1997 YAMAHA TRX850
In another dimension, Jonny’s RGV is road-legal and blasting B-roads. In this one, he’s bought a TRX850 to avoid having to think about it...
WITH MY RGV250 restoration project nearing glacial pace, and entering a phase of its restoration that is really time-consuming, I had a rare moment of clarity. I realised that it’s going to be a very long time before it turns a wheel under its own power. And even when that happens, realistically it’s not going to be a regular ride.
After a chance meeting with ex-PB photographer Simon Lee, and a negotiation that took less time than it did for the barmaid to pour a pint of beer, I became the new owner of his Yamaha TRX850 parallel twin. Another bike bought after too many shandies, and another spa weekend for Mrs Mack...
Unlike my eldest son, I’m old enough to remember the TRX850 first time round. He was genuinely surprised to learn that the bike in front of him in my garage was 20 years old. He actually thought it was another in the long line of modern bikes that often lodge in the McAvoy man-cave. So, it’s safe to say that the TRX has aged well, if it can pass muster with an impossible-to-impress teenager (that, or he was just humouring me).
But why the TRX? Well, it was cheap to buy (£1200 and a few pints of Stella), cheap to insure (£80 fully comp; being old has its benefits), and stands out as one of the braver bikes that Yamaha have ever built. There’s a fair bit of innovation on it that was partly aimed to bolster corporate identity (the five-valve cylinder heads), and partly aimed at nicking sales from the Ducati 900SS (the trellis frame and 270-degree crossplane crankshaft).
Elsewhere, the TRX has a shallow dry sump with the oil tank packaged behind the cylinders as part of the engine, and a stacked gearbox like the R1. The end result is a really neat, compact engine that’s mounted inside a skinny steel trellis frame, all finished off with FZR bits from the parts bin. It never sold particularly well when it was in production between 1996 and 2000 – which explains why it only lasted four years. People just kept buying the Ducati.
The TRX has gained cult status during the subsequent years, partially thanks to that parts bin approach to the chassis by Yamaha, meaning there are quite a few upgrades than can be made to the bike
without too much effort, using present day Yamaha parts. Minimum effort, maximum gain – my kind of modification. The number one tweak to TRXs the world over is to upgrade the brakes to blue spot brake calipers and raise the forks 25mm through the yokes. Both of these jobs have been done by Simon, so once I’ve got some air in the tyres, and some charge in the battery, the first job will be to get an MoT, and take it for a good ride. It has stood unused for a couple of years, so I anticipate a thorough once-over, checking all the linkages, chain, sprockets and carburettors, will yield results. Then I’ll take a trip to the dyno so I have a reference point for anything I choose to do with the engine. Did anyone say flatslide carbs?
The rear shock is already on its highest damping setting, and even from pushing the bike around the garage it is clear the forks are under-damped, so I expect big gains from the suspension. I’m going to resist a popular mod, which is to fit a YZF750 rear end along with a 180-section rear tyre. I’m not convinced a wider tyre and heavier swingarm are helpful with power as modest as the TRX’s. It could very easily detract from one of the bike’s strong suits – its nimble handling.
But my first job is to get it legal and on the road...
‘Even my impossible-to-impress teenage son was surprised to learn that it’s 20 years old’
Not for the first time on a PB photoshoot, Jonny plays with his knob
Jonny’s TRX already has its forks raised 25mm through the yokes
Shock damping set to max. And it needs a good clean
Homemade pinstriping: we’ve seen much worse...
Blue spot caliper swap was done by previous owner
NEW FLAME What RGV? La, la, la... can’t hear you... J Mac turns his attention to the TRX850. If Jonny’s RGV250 ever turns a wheel in anger, we’ll buy every PB subscriber a pint...* Jonny’s son feigns interest; even his whippet is on the verge of...