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...

Performance Bikes (UK) - - Performance Bikes - Si­mon Lee Photography

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...

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