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ADV BikesThrowback Thursday: 1988 Yamaha TDR250

Throwback Thursday: 1988 Yamaha TDR250

This classic adventure bike is small but packs a wicked punch.

Published on 02.06.2014

Adventure Bikes were invented in the 1980’s and some of the coolest designs were created during that decade. You’ve probably heard of Honda’s Africa Twin and BMW’s R80GS, but what about the Yamaha TDR250?

If you live in the U.S., you may have never heard of this Adventure Bike because it was not imported to the States.  It’s an Adventure Bike in a category of its own, from a time when manufacturers were willing to take more risks with truly innovative designs.

What makes this bike cool? Well a common complaint about modern Adventure Bikes is that they are too heavy. A lighter bike improves handling and is all-around more fun to ride. You are probably thinking a 250cc Adventure Bike is just too small and under-powered, right? Not if it’s a two-stroke. Two-stroke engines make roughly 2x the power of a four-stroke for the same engine size.


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The Yamaha TDR250 utilized the same two-stroke parallel twin YPVS (Yamaha Power Valve System) motor as the TZR250 road race bike. Weighing in at just 294 lbs. (134 kg) and producing 50 hp (37.1 kW), the TDR250 packed a lot of punch in a small package.

Yamaha TDR250 Ultimate Dual Sport

The TDR250 was designed to be the Ultimate Dual Sport motorcycle. (Courtesy motorcyclespecs.co.za)

To put it in perspective, one of the lighter Adventure Bikes on the market today is the Kawasaki KLR650. The TDR250 is 92 lbs. (42 kg) lighter than the KLR and has a power advantage of 13 hp (9 kW). When compared to the new BMW R1200GS Adventure, the weight savings is nearly 200 lbs!

Yamaha engineered the TDR 250 to be the near equal of the TZR 250 on roads, while being a good match for their DT or XT models off-road. In achieving this, the engineers considered the TDR 250 to be the “Ultimate Dual Sport.” Today the TDR 250 is known for its extremely agile handling and has become a desirable bike for collectors of vintage motorcycles.

Some of the unique aesthetics found on the bike are the cross-over expansion chambers and tank mounted tachometer, as seen here on this beautiful example owned by Jim Overstreet.

Yamaha TDR250 cross-over expansion chambers

TDR250 cross-over exhaust chambers (Courtesy the1moto.com)

Yamaha TDR250 tank mounted tachometer

TDR250 tank mounted tachometer (Courtesy the1moto.com)

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If you have ever owned a two-stroke, you know that there is something about them that stirs your soul. When a two-stroke is “on-the-pipe,” it makes a sweet sounding whine as you get a huge rush of power on the top-end. The YPVS system on the TDR250 makes the exhaust ports open up wider at higher rpms, while also giving it a more wicked sound. And who doesn’t love the smell of two-stroke smoke (tip: Castor Bean Oil smells the best).

We wish that Yamaha could make this bike today, but unfortunately two-strokes were killed off by modern emissions standards. Hopefully, we will see more light-weight Adventure Bikes appearing on the market in the future and we can enter a new age of innovation from motorcycle manufacturers.

The TDR250 is probably not the most practical bike for Adventure Touring, but we’d love to have one in our garage. If you are lucky enough to see a TDR250 appear in your local classified listings, it would be a smart investment to go pick it up. A clean example will sell in the $6,000-$10,000 range and you can expect it to increase in value over the years while you enjoy it.

To learn more about the history of the Yamaha TDR250, check out this write up on motorcyclespecs.co.za. You can also see the bike in action in this classic Yamaha promotion video from Japan.

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney
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Simulate Your Riding Ergos On Nearly Any Adventure Bike » ADV Pulse
June 3, 2014 12:49 am

[…] We like that there are so many Adventure Bikes available to test using the Cycle-Ergo App, including more obscure bikes like the Yamaha Ténéré 250 and TDR 250. […]

Scott munday
Scott munday
September 7, 2014 1:20 pm

A good review!!! , and you are right about the 2 stroke power band, i love my newly restored 1993 tdr!!

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
September 8, 2014 4:27 pm
Reply to  Scott munday

We are big fans of the TDR250. We’d love to see your newly restored ’93 TDR. You can post your pics on our Facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/advpulse

Martin
Martin
November 4, 2014 1:06 pm

Apart from my cz learner bike I have always had 4 stroke bikes, GS thou, Bandit 1200, R1, fireblade, CB 1300 etc etc! Now I am older I wanted a smaller bike. I found an old TDR 250 and have been renovating it. It had sat in flood waters and was neglected. When I got it running it scared the ©®πp out of me when that power valve opened in FIRST gear! Its a mental bike that impresses and has given back that adrenalin rush of my first time on a big bike. Better than expected handling on road and light and easy off. Now I have to get a ride on an LC RD 350!!

trackback
Rare SuMo Convert – 1989 Yamaha TDR250 | Bike-urious
July 4, 2017 9:21 am

[…] horsepower more than a new KLR, yet weighs 92 pounds less. For more on what made the TDR special, check out this article on ADV Pulse. Per Yamaha, this was the first two-stroke motor to utilize both a CDI and an electronic advance […]

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No Reserve – 1989 Yamaha TDR250 | Bike-urious
July 31, 2017 12:00 pm

[…] 13 horsepower more than a new KLR, yet it weighs 92 pounds less! If that wasn’t good enough, check out this article on ADV Pulse for what else made the TDR special, including Yamaha’s assertion that the TDR’s engine […]

trackback
1989 Yamaha TDR250 | Bike-urious
September 27, 2017 5:02 pm

[…] 13 horsepower more than a new KLR, yet it weighs 92 pounds less! If that wasn’t good enough, check out this article on ADV Pulse for what else made the TDR special, including Yamaha’s assertion that the TDR’s engine […]

trackback
Serial #1 in Canada – 1990 Yamaha TDR250 | Bike-urious
November 10, 2018 9:05 am

[…] more than the just-killed-off-KLR, yet it weighs 92 pounds less! If that wasn’t good enough, check out this article on ADV Pulse for what else made the TDR special, including Yamaha’s assertion that the TDR’s engine […]

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The 10 Best 250 cc Motorcycles of All-Time
March 15, 2021 8:00 pm

[…] Yamaha TDR 250 is one of the most iconic throwback bikes from the 1980s. The classic two-stroke was a best-seller because of its strong reputation in […]

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In Canada – 1989 Yamaha TDR250 | Bike-urious
June 1, 2022 5:56 pm

[…] 13 horsepower more than a new KLR, yet it weighs 92 pounds less! If that wasn’t good enough, check out this article on ADV Pulse for what else made the TDR special, including Yamaha’s assertion that the TDR’s engine […]

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