Practical Sportsbikes (UK)
RESTO: YAM TDR250
It was a right choker when Kes’s first TDR got pinched, but his second taste of this ace stroker has him once more relishing the charms of Yamaha’s wonderful old TDR
Not enough of us bought these back in the day, month and year. Regrets... we’ve had a few
Lockdowns haven’t been all bad for PS reader Kes Scott. Had it not been for the first 2020 house arrest Kes’s 1991 Yamaha TDR250 would still be in bits on his garage floor, instead of turning the air a wispy blue near his home on the edge of the Peak District.
Seeing Kes beam from ear to ear as he proudly (and quite rightly so) shows us his refurbished Dual Sport Yam, it’s clear that he’s secretly pleased he was hauled up at home during last spring.
“I bought the bike last September, but I didn’t start doing anything to it until January this year,” says Kes of his project. “Then when lockdown started, I thought I might as well get stuck in – there’s nowt else to do. By the end of July, it was finished.”
In fact, a couple of months’ hibernation in the garage hasn’t only turned his TDR around in double-quick time, it’s changed Kes’s mindset away from ‘normal’ pursuits and massively in favour of the bike. “I won’t be rushing out to spend five quid on a pint again, that’s for sure. while we were unable to go out, all my spare cash went on the TDR – and the result is far more pleasing than the bottom of an empty glass…”
Speaking of empty glasses, Kes owned a TDR250 when he was 17, “In Lucky Strike colours too – it looked the business,” he says. then some scrote nicked it from outside his work only eight weeks after he’d acquired it. “The police found it, but it’d been stripped of anything worth having so I never got it back. Bastards.”
“I WON’T BE RUSHING OUT TO SPEND FIVE QUID ON A PINT AGAIN. THIS RESULT IS FAR MORE PLEASING THAN THE BOTTOM OF AN EMPTY GLASS”
Frustrations like that leave a sour taste in the mouth so this project hasn’t only been about bringing an old Yamaha back to life, but revisiting an experience that was cut frustratingly short all those years ago by some thieving toe-rag. Only this time, Kes’s glass has been very much full.
He knew his luck was in when he started dismantling the sorry-looking TDR bought from a fella up Blackburn way, who was even good enough to van it down to Kes’s residence just south of Stockport.
“To look at, it was a hound,” remembers Kes. “Usual project stuff – rattle can paint job, chipped TZR wheels, filth all over everything. Cost me two grand, mind. But on the plus side it was a matching numbers UK bike showing only 18,000 miles, and it was all there.there didn’t even appear to be any crash damage. I’d heard it running, too, prior to agreeing to buy it but, in all honesty, I wasn’t that bothered because I knew I was going to tear it down. then when I started taking it apart and got beyond the grime, I could see that some of the muck covering was actually a blessing.”
As great as they were and indeed are, TDRS were never built for the long haul. In many ways they’re perhaps Yamaha’s most throw-away bike.they attract rot like flies to the proverbial – wheel rims, pipes and even the frame are notorious for harbouring corrosion that eventually eats its way through the thin steel. Kes’s bike, however, had suffered an oil weep that had coated the expansion chambers, frame rails and engine in a layer of lubricant.
“That oil leak saved the bike,” smiles Kes. “I really couldn’t believe my luck. Once I’d cleaned the pipes they came up like new – that’s unheard of with old TDRS because the exhausts always rot where they cross. Same with the frame tubes. although the paint was chipped and worn it’d got so coated in two-stroke oil over time that corrosion hadn’t had a chance to get a foothold anywhere really. I was expecting it to be a lot worse.”
The frame proudly showed off its rustfree tubing once it’d been shot-blasted by Stockport Powder coating, who then recoated and lacquered it in a gunmetal grey that’s a fine match for the original. they also repainted the steel swingarm that was in a much worse state than the chassis. “Once the frame was coated it then had a clear powdercoat to give in the original shine – it looks mint and I’m very happy with the overall result.”
While the chassis was away being given a new set of clothes, Kes pulled the engine down to check its condition before handing it over to Chris Moore at MW Motorcycles in Hyde.
“Chris has built loads of motors for TZS and Classic TT race bikes over the years, so what he doesn’t know about two-strokes isn’t worth knowing,” says Kes of his engine-man, and friend. “Mechanically the TDR lump was still a runner, but after 18,000 miles it’d got a bit loose, and on the outside it was tatty beyond belief. It needed a rebore so Chris took it out to 0.25 oversize before replacing all the crankshaft bearings and seals.the gearbox was good enough to go again, but the clutch got a refresh.”
Kes got Chris to sonically clean and vapour blast the carbs while he was at it. “They were in a shocking state. I’m surprised that the seller got it to run to be honest, they were that bad. I rebuilt them myself but – you know how it is with carbs – they leaked so I’m still waiting on another rebuild kit for the left-hand side that’ll hopefully get them fuel-tight.”
Although the frame had been saved, thanks to a coating of oil, from a fate of
gradual decay, the TDR’S front end hadn’t benefitted from the corrosion resistant attention of escaping 2-T lube.
“The fork legs were in a bad way – all furred up where the thin factory lacquer had peeled away,” explains Kes. “I’m pretty sure that nothing had ever been apart on this bike since it was new.all the bolts, nuts and Allen heads were still nipped up as they had been at the factory.the forks definitely hadn’t been touched – what oil was left in them looked prehistoric. Luckily though, the fork gaiters had protected the stanchions and I was able to reuse them once they’d had a thorough rub down.”
Rather than lob the original shock in the nearest skip, which is so often the temptation when aftermarket replacements can be had for reasonable money, Kes elected instead to have it rebuilt, a job laid at the door of Manchester based Kais Suspension. while they refreshed the shock, Kes got stuck into replacing the rear suspension’s tired bearings which, like the rest of the bike, hadn’t seen grease since they left the production line.
Despite its outward state, Kes realized just how kind the years had been to the TDR when he inspected the inside of the tank. Not the orange, rancid gunge-filled horror he’d expected. Unbelievably, it was clean. This just doesn’t happen to old Yams, the majority of which came with tanks made from cheap, foil-thin steel. Even the lower seams were intact.this must be a first…
The rest of the bodywork wasn’t so pleasing. Badly fitted, cracked and sprayed in the dark by a technique that can’t have been far off throwing paint-filled waterbombs at it, nothing short of a miracle was going to get them good enough to stick back on the bike.
“The big problem with the panels is how brittle they are – they don’t age well. I had to source a replacement right hand side panel. For paint, I’d used a firm called Lightfoot Motor Company in Hyde a few years previously on a C90 custom I built. They’re more a car bodyshop than bikes but I was impressed by their work, so I asked them if they’d do thetdr.they did the graphics too, and I’m really pleased with the end result. Plus, I didn’t want to use someone who was miles away, what with lockdown, so they were the ideal choice.”
As various firms in the Manchester area got busy with numerous parts of the TDR, Kes cracked on in the garage with a pile of other tasks.
“Having all that time on my hands I was able to refurb a lot of original parts myself, like the wiring loom which I went right through to make sure all the connections were on point before rewrapping it.a lot of the black plastics – things like the airbox – came up really well too, with a bit of TLC. I stripped and repainted the exhausts after I’d cleaned off all the crud and oil; I’m really pleased with how they’ve come out – they’re like new pins.
“The most frustrating part was the wheels. I knew I didn’t want to keep it on TZR wheels, not because I wanted to be an anorak to originality – I’ve done as sympathetic a resto as possible but without
“ALL THE NUTS WERE STILL NIPPED UP AS THEY HAD BEEN AT THE FACTORY. THE FORKS HADN’T BEEN TOUCHED – WHAT OIL WAS LEFT IN THEM LOOKED PREHISTORIC “
getting bogged down in the right colour for each bolt – but because, for me,tdrs have wire-spoked wheels.”
Luckily the original wheels came with the bike, so Kes stripped, cleaned and resprayed the hubs before adding a thoughtful and very useful twist to the finished items.
“I wanted the look of a stock TDR but with better tyre choice, so I ditched the original 18-inch front rim in favour of a 17, and on the rear I’ve gone with a wider 3.50-inch rim, both from Manchester Xtreme, who also recovered the seat, to accommodate a 140/70 17 tyre in place of the original 120/80 17.”
Not only that, Kes also opted for fatter spokes to upgrade the notoriously brittle originals. But, in order to fit them the holes in the hubs needed to be drilled out. Wanting the rims painted gold – matt rather than the blingy coating of the originals – Kes sent the rims, spokes and hubs off to Central Wheel Components in Birmingham to be coated and put together.after all, if anyone knows how to rebuild wheels it’s CWC.
The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the non-stock front mudguard.an original TDR part, designed to cover an 18inch wheel, would sit too high over the new 17, so Kes sourced an early RGV250 guard that, luck would have it, fitted straight on.a Taffmoto brace finishes it off nicely.
Kes’s feverish determination, not to mention all that spare time, has seen the TDR come together in double-quick time but, because the world has yet to return to firing on all cylinders, he’s still waiting on a few parts and looking to tweak some of the work that’s been done.
“It’s together, and running, but I’ve still to fit the seat strap – that’s waiting in the glovebox in my car, I’ve got the carb kit and rear brake cable guard on order, plus I’d like to change the brake lines because the front one is discolouring already.
“Ever since my first TDR got pinched I’ve felt I had unfinished business with them, and I always promised myself I’d get another. Although it’s taken 27 years to achieve that, it’s definitely been worth the wait. Putting it all together was a lot of fun though, even if it was frustrating at times waiting on parts, but now it’s finished 2020 hasn’t worked out bad for me at all.”
How many people can say that?
Nothing compares to atdr250.after all, these dual sport strokers had no competition. Not even Yamaha updated its mongrel creation; it was just too leftfield to warrant further development, so this highpiped hooligan stands alone. But that didn’t stop the TDR from being brilliant, both then and now.
Race rep 250s can be hard work. Off pipe they can be uncomfortable, unforgiving and frankly tedious.atdr delivers all the best bits of, say, a TZR or RGV – manic top end, minimal weight, two-finger braking and race rep agility – but without all the negative stuff, and plenty more besides.thetdr is a win-win, so it’s nothing short of a travesty that these banzai hybrids didn’t sell in the numbers they really deserved to.
Kes was one of the few who really got the TDR, and when you see where he lives it’s not hard to grasp why he bought one in his youth, or why he’d want another one now. He lives in the perfect place to own this 250 – right on the north west edge of the Peak District.the area is littered with quiet roads
and lanes made up of short straights linked by hairpin turns and corners just begging for a full throttle exit.this ISTDR country.
With the ink still drying on the TDR’S first MOT certificate in years, Kes has barely had the time to stick 100 miles on the freshened motor.the pistons and rings are still bedding into the bores, while the crank’s yet to spin in real anger. “I’ve zipped it up to 9000rpm a couple of times, just to clear it out,” Kes tells me before I sample the thing. “As long as you don’t hold it there, or give it full gas before every gear change it’ll be OK.”
Being respectful to Kes I short-shift while riding for pics, but it’s a real test of restraint to stop the TDR from chomping into the bigger numbers around its tank-mounted tacho. On the occasions I do feed it a larger gulp of unleaded, the parallel-twin comes alive as its powervalves rotate to fully open. The pull is irresistible, and with slightly lower gearing than a TZR the bike’s urgency to fire forward is as vivid as it is exciting too.
If it were fully run-in I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from nailing the throttle out of every turn – this is what TDRS were made for.and for wheelies, which Kes is itching to reacquaint himself when the motor’s ready.
The bike’s upright stance is a benefit rather than a hindrance, especially on the many dry-stone-wall-lined roads, where I’m perfectly positioned to see what’s coming, and where the tarmac is heading next. If anything, it feels like a big DT125R, and not that much heavier, although thankfully the suspension sits a tad firmer so it’s possible to slam the TDR on its ear through a corner and make the most of the grip and feedback from the wider 17-inch rubber – Kes made the right decision to up-spec the rims.
I know Kes is keen to change the front brakeline and, having felt the stopper’s slightly wooden feel, I’m with him on that.a TDR brake should be strong enough to stick the bike on its nose, and offer the finesse of thetzr set-up it was pinched from.a better hose, and different pads, should cure this.
The only other issue I’d have to sort before it drove me nuts, and Kes is already on it, is replacing the tired gear lever mechanism. A sloppy, worn system spoils an otherwise perfect transmission, and it’s a common issue, not only with TDRS, but with many otheryamahas of the period.a simple fix.
Kes is certainly pleased with how his Yam’s turned out. “I’ve done about 100 miles on it now – and it rides brilliantly,” he told me a week after our visit. “When it’s on the pipe it’s great fun flying through the gears.the noise is so nostalgic to me... and the smell.”
OK, it’s only taken 27 years, but Kes has finally got his TDR back.