The TM range of bikes includes Enduro, Supermoto, and MX models, like this barnstorming 250 two stroke.
Made to a very high spec, the engine capitalises on 30 years of experience in building two stroke motors for competition use and has a tough chassis, featuring Marzocchi forks and Ohlins monoshock suspension. Weighing in at just 113kgs dry, the TM250 delivers a 45bhp kick-in-the-pants the moment you twist the throttle open.
Alastair Walker tried to hang on.
There’s nothing like the smell of two stroke in the morning. It hangs in the air, a bit like gunsmoke, just after the rasping, spitting engine has fired the spent mixture from the cylinder head, rattled its clutch basket and made the piston rings sing with speed.
A two stroke single is arguably the most pure type of motorcycle engine. Here, nothing is superfluous, no drop of precious power is wasted on driving camchains, idler sprockets, gear trains, tappets tapping or valves bouncing. Instead, every time the spark plug explodes fuel and air, a sharp jab of bhp, faster than Ricky Hatton’s right hook, thumps downwards to the crankshaft assembly, just itching to get on with the job of translating all that primeval force into forward motion.
Tell you what, God may ride a Harley, but when Satan feels like a blast… he probably nicks somebody’s TM 250.
I probably looked nervous as Mike from TM UK warmed the 250 MX model up for me, listening to the motor popping and banging as it struggled to breathe properly. The noise assaulted my ears, even with a helmet on, and the bike seemed to look a bit taller in the saddle than it had in the back of the van some ten minutes previously. I recalled the last time I had ridden a two stroke – a blue Yamaha MX machine it was – and how breathless I became trying to drag it out of the mud, after it spat me off for the 6th or 7th time.
Sometimes, as Clint Eastwood once remarked, `a man’s gotta knows his limitations.’ So I decided to take a few minutes to get used to the bike, go easy on the throttle and pick out some really flat parts of the soaking wet Wiltshire field for my first ride on the TM 250. Good thing too.
You see this motorcycle accelerates like an R1. Yes really, it does snap forwards that fast, catching you unawares with the sheer breathless rush of speed it has lurking inside its engine cases. Of course the immediate lunge towards the horizon only lasts for a few seconds, then you have to change up a gear on the TM250, but for a brief moment, this hard-edged scalpel of the landscape carves like a Superbike at Brands Hatch.
Like most highly tuned two strokes, it doesn’t really care much for poncing about. I could sense that the bike wasn’t entirely happy with my ham-fisted attempts at cornering on boggy ground using a trailing throttle. The TM250 needs to have the throttle whacked open on a regular basis I reckon, and because the TM250 uses a good old fashioned carb, rather than fuel injection, it hasn’t got the myriad range of self-adjustment when it comes to metering the precise amount of fuel required for the job. It splutters and begins to struggle with a rich mixture at low revs. It’s no big problem, just the way that an old fashioned stroker engine runs, that’s all.
But for an expert rider – and I think it would be an expert who forked out £4500 for this bike to be honest – the TM250 should run sweet enough. It certainly has all the power you might want from an enduro/MX race bike, though TM don’t quote a peak power figure. I would guess at something around 45bhp, kicking in at 9500rpm or so, but I could be wrong.
The ride quality, so far as my novice seat-of-the-pants could tell, was also excellent. I only managed to scrape a few mild ruts into the swampy field, but the bike coped with being turned rapidly, crossing small lumps and ridges of mud, or gassed up hard through deep pools of crud, with minimal drama. Great for me, as my 48 year old reactions to bikes going sideways on me aren’t that great…
I got bold enough to use a dab of front brake now and again, as well as the rear, and I was surprised at how much feel there was, how easy it was to control the gentle slithering of the wheels with both brakes.
I need some comfort at my age and the TM250 was kind enough to flatter my limited ability off-road and not dump me on my arse. It steered with a very light touch of the handlebars, or moderate bodyweight shifting, the chassis never felt skittish, or too lively. As a novice, I felt I could press on a little bit harder every time I ploughed through another massive pool of standing water, still confident the bike wouldn’t step out too violently.
You know something, I think I could actually learn to be halfway competent at riding off-road aboard the TM250, given a couple of days tuition. Some other MX bikes I’ve ridden don’t inspire me with that same feeling – they lack finesse, and feel simply brutally exhausting for me to ride.
The Quality Option
Yet still, for all its smooth ability skimming across wetlands, after just half an hour messing about on the TM250, I was pretty much knackered, so I quit before I ended up getting cocky and being catapulted into a barbed wire fence or something equally daft. Like most MX machines, The TM is best ridden in short, concentrated bursts.
Standing beside the TM250, you soon begin to notice the little details which set this bike apart from mainstream bikes from most of the Japanese, or European brands. The welding on the spartan frame is superb, beautifully executed. There are no rough cast brackets, or awkward lumps of angle iron tacked onto the chassis to provide footrest hangers, radiator mountings etc. It looks well designed, purposeful, very Swiss Army Knife in fact. A casual glance at the swingarm, complete with TM embossed logo, or the rubber-mounted handlebar mountings, tells you all you need to know about TM’s devotion to the idea of making something superb, a cut above.
This bike is a piece of lean, muscular engineering that can win races straight from the crate – if you have the talent.
Of course, you could enter a few enduros on a used KLR300, or an XR400, for half the cost and to be honest, as a novice, I think I probably would feel more confident on a plodding four stroke. But I can see that if you developed some real skill, you’d want the instant, fluid punch of power that the TM250 delivers. It puts a grin on your face and the classy ride and handling of the TM makes you feel like you’re capable of going ever quicker, of improving corner by corner. I liked that.
Undoubtedly, this bike is for dedicated off-roaders. It ticks all the right boxes, is single-mindedly designed and has the cachet of being that bit different too. It looks built to last, constructed to a far higher standard than a Honda 250 `crosser.
For me, that is truly amazing; that the world’s number one bike maker can produce off-roaders which look barely more durable in terms of cycle parts and overall finish than Chinese made trailbikes, yet a tiny Italian company can make something so beautiful to look at, and so much fun to ride. We live in interesting times, as the proverb goes.
Big question then, would I buy one? You know what, I wouldn’t, but only because TM make a Supermotard version, which comes with a massive 300mm Brembo front brake and optional Ohlins forks. It looks the absolute bollocks for annoying the hell out of 1000cc sportbike riders on a really twisty road…although it would be about as practical to own as a chocolate Beanie hat.
Looks like fun though and isn’t that what owning a motorcycle is supposed to be all about?
Get Carole Nash bike insurance for the TM250 MX 2007.
Engine Single cylinder, liquid cooled, two stroke
Bore and Stroke 66.4mm X 72mm
Peak Power 45bhp (est)
Fuelling Keihin 38mm carb
Gears 5 speed
Frame; Steel tubular
Forks; Marzocchi 50mm, adjustable
Rear suspension; Ohlins, adjustable for preload, rebound and damping
Brakes; Single 270mm front disc, 245mm rear disc
Wheels/Tyres; 90/90 21 inch front,
140/80 18 inch rear
Fuel Capacity 9 litres
Price £4800 (Dec 2006)