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Yamaha TW200

Posted by on December 5, 2012
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Bob Ward

Fiction author with a zest for adventure travel. Blogs, tweets, videos, and pins for research and fun. He also hosts Ward's Adventure Travel Research & Trip Journal, a weekly podcast available on EFN, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and more.

I used to ride with a guy who had one of these. Gary was just awesome. Wise. Mature. Hugely likable and practical fellow. I saw him recently and said I thought the DRZ 400 might be in my future. He said, “You think you need a 400?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Ok.”

So yesterday, I found a used 2012 DRZ400 for a good price, went and looked at it, and realized (once again) it’s simply a wicked, bad-to-the-bone machine. I have already test drove the DRZ400 at a dealer, along with a DR650 (which felt very awkward, by the way, in my opinion), and so I know the DRZ400 is a fantastically ergonomic bike with plenty of meaty power and just what the doctor ordered.

I told the guy I was serious and would think about it over the next few days.

So I went back to my older post on percentage of use. Trail riding with my family. Gravel road tours with my buddy. Straight fun. Nothing fancy. I’ve never been a wheelie guy, or one to ride fast through the forest. I’ve ALWAYS been a plodder when it comes to riding. I want to relax, take my time, enjoy the scenery. I want to ride like Gary rode. I admired his patience on the trail. Whereas my other buddy, Brett, wanted to attack every ravine with gusto (and I usually followed his lead most of the time–because he was 21 and cool and I was 19), Gary followed us through at a more leisurely pace. He always brought up the rear, and seemed very content with that. When we left him in the dust on any open stretch, we always stopped to wait, and here he’d come eventually, plodding along in a fatherly way. Very stable. Never hurried. Never trying to wheelie or throw a rooster tail in the sand (well, maybe he did that, actually, if I remember correctly). Just an awesome dude.

Last weekend, I took my son out to Motospeedy’s farm so our kids could ride their play bikes (CRF70 and TT-R110). Motospeedy and I hiked the trail behind them, making sure they didn’t get stuck, fall over, stall out, etc., and whenever they did, we were there to help them. It really got me thinking about which bike would be best suited for following them…

The pace is slow. The terrain is mild. The fun quotient and fatherly satisfaction is very high.

The bike I kept dreaming about that day is the Yamaha “Fat Cat” (TW200).

Gary’s bike was the “Fat Cat”, which Yamaha used to call the TW200.

Wide tires. So wide they look weird. The front fender is fairly close to the wheel, maybe an inch or two from the treads. A lot of thick mud would jam up under there, I always thought. But then I remembered the bike I grew up on, which was a Yamaha GT80, and that fender is also close to the wheel. Never once did excess mud cause me any problems. The new motocross-styled fenders are really not necessary at all. Like you’re gonna be slogging through 10 inches of thick, sticky mud? Come on. How many times will you try that before you realized it’s no fun getting stuck in a bog? Getting your boots suctioned off in the mud as you’re trying to push out? Sure it’s a novelty to do it for the sake of saying you’ve done it, but I won’t be doing it by choice anymore. I’ve done it enough times in my youth to know it’s foolish to ride around afterwards with mud caked up to your knees.

Moving on…

200 cc is very mild. Top speed might be 40-50 mph. But what you need on the trail is a lightweight bike with enough power to get you up and down the ravines with ease. 200 cc’s will do that, even with a small passenger (but they always dismount anyway, in my experience). I used to ride a Kawasaki 250 enduro, which was heavy. My buddy rode an old Suzuki 360, which was heavy. I remember trying to climb a very steep railroad embankment once, and at the top the bikes had so much power, and were so heavy, we both lost them trying to hold them from rocketing over the opposite side. We both came back down the way we came up, only off the bikes and tumbling. Not cool. Damaged brake and clutch levers, bent handlebars, twisted spines, etc. But we were young and trying to be die-hards (or delete the word “die” and add the word “on” after hard and you’ll more accurately have the definition of what we were).

The TW200, with its wide tires, would shine on gravel roads at 40-50 mph.

The TW200, with low center of gravity, would shine on trails and hills.

The TW200, with its long, broad seat, would comfortably carry me and my daughter over all the trails I grew up riding.

The TW200, with its handy cargo rack, would carry a tent and some camping gear nicely.

Good, clean family fun! Hoo-wah! You rock, dad!

Here are a couple videos from Youtube, that showcase the TW200:

TW200 (This one is my favorite because of the music)

TW200 Dual Sport Riding the Rubicon Part 1

TW200 Mission Peak Ride (Yes, I noticed the one guy with the DRZ400 at minute 2:56 doing better in the snow! Believe me, I noticed! And the TW guys commented, too!)

(You can find many more videos similar to this, if you’re interested.)

Here is a forum dedicated to the TW200:

This seems to be the perfect “Dad” bike, doesn’t it?

If I had both a DRZ400 and a TW200 in my garage, I suspect I would always grab the “T-dub” and eventually sell off the DRZ400 for lack of use. The only caveat will be the bike’s riding stance, and if it suits me. I’m heading out to test ride one this afternoon, so I’ll know after that. The test ride is vital! I’ve already proven beyond all doubt that I couldn’t stand the DR650 after riding the DRZ400 immediately prior. It was night and day difference. So I may not like the T-dub’s stance either. To be determined.

Now, one final thought…

I think my wife would love to ride a TW200, so having 2 of them in our garage might be awesome!!

Would it work in Death Valley? Come on! There’s no reason it wouldn’t! We’re not as hard-core as we like to imagine. We’ll haul water and gas, and we probably won’t deviate off the main, well-traveled roads. There will be almost zero risk, because real life isn’t fiction, and I’m not going to chase any bandits across the long, hot, dry, and ruthless desert because they stole my bag of gold.

Enough said.

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