The 2017 Yamaha TT-R230 is suited to budding youngsters who have grown out of the TT-R125LE and full-size adults who need a compact chassis with a manageable seat height. Sitting at the top of the Yamaha TT-R trail bike line, the next step up for off-roaders is the racer-based WR250F.The seat height of 34.3 inches and the bulletproof 230cc motor are the two primary sources of the TT-R230’s appeal. While 34+ inches may seem high to a street bike rider, that’s nearly four inches lower than the WR250F. Additionally, trail bikes have a generous amount of sag when the rider is aboard, lowering the effective seat height another couple of inches or so, depending on the spring-preload setting.
The ergonomics favor riders in the mid five-foot range, though someone six-foot tall can sit on the bike comfortably on the trail. Shorter riders will have to stretch to touch down on technical trails, which isn’t a good feeling for beginners. At the other end, taller riders will feel awkward on the TT-R230 when standing—a common position when riding rugged off-road terrain.Air-cooled and sporting just two valves, the short-stroke 223cc motor has a good spread of power, making it extremely easy for any rider to master. Nothing happens quickly or unexpectedly with the little mill. Further, an easy-shifting six-speed transmission ensures that there’s always the proper gear for the job.Starting the TT-R230 is as simple as turning a key and pushing a button. The choke knob on the left side of the carb is right where you can get it. Get familiar with that knob, as the TT-R230 can be coldblooded.Definitely a trail bike, the 2017 Yamaha TT-R230’s suspension is tuned for comfort rather than speed. Lightly sprung and even more lightly damped, the TT-R230 prefers a cruising mode on bumpy trails.Whoops have to be rolled, of course, as they quickly overwhelm the suspension if hit with any authority. Jumping, likewise, is best kept low. Heavier riders will bottom out the fork and shocks, while lighter riders will get a bouncy landing.Keep in mind that these are the complaints of experienced riders. Many TT-R230 riders won’t even notice, as they happily bop down the trail. As long as the suspension capabilities aren’t exposed, it’s a pleasant ride with jolts kept away from the rider.Handling is predictable and intuitive, just like a new rider needs. The TT-R230 doesn’t require the rider to get on the front end to turn—it pretty much goes where it’s pointed, as long as the trail isn’t too rough.Completely forgiving, you really have to make a serious error to go down. With the reasonable seat height, you can almost always save it.Braking is basic, as well as fully forgiving. There’s no nasty initial bite from the front disc, and the rear drum has good feel.There are bash bars to protect the cases from logs and other obstacles, though riders in rocky terrain should spring for the extra protection offered by a skidplate from MSR, IMMIX, or Ricochet.Yamaha fitted the 2017 TT-R230 with Pirelli MT320 rubber. They are budget, high-mileage knobbies that are adequate. The smart move is to have the dealer pull them off before starting the bike, and put them away for resale time (“Includes new tires!”). Then, have the dealer install a pair of Pirelli Scorpion XC, Michelin Starcross 5, or Dunlop Geomax MX3S tires and ride happily ever after.As you would expect, maintenance is easy. Sure, Yamaha requires you to take off four Phillips head screws to get to the air filter, but that’s not too much to ask. Changing the oil is doable by almost anyone, and the oil filter is easily accessed. Even a novice mechanic can figure out the snail cam chain adjuster.Perform the oil and filter changes and the motor should outlast many owners. Still, following Yamaha’s spark plug and valve clearance maintenance intervals isn’t a bad idea.Excellent for its intended audience, we’d like to push Yamaha to extend the TT-R line upward at least one bike. From this $4199 motorcycle, the next step is the $8099 WR250F—a huge gap. How about bringing back the TT350 air-cooled trail bike with a couple inches less travel and a price of around $6k, with e-start? That’s a seriously untapped market.For riders of the proper height, correct skill level, and reasonable performance expectations, the 2017 Yamaha TT-R230 is an outstanding motorcycle. Extraordinarily reliable and easy to ride, it is exactly what a fun trail bike should be.Photography by Kelly CallanRiding Style
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!