I recently had the opportunity to throw a leg over a 1996 Yamaha TW200. Or was It a 2008? Or a 1988? Who cares, they’re all the same bike. For 35 years the Yamaha TW200 has soldiered on as the funky big-tired carousel horse of the Yamaha lineup, basically unchanged.
No other current bike has the, dare we say, panache of the balloon-tired TW200. And, in a motorcycle world where retro bikes are all the rage, why not just buy a bike that hasn’t changed since 1987?
Yamaha has a history of keeping bikes around past their sell-by dates. The V-Max and the YZF-R6 remained in the catalogue for decades (with some upgrades). We think the 2023 TW200 is the oldest new motorcycle you can buy in the U.S., and we’re better off for it.
Sure, some will remind me that the Honda Cub has been around forever, and so has the Royal Enfield Bullet (not without interruption), and Honda made the CB125 decades, too. Of course, there are model names that have survived for decades, too, like the Harley-Davidson Sportster. But nobody would confuse a 1957 Sporty with a modern one, or even an 80s Evo for today’s bike.
Since 1987 Yamaha’s made this little two-wheeled mountain goat. Other than adding an electric starter, its basics are still from the Triassic. It still has a tiny Mikuni 28mm carb feeding the 196cc air-cooled single-cylinder engine. It’s not powerful, and in my short trip around a parking lot, I don’t think I exceeded 25 mph. But it felt fun at 25 and that’s not something I can say for other bikes I’ve ridden lately.
Pretty much everything about this dual sport is designed around fun. It’s not fast. It’s fine off road, but it’s no Maico 490. But, for a bike that’s approaching 40 years on the market, it’s hard to fault. Its 31-inch (78 cm) seat height makes it approachable for a beginner, yet those big balloon tires are up for more shenanigans than you would expect.
In the U.S., it sells for $4,900 (€4,530) making it a bargain. We hope Yamaha keeps selling the TW200 for another 35 years, though we’d like to see fuel injection soon, please.