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Comparative test touring two-cylinder

Against the wind

The BMW R 1100 R, Moto Guzzi California1100 i and Yamaha TDM 850 bravely defy the trends in the two-cylinder industry.

You like big two-cylinder, but do not belong to the knee slider faction, are unimpressed by the fuss about the new V2 super athletes? You have nothing to do with choppers and cruisers, whose two-headed propellants are more for self-expression than the urge for dynamic locomotion? Do not be despaired, take a look – without obligation – at three slightly different two-cylinder characters that appeal to a wide variety of tastes in terms of both style and technology.
How about a roadster? Here you go, the BMW R 1100 answers with a rolling "R". Do you prefer a touring steamer? The Moto Guzzi California 1100 i steps into the picture. In the end even a fun bike? The Yamaha TDM 850 struts with its head held high on the catwalk.
And how should the two cylinders – if you please – be arranged? At the BMW? Their construction principle has been working through for good reasons since time immemorial: The Flattwin does not need water cooling, for service work the cylinder heads lie like on the presentation plate, the mass balance of the pistons punching against each other could hardly be better, and the cardan drive to the rear wheel is the logical extension of the one in the direction of travel lying crankshaft.
The length of the wave salad of the Guzzi drive also presents itself. The fact that the engine spreads its imposing cylinders in a 90-degree V creates technical parallels and differences to the BMW principle. On the one hand, air cooling and ease of maintenance are inherent in it, on the other hand, the right angle between the pots prevents even ignition intervals and high-quality running smoothness.
The TDM engine is not exactly a character. Is that why he’s so inconspicuously crumbling under the tank? But it is (together with the TRX engine) an exception in the motorcycle upper house: a parallel twin. A classic model that has the "sporty" chain drive to the rear wheel, and an economical concept on top of that. At least in theory. In practice, the TDM-Twin is indeed slim-hipped and compact on the outside, but on the inside, in the form of two balance shafts, some additional mechanics have been brewed, which should help the engine to adopt Japanese-style manners.
Rough but cordial – the Yamaha designers have thoroughly expelled these parallel twin characteristics from the TDM engine. No roaring exhaust sound wakes up the neighbors at takeoff, unshaken by robust vibrations, but whistling irritatingly loud between the teeth, the engine turns on the speed ladder while standing.
BMW and Guzzi are much more rustic. There are loud tracks of starter pinions in the flywheels, then there is a rumble in the beams, finally strong tones and shivering rear-view mirrors signal that it is not just engines, but large-displacement machines that have spoken out.
Enough of the technology? Then take a seat on the California to relax. With lush fenders, swelling seating area, running boards and crash bars, it convincingly plays the role of the heavy, but good-natured motorcycle. Good thing, because the Cali does not want to fit into the subject of the young lover. The lavishly placed highlights in the shape of chrome-plated and polished parts don’t help either: The Guzzi is not a beauty, more of the type to steal horses – inner values, reliability, you know.
Inadequacies such as the poorly accessible side support and the fidgety speed estimator are then accepted. The main thing is that you are in a good mood, and that is the case thanks to the comfortable bench and the casual desk clerk posture behind the imposing handlebars. Unless the guzzist’s height is well above the Italian guards measure – then it will be pretty tight for the legs.
Maybe climb the Yamaha? Yes, the long-legged TDM is more spacious and Japanese-correct. Sufficient leg room, with a slightly bent upper body within striking distance of the handlebars, correctly presented by a sober dashboard, life is pleasant. Unless you are one of the little ones in the country and do not want to be prepared to always balance on tiptoe while standing.
The R 1100 R is somehow clever in this context. With its variable seat height, it easily wipes the excuse "too high" off the table. At best, you can embarrass them with "too long": If you have missed your torso and / or arm length, you have to stretch a little for the handlebars. Otherwise, the BMW policy of detente at TDM prevails. The only visible luxury, the Teutonic, businesslike Roadster has a new, chrome-framed instrument trio.
The tachometer, which is added to the speedometer along with the clock, is a luxury insofar as the BMW engine embodies the Middle Kingdom with its performance characteristics. Anyone who has ever felt the pressure between 3000 and 6000 rpm will gladly forego the constant need to squeeze the last bit out of the four-valve boxer while staring at the tour counter and busy rocking the switch foot. Especially since the reckless use of the engine and transmission is not pure joy. In the event of sudden jumps in speed, the machine becomes a plaything of violent reverse torque, and there are also lighter and quieter operating switch boxes than those of the BMW.
For example that of the Yamaha. The gears slide much better – which helps to use the power of the easy-to-turn five-valve engine to your heart’s content. Or not, because the TDM engine also likes it contemplative, even makes a better face for playing with low speeds than the competition. If it weren’t for the notoriously annoying quick jerk reactions that twitch through the drive train when the load changes, the parallel twin would undoubtedly be the most user-friendly drive in comparison.
Because the Guzzi drive is not flawless either. With his supposed hobbyhorse, the low-speed tying-up, the California engine turns out to be an outspoken advocate of the performance principle, but unfortunately also as a shaker and vibrator – in that order. It was only surprisingly late – beyond 7000 rpm – that the two-valve engine gradually ran out of breath. As with BMW, however, the same rule applies here: not too much, not too little speed, and no big jumps – then the direction is right.
It is not difficult to heed this rule with a species-appropriate driving style, and the species-appropriate driving style comes about by itself – thanks to the foot-operated integral brake system. Clever delays can only be achieved by stepping on the pedal, and for this the foot must be lifted off the step. Such maneuvers require mental preparation and time. So think about decelerating in good time, bring the engine brake into play, shift down gently. And don’t knock too hard, because the California paddles early on in an inclined position over the asphalt. The Guzzi requires a fluid and clean driving style, and in return it offers surprisingly good suspension comfort, easy handling, accurate steering and good lane keeping. Only on really bad roads does the California show impurities in the gait that call the tinkerer on the scene: adjustable rebound damping front and rear, air support for the shock absorbers – there’s a lot to tune.
There is also a lot to turn on the TDM chassis. What is missing is the need for action. The Yamaha rushes through the country quickly and without any problems, although it is not overly manageable, but it is definitely curvy. Good physical condition, because it ironed out almost all bumps in the road with a high level of suspension comfort, quickly because its chassis did not develop a life of its own and because its brakes were always in good control of the situation.
The highlight of the BMW chassis is the Telelever front section, which appears unbeatable when it comes to sorting out the finest bumps and does not capitulate so quickly even before violent attacks. The complete opposite is the rear wheel suspension, which shows undue hardness and causes shocking experiences on bad roads. The handling of the R 1100 R is astonishingly agile without having to compromise on the directional stability. It takes getting used to the tilting of the machine when there are jumps in speed, and the hard biting of the big boxer at the slightest turn of the gas needs to be brought under control, as well as the front brake (the test machine was equipped with the recommended ABS system), which requires a strong handshake demands.
AT.You also need strong holding muscles when driving fast on the BMW, and to an even greater extent on the Guzzi. Pressure reducers in the form of retrofittable windshields are available for both machines. But what speaks against taking the motto "against the wind "literally? At most the TDM.

Conclusion: Yamaha TDM 850

The TDM 850 is the Japanese interpretation of an egg-laying woolly milk sow. Her enduro genes give her a distinctly upright gait and comfortable, easy-to-swallow suspension elements, she underscores her Wandervogel ambitions with adequately protective cladding, and she whistles the song of the road with her potent, cultivated engine and agile chassis. The fact that she can also play the role of the piggy bank makes her a real temptation.

Conclusion: Moto Guzzi California 1100 i

The California sails under the sign of the eagle, which gives the old lady magical powers. Or is it the injection after all? In any case, the aged two-valve V2 gets down to business so well that you are ready to tolerate its shaking and vibrating. The chassis, also not completely fresh, is amazingly agile and always master of the 75 HP. The only thing that needs getting used to is the combination of the integral brake system / running boards – a case for fans of tap dancing.

Conclusion: BMW R 1100 R.

A boxer BMW that is no longer a rubber cow: the engine pulls like an ox – that’s fun. When there are sudden jumps in speed, the machine shakes like a wet dog – it takes a lot of getting used to. The rear suspension bucks like a Mustang – fortunately there is a suitable horse saddle as an antidote – to climb comfortably and without stirrups. The chassis is nimble as a weasel and stubborn as a donkey – nice for the country road, good for the motorway. Strong as a bear, the whole thing.

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