1989 Yamaha T80 Townmate from United Kingdom
Small, slow, fun, economical, reliable, smile inducing
Nothing has gone wrong with this motorcycle.
I bought it, got it tested, taxed and insured it and got on with enjoying it.
I've got a fair few motorcycles in my shed. Displacements range from 50 cc to 1157 cc. I like bikes... and scooters... well, anything with an engine really.
I spotted my Townmate (who was christened "Alan" due to him sporting a Rickman top box and panniers) online and fell in love. The bolt on extras were swiftly removed once I realised just how heavy the three large fibreglass boxes and steel frame were. This little fella needs all the help he can get when it comes to the weight he'll be expected to transport... He now sports a much smaller rear rack.
Money exchanged hands after a brief ride around to check all was well. It felt mildly scary, odd, worrying, but above all it felt like a laugh.
I brought him home and wondered exactly what the heck I'd done...
He sat outside under a cover for a few weeks before I drummed up the enthusiasm to get him out and tested.
A bit of wind in the tyres and he was ready. He passed with flying colours.
The Townmate is Yamaha's answer to the Honda Cub. It looks similar, but boasts a shaft drive system and HUGE 5 litre fuel tank... It does, however, have 6V electrics which means that head and tail lighting is very poor.
A quick prod of the kick start and he bursts into life (most times first time). A cable operated choke is present, but seems unnecessary on most occasions. I may end up using the choke lever to fire the Nitrous system instead...
Plopping myself on the generous seat hears the creaking and groaning of vintage suspension. I instantly smile at the prospect of every journey.
The pleasant poppity thump of the 4 stroke engine is most enjoyable. It likes to rev too and it surprisingly nimble for 79 cc's of Japanese grunt. It really is a cracking little engine.
The engine has a neat little sight glass for checking the oil level. Nice! The valve clearances are easily checked and if necessary adjusted via neat caps on the cylinder head. Servicing and maintenance is a cinch.
The engine is mated to a 4 speed gearbox, which has an extremely short first gear. Second gear is fine for pulling away in most situations. Push down with toes to go up through the gears and use the heel to bring it back down and back to neutral. The gearbox is positive, yet crunchy as is the way with this style of motorcycle. The clutch side of things is automatic and kicks in as the revs rise. Rear brake is right foot operated. Indicators on the right hand side. That's about all you need to know to get on and go travelling. It's that simple.
Now... I'm a salad dodger, so at 6 foot 2 and almost 3x Kylie Minogues in my bike gear, you'd expect poor Alan to roll over and die at the prospect of any journey, but not so.
Take it for what it is and you soon find yourself enjoying buzzing along at a steady 40 mph whilst using a thimble full of fuel. I have seen an indicated 50 mph on the flat and as poor as 20 mph whilst climbing hills. I must point out though that 50 mph (and over if you're lucky) does feel like the engine is about to disintegrate into a billion parts and spew you over the handlebars. 40-45 mph cruise is great. The speedometer has been tested against a GPS and is amazingly accurate. There is also a fuel gauge, neutral light and indicator light present. From touching the red line of the fuel gauge to tip top of the tank is about £3.50. Another reason to smile... That £3.50 will get you 70-80 smiley miles. Happy days.
Alan currently wears tyres of dubious origin. They look the part tread wise, but let's just say that I doubt I'll be getting my knee down. The ride is more stable than that of my Italian scooters thanks to larger rims. Centre of gravity is low, which makes manoeuvring easy. Applying front brake results in a rising feeling due to the leading fork arrangement. I'd be petrified using the front brake in wet or icy conditions. Back brake is also drum and works just fine.
A roads are a little out of Alan's comfort zone speed wise, but pootling between towns and villages using B roads is perfick. Take a Townmate into town and they really start to make sense. Quick enough to hold their own away from the lights and slim enough to filter through most traffic (as long as you don't have a monstrous top box or panniers on the back of course) I love the feeling of leaving cars in my wake as I wiggle my way through the hold ups. Very satisfying.
Lights are horrific. I think my phone's torch is brighter. Indicators worked better once 10 watt bulbs and the correct flasher relay were fitted. Even the Haynes manual has the specification of bulbs and flasher relay wrong. Brake light, horn and indicators work off the battery housed under the right hand side panel. They're acceptable.
I'm tall, but I find it as comfortable as I'd expect to if you get my drift. It's an almost 30 year old, small capacity motorcycle which was designed for shorter length trips. If I take off on a mission to circumnavigate Norfolk, then yes dear reader, my ar*e will ache after a while and my knees will seize solid. I expect that.
Riding the Townmate makes you appreciate "stuff" more. You take your time, you smile and get smiled at lots. People tell you how "Grandad had one of those" and generally life is pretty mellow whilst pootling along on Alan.
The retro looking grey finish is now a bit tired to say the least, but he's still mechanically and structurally sound. Many of these little bikes met their maker thanks to the dreaded wire worm, but Alan is still in pretty good fettle. He may even get a re-spray over this winter.
Parts wise, there are still some spares available. Certainly not as plentiful as the Cub, but joining the Facebook page dedicated to these machines will put you in touch with like-minded fans who may have something squirrelled away in the garage. Right hand side switch assemblies seem rare, as the fork in the aluminium moulding that holds the front brake lever in place often breaks.
I was chuckling to myself whilst awarding the marks out of ten listings in this survey. Acceleration? Poor. Roll on performance? Poor. Handling? Fun, but yeah... poor.
But... if there was a "How much does this bike make you smile?" section, or a "does it do what it was designed to do?" section then I'd be awarding it 11 out of 10. It really is great if you are realistic about what Yamaha intended the Townmate to do (even though they can do so much more!).
I think Alan and I will be the best of friends for many years to come.
Thanks for reading.
Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 14th August, 2017
12th Feb 2019, 02:29
Very informative and fun to read.
I am 6'2, 110 kg plus and 80cc is certainly better than the 50cc I started to ride in my teens (it was an old Puck Florida 50cc, long saddle so you could give your mates a ride when the cops weren't looking (any constables from Trelleborg reading?).
The worst was to drive through the Swedish winters, that was fresh and invigorating.
Here in Aus it is warmer, but the Yamaha Townmate 80s are not as plentiful as in the UK.
I'll find one, but it may take a while.
Anyway, great review of a great bike.
Thank you. Tom.
22nd Apr 2019, 20:14
8th May 2020, 15:27
A very thorough and accurate review.
I got back onto two wheels back in 2001 with a Townmate. As I never needed to take my test (in the 70s you could ride up to 250ccs) I decided it was now time to do this. Unfortunately it meant trading in my Townmate for an SR125. Passed my test and graduated to larger bikes, but always missed my Townmate. I now have a 1995 model which I love and cherish. Every ride is an adventure. So much so that I had planned to ride to Slovenia this year - 10gallonstoslovenia.wordpress.com
Sadly Coronavirus has put an end to it. Next year I will try again.