10 Days with a Yamaha TX650

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The Yamaha TX650 has received some bad press for erratic high-speed handling, but when it comes to slower around-town or country two-lane riding, the twin is generally praised as a solid, confident machine.
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The 1973 Yamaha TX650
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Electric start came in 1972, actuated by a small lever that also opens the left exhaust valve so the engine spins easier.
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The narrow engine gives the Yamaha its classic looks and easy handling.
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The robust twin is famous for giving many miles of trouble-free service.
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These bikes are easy to own and to keep on the road.
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The "big" Yamaha is especially at home on relaxed two-lane backroads.

1973 Yamaha TX650
Claimed power:
53hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 105mph (period test)
Engine: 653cc OHC air-cooled vertical twin, 75mm x 74mm bore and stroke, 8.7:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry): 420lb (191kg)
MPG:
3.3gal (12.5ltr)/47mpg (observed)
Price then/now: $1,399/$3,000-$5,500

1970 heralded a new age of multis. Honda had its revolutionary CB750 Four, Kawasaki its fearsome Mach I triple — even the staid Brits had the Triumph/BSA triple. So what did Yamaha do? Why, introduce a thoroughly traditional 650 parallel twin of course — but with a twist.

Badged the XS-1 when it first went on sale as a 1970 model, Yamaha’s new 650 twin was an interesting mix of an old-school favorite — 360-degree, 650cc parallel twin — wrapped in new-school technology. Although it looked — by design — much like its British inspiration (specifically, Triumph’s 650 Bonneville), Yamaha’s new twin was not like twins of yore. Intelligent application of new technology meant it breathed easily (thank you CV carbs and overhead cam) and spun happily, a light flywheel accentuating the engine’s instant throttle response. It also didn’t leak oil, thanks to modern tooling unit engine/transmission construction with a horizontally-split crankcase, superior to vertically-split cases for controlling crankcase flex and subsequent loosening of critical sealing surfaces.

A model with legs

Yamaha’s new-meets-old approach paid dividends, and the 650 twin rapidly gained favor with U.S. buyers. Although it wasn’t really any more powerful than a contemporary Triumph Bonneville 650 (Yamaha advertised 53 horsepower versus Triumph’s claimed 52) buyers considered it a more modern, easier-riding machine. Brakes were simple drums front and rear, and it was a reliable first-kick runner (electric start and a front disc brake came with the XS-2 in 1972), which was appreciated by regular Joes and Janes who still liked a no-frills approach to motorcycling in an era of increasing complexity. While it generally required little mechanical attention, it was a bike owners could — and still can — easily work on.

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