Despite their long-legged suspension, big side cases and rugged looks, most of today’s adventure bikes are ridden more often on the road than off. It took a while for riders to realize how good these bikes worked on pavement, but once they did, the segment took off.
Long before that epiphany, though, Yamaha came out with a bike that was as tough-looking and street-friendly as anything else you’ll find in the class today. Unfortunately the TDM850 made the mistake of showing up at the party too early and leaving before the fun started.
Preceding even the name “adventure bike”–Yamaha called it a “hybrid”–the TDM nevertheless had sterling ADV credentials. It was powered by a liquid-cooled, 849cc parallel-twin engine inspired by the one in the XTZ750 Super Ténéré that won the Paris-Dakar Rally. It churned out about 78 horsepower and 56 lb-ft of torque, and the cylinder head had five valves per cylinder like some of Yamaha’s sportbikes.
The TDM might have been intended more as a new take on the standards of old than as an occasional off-roader. Its upright seating position anticipated the adventure bikes that came after it–with a wide handlebar and a 31-inch seat that made it an iffy proposition for shorter riders–which seemed to confuse prospective buyers even more.
Just about any street bike can be ridden off-road carefully, but the TDM’s tires (110/80-18 front and 150/70-17 rear) and its suspension (41mm front fork and single rear shock, both adjustable for rebound damping and preload) sent clear signals that they were more at home on paved roads.
Yamaha brought the TDM850 to America for only two years. Maybe it should have given more weight to the European market’s opinion of the bike–there it was often called the “Tedium” 850. But its relative lack of excitement compared to some other adventure bikes is offset by its friendly and versatile personality.
The roomy seating position is ideal for sport touring, and with gas mileage in the 50 mpg range, 200 miles between fill-ups is achievable. At 440 pounds the TDM is a lightweight by modern class standards, and its handling, soft suspension and adequate braking are rewarding at any pace short of throwing sparks off the footpegs.
Used TDMs–and there aren’t many around–should be checked for misfiring due to stuffed-up carbs, and for flat spots in the powerband that can often be traced to the same source. Paint and finish issues have been reported, along with faulty cooling fans.
If you’re not handy with tools and good at sourcing parts, check to make sure your local Yamaha shop will work on a TDM, since models that came and went as fast as this are seldom well-supported at the dealer level.
Pricing guides list both years of the TDM850 at around $2,800. Examples in poor condition or that need a lot of work to get running should probably be avoided, due to the difficulty and expense of reviving a two-year model.
If you find a good one for a reasonable price, accept it for what it is–a street bike with off-road looks–and you’ll find the TDM anything but tedious.
Upright seating, torquey engine, dated but decent chassis and brakes.
Rare bike that’s hard to find parts for. To some riders it earns the Tedium nickname.
Engine: Liquid-cooled, transverse 849cc parallel twin, DOHC, 5 valves per cyl.
Final Drive: Chain
Weight: 440 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gals.
Seat Height: 31 in.