What’s it like to ride?

Motorcycle Monthly - - Iconic Metal -

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.

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