Here’s a cool old TW200 for sale. Like the song says, it’s been everywhere, man. Crossed the deserts bare, and breathed the mountain air, etc., etc. But this isn’t Hank Snow’s motorcycle—this little Yamaha belongs to Molly Nelson, a farmer from Cornish, Maine. She calls it the Ratty Pigeon. Soon, it could be yours, if you’re looking for a pint-sized adventure bike.
The Yamaha TW200 hasn’t changed much since it came to market in 1987 (wait, what? That’s a Really Long Production Run!). Here’s what you get: A basic dual sport with air-cooled single-cylinder motor, 196 cc capacity, very similar to the XT225 engine. It’s electric start only now; until 2001, it had a kickstarter. But, it’s still carbureted. No EFI for this machine, nooooo sirreeee. Such electro-sorcery wasn’t needed in 1987, and it’s not needed now!
Alas, the engine only makes around 16 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 11 pound-feet of torque at 7,000 rpm. The driveline design makes it difficult to fit a true big-bore kit. If you mix-and-match pieces between an XT225 and a TW200, and some custom bits, you can boost power, but you’ll never turn this into a fire-breathing wheelie monster. You won’t even turn it into a rubber-band-powered WR250R. The Tee-Dub is a slow bike.
You don’t notice that pipsqueak engine when you see a TW200 for the first time. You notice two big, fat, chunky tires (practically ATV-sized), and a low 31-inch seat height. The 130/80-18 front tire and 180/80-14 rear tire are the main reason most people buy this bike. It looks easy to throw your leg over, and easy to ride offroad at sensible speeds. It weighs 278 pounds wet, so if you drop it, no biggie. Just get off, pick it up, and keep going down the goat track.
That’s exactly what it is—a fun-to-ride, easy-to-ride bike at slow speed. Pick up the pace, and the shock and fork can run out of steam (this embarrassingly happened to me at a rally once, where my overweight, out-of-shape bod beat a TW into a quivering mess, when I tried pushing it faster than I should have).
Like most cult bikes, you can find forums and Facebook groups devoted to the TW200, and ADVrider has a 500+ page thread devoted to the bike as well. It’s a quirky bike that might not be fast, but for many riders, it’s enough.
The Bike That Rode The World
And then, we have this particular machine, for sale in Maine. There’s no online ad for it. I met the seller years ago, as a result of some of her earlier adventures on the bike. We hadn’t spoken in years, and then last month, she called me out of the blue to say her bike was for sale.
Molly bought this bike new in 2009, returning to motorcycles after years away. A short stint on a Honda Rebel (“boring cant go anywhere“, she says) left her much happier to find this (“the dream bike. Goes anywhere, low to ground, light“). She started kitting out the bike; back then, Whitehorse Gear was still open, and just around the corner, so she bought some equipment there. Other stuff was custom-made; that gas tank was a handmade project by a local female welder. Over the years, she’s added other bits: a tool tube, LED headlight, luggage, a Kolpin gas can, an oversized piston.
But overall, although she’s added modifications for adventure touring, it’s still a TW200, a very simple motorcycle. A very simple motorcycle that Molly has ridden everywhere, just like the song says.
Molly’s a traveler, on the bike or off. She’s taken advantage of New England’s slow winters (slow for farmers, at least) to fly abroad and help non-profits. And, she’s taken summers off, after lining up farm help, to extensively explore both coasts of North America.
I met Molly after she returned from a trip that took her through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, and back home to Maine, a 6,000-mile trip that took her several weeks aboard her TW200. Oh yes, and that bike was actually stolen mid-trip, while she was getting a tattoo in Newfoundland. Local riders helped her get the bike back, a dealer set her up with new luggage and riding equipment, and Molly was back on her way, off to Labrador.
Since then, she’s done lots of shorter, smaller trips around New England’s byways and dirt roads (you don’t get 126,000 miles on the odometer by letting the bike sit in the barn, next to the donkey pen). However, she also did one other much longer trip down the Continental Divide, from British Columbia all the way to Mexico. That’s a long, long way on a TW200; Molly says it was always ridden slowly and gently, and frankly, there’s no other way to do big miles on a T–Dub.
Now, Molly says it’s time for her to sell the bike—she’s had a great run of fun with it, and came away unscathed. Her mom is aging, her husband is getting older, she’s the main provider at the farm now, and she doesn’t want to get hurt. Plus, she has grandkids on the way.
Molly doesn’t have a price nailed down for sure yet. She’d like to see the bike go to another female adventurer; no doubt the “right person” will find the asking price more amenable. The bike comes with new tubes, an extra tire, tools, a brand-new helmet, jacket, pants, and boots, sized for a 5-foot-6 human. Molly says that except for a tent and sleeping bag, it’s everything you need to ride out the door and never return. She’d know—the bike proved itself tens of thousands of miles ago.
For more details, or to make an offer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text Molly at 1-207-252-5720.