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Yamaha TZ700 Racer Test

Yamaha TZ700

Motorcyclist Illustrated 1975

We test the fastest motorcycle it's possible to buy .... and frighten the bloody life out of our intrepid tester.

Strangely enough, and kidding aside, it accelerated at a rate that even my nerves could stand in the wet and the power came on nice and easy though you could sense rather than actually feel the power still to come. A gentle wobble round Riches, ease along to Sears and a look down the straight.

Ah well now for it, but gently lad, remember the wet. Bike bolt upright and revs rising steadily, a six, seven and here we go but I stick at seven by working the gearstick which hardly slows it a trifle as b-l-o-o-d-y n-o-r-a I'm doing about 200 mph and passing the motley collection of other bikes as though they were accelerating hard — backwards. And I'm only in fourth. Fifth it does it again. Sixth and I nearly run the bloke in front over and realise that the straight is ever so short after all and I'm on the left hand side of the road with left hand bend coming up.

I'm sure that I must have been holding my breath most of the way down the straight for, as soon as I rolled the throttle I took a very large breath and filed a new experience onto the memory tapes of high speed travel. I'd caught a lot of the pack and was now in the middle as we all jockeyed cautiously for position round the left-sharp-right into the Esses. Everyone was well aware of the wet and taking it easy but none easier that I. Out of the Esses and gently lay it over following a dozen others into Coram's right bander and the rev counter is only showing five as the motor is pulling like an old steam engine round and down to the ess at Russells, but still in the middle of the crowd there's not a lot to be learnt.

Now one thing for sure that I wasn't going to try in that session was screwing up the power round the corners and I contented myself with squirting harder each time down the straight and feeling out the brakes as far as conditions per­mitted. Ignoring the blokes who squirted round the outside or repassed at the end of the straights after I'd blasted 'em with acceleration that made my Teutonic 900 seem like an ole nail. The real thing that I did learn was that the motor was not going to bite. Those six laps in the wet had really left me with a feeling of great relief. It pulled just as hard as you wanted. No sudden bursts of power. It started to come on strong at six thousand, was stronger at seven and at eight you'd think that it was going to leave you behind while at nine it seemed as though you only had to point it up instead of ahead and you'd be the first bloke into orbit without a spaceship. I'd yet to try the ten that Mike had said was the limit and at was the revs at which it all died anyway. I handed it back to Mike after practice with vast smiles of relief and the comment that it really only went as fast as you made it and in fact even in the wet was not the sort of frightener that I'd half expected.

It was my lucky day. The weather turned out fair for the afternoon which was just as well as Mike had said he'd only got dry and intermediate tyres and they had done a fair amount of work. What he didn't appreciate was that my nerves have also done a fair mileage and that I'd have expected to have a real 'animal' on my hands and been prepared to acknowledge that the bike was the boss — little did I know.

The draw for grid positions put the 700 on about the fifth row on the outside, at least that was a help, even from the back. Mike had given me the starting drill and that had been too easy for words. You could actually paddle the bike off the line. Four or five steps with the Edi­torial long legs, hit the seat and it was away. Mike said that it tended to leave you behind with a conventional run and bump, so rapid was the take-off.

As the flag went down on my 4,987th race it was paddle, paddle, bump and buzz and if that ratbag on the front row hadn't wandered to the left I'd have accelerated right to the front but instead got baulked and only made Riches about sixth as I'd arrived there so fast as for it to be embarrassing.

With the track dry I'd blasted it to nine in one, two and three and nearly run out of road so fast had I got there that even the twin, powerful discs up front had a bashing to stop the thing in time to scramble round.

Having made a right dog's breakfast of that corner I was no further up the field by the time I got to Sears and coming out of the bend I could already see somebody well on his way down the straight and he'd obviously made one of those starts. I'd no intention of doing anything other than get the bike upright before pulling the trigger even though it was now thank goodness, bone dry and quite a pleasant afternoon for a spot of Kamikazi piloting. Now the bevy of TZ 350s with which I'd been surrounded had all been screwing the ears off the motors while they were well laid over round the bend and consequently were doing a passable imitation of disappearing while I was pointing my device. Well, now or never — and a fliekfrf.the, wrist got the throttle against the stop in second as an extra pirxt or two of andrenalin was fed into the system to cope with the anticipated explosion of raw power. But it wasn't that. Sure the bike took off like it didn't even need my assistance to find its own way down the straight but real surprise was the speed at which the rev couter went round steaming, past nine and I just caught the clutch and put a little slack in the wire in time to boot it into third — then it all happened again just so fast that the needle was back past nine again and I had to snatch fourth in an equal hurry, and some of those in front were coming back fast. It was really getting into its stride and with it the rear began gradually to start a slow weave as the bike hurled itself down what had previously been a long straight and was now ever so short.

With fifth engaged, the back end was now wagging steadily and worrying me a little as I wondered whether it was really supposed to do that, I mean, we were only going in a straight line after all. Flaming bloody 'ell it weren't arf going quick as I chickened and punched home sixth before it really came on the boil and although there was no sharp power band, if you were suddenly given an extra 30 mph on your normal top speed then believe me unless you're even thicker than I am, you'll find it a bit of shaker.

I'd rushed by most of the opposition by then when it occurred to me that if I was going to stand any chance of getting round the next corner I'd better make some sort of decision about getting it back on the ground. So standing on everything and whacking it back a couple I cranked hard left and ' dropped another gear' before driving out hard right. Well I would have done, but as only shattering acceleration was forthcoming I realised that I was at least one gear too high and the two men in front were getting into their own race — a long way in front.

Hooking back one again I got things back under control and I arrived at the last part of the Esses so fast I had to spend so much time stopping it I'd probably have been able to run through there quicker on a slower machine. I wasn't going to get very far up front like this and there were 38 blokes right behind looking for a way past what was obviously the fastest bike in the race.

Right! Now let's get it together just a little I thought. This time with as much power on as felt comfortable I heeled into the approach to Coram Curve. Not so bad — power going on slowly and over the bump on the way in and 'by the great in­fernal cringe' the front wheel comes down as the rear wheel hopped and there was some considerable dissent about the required direction that the locomotion should achieve. I did get my own way after some little argument and when the wobble subsided and I got my breath back I again took up the chase of the two in front though it seemed that Chris Revett was feeling a mite unsociable and was already way out alone with Peter Tibbets lining up for Russells as I got it upright and squirted hard for the fast swervery to come.

As I rolled it and heaved left it went snakey-snake as the front went into a wicked shake and I had to strain hard to keep it off the bank on the way out but got the power back on to streak past the pits faster than I'd ever done before. Never mind the further wobbles round Riches and watching that I didn't over balance with a slow passage round Sears, just wait for the straight.

This time I really whacked it through the gears only just stopping before the prescribed ten thousand and just as fast as I could grab gears it was time to get the next and with it honking in fourth that rear end started to weave again and curbed a little of my enthusiasm, fifth and it was still waving to the opposition as sixth went home and it even got around to near nine this time. Jeeze, there weren't no comfort in this as I knocked it and paddled the gearstick three times with the brakes hard on — one more just before driving out right and this time it seemed that I might even have pulled back some lost ground. Drive out a bit harder as the back wheel comes round, and don't do that again there's more power than you can handle after half a dozen laps in the wet lad, make haste a lot slower. We might even get the bike back in one piece if we're really careful.

I was ready this time for the bike to take charge half way round Coram so it wasn't quite the same sudden bad news and with little more than a tankslapper, or so it seemed, got around for another try at Russells. But it still tied itself up on the way in and I lost a sight more ground, in fact all that I'd gained. This time round Riches I tried anchoring a little earlier than necessary to try feeding the power in early and managed to get round a little better but that straight still had it doing a steady tango halfway down.

Still, by now I'd sussed the brakes a little and even held top for a while before again breaking out into a quiet sweat at the rate at which it arrived at the end and I'd even made noticeable ground on the Tibbett twin Yam in front. This time out of the slow bend, almost hairpin, before the Esses I drove through in third and let the inherent flexibility of the motor below six and a half give me an easy ride and I didn't lose half so much ground this way.

Whoops! there goes Coram and I never really did manage to get happy about that curtsey over the bump, but rolled it early for Russells and got through quicker with it under power all the way through (though in no way could it be called 'smooth and neat'). More like "two out of ten, stay behind and see me after school."

Well I actually got the little Yam in my sights by a dint of gaining 50 yards down the straight and not losing too much round the corners and then we started to lap the backmarkers and as this was a long, twelve lap race, this was going to get a lot busier. I soon found that once you are committed to a line round a corner on the 700 that's it. At least it was for me at such short acquaintance. Peter would change line and find a gap while I'd be struggling and end up waiting for a straight bit to squirt by, so I lost all the ground again.

The 'roll it early' technique seemed to be paying off a little now with a faster passage out into the next straight bit and so it was reasonably quickly into Russells this time that I nearly launched it up the bank as it got the shakes on which rapidly shattered my growing confidence and it was back to the 'wobble round and screw it only when it's upright' again for a few laps. But you do learn, even me, -and gradually it began to come back and I'd get it together again to gallop up behind the flying twin in front.

I suppose it wasn't really so bad as that lad did go on to set a new club lap record in winning the next 1000cc race. But it's little consolation when you've a bike quick enough to blow his into the weeds down the straights.

I finally settled for third before I got too exuberant, wishing I'd got the rest of the learn to ride it and also to set up the suspension to suit my much lighter weight than Mike's. I'm sure that it must be possible to get it to handle better for me. Though when talking to Mike about the weaving down the straight he casually said that it always did that. Rather you than me son!

While it was almost a relief to see the checquered flag it did end a quite memorable experience. Though I'd never ridden anything so quick before, Kork Ballington's big Kwacker had been so much easier to ride even though the motor probably had more sheer punch from nothing, enough to make it an instant wheelie instrument in fact, but the big Yam is' just something else the way the power keeps coming and the bike accelerates as though it's never going to stop. You arrive at corners so much faster than ever before that it must take ages to really ride it on the same sort of limits as a 350. It's said that it takes nearly a season to master the art of TZ750ing. Wouldn't mind a try though. (Sponsors please form an orderly queue).

So what's left to say about it? Well Mike runs it on a mixture of 16:1 Shellsport R oil and is grateful for Syd Lawton's help to keep it on the tracks. In fact the financial strain is proving a bit much and the bike can be anyone's who has £2,500 to lay down, which will leave Mike looking for a fairy godmother in '76. Which brings us back to the Planet Tour operation: Mike and Roger are handling the promotion side of things and Planet the organisation. The idea is to offer an up-market tour instead of trying to com­pete with the many others going to Florida. Good luck Mike. Thanks for the ride. I'll send you a bill for all the extra grey hairs that I'm having dyed.