2005 Yamaha XT660R

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Brakes are Brembos, thus revealing a true Italian connection behind the XT -- whose production is handled by Yamaha's site in near Monza. The Italian influence shows also in the rather daring shapes of the new XT660.

  With so little bodywork to play with, it's not easy to come up today with a fresh flavor in off-road tools but Yamaha's designers managed to find some really nice new curves for the XT. The small front mask, front lamp and fork covers left a good impression. As per current trends, The XT is sculpted with sharp cuts and decisive strokes and there are some nice touches in terms of textures and materials combinations. Swing a leg over the XT and things couldn't be more familiar. Tallish, a 35" seat height falls midway between a professional enduro and a fully road oriented V-Strom, plush but not overly soft, bars put your upper body in true homo erectus stance and there is some good distance to the footpegs. The initial feelings might be 80's XT but there's no kick start to step on and the EFI makes sure that the big jug down there settles into a steady idle immediately. The character of the power delivery though is quite different than the one I remember from those old XT's or XR600's for that matter. Pull is nice but just like in many current big singles, good old down low oomph is a bit lacking.  

Much like in BMW's F650, the new XT power mill is quite revvy and a quick glance at the spec sheet shows that peak torque revs at 5250 are damn close to peak power revs at 6000, a tell tale sign of a rather tuned motor. The lack of a tach makes judging engine speed a bit difficult, but by seat of the pants it is only when in the upper half of the range that the 660 engine starts pulling really well -- if not actually flying. Press on some more and the top end does impress. Seeing 110 and change is something that air-cooled XT riders could only dream of, but the XT660 gets there without much urging. Obviously, these are not really the speeds to have fun on a DP because of that sail-in-the-wind riding position, something like 75-80 is much more like it. Some tingling at the bars and pegs moderately spoils the relaxed highway cruising though. Back in town, an old truth becomes readily apparent. In city traffic conditions, it's hard to beat a nimble, tall and lean DP. While lane splitting (don't do it at home kids) the handlebar simply hovers over car's mirrors, city style bumps'n'dips get swallowed by the suspension as if they just weren't there and cutting through traffic like a bastard becomes second nature.

Gear shifting and clutch operation are soft and the fork starts to show typical, tall DP nose diving when the strong front Brembo is applied with conviction. With such a heritage, it was only natural to go photo shooting in an off-road setting but this turned into a, well, not entirely convincing experience. As soon as the terrain became sandy, the 90% road oriented tires made keeping the thing tracking straight quite hard, font wheel washing out everywhere. With a considerable dry weight of 380 lbs, controlling the XT in low traction conditions became quite a chore. Having not ridden much off-road in the last few years, I might be a little out of shape myself, but soon enough it become evident that I'd better stick to the hard pack. What about some twisties then? Off to some curvy tarmac and the XT660R feels at home. Keep the engine singing happily on the upper half of the rev range and it covers ground rapidly. Good brakes let you approach bends briskly, wide bars let you pitch it in quick and when powering out, you just roll the throttle on without much worries. Nice. Just do not get too carried away. The soft front fork robs the XT of some tracking accuracy so you end up riding canyons in foot-loose style. Good fun if you actually like getting out of shape a bit while leaned over and the tighter the curves, the better it gets.        

If anything, the road riding part of my test left me thinking about the new XT660R's brother, the XT660X. Same bike but fitted with 17" rims and shortened and stiffened suspension, a mild supermoto. Gotta try one of these soon. After a coffee stop I decide that in honor of the XT's heritage as an off-roader and in light of the dubious performance in the sand, we are both in need of a curative experience. I head off-road again, now into mountain hard-pack trails, some even quite rocky and things are much, much better. The softish suspension swallows small to medium woop-de-doos quite well and the tires do find surprising traction. All goes well, but riding up a higher-than-usual rocky step I hear a strong thump from down low. Well, I've just hit the low slung pipes. Why couldn't the XT get proper high levels is beyond me and judging from the tight fit of the frame tubes, I don't see there much chance of fitting an after market system or a bash plate either. I notch it down a bit and at reasonable speeds the XT660R does deliver its share of fun off-road. Just to give some proportion to the XT off-road prowess, I wouldn't even dream of taking up on these trails a V-Strom while on the other hand, the XT raises a white flag at points where an XR650 wouldn't even blink. When treated more as an exploring tool rather than a serious play bike, you can actually envision yourself embarking on a long and comfy mild off-road tour on one (after fitting some knobbies that is).

 After a few more hours of dual pporting, at times standing on the pegs on the trail then back on-road for some curve carving, the do-it-all nature of the 660 is greatly appreciated. Thing is that this category, single lunger DP's, seems to have gotten stuck in a rut terms of performance somewhere in the 90's. Can't think of anything that this new XT660R does better than a 98' F650 GS. Well, it actually undercuts the Beemer's price by a nice 12% margin in Europe and looks much more purposeful and up to date in my eyes but that's about it. Considering how well the F650 has done for BMW, it seems like there are still quite a lot of folks who could be interested in this type of mix. Filling a nice middle ground between the aforementioned no compromise full-on enduros and softies like the V-Strom, the XT660R has its place under the sun. Just don't go and stain your enduro jacket with fake mud spots to impress the ladies. It would look totally out of place on this new XT660R.

 

** SPECS PROVIDED BY YAMAHA **
Engine Type: Liquid cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC 4 valves
Displacement: 659 cc
Bore and Stroke: 100 x 84 mm
Compression ratio: 10:1
Max. Power: 35.3 kW (48 HP) @ 6,000 rpm
Max. Torque 58.4 Nm (5.95 kg-m) @ 5,250 rpm
Lubrication: Dry sump
Fuel supply: Fuel injection, 44 mm throttle body
Clutch type: Wet, multiple disc
Ignition: TCI
Starting system: Electric
Transmission: Constant mesh, 5 speed
Final Drive: Chain
Gear ratio: 1) 2.500
2) 1.625
3) 1.150
4) 0.909
5) 0.769
Primary reduction ratio: 2.083
Secondary reduction ratio: 3.000
Chassis Frame: Steel tubular diamond frame with dual tank rails
Front suspension: Telescopic fork, Ø 43 mm
Rear suspension: Monocross with linkage
Front wheel travel: 200 mm Rear wheel travel 191 mm
Caster angle: 28° Trail 90.2 mm
Front brake Single floating disc, Ø 320 mm
Rear brake: Single disc, Ø 245 mm
Front tire: 120/70-17
Rear tire: 160/60-17
Rim size front: 17 x MT 3.50
Rim size rear: 17 x MT 4.25
Dimensions Overall length: 2,131 mm
Overall width: 860 mm
Overall height: 1,349 mm
Seat height: 875 mm
Wheelbase: 1,485 mm
Min. ground clearance: 200 mm
Dry weight: 173 kg
Fuel tank capacity: 15 litres (reserve 3.5 litres)
Oil (tank) capacity: 2.9 litres

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