Yamaha XT225

Beginner Bike, or Dual-Sport Bargain?

Beginner Bike, or Dual-Sport Bargain?

Yamaha styles this bike "the first modern, full-sized dual-sport... for smaller and beginner riders." Perfect, since MO board member Laura Lemay is both, so we got one long term from Yamaha. This was the perfect test, a beginner bike for a beginning rider in the off-road arena. A mere 18 miles later, Laura gave up visions of cruising into the sunset, so we had to fake it.

So to simulate actual first-timer conditions without risking the life of some newbie, we put Associate Editor Billy Bartels on the XT out at the ranch. Neither smaller nor beginner, the only thing going for him was he fact that he eschewed two-wheeled dirt bikes for ATVs at the age of ten.

A shorter, beginner rider experiencing non-threatening horsepower.
This is about maximum roost on the XT

If you're an experienced rider in the dirt and on the street, you can go ahead and leave now. Cool. If you're still here then the simple act of riding a motorcycle is thrill for you. You don't need a bike to powerslide out of corners and do fat wheelies. Great, with that established, get out of here and take an MSF course. Then you can read the article.

The first test we had for the XT was the MO Ranch, naturally. We gave it to Associate Editor Billy Bartels, out of dirt bikes for 15 years, to see what he thought. After few laps, he commented that the bike was really easy to ride since it didn't make enough power to spin the rear wheel easily.

Next, we took it for a spin down the freeway to the local sandwich joint. It was here that the lack of horsepower really reared its ugly head. Screaming it down the dirt road was cool, but once on the street, it felt like a really tall moped. We don't suggest beginners taking it on the freeway. With clever shifting the bike can be kept above 60 mph, but barely.

Upon our return from the mini-mall, the bike was given to dirt expert Len Nelson. We're not sure whether Len understood the purpose for which the XT was designed, but he made the bike sing. He flew around the track at top speed until it began to overheat, let it cool down, then took off. He had nothing bad to say about the XT. He thought the bike would be good for young riders and smaller beginners.

Nelson even put the XT through a full-on thrash test to see if anything failed. Jumping from rocks, riding down gullies, nothing was safe from Len. His only complaint was that his feet sometimes fell off the short pegs. The suspension bottomed occasionally, but only under extreme circumstances. Also, when very hot, the transmission did not want to shift. We were surprised that none of its street gear was damaged in the off-road assault.

In its final test, we rode the XT225 around Los Angeles as a short-distance commuter vehicle. It performed well, soaking the big potholes and squeezing through narrow holes in traffic with ease. The horsepower deficit we noticed on the freeway wasn't as apparent on the city streets. We just revved the crap out of it.

You may bottom the suspension if you do this
A thoughtful disc protector shrouds the front rotor

Taking out the spark arrestor may yield a few more ponies on the street

Overall, it is not enough motorcycle for an experienced street or dirt rider, but if you are wan to do a little of both, it's a good mount to learn on.


Manufacturer: Yamaha
Model: 1997 XT225
Price: $3,849
Engine: air-cooled SOHC four-stroke 
Bore and Stroke: 70 by 58mm
Displacement: 223cc
Carburetion: 34mm Mikuni
Transmission: six speed
Wheelbase: 53.1"
Seat Height: 31.9"
Fuel Capacity: 2.3 gal
Claimed Dry Weight: 238lbs

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