We all like a drink, but most of us know when it's time to pack it in, drink
as much Perrier as possible and hit the sack. On the 900 Diversion launch one
person in particular (no names, no Kenny Packdrill) overstepped his Jees-I've-had-it
mark by a considerable margin.
He started the final evening by drinking more schnapps than the Japanese,
French, Spanish and English journalists put together. Then he disgraced himself
by attempting to sing Mace Lads songs on the guitar, followed up with some
embarrassing scenes involving two Yamaha promo-girls and concluded the evening
being dragged up to his room, where, as soon as his head hit the pillow, a cream
of mushroom soup type substance put in an appearance.
Luckily for Kenny, the two day, 715km tour of the Swiss and Austrian alps was
over, and tomorrow he could stay in bed (or in his case, the bath) till he felt
a little better, bless him.
Yamaha were taking a big risk with this bike. It could have been crap. A
short journey on a crap bike's one thing, but having 440 miles to find every
little niggle is another. Most of the roads on the route didn't allow much
thought for technical analysis anyway. Mountain passes tend to be more of a lock
the front wheel up round a 180 degree hairpin and take a quick look to the right
at breathtaking scenery, all at the same time. With the dreadful road surfaces
in the Alps and the Diversion's less than sticky Dunlops, locking the front was
an all too common experience.
Diversion styling is, er, conservative to say the least. The neighbours
aren't likely to rush outside with the camera every time you wheel it out of the
garage but, according to the Yamaha blurb, they're not supposed to. This is the
socially acceptable face of motorcycling and is guaranteed to blend in with all
the grey company cars and window boxes down Acacia Avenue. This bike wasn't
meant to be sprayed pink and have an Alfa 4 into 1 cross threaded onto it. The
environmentalists won't complain about it either. The Diversion has an air
induction system which cuts emissions by up to 40%. It does this by adding air
to unburnt gasses after they leave the exhaust port then igniting them. This
creates puffs of black smoke on the overrun, good fun down steep hills.
It's an extremely heavy bike, weighing in at 239kg. That's only 9kg lighter
than the FJ1200. But thanks to the sloping engine design which lowers the centre
of gravity, it never feels it. The steering did, at walking pace it seemed way
too heavy, I bored everyone about this at every opportunity until someone
noticed that my tank bag was resting on the bars, oops. After that, low speed
steering was fairly light and controllable.
Launches normally turn into Death Race 2000 with lots of get-offs and even
more "cor, I nearly died stories" — not so on this launch. It's fairly difficult
to ride the Diversion at speed. When you think you're starting to wind it up a
bit, the bike throws in little warning signs, like the tyres squirm or you get
thrown off line bumping over a raised manhole cover. Nothing too drastic, but
just enough for the bike to tell you "slow down boy or we're gonna crash". A lot
of bikes in the sports tourer bracket let you get away with murder, then, when
you cross the mark, throw you in the ditch. I wonder if these warnings were part
of the design brief? I think not.
The suspension is at its best on fast A-roads, anything twistier and it soon
starts complaining. At the end of the first day we took the Julier pass over the
Swiss alps and down the other side to St. Moritz, which consists solely of 1:4
downhill straights and hairpins for about 10km. Squeezing the brake lever hard
for the hairpins nearly always produced a bounce-skid-bounce-skid off the front
wheel as the forks tried hard to cope with the situation. On the exit the rear
squatted down under the Diversion's weight and tried lumberingly to find a
smooth route over crusty cow pats, frost damaged tarmac and cement dust. Then it
rose up and topped out on the brakes 200 yards later as we entered the next
hairpin. A good enough test for any suspension. Raising the rear preload would
help the situation a little but both ends need more damping to stop wallowing on
The shaft drive is excellent. There's no torque reaction and, of course, none
of that aerosol and adjusting bollocks every ten miles.
Yamaha say they've tuned the engine for bottom and midrange power to make the
bike easier to ride. True, it is easy to use, but boy is it boring. Perfect for
two up trips to Grimsby but there ain't much in the way of roll on delivery. Not
for a 900 anyway. If you're expecting an FJ1200 neck strainer — forget it. It
takes a fair while to get moving and when it does it's nothing to write home
about. Individual bikes varied too. The bike I rode most of the time vibrated
through the bars and pegs from tickover to around 3000rpm, while another bike
with almost the same mileage didn't tingle — weird.
Getting up to touring speed along the autobahn is what the Diversion is
about. A very comfortable seat behind an effective, wind tunnel designed screen
turns the Diversion from an average bike into an excellent one. You've got time
to forget the bike, sit back and enjoy the scenery. It was almost a shame to
turn off the major routes and head for the more twisty roads where concentration
becomes a little more important.
The 900 Diversion may sound like a total loser in the excitement stakes, but
it isn't. If you don't push it too hard and expect too much it'll get you to
work comfortably, take you and your partner on your hols and make you smile on
your favourite A-road. The trouble is about three million other bikes on the
market do exactly the same thing, including the 600 Diversion which is cheaper
to buy (£4399) cheaper to insure and cheaper to run. Mmmm.