Yamaha have re-entered the busy dual-sport market with a new take on an old friend. Damien from Dirt Bike Trader mag took it for a run...
Two of the biggest growing sectors of the motorcycle market today are the scooter and the dual-sport crowd. The dual-sport machine is a hairy man's bike - one that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Earth and back again.
Like a packhorse, it'll carry all that you need to survive in the world's most inhospitable regions, and it's built to accept nothing less than a zero mechanical failure rate. Whereas a scooter would crumble under the weight of Charlie Bormann's incessant whinging - the dual-sport trooper marches on.
The range of dual-sport bikes has never been greater and everyone has something to offer. From Aprilia to Honda, Suzuki to BMW, your favourite colours and countries of origin are all catered for.
Yamaha has been quiet for some time now though. The tuning fork mob hasn't really had anything that could truly be called dual-sport since the death of the Ténéré. They have however, a long and distinguished history in dual purpose bikes.
In 1983 they released the XT600Z Ténéré model and it was a huge success for the company for over a decade. Fast forward to 2008 and Yamaha have again used the XT platform to re-enter the 'go anywhere' market, with release of the XT660R.
Based heavily on the XT660X motard bike, the 660R certainly looks the goods, with a styling that satisfies for off and on-road tastes. It wouldn't be out of place out the front of a fashionable cafe or an outback pub.
The engine looks all dirt, but aside from the frond guard, the rest of the bike looks like a tar burner. I like it. It's not as cool looking as the BMWs or the sweet new Honda Transalp, but it's very sharp and modern.
The controls are neither a great leap forward nor are they a let down.
The LCD speedo unit is an attractive bit of kit and looks pretty sturdy, but the windshield is too small to be of any use to anyone over two and a half foot tall. A dual-sport bike should have a good sized windshield to help fight those battering winds of Moldavia, or Sydney's F3 freeway.
The footpegs and side-stand assembly are not great. Suzuki's ancient DR650 offers better quality here. I'm not suggesting they'll break, but if it was all a little more sturdy there wouldn't be any complaints from me about build quality because the rest of the bike is well presented.
The dual pipes are a cool look and the bike idles cleanly and quietly, with a nice snappy response from a brap of the throttle. But when sitting still, you appreciate nothing greater than the soft wide seat.
It truly is your bum's best friend. In fact the bike's pretty comfortable overall. The tank is big between the legs, but it doesn't feel like you're humping a Volkswagen, as you do on a TDM, and although the seat climbs the tank at an angle that looks unfriendly to your precious cargo, you can still get pretty far forward without it getting too uncomfortable.