuned for lower-rpm torque and not high-rpm horsepower; so the bike is happier simply putting around at a moderate pace. Thus, easy cowtrails and tight fireroads are perfect off-road venues for the TW, just as around-town commuting and casual rides through the countryside are ideal onroad uses. Don’t plan on spending much time on freeways or major highways, though, because while the TW has a top speed of 70 mph, the engine doesn’t much like running faster than 55.

Nevertheless, the TW has a relatively normal overall feel, thanks in no small part to its steering—which is not, as the fat tires might make you believe, slow and heavy. Actually, the TW steers rather lightly, particularly at low and medium speeds; yet when cruising on the road, it is perfectly willing to remain in a straight line until told to do otherwise.

Not so surprising is the fact that the ride, aided by the spongy tires, is very cushy at all times on the road and at slower speeds on most trails. It’s not until you attempt higher speeds on rough off-road terrain that the chassis and suspension are overmatched. The front fork then bottoms and the rear shock reveals a shortage of rebound damping, making the TW behave more like the world’s biggest basketball. The brakes also do little to encourage fast riding, especially on the street. The front drum brake in particular requires a healthy squeeze, and even then doesn’t offer a wealth of stopping power.

Still, as dual-purpose machines go, the TW200 is a pretty good one—better as an all-arounder, certainly, than Honda’s off-road-intensive Reflex, and at least as good as most conventional d-p bikes. It’s competent on the street, enjoyable in the dirt, and functionally closer to the mainstream than its appearance indicates. And when you consider that for its $ 1699 buy-in you get a rugged, electricstart, 200cc machine that can take you just about anywhere you’d care to ride, on or off the road, you get yet another answer to the question, “What is it?”

It’s one of the best fun-per-dollar values in town, that’s what it is.





Yamaha Trailway 200 | Cycle World | SEPTEMBER 1987 (2024)


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