Q. Who ate all the pies?

Well, you might remember the 1980s, when Motorcycle News was full of pictures of heroic nutcases bombing across the Sahara on weirdly massive trailbikes, getting into sticky situations (Mark Thatcher...) and garnering loads of publicity - well this was the Paris-Dakar Rally, a French invention like the guillotine, although responsible for fewer deaths.

Largin' it

The result of the rally's popularity was that several motorcycle manufacturers built special “Paris-Dakar” stylee bikes. Initially this was whatever big trailie they were selling with the addition of a huge petrol tank (XT600 Tenere, XL600LM). Then came the ever bigger and fatter versions, called Camel, Elephant, Super Tenere, Dakar and Hippopotamus (I made that one up).

Historically, the consensus for off roading had been that something small light and nimble was best. The DT175 was a favourite for many years, but this all seemed to change – partly when the manufacturers realised that most trailbike owners rarely took them off road at all, so the emphasis shifted to trail styling on what was essentially a big tall heavy road bike.

Trail bike owners are familiar with the fact that they can make excellent urban bikes and are roomier and often a more comfy ride than the roadie equivalent.

The new twin (factory YZE750) first came to the public's attention winning the Paris-Dakar twice as the 750 version, then four times as an 850. Obviously these hugely valuable specials were made of unknown Martian alloys and assembled by obsessive nerds in secret underground laboratories, and only bore a glancing resemblance to your out of the showroom stock bike. Nevertheless, the old adage of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” proved once again true.

Riding High

So we get to the XTZ750- A cheaper alternative to Honda's XRV750 Africa Twin, it stands 16HH (it's like getting on a horse so why not?), weighs oh around 7 tonnes, and is almost as easy to wheel around as a Reliant Rialto. The twin cylinder watercooled  engine had the new 5 valve per head Yamaha system, in theory giving more torque, although this proved of marginal benefit, 4 valve heads are still the norm today. Heavily over square cylinder dimensions are all the rage now, the XTZ an early example of this trend at 87x63mm.

Power and torque both max out at 7500rpm so no big plateau of midrange, just a linear progression of stomp - speaking of which, the TDM900/850 engines are a not too difficult a swap, and you also get wider spaced top gearbox ratios for more relaxed high speed cruising... it's all on the XTZ forum. Twin front discs give adequate braking power for the time, but if you are used to your Triumph Daytona one finger stopping, you won't be overwhelmed. Tyres are the traditional 21/17 sizes, lots of choices here.

Non-adjustable suspension was not unusual for the time either, and compared to the (more expensive) Africa Twin, accessories and upgrade parts are more difficult to find. So if you are contemplating a round the world jaunt, check out the extras available first. I had a slightly taller flipup screen on my bike, which neatly directed the blast onto my visor just where I didn't want it, but maybe the standard part is actually easier to live with. And just to reiterate- It's big, tall and heavy!

That said, once on board, it feels nice and squidgy, with lots of midrange for blasting uphill and overtaking at medium speeds. For me, top gear seemed a bit low for the road, although with those wide bars I suppose sustained high speed is a bit of a no-no anyway.

It's supposed to do 119mph, so you should be able to keep up with an Aprilia RS125. Maybe, on a good day. But you will charge about in relative comfort, and that's the point isn't it? Lot's of room for the person of above average dimensions, or those with cans of pro-gain in the kitchen and a handy box to help climb aboard.

I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want

I should say here that I really wanted an earlier XT600 Tenere, one of the loveliest bikes of that era I think, but ended up with the XTZ instead, and it proved too much for me!  The sidestand collapsed one day around the weld, it fell over, (just filled the six gallon tank) and I couldn't pick it up on my own... awful, just awful, and that ended our relationship. Then I remembered the struggle to get the airbox rubbers on, (ended up buying new ones from Wemoto), the dragging corroded brakes (fixed with seals from Wemoto again) and I sold it, no regrets.

However the XTZ750 does have many virtues - it's got 69hp, accelerates pretty well, dominates the road and deters car drivers from trying to sneak past you, it's good in traffic as you can see ahead (bit like a 4x4 in that sense) it has a fan club all it's own and still holds its modest value pretty well.

The only thing really to say is that if you are a bit small and weedy like me, it's probably not the right bike in the first place!

A. The XTZ750 - Discuss...

...And if you do want to discuss this then give us a comment on facebook or twitter or email us at news@wemoto.com Likewise if you have a favourite bike or a suggestion for a bike of the week you would like us to feature, then drop us a line and let us know.

Posted by Jerry Rulf
for Wemoto News on 11 February 2014 in Features

Edited By: Daisy Cordell



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