The Dangerous Past: 1985 Yamaha BW200

The 1985 Yamaha BW200, also known as the Yamaha Big Wheel, was built to make off-road two wheeling enjoyable for folks who want to be on a more stable (lower, fatter tires) motorcycle. For enthusiasts, wide off-road bikes like this were extremely stable and drove more like a two-wheel ATV rather than a fat dirt bike. All-terrain capability and excellent snow traction (compared with regular dirt bikes) were notable strengths for bikes like this.

Not so fast – this bike had a reputation for damaging ankles, feet and lower legs in general.

What made this vehicle dangerous was the inexperienced (never ridden a motorcycle before) rider assume it’s easier to ride than a “skinny” dirt bike and, thus – it’s easy to ride. Sure you’re lower to the ground and the fat tires, mixed with suspension makes for a cushy ride; however, it doesn’t turn like an average dirt bike. It wasn’t uncommon for the chunky rear tire to snack on limbs. 

Weighing in at a paltry 256 lbs, the Yamaha BW200 had a 196cc air cooled, 4 stroke, 2 valve, SOHC single cylinder engine making 15.4 horsepower. With a seat height of 31.3″ (which is much lower than an equivalent dirt bike) and an overall length of 78.1″- the Yamaha Big Wheel was small enough to haul in most small and midsize pickup truck beds of the time period.

Like the Honda TR200 “Honda Fat Cat” the Yamaha BW200 only lasted a few years in our market (the Yamaha lasted a bit longer). Also, the Yamaha BW series had the BW80, BW200 and BW350 during its run, giving the consumer more choices. Unfortunately, the popularity of these bikes faded quickly.


How much fun would a bike like this be for the boys at TFLoffroad and TFLtruck?!

Specifications for the Yamaha BW200N

Length 78.1″ (1985mm)
Width 32.7″ (830mm)
Height 42.9″ (1090mm)
Seat Height 31.3″ (795mm)
Wheelbase 54.3″ (1380mm)
Minimum Clearance 9.45″ (240mm)
Basic ‘wet’ weight 256 lbs
Type Air cooled, 4 stroke, 2 valve, SOHC
Arrangement Single Cylinder, Forward inclined
Displacement 196cc
Bore x Stroke 2.64″ x 2.19″ (67.0 x 55.6mm)
Compression Ratio 9.1:1
Starting System Kick
Lubrication Wet Sump (Castrol Synthetic*)
Oil capacity 1.3L total
Fuel Regular Unleaded, 6.5L Capacity 0.5L Reserve
Carburetor Y24P-3P / TEIKEI
Horse Power (stock) 15.42
Torque (stock) 10.80 lb-ft @ 7500rpm (11.20 lb-ft.*)
Gears 1-N-2-3-4-5
Frame Type Steel Tube Diamond
Caster Angle 27.25
Trail 3.46″ (88mm)
Front 25 x 8-12
Rear 23 x 12-9
Front 6.3″ (160mm) Telescopic fork
Rear 6.3″ (160mm) Dual Shock Swing Arm

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.