If it’s not broken, don’t change it — Yamaha carries on the TW200 for 31 years

Posted 6-18-17 (updated 6-19-17)

Update: The TW200 has not gone entirely unchanged since 1987. In 2001 Yamaha switched the front drum brake for a disc brake, switched to a CV carburetor, added a cam chain pre-tensioner, bumped up the alternator and headlight, and added electric start.

Yamaha’s TW200 isn’t the only motorcycle that has stayed pretty much unchanged from year to year. The small dual-sport bike may, however, be the only motorcycle on the market today with almost exactly the same specifications in 2018 as in 1987, when it was first introduced. That’s 31 years, folks.

The TW200 is a basic bike for basic purposes and people keep buying it just as it is. It has no pretensions of being more than an extremely useful utility bike and its continued success shows, as Yamaha has no problem moving units. People buy them to ride around town, campus, field, and farm.

The Yamaha’s single cylinder 4-stroke 196cc engine is air-cooled and has a single overhead cam (SOHC) with a 9.5:1 compression ratio, which means you can use regular gas. The bike has a 28mm Mikuni carburetor, a five-speed transmission, and chain drive. So no fuel injection, liquid cooling, shaft drive, or continuously variable transmission (CVT).

This bike was dual-sport before the term even existed, which didn’t occur until Suzuki introduced the DR350 in 1990 and promoted it as a DualSport or “dirt bike with a license plate.” Unlike more recently conceived dual-sport bikes whose manufacturers often focus on how great they are on the highway and digging out of the worse possible off-road conditions, the TW200 is a different breed.

The TW200 is a utility bike, not a racer. You won’t drive the Yamaha on the highway, or at least not for long, because at just 278 pounds fully fueled, you can be pushed around by the wind. Plus the top speed is unofficially in the low 70s (when the wind is right). The Yamaha isn’t a real dirt digger or a mudder, either, as it isn’t loaded with torque.

The first thing most people notice about the TW200 are the huge tires, which measure 18 inches in front and 14 inches at the rear. They’re fat and knobby all over — all set for any terrain.

The TW200’s motocross-style seat is 31.1-inches high, low for a dual-sport bike, and it seems even lower, because the bike is so narrow your legs don’t have to go around much bodywork or engine to reach the ground. The TW200 has full street-legal equipment and Yamaha added electric start in 2001.

Just like the 2017 version, the 2018 Yamaha TW200 starts at $4,599, so that is a slight bump up from 2015 and 2016, when the price was $4,590. Each year the color changes, which is probably the only way for dealers to tell the years apart without checking serial numbers. The 2017 TW200 had blue bodywork, and this year it’s a light brown that Yamaha calls sandy beige.