2011 Yamaha TW200
When you first approach the 2011 Yamaha TW200 the first thing that strikes you are those outrageously huge ATV styled tires. All of a sudden you are having flashbacks to two wheel drive Rokons scrambling their way up Arctic mountainsides. There was a time not so long ago where other manufacturers such as Suzuki also built Big Wheel bikes such as the 196cc air cooled SOHC four stroke two valve TW200 single, but the market just seemed to evaporate, leaving the Yamaha to carry on the flag of Big Wheeldom all by itself.
The TW200 is most certainly a throwback to the past, but due to its unique qualities, it certainly earns its place in the 2011 lineup. Riding a 200 cc mini thumper with a tread on the back the size of a Dodge Viper's evokes a very unusual experience. The first thing you notice is that whenever you're leaning into a turn its as if someone had taken a vat of molasses and spread it on the ground in front of you. The huge tire is so massive that considerable extra effort is required to change its inertia. It's the only 200 cc motorcycle that handles like a Gold Wing.
While on public highways that is not necessarily a good thing as the TW200 is not exactly as easy to flick around as a supermotard, when you get onto fairly non-challenging hard packed trails, the TW200 is an eye opener. Ruts, drainage channels, and other trail inconsistencies virtually disappear and a medium rough trail smooths out to the level of a well maintained fire road. By looking at the size of those monster tires, you'd think that the TW200 would be a star in the really loose and rocky trails, but in those conditions it really falls short. Extreme roughness sets up a type of pogostick action which is quite disconcerting, and the inability to quickly recover from big bumps is a guarantee of dented bodywork and bent handlebars coming up.
Where the TW200 shines beyond the shadow of a doubt, however, is in deep sand: The kind that just swallows up your wheels and leaves you flopping from side to side bruising your knees on the tank. The TW200 just laughs heartily at the dunes and just keeps on motoring over the top of the loosest silica. Consider the TW200 the hydrofoil of sand. When you want to turn on deep sand on the TW200, you just do it, without having to tighten up your arms and pray that you don't get a mouthful of beach. Braking and accelerating are just as outstanding. It couldn't be easier to ride a TW200 in the dunes if they had been just paved over.
The 2011 Yamaha TW200 is a sand king, a medium trail prince, a smooth trail baron, a rough trail pauper, and a street mangy dog. Keep all that in mind and you'll have a great time!
2011 Yamaha TW200 At A Glance
Base MSRP: $5,199
Engine Displacement: 196 cc
Engine Type: 4-stroke, air-cooled, SOHC, 2-valve, single
Bore & Stroke: 67 x 55.7mm
Ignition Type: Starting CDI / Electric Start
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Transmission Type: 5-speed
Final Drive Type: O-ring chain
Front Tire: 130/80-18
Rear Tire: 180/80-14
Wheelbase: 1,325mm (52.2")
Saddle Height: 790mm (31.1")
Curb Dry Weight: 127kg (279.4 lb)
Fuel Capacity (US): 7 litres
* Specs/pix apply to 2010 model, updates as released