Retrospective: 1992-1993 Yamaha TDM850

1992 Yamaha TDM850
1992 Yamaha TDM850

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.

Rider June 1992 cover
The TDM850 graced the cover of our June 1992 issue.

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.

Yamaha TDM850Used 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. 

Yamaha TDM850

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.


  1. I live in Mexico and purchased a used california 92 model, she’s been here since 1996, well used and abused. I have to wait for parts but there is not much you cannot get from yamaha even here, the fz , fzr range and vmax used a lot of the same parts so there’s still plenty around. Having said that the carbs are a bitch and keep letting me down, something to do with age as well though. (the same carbs are used on late 80’s and early 90’s Ducatis). One of my most favourite bikes I have ever owned and I have had many.

  2. I also have 1992 tdm and took care of carbs using apple cider vinegar for couple of days and than washing with wet rag and dry it after. Worked perfect. Great bike

  3. I’ve had a TDM 850 1999 for over a year now and it’s a mega comfy ride but like you have said the misfire is shocking and in the wet it’s even worse but when firing correctly it’s a great ride and brilliant on a motorway and long distances ideal for British roads. Would I have another one that would be a yes I don’t want to get rid of mine but I’m now plowing too much money into it to keep it on the road…

  4. I’ve had FOUR TDM’s and collectively clocked >150K miles on them, so obviously, I love them. I will differ on the parts availability issue-for a near 30 year old bike, the parts supply is more than ample and prices are fair. The TDM went on to sell in Europe for another ten years in various iterations, so parts from the EU are plentiful, and even many OEM parts are available, sans the body parts-those are “unobtainium”.

    The TDM is called “the Swiss Army Knife” of bikes and is about as good of a sport-touring bike as you will find-upright seating, great suspension and brakes and a smooth power band. But don’t make the mistake of putting 50/50 tires on it trying to make it into a dual sport bike. While it has lots of torque (more if geared down), but it’s just too top-heavy with five gallons of fuel up top… Put on a set of Pilot Road 5’s and let the TDM be what it is-a GREAT sport touring bike!!

  5. Got a 98 with the 4tx engine,love the bike but the lights are useless & the rear tyre just too skinny, I’ve been looking for a fatter back end since having it for last 4yrs

  6. I purchased a 1992 with 5k original miles on it, in January 2022, FOR $1600 usd. Couldn’t pass it up with a clean title. It ran GREAT for 3 weeks, 600 miles. Then it conked out as if it had run out of gas. I tried to work on it myself but to no avail. Finally got it back up to the shop and had the carbs redone again but I now believe it to be the charging system. As long as I keep it on the trickle charger when I’m not riding, it seems to be fine. I love the bike when it’s running good. I’ve definitely felt some sort of issue in 3rd gear (power band?) but I hope to put 100k miles on it and keep it forever.


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