Buyer Guide: Yamaha TDM 850 & 900

The ultimate buying guide for Yamaha’s TDMs by the people who actually own the bike...

Click to view: Yamaha TDM 850 & 900 owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

Touted as ‘the next big thing’, Yamaha’s hybrid had real appeal when it appeared in 1991. Some would say it defined a new class of bike. Unfortunately here in the UK, the bike buying public weren’t that impressed and didn’t splash out on them in huge numbers. Other manufacturers didn’t copy the concept although it was actually a very useful combination of an upright riding position from a big trailie allied to road wheels and tyres for better braking and cornering. So the TDM soldiered on, ploughing its own furrow.

It’s only fifteen years later we’re seeing mainstream rivals, bikes like Triumph’s 1050 Tiger, Ducati’s Multistrada  and there’s no shortage of BMW R1200GSs fitted with cast wheels and road tyres. They’re superb bikes and that’s because the TDM’s hybrid recipe is actually a winner.

So where does that leave the TDM, the bike which began it all? Sold at a discount in the UK, it’s the budget big capacity upright bike on the market. Owners love them for their many reasons but the fact they’re good value new or used and cheap to run feature pretty high on the list for most. Genuine versatility’s also a main attraction.

Ok, the TDM’s don’t quite have the performance of more modern rivals – they’re a little too soft and not quite powerful enough to mix it with the latest offerings. Most owners don’t care. They love these bikes because they’re simple, reliable, versatile and loads of fun to ride thanks to the torquey engine, sharp brakes and commanding riding position.

Just under 100 TDM owners filled in our online survey, telling us all about their bikes. That’s the biggest response we’ve ever had to the Visordown Buyer Guide. Don’t dismiss it as yesterday’s new; it offers an awful lot to loads of people in exchange for very little.

Yamaha TDM Specifications

1991 Yamaha TDM 850

Engine l/c, 10v, carb’d, parallel twin, 849cc Power 78bhp @ 7,500rpm Torque 56fltb @ 6,000rpm
Dry weight 199kg Seat height 795mm Fuel capacity 18 litres Top speed 128mph

1996 Yamaha TDM 850

Engine l/c, 10v, carb’d, parallel twin, 849cc Power 78bhp @ 7,500rpm Torque 59ftlb @ 6,000rpm
Dry weight 201kg Seat height 795mm Fuel capacity 20 litres Top speed 130mph

2002 Yamaha TDM 900

Engine l/c, 10v, injected, parallel twin, 879cc, Power 85bhp @ 7,500rpm Torque 66ftlb @ 6,000rpm
Dry weight 190kg Seat height 825mm Fuel capacity 20 litres Top speed 135mph

The nuts & bolts

TDM 900 Tyres
The favourites for the 900 are Michelin Pilot Road 2 – they’re extremely well regarded if not cheap. Next is the Pirelli Diablo Strada, another premium sports touring tyre while Avon Storm ST and (the now superseded) Bridgestone BT-020 are joint third. If you’re looking for a budget option four owners use Continental Road Attacks and rate them highly. Original fitment Dunlop D220s and Metzeler MEZ4s are non well liked.

TDM 850 Tyres
Avon Storm ST’s are the most popular tyres TDM850 owners fitted to their bikes. They’re a great sports touring tyre and a few quid less than the big names. Michelin Pilot Road 2 are close behind with owners commenting on superb wet weather grip. Third are the budget but very capable Continental Road attacks. A handful of intrepid 850 riders have fitted dirt style rubber which boosts the TDM’s limited off road ability a little. Of these Pirelli Scorpions a nd Michelin Sirac and Anakee are recommended by owners.

Top tyres
Avon Storm ST – 17%
Michelin Pilot Road 2 – 14%
Continental Road Attack – 11%

Tyre life varies massively with use. The owners in our survey averaged 8,650 miles and 6,026miles front and rear respectively but the highest would be 20,000 front and 9,000 rear with the lowest  5,000 and 3,000.

Running costs
Fuel consumption’s something loads of owners flag up as one of their machine’s best qualities. 850 owners in the survey averaged 48mpg with the best being just over 60 and the worst 35. 900s are even more frugal, partly thanks to their sixth gear, fuel injection and lighter overall weight and average consumption in our survey was 53mpg. The best was 70 and the worst 35.

Other running costs are reasonable too. The first 850s were meant to be serviced every 4,000 miles but later 850s and 900s only need the attention every 6,000 miles. Three quarters of 850 owners do all their own servicing but garage bills aren’t too bad for those who don’t. Average price paid for a minor service is £109, for the intermediate it’s £166 and the major valve service due at 24,000 miles is £274. For the 900 the average costs were minor £124, intermediate £184, major with valves £287.

Owner Case Study: "My TDM850’s covered about 80,000 miles"

Tony Davis has done about 60,000 of those over the last three years.

“It’s a great bike – the perfect all rounder. I have a few other bikes including a Yamaha XTZ750 Super Tenere and a Yamaha TRX850. They have similar engines. I love the torque and there’s power everywhere. The TDM’s so easy to ride. You can fling it about like a supermoto or you can hang off like a race rep.

“The regulator rectifier did go which blew all the bulbs and left me stranded at the side of the road. I replaced it with an RR98 unit from Electrix World (£54, 01491 682369). I also did the engine an injury but that was my fault. I didn’t check the oil when I got it and they do use a bit. It’s nothing to worry about as long as you top it up - but I didn’t. Anyway at about 50,000 miles I was caning it round the Nurburgring and it started to go. By the time I got home the oil was all milky and the engine was very sick.

“I replaced the suspension with an Ohlins shock and got the forks re-worked by Maxton. They’re probably worth as much as the bike itself but they make a huge difference. I got some stainless steel downpipes from eBay but they were cheap ones – bad copies of Delkevic and they needed quite a bit of bashing to fit. I’ve got them, a custom Y-piece with D&D stubby cans and it sounds great. I’ve got K&N pod filters too and I’ve re-jetted with 165 main jets.”

Hard luggage
It’s the sort of bike that’ll take one or two people on holiday so hard luggage is quite popular. 15 out of 36 TDM850 owners in our survey had some sort. Givi was by far the most popular and most people were very happy with it. The few criticisms were that some older cases leaked and some caused high speed instability. Krauser was the next most popular but far less so than Givi.

The story’s pretty similar on the 900. 39 of 61 900 owners in our survey have hard luggage. Givi’s the number one choice by a mile again. A few have Yamaha’s own luggage but it gets criticised for its awkward shape and scratching easily. One owner’s got an Rjays topbox which has had problems with the base plate cracking and they don’t recommend it.

What goes wrong
The main criticism on the 850 is regulator rectifier failure with six in our survey doing so at one point of another. Starter solenoid and coil failure both happened more than once. There were a few other one offs but nothing major except Rory Horan’s 42,000 mile bike which knackered a piston. Richard Parkinson’s 850 has an appetite for regulators, but his bike has covered 250,000km and ridden from the UK to New Zealand two up!

The 900 is even more durable. Four owners reported cam chain tensioner failure (on 2004 and earlier bikes). An uprated part from Yamaha fixes this. There’s a few (four) issues with coils and bad starting but other than that there’s extremely few problems making it one of the most reliable bikes we’ve surveyed.

850s have quick corrode downpipes, the paint flakes off the engine and swing arms look tatty fast. Some owners think the pre 1996 bikes are better than the later ones.

Exhausts are common as the originals rust badly. Motad Nexxus are the most popular. Taller screens, hand guards (especially 650 V-Strom ones) and engine bars are common too as are Scottoilers and Renthal handlebars. Modifying the forks to make them firmer is also popular and well worthwhile. R1 ‘blue spot’ calipers increase braking on the ’96 onwards bikes although they barely need it. Fancy suspension upgrades make a huge difference but are expensive compared to the bike’s value.

The 900 gets a similar modding treatment. Scorpion’s popular but less well regarded. Akrapovic and Remus are more expensive but very high quality. Some may foul luggage so plenty of owners keep the stock exhaust. Fenda extendas help keep the engine paint in place, after market screens help stop buffeting with the MRA Vario one looking good and working for most folk.

There’s a popular mod 900 owners do to their airbox which they say boosts torque and makes the delivery smoother. Check out the very useful for details plus loads more TDM related goodness.

Your Reviews

Do you own, or have owned one of Yamaha's TDMs? If yes, we're looking for your thoughts and opinions on this bike, log your views on the TDM 850 and TDM 900

Owner Case Study: "I’ve done 38,000 miles from new on mine"

Joe Quinn’s on his third TDM900  He’s bought three, all brand new and racked up about 10,000 to 12,000 miles a year on each of them. He got the first in 2002, it was written off by a white van in 2004 so he bought another. Then  in 2006 he part ex’d it for a Honda CBF1000 but changed back to another TDM in 2008.

“I think they’re brilliant bikes. They’re a fabulous mile muncher and as comfy as you like. I live in the Highlands and I’ve gone to Birmingham, Stratford on Avon and other places for work in single hits. I’ve been all round France on mine too.

“I’ve never had any problems with the finish on any of mine although I know some owners have. I use ACF50 anti corrosion spray in winter and wash the salt off every time I use it and I’ve found the build quality to be excellent – certainly as good as the Honda CBF.

“I’ve had two sorts of Givi luggage – the full Wingrack which I thought looked ugly and the separate top box plate and tubular pannier racks. There’s no issue with stability even blasting down the French autoroutes at high speed.

“If you’re buying new you struggle to get a discount up here as there’s so few dealers this far north. When I bought my second I got from On Yer Bike in Aylesbury. They’d bought a job lot and gave me £1,100 off list price. My local dealer just couldn’t match their price.”