Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dual-purpose Duel: 2008 Yamaha XT660Z Tenere vs Honda Transalp XL700V vs the others…

The 2008 Yamaha XT660Z Tenere. Love that face, eh?
It’s powered by a simple single-cylinder engine and it’s essentially just a big old trail-bike, but the 2008 Yamaha XT660Z Tenere sure looks flash. For those who are given to fantasizing about the Paris-Dakar rally-raid, the new XT660Z is certainly the hot ticket right now. And while the Tenere’s moody, funky styling will definitely get the neighbours’ attention, the bike also seems to pack enough substance to actually see you through a trans-continental journey or two if that’s what you fancy.

The 2008 XT660Z Tenere is fitted with a 660cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, SOHC, four-valve, single-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed gearbox. The steel tube cradle chassis is all-new, and suspension components – aluminium swingarm with monoshock, and long-travel front forks – have been optimized for on- and off-road use. Dual-purpose tyres are used and the brakes are Brembo units – twin 298mm discs at the front and single 245mm disc at the back ensure that the bike has adequate stopping power. Together with the long-range 22-litre fuel tank, tall screen, and plush, well-padded seat, Long Way Round-style journeys shouldn’t be a problem on the XT660Z!

The 20-year-old Honda Transalp gets a major makeover for 2008...
Of course, the Yamaha isn’t the only option you have – there’s also the 2008 Honda Transalp XL700V. It’s been around for the last two decades, but Honda have substantially revised the bike for 2008. The ‘new’ Transalp is fitted with a steel tube chassis and a Euro III compliant, 680cc, liquid-cooled, 8-valve V-twin that makes 60 horsepower – just about adequate for this 214-kilo (about 25kg more than the Tenere…) machine.

Brakes are twin 256mm discs up front and single 240mm disc at the back – ABS is optional. Suspension is Honda’s Pro-Link adjustable monoshock at the back and 41mm telescopic fork at the front. The rear wheel is a 17-inch units, while the 19-inch front makes the Transalp’s off-road intent clear.

Don't want the XT660Z or the Transalp? BMW and KTM have other bikes for you!
Not happy with the Honda and the Yamaha, and can’t afford an R1200GS? No problem, you have more bikes to choose from. There’s the BMW G650 XCountry dual-purpose machine, and the G650 XChallenge, if you want something more off-road oriented. Both are powered by a lightened, retuned variant of the BMW F650 engine – a liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, 652cc unit that makes 53bhp.

The XChallenge runs 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, wearing dirt-oriented tyres, and is the lighter of the two. The XCountry rides on 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, shod with dual-purpose rubber. ABS, which the rider can switch off when it’s not needed, is available as an optional extra. The bikes’ suspension is tuned and fettled according to their positioning, and according to most road tests worldwide, both are capable machines in their own way.

Finally, for those who want something lighter, funkier, radical and even more off-road oriented – but something that’s only suitable for shorter journeys as compared with the XT660Z or the Transalp – there’s the 2008 KTM 690 Enduro. The bike is fitted with KTM’s 654cc, fuel-injected, single-cylinder ‘LC4’ engine, which makes 65bhp. The chassis is chrome-molybdenum tubular space frame, and the bike gets a one-piece, aluminium die-cast swingarm, and WP suspension components – 48mm USD fork at front, fully adjustable monoshock at the rear, with a Pro-Lever linkage system. As you’d expect, the bike has been optimized for outstanding off-road performance, but isn’t suitable for street use or longer-distance riding. For that, you'll want to check out the KTM 690 SMR.

Which one would we take? A GSX-R1000!! Er… okay, for its styling alone, we’d have the Yamaha XT660Z Tenere. And our choice is helped by the fact that its single-cylinder engine would be supremely reliable and the bike’s ergos look just right for that Long Way Round trip of our own… 

As you can see from this pic - taken during the 1992 Paris Dakar Rally - choosing the right bike is important. Not everybody can handle a Cagiva Elefant... :-D

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