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Craig’s Virago/XV/TR1 Page

One of Motorcycling's best enginesThe page is a collection of information about the Yamaha XV-based bikes gathered during my happy years of Virago1000 ownership.

 

Enlarge 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 a high-resolution 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 bodywork.
Also given highly favourable review in the 1981 Two Wheels award was the new XV750RH, described on the third page below.
These 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).

Cover Page 36 Page 37
Notice typographical error on cover above: "GPZ100" should be "GPZ1100".

 

BT1100 Bulldog Test

First test ride of the BT1100 Bulldog by Australian Motorcycle News, August 3, 2001.

 

 

 

A very pretty XV920 cafe racer.

 

 

 

 

Other Links

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.
Enlarge 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 listserver:

Enlarge 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, etc.

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 me.

Stinky shotgun pipes
Enlarge 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.
Aside 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.
The 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.
Confidence 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.
Unfortunately, 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.

Regarding wheelstands
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.
Yet, 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...)
Enlarge 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.
My 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.
(The 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


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