Yamaha’s XT660 has been around since Noah first went cruising, but the latest version is a hi-tech fuel injected all-rounder, which can commute, tackle trails or tour the World, depending on your mood.
Alastair Walker rides off into the sunset.
Big trailie style bikes are becoming more popular in the UK, with BMW’s R1200GS being a top seller, but the mid sized trail machines are usually more off-road focussed, harder to ride for the short-of-leg and – some might say – less useful for everyday commuting.
But this new XT660R is a world away from the old school thumper that Yamaha’s early 90s XT600 used to be. It is a smoothie, offering a plush ride on soft suspension and sips unleaded at 65mpg, whilst hitting a 110mph top speed. It also looks beautifully finished compared to some other `trail’ style 600 class dual purpose bikes.
The first thing I noticed was the relatively low seat height – compared to any CCM, KTM or Suzuki’s DRZ400, the Yamaha is OK for people like myself, who suffer the dreaded short leg syndrome.
Fir the motor and it burbles away quietly, smoothly, ticking over with computer controlled precision until you are ready to carve your way through traffic. Warm the engine, then the bike lunges forwards in the first three gears like a whippet in a pie shop, with instant acceleration that generally leaves the average car driver wondering how a single cylinder trail bike can move so fast.
It is hard to keep the front end down in first and second and the snappy acceleration soon encourages you to make good progress through busy traffic. The upright riding position and wide handlebars give you plenty of confidence attacking roundabouts too. There’s a slinky Supermoto version called the XT660X if you really want the `urban warrior’ look by the way.
A life without adventure is only half lived
But take off for a day in the countryside and the XT soon shows you why this model was regarded as the benchmark `Round the world on the cheap’ biking tool for a decade or so. The torquey 48bhp engine – now running fuel injection and water-cooling in 2005 – buzzes happily at 70-80mph, whilst the well balanced chassis helps the rider enjoy any twisty backroad, even those strewn with pot-holes, mud, stick-fondling ramblers or other hazards.
If you do want to green lane it, then the XT660R is easily capable of tackling muddy trails, although you might want to change tyres from the dual purpose Bridgestone TrailWings fitted. There’s also an optional bash plate available as a Yamaha accessory, which I would definitely recommend.
The bottom line is that something like a DRZ400 is much better at rough stuff, so if that’s the type of biking you fancy, then buy a trailbike. But on a fine day, with not too much deep mud on the tracks, any half decent rider will be having fun on the XT660 – it’s on par with the F650 Dakar I would say.
Maybe you wouldn’t travel the globe on this bike, but if you wanted too, I think it could handle most terrain without too much trouble. The bike is 165kgs dry, which is about 40kgs less than BMW’s F650 for example and even loaded up with touring panniers and kit I think it would cruise along at 70mph all day.
More usefully, you could tour – albeit solo – on the XT660R, taking a few weeks to bomb down to the Pyrenees and back, ideally using the smaller rural roads of France. The flyscreen is capable of deflecting windblast up to about that speed and the motor doesn’t get `vibey’ until you dial up 80mph or more.
The 15 litre gas tank gives a useful 150 mile range too – on test, the XT660 ran from Weybridge in Surrey to Bromsgrove in Worcestershire and the fuel warning light hadn’t even come on yet!
I think Yamaha have created a truly modern, dual purpose motorcycle, which can go anywhere and costs relatively little to insure, maintain and fuel up every week – all for around £4600 on the road. More importantly, it isn’t just aimed at penny-pinchers, it’s actually a stylish, well finished motorbike which makes you smile every time you ride it.
Like every great bike, it’s fun, pure and simple.
Get Yamaha motorcycle insurance for the yamaha xt660r 2005.
Test bike supplied by; Yamaha UK 01932 358 121
Engine Liquid cooled, single cylinder, four stroke, 4 valves, SOHC
Bore and stroke 100 X 84mm
Gears 5 speed
Compression ratio 9.7:1
Peak power 48bhp @6000rpm
Carbs None, digital fuel injection, automatic fast idle.
Frame Steel diamond tubular type.
Front suspension Telescopic 43mm forks
Rear suspension Monoshock, adjustable for preload
Brakes Single 298mm floating front disc, single 245mm rear disc
Wheels/Tyres 90/90 section 21 inch front, 130/80 section 17 inch rear.
Dry weight 165kgs
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Seat height 865mm
Estimated top speed 110mph.
Accessories Hand guards, bash plate, top box, flip-up screen.
Warranty Two years, unlimited miles.
Price £4599 June 2005.