Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Bike #3, Yamaha Virago, xv750, review

This is my beloved 1995 Yamaha Virago xv750. My first "real" bike and the one I put the most miles on. (first one in line).

I bought it used with about 20,000 miles on it, and I have close to 40,000 miles on it now, and I've never been able to part with it.

I've ridden 400 miles in a day on this bike. It's been to Sturgis - this picture is taken in the Black Hills in Spearfish Canyon. It's been to the Keewenaw Peninsula in Michigan and back.

This bike is considered a cruiser. It has the ubiquitous V-twin air cooled engine, and cruiser type styling. But the frame is very similar to the Yamaha Vmax - which is a high performance bike, and as a result, this bike corners really well. It's not super spunky - the 750 cc V-twin is good away from a stop light, but passing takes patience and good timing. Top speed for me was about 100 mph - I was there during a prolonged pass - and I don't think it had much left. I got about 45 - 50 mpg, and with the 3.5 gallon tank I could make about 160 miles before needing to refill. I bought it because I hoped it would take my partner and me to Sturgis. We went, but she drove a car. Just as well, it was a long, grueling trip. (I'll probably post about that down the road).


I became a biker on this bike. I rode it enough that I could turn it on a dime in the parking lot, do a 180 on a country lane, and do the "keep up or go home" rides with the club. I learned to corner fast, wasn't afraid to scrape the foot pegs on a tight turn, and I trusted this bike completely. It never left me standing, though it tried hard once.

The color was referred to in the Yamaha manual as "cute green". The guy I bought it from called it "dinner mint green". It's distinctive and looks nice even after 14 years on the road.

The high points of this bike:

Simple and durable - I put 20,000 miles on this bike and it never left me standing, and I could do all the routine maintenance myself. I even did my own valve adjustment. The gas tank fed by gravity into the carburetors, and so even when the stator went belly up on a ride, the engine was fed with gas and I could make it home.

Easy to maneuver - In a parking lot or on a twisty road, this bike was very well behaved. I took the MSF experienced rider class, and aced it on this bike. Even though I had to be creative with the throttle to keep up, I could hang in with the top club riders because it cornered so well. The brakes were effective, and not that easy to lock up, so "panic" stops were safe. My feet were almost under the body, which makes a bike feel good in corners to me.

The issues I had with it:

Electrical - as happened on my other Virago, a major electrical component failed before 50,000 miles. This one it was the Stator, and I made it home only because the gas was fed by gravity. I like gravity feed - if gravity fails you got a whole lot of other problems! The stator hasn't been fixed yet - I spent all last winter and this summer deciding if I had enough gumption to take apart the oil wetted parts of the bike (transmission, crankcase, etc.) It also melted the stock headlight plug, which was hard to replace.

Overheating - While the V-twin is offset, with the rear cylinder out of line with the front cylinder for cooling, this bike did overheat on me a couple of times. Symptoms were a clicking from the cylinder heads (probably valves), and the shifter stopped working for the low gears. I eventually fixed this by using Amsoil 20W50 synthetic motor oil, which seemed to hang in there even when the engine got really hot.

Starting on the sidestand - two things happened with this bike when it was started on the sidestand. First one is that the "low oil" light came on - the sender was on the other side of the bike from the sidestand. Second, after I had it for a couple of years, one of the carburetor floats would get stuck, and gas would dribble continuously into the carburetor and into the air filter. After riding with the throttle open for a while this would correct itself, but it was annoying. I just took to not starting it until I was on it.

It's a pretty basic bike, and I rode it "naked" for a while, but eventually I got a small windscreen for it and that made a huge difference in comfort. I loaded it up with saddle bags and a tank bag, and could take long trips with it. This is the bike that gave me the name "Virago Becky" and I think I'll always be called that in the club.

I went on to more comfortable bikes, but I just can't let this one go yet. A good backup bike and nice for riding around town.

Update - it's 2010 and I still have this bike.  I got Dr. Al to replace the stator, and now the electrical system is working well.  A note on the windshield - I couldn't find the mounting brackets that fit this bike, so I had to modify some.  Not too hard to do, and very worthwhile.  I used this bike to lead one of my club rides recently, and it performed well.  It's just not as "tight" as my BMW - part of that is the suspension and part of it is the looser throttle response of the bike versus the fuel injection of the BMW.


Linda Pressman said...

Like the bike a lot, Becky. Great color, though not great names for the color. Surely after this bike has served you so well for 14 years you can christen it something else? Nice homage to a bike!

VBecky said...

Maybe seafoam green? But "dinner mint green" is really pretty accurate.

Chris "Kickstart" Beason said...

My ol' man calls it antiseptic green, but if it were me seafoam green sounds a lot nicer :)


my daughter has this same bike,same colour :)

Anonymous said...

How di you put on the saddle bags? My '95 XV750 doesnt have the screws to put on saddle bags.

Anonymous said...

put the gear into neutral and it starts with the stand down, its a safety measure :)

VBecky said...

Saddle bags - I just put the saddle part under the seat, and then use ties to hold them to the brackets. Can still get brackets I think.

Sidestand - I can start it with the sidestand down, but if I do I think one of the carburetor floats sticks and I get gas dripping out of the intake air filter.