Yamaha TRX850 review

Posted: 25 Mar 2013

Back in the mid-1990s, big V-twin motorcycles were gaining popularity, particularly if they were red and had ‘Ducati’ emblazoned on the fuel tank. Yamaha was not interested in taking on Ducati’s race-replica sports bikes but saw a market for a middleweight to steal sales from Ducati’s air-cooled range.

The TRX appeared in 1996 and it was immediately obvious this new model was a parts bin special; forks from one model, brake system from another, levers and bars from elsewhere in its vast range of models and the engine had been around for a while in the shape of the TDM850. The funny thing is the TRX managed to hold down its own identity.

The reason for this was entirely care of the 850cc engine, which had and gave the mannerisms of an air-cooled V-twin – shudder from the engine at low rpm, plenty of bottom-to-mid drive – but was in fact a parallel twin.

Yamaha was clever with the TRX engine by giving it a 270° crankshaft to give a firing order that can be described as a mini-big-bang engine. Not only did it replicate a V-twin engine, it performed like one. A fist full of throttle exiting back road bends would always instill a smile on the rider’s face, but at a cost. In standard trim the TRX can sup fuel meagrely at 50-60mph, but put your foot down and consumption via the twin Mikuni carbscan drops to 26-28mpg.

The chassis wasn’t quite as sorted as the engine. The suspension is best described as adequate on smooth roads and woefully soft on anything else. Wallowing and not much in the way of feel from the tyres is bad enough but diving and springing back on and off the brakes is worse. A true speed fiend quickly resorted to a Hyperpro front spring kit and a revalve of the damping system. Most people turned the rear shock’s settings to near maximum and made do.

A TRX850 is one of those bikes that developed a cult following over the last ten years. Its tubular steel frame is unusual and easy on the eye. And as owners will testify, a little fettling makes the TRX a sweet handling performer.

+ points – good all-round ability. Still looks good today and they’re not expensive second-hand

- points – soggy old mess with standard suspension – lurch and wallow is the way forward. Rear shock damping likely to have gone awol by now.

Year: 1996-1999
Power: 79.7bhp, 61.8ft lbs
Wet weight: 202kg
Seat height: 795mm
Colours: red, black, blue