page is a collection of information about the Yamaha
XV-based bikes gathered during my happy years of Virago1000 ownership.
Click on the XV750SE image for a browser-window-sized enlargement. Click on
the following link to zoom in on the engine
cutaway only. Right-click (or control-click Mac) on this one to download
image of the whole bike (294KB).
(Thanks to Alan for the XV750 image)
The scans below are from Two Wheels Magazine (Australia)
of September 1981, detailing the XV1000RH's victory in their annual Bike
of the Year award. The XV1000 was sold in Europe as the TR1, and in the
US as the XV920. 1982 models came with the RJ suffix and slightly revised
given highly favourable review in the 1981 Two Wheels award was
the new XV750RH, described on the third page below.
scans are medium-high-resolution JPEGs. I suggest right-clicking (or control-clicking,
Mac) the thumbnails below to download the images (307, 230, 285KB respectively).
Notice typographical error on cover above: "GPZ100"
should be "GPZ1100".
First test ride of the BT1100 Bulldog by Australian
Motorcycle News, August 3, 2001.
A very pretty XV920 cafe racer.
A note for owners of the earlier
XVs, TR1s and Viragos with Hitachi Carburetors
I found that my linkages had worn to the point that I could not get the
carbies synchronised. If you have a bike with higher mileage and are experiencing
difficulty getting it tuned right, this could be your problem.
Ordinarily, wear in the mechanisms that link the two carbies can be taken
up with the adjustment screw that you use to synchronise the carbies (consult
a workshop manual). However, I discovered that the wear had become significant
enough on my bike that the adjustment screw was all the way in. Its anti-vibration
spring was compressed as far as it could go and was binding against itself.
You will have to take the carby assembly out of the bike using this
procedure, (but don't split them apart!). Just undo the synchronising
adjustment screw so that you can remove the spring. Either replace it
with a more loosely-wound item that will not bind so quickly, or put a
longer screw in there, or do as I did and find a rubber grommet to shove
in place of the spring. This should give you another decade of breathing
space before having to figure out something more ideal.
If your bike is a Virago, you might also notice
that the screw is nigh-on impossible to access with a screwdriver because
of the frame backbone, etc. I made tune-up time easier for myself by grinding
the screw's head into a quarter-inch square shape. Instead of using a
screwdriver on it I now use a small quarter-inch socket extension (in
reverse) hooked up to a universal (or swivel-type) joint, followed by
a long extension. This lets me get hold of the screw firmly and route
my long socket extension at an angle so that it pokes out the left side
of the bike, clear of the frame. I grab the outer end with an ordinary
open-ended spanner, or whatever is handy, and tune away. I sync the carbies
by feel and by ear instead of using gauges, which takes a bit of practice
but works very well (these engines are pretty forgiving anyway). However,
I find that a small fraction of a turn makes a big difference, so go easy.
My use of flatter, narrower handlebars
In reply to question from Jeremy on the Virago
The flatter bars are fantastic. Mine are quite narrow
too. They really transform the feel of the bike without sacrificing its
relaxed attitude. Suddenly you're not holding onto a big boat tiller
with its wobbly, overly-sensitive input and windsock effect. The handling
feels much tighter and neutral. Surprisingly, I'd say the seating posture
is hardly changed—at least as far as the old back goes. It's really
only the position of the arms that changes. My back still gets hammered
on sharp bumps when riding solo. More forward lean would help spare the
spine, but it wouldn't suit the footpeg position or the instrument location,
Disadvantages of the flatter, narrower bars include:
1. Excess cable and brake-line loops. I've always intended to source shorter
cables and fit custom braided brake lines, but am saving my efforts for
a newer model in the future. It's only a small visual thing.
2. The angled mirror mounts are a pain. My mirror now tilts too far in
to be ideal. Again, it's just a matter of sourcing alternatives or a bit
of customising work.
3. My switch gear now only just clears the tank at full lock, and I've
had to relocate the reserve switch (or I could just wire it onto reserve permanently
and rely on the idiot light). Dropping the bike a couple of times has
put small dents in the tank because of the play in the rubber triple-clamp
mounts. My bars need to have a tiny amount more rise in them to avoid
this. I think the later model bikes might have taller risers and so be
less of a problem here??
4. With the fork geometry of the Virago, narrower bars make the steering
noticeably heavier at walking pace. You get used to it.
Besides the handling, other advantages include:
1. Much, much better clearance when weaving ('filtering' or lane-splitting). My bike
fits anywhere now. It's brilliant—I'd say one of the best reasons to
do the mod if you're a hard-core commuter.
2. Less metal to prevent you from vaulting over the top in a last minute
leap before a head-on collision. This has always been my plan, anyway!
3. Distinctive look. I can see other riders trying to work the bike out,
because it doesn't look quite like a Virago from the front anymore. It
has a leaner, meaner appearance I think.
4. It's reversible. You can borrow a pair of bars and try them out to
see if you like the whole effect.
The only advice I'd give would be to think the dimensions
through carefully. The bars need to be of just the right bend, though in my case I was lucky,
with a suitable pair lying around. Mine are about 69cm from end to
end, with about 3.5cm rise and not much sweep. But a lot of bars have
a much broader central section where the clamps are, a lazy upward bend,
and too much sweep—leaving too little space for the switch gear and
mirrors, or making the bars too wide and close to the tank at full lock.
It's a mixture of taste and practicality.
Totally worth it though. It's an utter delight. Somehow it just emphasises
the feel of the engine and makes the whole experience more rewarding for
Stinky shotgun pipes
The shotgun pipes fitted to my bike sounded great, but they allowed exhaust gases to get caught up in the vortex at the back of the bike and loop around into my pillion passenger's helmet. On slower rides this caused headaches, stinging eyes, and tiredness, the usual symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Anything fitted to the rack would smell of fumes by the end of a ride too. Up front I didn't receive as many fumes when on the move but would notice them when pulling up to traffic lights and sitting with the engine idling. The front pipe exits too early. I do not recommend this style of aftermarket pipe to anyone considering fitting them to any bike, Virago or otherwise. Go for something that will direct the exhaust further back and away from the body of the machine.
Notes on sports-riding the Virago
This bike has really taught me a thing
or two about the stupidities of current road bike design. I sometimes
take it sports-riding through the hills, which sounds ridiculous but isn't. In the really fast, tight stuff,
it keeps up with many sports bikes and even outruns them, despite the
limitations of its cornering clearance. This is a very satisfying activity,
as you can imagine—modern race-replica bikes being passed mid-corner
by a 20-year-old cruiser with touring tyres.
from having to hang off in the bends, it's amazingly easy to ride fast.
Almost everything about it runs contrary to current marketing trends.
Unlike sports bikes, it has torque way, way down in the rev range. It
gently catapults me out of slow corners without having to play boy-racer
with the gearbox. I often leave it in the one gear between corners because
of the torque spread. Most sports riders out there aren't prepared to
keep their engines constantly screaming the way they would on the racetrack, so it's an immediate advantage to have strong torque in the
top gears. Meanwhile, the power doesn't hit savagely between corners,
which keeps my riding confident and smooth. The heavy flywheel is fantastic
in the real world. Stutter-bumps and gravel don't upset things too much,
and the throttle doesn't feel like a hair-trigger. The engine spins backwards,
further stabilising the bike by shifting weight forward when accelerating,
and backward when shutting down (what a great design!). The centre of
gravity is low, and the wheelbase is generous, so once again there's far
less weight transfer to-and-fro all the time. It doesn't heave and pitch
every time you grab power or brakes. Even the shaft drive seems benign
with the long swingarm and limited rear travel keeping it under control.
riding position is upright and commanding. You're not perched over the
front wheel, halfway to falling off already. It's amazing how much more
confidence this inspires in unfamiliar road conditions. The front wheel
carries less bias and commitment to it somehow, so I feel that if a wheel
is going to let go, it'll likely be the rear. The front wheel is also
a 19-incher, which gives it a very steady gyroscope effect. Slow on the
racetrack perhaps, but it feels very planted and dependable on the road.
The brakes are strong enough, but need a good squeeze to get them working. Again,
in the real world this feels more confidence-inspiring a lot of the time
than the savage stoppers fitted to sports bikes.
is what it's all about, I've found. Most riders are not riding at the
limits of traction, but at the limits of their nerve. What the Virago
loses in theory, it makes up for in practice. Power isn't an issue unless
the road opens up into long straights, when I will lose ground in a big hurry
if the other riders are prepared to break speed limits. But in the twisty
stuff, I find I rarely even use the 60-odd horsepower available to me,
surfing instead on the beguiling wave of torque that rolls out from tickover.
Being able to get onto the power early is critical. I find many newer
bikes tend to be snatchy and severe as you roll the power on while coming
out of a corner, but the Virago just rumbles away smoothly.
I don't think there are too many cruisers that will offer this bonus sporting
ability the way the big Viragos do. Maybe some of the Guzzis? But many
cruisers are too heavy, too long in the wheelbase, too low, too underbraked,
have power spreads too narrow thanks to exaggerated cylinder volumes,
etc. The Virago would be great with a little extra cornering clearance.
Fitting slightly longer shocks on the rear would probably do it, and maybe
pulling the pegs in a tad. Oh yes, the 1000 has pegs positioned more rearward
than the 1100s do, which is better for sports riding, and of
course, my shortie handlebars are helpful.
Check out this story for a favourable comparison of the Virago's performance alongside a few of its peers.
Since writing the above, Yamaha introduced the MT-01, a sports bike with a big cruiser engine. They called it a 'torque sports' concept, which sounded good to me at the time of introduction. But the MT-01 was a heavy beast with a small fuel tank and a big price.
The Virago is a bugger to wheelie. It's
got the torque to do it, but several factors work against it. The Virago
1000/1100 carries its 230 or so kilograms very low. Much of the weight
sits around axle-height in the engine and shaft. This makes pulling wheelies
like doing pushups with your torso in a ditch. The wheelbase is long,
the flywheel is heavy, the shaft makes the rear sit up slightly under
power, and the engine spins backward, which partly cancels the reactionary
force that you need to lift the front.
despite all of this, it can still be done if you're keen. I find
I need to have an emptyish fuel tank, a level or uphill surface, and just
the right timing. Get underway in first gear until you're into the fattest
torque around 3000 rpm, back off, then as you snap the throttle open again,
yank the bars. It might take a few tries, but with the right timing you
can get a fairly impressive amount of daylight under the front tyre.
A note on tyres (or tires, for the others...)
I highly recommend the Avon Venom X for
the rear of the big Viragos, in 150-section guise if possible. They're
outstanding. They hang on like a sports tyre, never letting go—yet mine
was on track to last for at least 28,000 Ks, or 17,000 miles had I not sold the bike before the rubber wore out!! That's incredible durability. I ride hard some of the time, often venturing into gravel,
and am often two-up. I do, however, try to ride smoothly, which I believe greatly assists the longevity of the tyres.
The grip and handling the Avon offers is simply amazing.
It costs more than a cheap tyre, but lasts longer and offers so much more
fun and safety in the meantime.
last front hoop was a Metzeler ME880, which seemed like a good match for the
Avon, though had I kept the bike I would have tried the front Avon with my next change as I was so impressed
with the rear.
Venom X is possibly marketed as simply a Venom, or as a Venom
AM42 in some places. The tread pattern looks the same as the radial version, the
Venom R, pictured here although the sidewalls are taller for the cruiser tyres.)
Touring the world on an XV
Here is an email received from Michael in NZ, showing what is possible with the Yamaha XV concept:
I have a 1981 XV 750 that I bought new. I have ridden it through 80 countries covering 401,000 km's (250,000 miles). I've ridden it solo across the Sahara desert, through the Amazon jungle, and up to 20,000 feet plus in the Andes. It's been in temperatures from 52 degrees Celsius (125 F) down to -15 C (5 F). It's also been to Paris, London, Los Angeles, Cairo, Cape Town, and Teheran. I want to build a 'sleeper' sports bike based on my old XV. Your comments on it re sports road riding are correct. Ask any number of the TL, ZX, GSXR, R1, and CBR riders my brother and I have ridden on any Sunday with on my old XV.
Countries ridden through: • Argentina • Australia • Austria • Bangladesh • Belgium • Belize • Bhutan • Bolivia • Bosnia • Botswana • Brazil • Bulgaria • Burma • Cambodia • Canada • Central African Republic • Chile • Colombia • Costa Rica • Croatia • Czech Republic • Ecuador • Egypt • El Salvador • England • France • Germany • Greece • Guatemala • Honduras • Hungary • India • Indonesia • Iran • Israel • Italy • Jordan • Kenya • Liechtenstein • Lesotho • Luxembourg • Macedonia • Malaysia • Mexico • Moldova • Namibia • Nepal • New Zealand • Nicaragua • Pakistan • Palestine • Panama • Paraguay • Peru • Poland • Romania • San Marino • Serbia / Montenegro • Scotland • Singapore • Slovakia • Slovenia • South Africa • Sudan • Swaziland • Switzerland • Syria • Tanzania • Thailand • The Netherlands • Turkey • Ukraine • Uruguay • USA • Vatican • Venezuela • Wales • Zaire • Zambia • Zimbabwe (80 so far, add:) • Soviet Union • United Kingdom • Yugoslavia