Why I'm riding 2500 miles on this cheapo Yamaha (even though there's no price cap) featured image

Why I'm riding 2500 miles on this cheapo Yamaha (even though there's no price cap)

27 Apr 2018
Sentiment is a strange thing, especially where motorcycles are involved

This Yamaha Diversion 600 is old, bland, a little bit ugly and shows signs of neglect. 

It boasts bountiful bodges and legal action could ensue if I attempted to describe it as a sweet runner.

This wouldn’t be much of a classified ad description, would it? But the thing is, this 1992 Yamaha XJ600S Diversion, to give its full and proper title, isn’t for sale.

This is my Divvy, a 52,000-miler that came into my possession in 2011 and hasn’t left since, despite it having rock-solid grounds for divorce.

The story began when the magazine I worked for in a previous life came up with a novel wheeze for a series of stories. It went like this…

Step One: Buy three examples of the same bike, give each to a different member of the team and get them to ride it as quickly as it’ll go in a straight line.

Step Two: Demand that each rider employs a different method of modification to make it go faster in a straight line.

Step Three: Bring the three riders and bikes back together to see whose modifications have created the biggest top-speed increase.

Yamaha Diversion 600s were cheap and abundant in supply at the time, so we bought three. We drew lots for the bikes and I picked out this one.

My desperation to win the challenge meant throwing caution to the wind when making it more aerodynamic – my allocated method of speed improvement.

Photography: James Archibald

Plastics were ripped off, pokey-out bits abandoned and anything weighty was jettisoned in a determined attempt to rip down a disused airfield faster than my two colleagues.

Wide standard handlebars were ditched in favour of clip-ons, with slices of Tango tin as shims to make the bars fit snugly around too-slim forks. This project was to meticulous preparation what Valentino Rossi is to understated branding.

The project-defining addition was a Peel Mountain Mile fairing cadged from a bodywork firm in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This was followed by a semi-rigid cone made from a discarded fighter jet part lying around my local bike club, which was on an RAF base.

If you want the long story of what happened on event day, and have four minutes to spare, you can watch this YouTube video. The short version is that my Divvy won, despite my best efforts to mess it up.

What came next is the important bit, and the reason you’re reading this seven years later.

"Enthusiasm waned and SuperDiv became a hanging horse at the back of my garage"

Feeling sorry for the remnants of a bike that had carried me to such drab glory, I bought it from the magazine with the intention of restoring its former self and using it as relaxed winter transport.

I somehow dragged it into a state where it would pass an MOT, but it wasn’t quite running right. Enthusiasm waned and Studley SuperDiv took on a new role as a hanging horse at the back of my garage.

It enjoyed the occasional treat when work needed how-to guides preparing – gaining a new budget shock, chain and sprockets, a swish new seat covering and a pair of very capable Dunlop Streetsmart tyres. But it didn’t make it back on the road.

Photography: James Archibald

Then a change of job meant a budget winter bike became an attractive proposition again, so Div came back to the front of the garage. Grumbling through its new Black Widow exhaust, which replaced the rotted Motad system, it returned to the road on April 1, 2017 – its 25th birthday.

It’s a temperamental old sod – if left for more than a fortnight without being started, the lethargic fuel pump refuses to muster enough welly to fire Div into life.

"The Divvy has now proven itself and I feel like I still owe it something"

Still, it keeps going. The only failure in the 1800 miles we covered together in 2017 was a bust speedo cable, which cost a tenner and took 10 minutes to replace.

The Divvy has now proven itself and I feel like I still owe it something before I could think about parting with it. So we’re off on another mission together. And this time it’s about distance rather than speed.

At the end of May, the bike and I will need to be at Land’s End ready to head north on an event called the Garbage Run. No offence to any Divvy owners reading this, but the title seemed as though it had been crafted purely for my Yamaha and I.

It’s an eight-day jaunt north through England and Scotland, reaching John o’Groats on a Saturday in early June. The idea of the event is to show that touring doesn’t need to be done on a big adventure bike with capacious luggage and cruise control.

So, with more than a little trepidation about Div’s chances of making it the length of the mainland, I’ve signed us up.

Div will need a bit of care to cure some potential trouble spots, and to carry the camping kit I’ll need for the on-a-budget trip. But the bike has shown it’s worthy of some attention, so the project is on. I’ve paid for it now, so we’re definitely going.

Watch this space.