It’s not surprising that truckloads of the Yamaha TW200 motorcycle have been sold in recent years; it’s the preferred choice for weekend trips. correspondent Brett Hamilton takes it for a ride to find out why.

Yamaha’s recent obsession with the introduction of reworked machines, in the form of the YZF-R6 and R1, may have stolen the limelight from the other categories, but the underlying sales success of these models are testament to their abilities.

The superbikes may be the race-winning, headline-pulling, awe-inspiring machines that win brand loyalty on the track, but, in real-world conditions, they are awkward, uncomfortable and highly impractical. This brings us to bikes in the real world.

The term “workhorse” may not be the best way to introduce a motorcycle, but it does sum up the Yamaha TW200 perfectly. Officially labelled an “agricultural motorcycle”, it is also the preferred choice for weekend trips with many finding the TWs unthreatening package the perfect family companion. There is a reason why the Yamaha TW200 was the industry’s fifth best selling model for February.

There has been a tremendous boom in off-road motorcycling in recent years, with many riders finding the parameters of the superbike too confining. Try enjoying a family trip in the Karoo, travelling hundreds of dirt kilometres and then still zipping down to the shop for milk on the same motorcycle. Now, imagine doing it on a R1. Impossible, maybe, but definitely impractical.

The TW200 features a 196 cc, four-stroke, SOHC, air-cooled, single-cylinder engine that, according to Yamaha, is strong pulling. The engine starts up strong with either the modern electric- or nostalgic kick-start starter system. The four-stroke rumble may not be reminiscent of early GP racers, but it is clear that the TW has character. Even if that character could be described as weird. The vibration from the engine is amplified by its load noise, but a handy internal engine counterbalancer keeps most rattling subdued.

The TW is an admirable in-town motorcycle. After clunking into first, I was off to face the first part of my journey in the dirt. The first gear is extremely short and is testament to the TW off-road intentions with a real surge of power kicking in after engaging second. The tall riding position places you way above the rest of the traffic, offering you a panoramic view of the roads ahead.

However, despite the TWs high centre of gravity and perched seating position, it is suspiciously accurate in lane-changing shenanigans. It might not have the commuting credentials of a scooter, but the TW is comfortable diving into small gaps. This makes the TW a perfect alternative-commuting machine, while still being able to tackle the rough stuff along with the open road, to a certain extent. Yet, it is clear that the TW is not a supermoto.

The low-down pull from the 200 mill will enable any learner to easily win the traffic light battle without compromising their safety. The power is enough to make the TW an exciting prospect without providing over-the-top fuel for hooliganism. It is clear, however, that the TW lacks top-end punch. The needle jumps up with ease as you race through the gears at low revs. But, as soon as the speed begins the climb significantly, the TW hits the doldrums and the needle slows considerably until its hits the 100 km/h roof.

The unrestricted space provided by the low, narrow tank and wide seat instils rider-confidence that should make the TW a hit with novices and experts alike. The pace of the TW might not be fast and frenetic, but its smooth delivery is only offset by the very mechanical five-speed transmission.

As with any dual-purpose motorcycle, the TW offers uncompromising comfort. The wide bars, high footpegs and low 790mm seat make it not only comfortable, but also user friendly. The wide seat is plush and despite the fact that the TW would never cover considerable touring distances, its benefit does become apparent while hop-skip-and-jumping off the tarmac. The 1 325mm wheelbase of the TW does make its turning-circle bearable, but, as with any motorcycle, do not expect to make U-turns on narrow streets.

And, this is where our journey leads us. Out of the city and into the wide, open spaces of the country. TW country. As off-road motorcycling was its intended purpose, you would expect that the TW would show its true colours on the dirt. However, due to - and there is no other word for it - the gigantic 180/80-14 rear tyre, the TW is rather sedate on the dirt. Bear in mind that the TW is not a scrambler, but, to be quite honest, the TW was more fun on the road. It takes effort to enjoy riding the TW. The rear is rock solid and only hard braking offers the optimum communication from the machine.

However, this fact makes the TW perfect for its agricultural and family uses. Slower off-road speeds are definitely more suited to the geometry of the TW. You are never sure of the exact amount of grip that is available and the vague notion of loosing the front is a worrying factor. However, not everybody can, and wants, to ride the Dakar with Alfie Cox.

On the road, the diving 33mm front forks take some getting used to. With a firm squeeze of the brake lever, the jackhammer dive of the forks is unsettling and quite different to that of its on-road companions. However, the TW is surefooted in every sense of the word and off the road, once the callipers dig into the 220mm front disc and the rear drum brake starts to kick in, the TW gently rolls with the punches. All your weight is transferred to the front, giving the TW phenomenal grip. The brakes may not be of racing quality, but it does its job, enabling the TW to stop with surgical precision. This is another reason why the TW offers better riding quality on the road instead of off it. Off the road, keep it slow and the TW will behave. The planted feel of the TW might instil some foolish rider confidence that could lead to higher than advised speeds. On the road, there is no other way of riding the TW than slowly.

As motorcycles go, the TW is definitely a class leader. Truckloads have been sold in recent years and it seems that these figures will continue to climb. The TW is nothing less than an all-round farm motorcycle. It will be able to trot around the farm during the week, jump around on weekends and zip around town in between. There is much fun to be had on the TW, and with a pricetag of under R30 000, the TW neatly falls within reach of most budgets.

SUMMARY: The TW faces stiff competition from its peers and the demands from the off-road motorcyclists are high. And, as the pastime is increasing, the TW might soon find itself outplayed by the other manufacturers. However, despite it being outplayed on performance, the TW will still top the charts.

It will not offer you explosive power or frightening speed. However, maybe the TW was never made to do any such thing. It is a motorcycle to be taken slowly. Its planted handling and secure dynamics make it the perfect motorcycle to blip-blip along a secluded track, taking in the beautiful scenery of nature or to tackle the confined concrete spaces of the inner-city on your daily commute.

It is a perfect first motorcycle for those learners of a higher age. A friend of the farmer, commuter and family man. The TW is worth the time of day, if you are interested in an alternative, weird and rewarding motorcycle.

Special thanks to Dougie and Jurgen at Novel Yamaha Paarl for the supply of the Yamaha TW200.

By Brett Hamilton of Twist Grip.

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Original article from Car