Owning an SZR660 is akin to owning a very rare and much misunderstood animal. People have always heard of it but never seen one and aren’t exactly sure what it is anyway. Of all the bikes I’ve owned, it is the one that has caused most comment and reaction.
So what, exactly, is it? Well, take one 659cc five-valve SOHC l/cooled single from your successful XTZ trail bike (also, the one used in MuZ’s Scorpion and Mastiff), wrap a TZR two stroke frame (or one like it – I’m not sure) around it, add some inverted forks and a monoshock, dress it in an outrageously styled set of outer clothes and the largest exhaust can in the world and you’ve built yourself an SZR.
Although the engine puts out a measly 47bhp, the bike’s light weight combined with the torque of a big single means instant power on tap. Those of you who ride big trailies will know what I mean. It doesn’t matter what gear you are in, as long as you are above 2,500 rpm the motor will pull and pull all the way to the redline at 7,000. With the standard forty-one tooth rear sprocket, 100mph comes up at just under 6,000rpm and there’s still a bit more to go from there although running big singles at high revs is not recommended for long periods.
But that’s not what these engines are all about. There’s so much torque that at 50mph in top, the engine is only doing a little over 2,000rpm. The real kicking power comes in between 4-5,000 and it’s fun to wind it on in third and feel the front go light as the speedo needle climbs rapidly.
Don’t big singles suffer from a lot of vibration, though? Well, yes, it cannot be denied that this bike vibrates [see below for a different opinion on this], but this is most intrusive at very low revs and smoothes out into a more bearable buzz once things get going.
A contributing factor to the big-single “thud” must be the exhaust can. For some reason, Yamaha decided to put this monstrous can on the bike which must restrict power and doesn’t do the sound any favours. In fact, I read a review somewhere on the Net that likened the sound of the exhaust to a “fat bumble bee denied honey”. At low revs, the sound has been described as, variously, a water pump, an old diesel engine and on my way home around the North Circular the other night I was reminded of a piston-engined helicopter, so you can take your pick.
Sound aside, the bike is a pleasure to ride. The seat is low (both feet flat on the floor anyone?) settling you into the bike with the clip-ons and slightly rear-set pegs completing the racing crouch. The half-fairing is a once-piece moulding that includes the screen which is very effective at reducing wind-blast at higher speeds and the suspension…
The front forks are up-side downies and, like the monoshock under the seat, adjust for compression and rebound. Now, I’m no racer, but not long before buying this bike I took part in a Ducati 748 race school and after that I can now appreciate a bike that handles. The SZR feels so planted through corners and I now know what it means to feel the suspension working under me. I look forward to roundabouts and sweeping corners like never before and even in this foul weather we’ve been having I am still grinning like a maniac when I get home after a ride.
When it comes to stopping, the single disc is gripped by a four-piston Brembo caliper on a single disc. Eye-popping stuff with the standard rubber hose, I’ve just put on braided lines (thanks, Bandit Bikes) and it is nothing short of fantastic now. Don’t ask me about the back brake, I hardly use it. One thing, though. By Christmas, the front caliper was binding something rotten. Why is it that whatever make of caliper you fit to a Yamaha, it hates winter weather with a passion?
It’s not all a bed of roses. The steering lock is pathetic and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve trapped my fingers and thumbs between the bars and tank. If you take a pillion, they’d better have short legs and not be too heavy as even with the lithesome form of Kat on the back, the front goes all wobbly and you’d better be in the right gear below 3,000rpm otherwise the engine bogs down. And there’s nowhere to bungy anything on. No hooks or convenient bits of metal (apart from the pillion pegs) and no way of putting a rack on the back.
But forget all that. This bike is all about riding solo. If you can get past the looks, which do grow on you, this is a bike you’ll want to keep riding. I haven’t done any major distance on it yet but it is comfortable, has enough power to safely overtake even up to 80mph, handles like a dream and in the hands of a good rider would probably put many larger capacity bikes to shame around a track (which is where I intend to take mine at the earliest opportunity).
And the icing on the cake? Well, I bought my 1997 P reg model from a dealer. The bike had had two owners and was showing 8,500 miles on the clock. Apart from a couple of gravel scratches on the front it was in excellent condition. The price? With three months parts and labour warranty, a measly £1800. Check out the weekly comic and you will find one or two in the classifieds each week at under £2000. They were made for three years between 96-99,with minor differences limited to paintwork. If you see one in a dealer, offer at least £200 under what they’re asking. The British biking public has yet to wake up to this much misunderstood masterpiece and they’re hard to shift. God knows why. We love it.

Second Opinion
I had seen photos of the SZR before, but when Rog finally brought home our very own bike, she still looked different from what I’d expected. In the flesh? In the metal? She looked more beautiful than any photo could portray. She also felt different too. I had been warned that it was a radical riding position, but it still seemed that despite the number of bikes I had ridden before, this was the first time that my knees were truly sitting up by my ears. Within a couple of days though, I had got used to the position, and it soon felt a very natural way to sit. I also discovered something else. Forget everything you’ve ever heard about men comparing their bikes to sex, the SZR really does make you think about sex. She vibrates. And big time. Ladies…this one is for you! Put away your battery powered toys and climb aboard for a real thrill. I can’t tell you at what speeds the vibrations work best. Different things work for different people, but it’s fun trying. Let’s not have any accidents though. And even if you’re not into toys, the SZR is still a great bike to ride. She’s light and fast, with great acceleration. Definitely one of the best bikes we’ve ever owned.