2016 - 2018 Yamaha TW200
Fuel-Injection Haters Rejoice! Yamaha Still Makes a Carbureted Dual Sportby Allyn Hinton, on
Fuel-injection haters rejoice. There are still some carbureted options out there for off-road. Spec-wise, the TW200 is the same bike Yamaha has offered for over a decade, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a look. The TW200 — brought forward for 2018 — with its scrappy little 196 cc engine is a nice learning bike, fully street legal but with that distinctive motocross-style swale seat that says you’re going off-road. On the move, the bike has nice low-end torque and you’ll feel the front end trying to come up when you get even a little twisty. Dual sport, yes, but so much about this bike just begs to be in the dirt.
Continue reading for my review of the Yamaha TW200.
2016 - 2018 Yamaha TW200
The first thing I notice when approaching the TW200 are those fat — almost freakishly fat — tires. Yamaha put a 130 series tire on the front — a size that is usually reserved for the rear on a bike this size — and put a 180 series tire on the rear. With the knobby treads reaching around almost from rim to rim, you know the bike wants to be off the pavement.
The second thing I notice is how slim the bike is. I might call it almost wasp-waisted. Combined with the low-seat height of just over 31 inches, it’s easy to find the ground at stoplights and for low-speed maneuvers. Far be it for me to call 31 inches "low" seat height, but for off-road, that really is low-low.
Instrumentation is easy-to-read and analog mounted on top of the tripletree inside the headlight can that almost doubles as a squared-off bullet fairing. I haven’t seen anything official, but figures range from 66 to 73 mph top speed; those are coming from enthusiast, non-professional riders on public roads. Still, when the bike gets up close to highway speeds, there’s a bit of vibration.
Yamaha kept the frame nice and light with a single-downtube, stressed-engine frame design that uses the engine as a structural member to complete the assembly. This precludes the need for a heavy cradle to support the engine weight, and simplifies construction somewhat. The steering head provides 25.8-degrees of rake for 3.4-inches of trail; figures that make the TW200 agile and responsive to steering inputs.
The 33 mm front forks come with 6.3 inches of travel and bellow gaiters to keep the swept part of the fork tubes clean and free of seal-destroying grit. A coil-over monoshock springs the box-section swingarm, and comes with a 5.9-inch travel of its own. While suspension travel is not even close to that of single-purpose, off-road bikes, the suspension is quite cushy, and adequate for its multi-task role as a dual-sport.
A 110 mm, mechanical drum brake binds the rear wheel, and a hydraulic caliper with a single, 220 mm disc binds the front. While the disc size is adequate, it lacks the popular “wave-cut” design that provides a modicum of self-cleaning ability, so I would call this an area with a little room for improvement. The wheels themselves come laced, so you can count on that little extra bit of give on rough terrain, and the special, on-road/off-road 130/80-18 front and 180/80-14 rear tires serve as a “Jack-of-All” to make the whole rig work.
Though the air-cooled, four stroke mill is rather small at 196 cc, it is apparently big enough. Riders seem to alternate between moonshots and squeals of glee — sometimes both concurrently — so even though Yamaha is a bit stingy with hard performance number, it’s safe to say it’s powerful enough for the job. The over-square engine runs a 9.5 to 1 compression, so no need for race gas or even premium pump gas here, and a 28 mm Mikuni carburetor feeds the mill while keeping everything nice and simple. Simple is good, m’kay?
The capacitor discharge ignition (CDI) provides maintenance free ignition, and the automatic cam-chain tensioner keeps itself set just right, so you can spend more time riding and less time tinkering. A constant-mesh, five-speed transmission sends power to the rear wheel via the chain drive. I am a little surprised at the lack of a kickstarter, given that this bike has such a small engine and that it’s designed for off-road use at least half the time; but hey, that’s probably just me.
MSRP on the 2018 is a very reasonable $4,599 — the same as last year — and comes in Sandy Beige. Yamaha covers it with a one-year limited factory warranty.
When I think of small cc dual-sport bikes, the first that pops to mind is the KLX250S from Kawasaki, but that was from 2014. Let’s look at something a little more recent and go for the CRF250L from Honda.
The Honda has a bit more motor at 249.6 cc, and it’s decidedly more sophisticated than the 196 cc mill in the TW200. Liquid-cooling, higher compression and computerized ignition show a progressive bent, with a 36 mm, fuel-injected throttle body to manage air-fuel induction. The thing about fuel injection is it’s great and fine – all the way up to the time that it isn’t. Carbs may require more maintenance, but when something goes wrong you can fix it without a scanner, laptop or some other expensive device to tell you what’s wrong. Buyers will have to decide which they prefer. I am old and set in my ways, and don’t see what was wrong with carbs and magneto ignitions with points.
The CRF wins in brakes, with all-around juice discs cut in the wave pattern. Sorry Yamaha, but mechanical drum brakes in 2018? Really?
Pricing is close enough to be a non-issue, with nary but $400 to choose between the two, but for what it’s worth, the Yamaha squeaks out a win in this category. Not surprising given the wonderful overall simplicity of the machine.
My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Neat little bike, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys to ride, evidenced by the grown men squealing like ten-year-old girls when they grab a fistful of throttle and try to twist it off. That’s something I do not recommend trying right away until you get a feel for it, ’cause the front end needs very little encouragement to come off the ground. There are so many categories (and sub-categories) nowadays that the lines become a bit blurred (shoutout to Robin Thicke), but I can almost see this serving as something of a mini-Motard. Oboy, here comes another style of racing!”
"This really is a sweet little bike. It’s torquey and fun to ride. I have more respect for these single-jug engines than I did in the past and it’s getting harder and harder each year to find carbureted bikes. Yeah, fuel injection is all well and good, but I know I’m not the only person who’s had to sit on the side of the road — literally — with a tool kit out fixing something before I could continue my trip. You just can’t do that with fuel injection."
|Engine Type:||air-cooled SOHC four-stroke; two valves|
|Compression Ratio:||9.5 to 1|
|Fuel Delivery:||Mikuni® 28 mm|
|Charging System:||CDI Magneto|
|Starting System:||Electric Starter|
|Lubrication System:||Wet Sump|
|Transmission:||Constant-mesh five-speed; multiplate wet clutch|
|Primary Reduction Ratio:||3.318 (73/22)|
|Secondary Reduction Ratio:||3.571 (50/14)|
|Gear Ratios:||First: 2.833, Second:1.789, Third: 1.318, Fourth: 1.040, Fifth: 0.821|
|Suspension, Front:||Telescopic fork. Coil sping/oil damper; 6.3-inch travel|
|Suspension, Rear:||Single shock; 5.9-inch travel|
|Brakes, Front:||Single disc, 220 mm|
|Brakes, Rear:||Drum, 110 mm|
|Wheel, Front:||Spoke, 14M/C x MT2.5|
|Wheel, Rear:||Spoke, 14M/C x MT4.5|
|Seat Height:||31.1 inches|
|Ground Clearance:||10.4 inches|
|Minimum Turning Radius:||74.8 inches|
|Fuel Capacity:||1.8 gallons|
|Fuel Reserve:||0.4 Gallons|
|Fuel Economy:||78 mpg|
|Recommended Fuel:||Regular Unleaded|
|Wet Weight:||278 Pounds|
|Maximum Load:||397 Pounds|
|Warranty:||1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)|
|2016, 2017:||Mineral Blue|