Yamaha XT660R Review

Welcome to the Adventure Motorcycle Traveller Reviews. Here’s Mad or Nomad’s 60,000-mile review of the Yamaha XT660R.  

Adventure Motorcycle Travel in Mongolia blue skies

Contents

By Andy Davidson

By Andy Davidson

Mad or Nomad

Quick info

  • Bike: 2009 Yamaha XT660R  
  • Purchased for: £4,000 
  • Miles covered: 60,000+
  • Years owned: Since 2009  
  • Engine: Single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 659cc, FI
  • Power: 47 bhp
  • Torque: 44 ft-lbs
  • Kerb weight: 181kg
  • Seat height: 875mm
  • Tank capacity: 15 litres 
  • Tyres: 21 and 17
  • Front suspension: Telescopic forks 43mm, no adjustment
  • Rear suspension: Monoshock, preload adjustable only

Prep

Why this bike?

I bought the Yamaha XT660R brand new in 2009 to ride to Syria from the UK. I had just finished a bunch of other trips around Europe including a ride from the UK to Albania on a Kawasaki ZX-9R and it turns out I’m not good at off-roading sportsbikes. There was a deal on the XT so I bit the bullet and went for it. Single-cylinder, simple, rugged, tried, tested and proven engine – perfect. 

I didn’t quite make it to Syria with the XT, we got to the border at the same time the civil war was kicking off and it just didn’t feel very smart. So, I crossed the border into Kurdistan, northern Iraq instead, but that’s a story for another time….

How to adventure proof your motorcycle

Modifications

I swapped out the twin exhausts for a Metal Mule 2 into 1 system. That lasted okay on the first trip, but now on our current round-the-world trip it has been a nightmare and we’ve since changed it back to the original two exhausts while we were in Cambodia (lucky we kept them!)

The bike came in a garish bright red and white. All the fairings were swapped for plain black and all decals were removed. 

The bike was beefed up with crash bars, sump guard, hand guards, collapsible mirrors and gear lever, casing guards, gaiters and a few other bits like hose pipe protectors on the coolant pipes. I also fitted a SW Motech centre stand, Renthal handlebars, grips, new foot pegs, new seat, Scottoiler… 

Actually, there’s a huge list of modifications and we have a dedicated article that you can check out here:

Luggage

For the Iraq trip I used a 40L roll bag, a small homemade pannier on one side and two Rotopax on the other. 

For our round-the-world trip, Alissa and I were riding two-up from the UK to Japan and planned to have two bikes thereafter. So, for the two-up stretch we used two 40L duffels, Rotopax for fuel and water and a top box. 

We have since changed our set-up to soft Lomo panniers at the rear, small crash bar bags up front and a top box. 

Check out our full luggage set-up here:

Travel

Reliability

The XT has been given a very, very hard life and we’ve had a lot of breakdowns. But, none of those problems were the XT’s fault. Every issue we had was because of an aftermarket part or accessory. For example, the exhaust gave us a huge head ache and that was aftermarket.

The remote preload adjuster cable broke and we needed a new part and then the shock shat itself in Tajikistan and needed to be completely replaced. It was an expensive aftermarket shock and we had our original sent out from the UK to Kyrgyzstan and refitted (it has so far lasted us through even harder terrain through the likes of Mongolia). 

So as for reliability, the XT is bullet proof. It has been completely submerged, through -15C to +45C, sand storms, snow storms, battered, crashed and ridden hard two-up round the world and it’s still going. 

Servicing

Servicing is very simple and easy to do. I give it an oil and filter change every 5-6,000 miles and perform the basics when needed. There’s nothing complicated about servicing this bike. 

Maintenance and parts

The only high-maintenance part on the Yamaha XT is the cush drive rubbers, which wear out fast at around every 5,000 miles. It’s about £30 for a new set and they’re easy to source in the UK. You can get the rubbers to last longer if you pack them with cut up bits of inner tubes. 

Other than that, maintaining the bike and getting parts is a doddle. 

Long distance comfort

Comfort is of course subjective. The XT is a bit vibey and does suffer from a bit of a delicate throttle, but you get used to it. The riding position is all-day comfy for me and so is the standing position. I did change the bars for a wider set of Renthals and also put bar risers on and that’s made it even more comfortable. Oh, and I also swapped the seat out because the old one was a pain in the arse. 

So far, I rode this bike around 20,000 miles from the UK to Iraq and back solo and have now ridden 45,000 miles from the UK to Japan and then through Southeast Asia two-up and have no problems with comfort. 

Uzbekistan Motorcycle Travel

Good and Bad

What's good?

The most important thing for me is reliability and everything else is a bonus. I can rely on the Yamaha to get us round-the-world. It’s a simple, rugged and dogged machine that just keeps on going no matter what you throw at it. 

The engine pumps out tractable power, it won’t bite your hand off if you tickle the throttle and that makes it easy and progressive off-road. If you love delicately carving sublime corners on the road, then you’ll need a seriously cultured wrist to get round bends smoothly because the motor loves to chug and can be snappy if you get it wrong.

Another thing that’s great about the XT is its displacement. Sitting at 660 puts it slap bang in between the lightweight dirt bikes and bigger twins and triples. It manages the best of both worlds. 

What's not?

The XT is a competent all-rounder. It doesn’t excel in any one area and is a no thrills bike. If you have visions of competing in the Dakar or flying over sand dunes then this might not be the bike for you. But if you want a solid and dependable bike that’s just as comfortable on long motorway slogs as it is chugging through the Gobi then it’ll do you well. 

Improvements?

The usual for most bikes: more power and torque, strip about 50kgs of weight away, crash protection as standard, do away with the two exhausts for a well thought out two into one system that doesn’t run underneath the bike, an updated engine, more comfortable seat, grippy pegs as standard, a bigger fuel tank… but now we’re talking about a whole new bike. 

Verdict

The Yamaha XT660R is a proper travel bike. It’s not built to knock your socks off, it’s built to get you round the world. That’s not to say it’s boring – you can have a blast on the XT and there’s plenty of power in that 660cc single-cylinder to fly down gravel tracks, and there’s enough oomph to get you out of trouble too if you’re pinning it. 

In the 10 years of ownership and 60,000 miles of travelling on the XT I’ve not got a single complaint. It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not, if you want an off-road weapon then it’s obviously not the bike for you. If you want a mile-munching European tourer then look elsewhere. If you want a tough bike that can handle anything, go anywhere and take whatever you throw at it and keep you smiling, then welcome to the XT club!

Cambodia Motorcycle Travel Bayon Temple

About the author

Andy Davidson runs Mad or Nomad with his partner Alissa Potter. Andy’s been travelling on bikes since he was 18, took a break to work at Motor Cycle News as a feature writer for five years before leaving to ride round-the-world indefinitely with Alissa. 

Mad or Nomad in Mongolia

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16 thoughts on “Yamaha XT660R Review”

  1. Hi Andy, can you pls explain in more detail the headache with the exhaust. I’m planning to buy one and travel so would be good to know what to avoid and why. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Martin, thanks for your comment. Take a look at my 2 in 1 exhaust review because I go into great detail in there on the issues. That should explain it, but feel free to shoot any follow up questions my way anytime!
      Also, that’s brilliant you’re looking to travel on an XT! Where are you headed 😀
      Andy

      Reply
  2. Hi Andy, hope you are well?
    Thank you for this review about the xt660,there is alot of info that helps me.

    I just want to ask did you have any problems with cutting out when given to much throttle and the bike dies, this only happens sometimes and standing still?

    Ruan

    Reply
    • Hi Ruan, thanks for your comment. Glad it could help.
      Yes, I did have a problem with cutting out. I had this issue about 40,000 miles into our trip and after riding through Uzbkekistan where I believe the poor fuel quality gunked up the injectors. This was about two years ago, and I think when I was in Cambodia I sorted this by giving the tank, fuel lines, injectors, throttle body and air filter a seriously good clean and upping the idle a little bit.
      I assume you also have an XT and you’re getting these issues? Are you travelling on your bike, where are you based, how long have you had the issue and what have you tried so far to fix it?
      Cheers
      Andy

      Reply
      • Hi Andy

        I am based in South-Africa and I do have an XT but with n two into one exhaust with a lot of backpressure. I use my bike to go to work and every now and then go off-roading with it just to pay a little bit. I have this issue for quite a while now but it doesn’t do it often, just sometimes.
        I have been playing with the CO settings but already put it back to where it was and that’s about it

        Ruan

        Reply
        • Hi Ruan, yeah, the 2-into-1 exhaust system caused me no end of trouble! Here’s our review and what happened with our Metal Mule system . I ended up shipping the original twin exhaust system from the UK to Cambodia and had it refitted.
          Were you getting this issue before the 2-into-1 system? Have you tried cleaning the injectors/jets/fuel lines/air filter etc? Does your bike have a power commander?
          Cheers

          Reply
          • Hi Andy

            I got the bike with the 2 into 1, bit I think I will clean the system and check if that will do the job

            Thank you
            Ruan

            Reply
  3. Hi Andy
    Thanks for the review on the XT 660.
    I’ve owned mine since 2014, It had 9000ks on the clock when purchased.
    As youve stated, its bullet proof!
    It still has its original battery! Unbelievable : )
    At one stage I owned 2 bikes (Harley Dyna & the Xt) one had to go,, The Harley departed.
    Thanks once again
    Darren

    Reply
    • Hey Darren, Thanks for your comment!
      Wow, same battery?! That’s impressive! And good choice on keeping the XT haha!
      9K on the clocks in 2014, what does it have on there now out of curiosity?
      I think mine’s on about 80,000 miles (130,000KM) now (bought new in 2010)
      Cheers,
      Andy

      Reply
  4. Hey Andy! Ive recently received a really good offer for a XT 660R from 2005, it’s 1300€ and sold by a really good friend of mine who hasn’t been riding it too much and wants to give it away… It does have almost 60000km on the clock now and I’m just trying to figure out how many KMS of life it has left .. it seems to be a very sweet deal and I can trust my friend, with todays market the bike is worth at least 1300€ only in parts without the engine anyway … Sweet article by the way! And have you ever ridden in Zanskar?
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Hey Noah,
      That is a fantastic offer! There’s no way you can find it that cheap here in the UK. In fact, they’re getting harder and harder to come by. I just had a quick look on Autotrader and I can only see three. One from 2005 model is £3,000 (3,485Euros), a 2007 is £3,495 (4,060Euros) and a 2009 for £4,500 (5,227Euros)!!! That’s mad. I bought mine brand new in 2009 for £4K!
      Yeah, it’s the mileage, but 37,000 miles (60,000 kms) isn’t earth shattering. My bike has nearly 100,000 kms. So i’d say it has plenty of life left. It all depends on what you plan on doing with it and how well your friend looked after it. One of my best buds did a trip on an XT years ago and sold it after. He regrets it to this day. I’d get it 😀

      I think I have! I rode on the Himalayan Odysssey with Royal Enfield for work back in 2016 and that was to Leh, Spiti, Ladakh, Khardung etc and I think we went through Zanskar. It’s funny you mention it actually because I was just on a ride with Royal Enfield last month to Lo Manthang and a bunch of the Indian guys on that were talking about Zanskar and a ride there and I put a note to look into the place. So, thanks for the reminder!

      Have you been?
      Andy

      Reply
      • Thanks for Your reply!

        Yess it’s been looked after very well mechanically, not so much the plastics, but who cares right… My friend also didn’t ride it very hard.

        Tbh I’m looking for a second bike, my main one is a Honda Dominator (nx650) and I’d maybe like something water-cooled to ride the tet to turkey and back .. so yes my friends comes with all the luggage too so i think I’ll just go for it 😀

        Yes I have just come back from a 2 week trip through Zanskar and only zanskar, since leh is sadly super crowded nowadays we didn’t bother going to kardungh la and so on… After 2 weeks with the most traffic being wild yaks we couldn’t handle the leh highway traffic right away hehe

        We rode 2 up on the new Himalayan and had a blast.. tbh i didn’t think 400cc and almost 200kg wet would get 2 people and luggage through the type of terrain it brought us through…. Very surprised by the capability of those bikes… and can not recommend zanskar enough, its so incredible… The best motorcycle trip in my life so far!

        Definitely go if you get the chance, especially if you’re in contact with Enfield themselves! Haha

        Reply
        • Yeah, bashed plastics are a good thing 😉
          So long as you trust him and it’s well looked after mechanically, I wouldn’t worry about the mileage.
          Oh wow, a Domi! Haha brilliant. Yeah, it would be a great bike to ride to Turkey and back, plus there are very good Yamaha dealerships and mechanics in Turkey in case you’re worried.
          That sounds brilliant, what a trip! Yeah, I heard that about Leh/Ladakh area, all paved now as well and crowded – a real shame.
          Good bikes for that terrain and region ey, and that’s quite a statement! I’ll look into returning there in that case!
          Cheers mate, best of luck with the purchase and your trip to Turkey.
          ps. we have some Turkey guides here that might help with your trip planning: Motorcycle Destination Guides Turkey.

          Thanks,
          Andy

          Reply

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