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There is nothing remarkable about this bike. It does nothing exciting, doesn’t go very fast and won’t make your heart race. It has no electronic gizmos or technology to speak of at all and doesn’t stand out from the crowd in any shape or form. What a way to start a test report. I sound like I’m giving the Yamaha XT660R a real slating but I’m not. I offer all the of the above on a plate and say: look, you don’t need much more than that do you really?
Just over ten years ago when I rode the new generation of XT660s for the first time it was the X model, in basically the same form as the R we have here but with supermoto wheels bolted in. At the time I lived up one end of London and worked in the other, blasting through the centre of the city for a week or so on the 660X was a bit like someone had let me off the leash. In a world of constantly dodging cars, taxis, buses, cyclists and pedestrians it felt alert like a cat chasing a butterfly. Deceptively so if I recall because, in reality it shouldn’t be. I found myself bouncing off curbs like they were jumps, popping wheelies off speed bumps and more or less enjoying what was ordinarily a shitty ride. I shouldn’t have been because this single cylinder engine has a lazy, old character, less than 50 horses to pull it along and all the excitement of cat sleeping on a hot tin roof.
A friend of mine, let’s call him Dan Walsh, did “16,000 miles across 18 (or is it nineteen?) countries in twelve dusty, sandy, swampy, sweaty months.” After enough abuse, frightening close calls and half-arsed wheelies to last 12 years, Dan’s XT (an XT600E model by the way) came out the other end battered but in his own words “king of the road” and a bike with “perfect poise and the built-in balance of a ballerina. Even when ridden by a chimp.” Which is exactly what the XT660R (any XT) is all about