What’s it like to ride?
This well-preserved TX felt light and manoeuvrable after I’d thrown a leg over its broad dual-seat and reached up to grasp the raised bars. A 1974-model machine with fewer than 16,000 miles on its clock, it started easily on the button, idled flawlessly and ran very well, marred only by a slight carburation fluffiness below about 3000rpm, which was almost certainly due to the Mikuni CV carbs needing cleaning out or fine-tuning.
From the moment I pulled away it was clear that the appeal of a simple, torquey parallel twin was as strong now as it was when this was Yamaha’s highest-performing streetbike. Midrange acceleration was instant and strong, backed-up by a pleasantly fruity sound from the twin silencers as the TX surged forward, its performance emphasised by the wind tugging at my shoulders due to the upright riding position.
The transmission received some criticism in contemporary tests but this bike’s five-speed box worked fine. The motor was smooth at low revs but typical parallel-twin buzzing came through the bars and seat from 4500rpm. This allowed comfortable cruising at up to about 70mph. That was sufficient given the exposed riding position, and the fact that I wasn’t planning to rev this elderly bike closer to its tonplus top speed.
Handling was distinctly better than the older XS-1 I once rode and good enough to make the TX a pleasant bike to ride fairly hard. Those wide bars and the reasonably light weight meant it could change direction fairly quickly, despite its old-fashioned geometry and 19in front wheel. Yet it was very stable in a straight line and didn’t give any worrying moments even when cranked enthusiastically through a series of curves.
Inevitably, aggressive riding prompted the slim frame and ageing suspension to give a slightly vague feeling, which was not helped by the forces being fed through the high bars. But the suspension worked much better than expected, probably because the shocks were more compliant aftermarket units with somewhat better damping than those the Yam would have worn when new.
The TX’s brakes were praised at the time, but this bike’s single disc felt wooden and lacking in power, making me glad of the rear drum, and illustrating how much braking has improved over the decades. Fortunately, relatively new Metzeler tyres brought grip levels pretty much up to date, and allowed me to make use of the Yamaha’s reasonably generous ground clearance.
Overall the TX650 was enjoyable to ride and worked well enough – helped by those uprated shocks and tyres – to make me understand why Yamaha didn’t change it dramatically in subsequent years. Yamaha’s mid-Seventies flagship still can’t approach the pace or glamour of its CB750 or Z900 contemporaries, but all these years later its blend of parallel-twin character and rider-friendly performance remains as appealing as ever.