South African motorcyclists have generally always ridden large capacity, big horsepower motorcycles. Thanks to the resurgence of the scooter and 125cc motorcycle market, South Africans are discovering what the European and Asians have known for decades; small capacity motorcycles are great fun. Many of the older riders on a scooter run own big cruisers and superbikes but love being out on their BW100 Yamahas and Vespas.
The light and nimble nature of a small capacity motorcycle, makes city commuting a breeze. They sound and feel faster than what they actually are which means we can “ride them like Rossi” at relatively low speeds. Japanese licensing restrictions mean that while the world enjoys big Japanese performance motorcycles, the Japanese themselves only generally have access to smaller capacity motorcycles. As with all motorcyclists, the Japanese found ways to modify and customise these motorcycles to express their own individuality. Some of the Japanese custom styles are refreshingly unique and defy being labelled. Our featured Yamaha TW200 has been customised in one of these unique styles.
The Yamaha TW200 “Trailway” was launched in the USA in the early 1980s. It was officially labelled as an agricultural machine with an ability to handle all types of terrain. Its unintimidating looks and ease of operation soon made it a favourite with learners and experienced riders alike. The TW200 has a 196cc four stroke motor similar in design to the XT250/500 series. Although it only has a top speed of about 100km/h, its gearing means that you accelerate very quickly from standstill and exuberant riding is promoted. The TW200 was launched in Japan in 1987 after Shinji Kazama reached the North Pole on one. This two wheeled quad has reached cult status in Japan and forms the basis for all sorts of custom creations.
Craig from Durban, who owns and built this TW200, has built a motorcycle which is an excellent example of a Japanese custom. He even imported the extended swingarm from Japan for this project. The cupcake and crossbones tank badges are perfect for an obviously fun to own, fun to ride motorcycle. These badges came from Braam whose own builds we have featured previously and who helped Craig with a bit of styling and advice. Braam also taught Craig how to ride the motorcycle as this is Craig’s first motorcycle! Way to go Craig!
The bikes original plastics have all been removed and the frame detabbed. Only the original tank is used. The 180/80/14 rear tyre is unique to the standard TW200. Being positioned so far back in the extended swingarm exposes and highlights this balloon tyre even further. A small battery, required for lighting, is hidden in the box under the custom seat. The battery is not powerful enough to turn the starter so the kickstarter is used. A Supertrapp exhaust is fitted.
The 130/80/18 front tyre is standard on a TW200. The shortened front mudguard is part of the minimalist look. A round headlight replaces the original plastic shrouded square light. A small taillight is also used. Bar-end mirrors are being extensively used on many of the customs we feature.
The quality of Craig’s TW custom can handle close inspection. He has built an everyday urban ride to show standard. This is the first version of this type of Japanese custom that we have seen locally. We are sure it is not the last. If you want to build one you better buy a secondhand TW200 quickly. Prices are about to skyrocket!