Practicality is the AG200's forte

Last updated 13:02 16/06/2014

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An adjustable wrench, spanner or a socket are all tools a mechanic might use to undo a bolt.

The adjustable wrench is usually a sign of desperate measures and is certainly not something that you are likely to see being used for precision work. The spanner would be used where space is limited and leverage is necessary, while a socket and ratchet is by far the quickest and most efficient way to undo a bolt if the room is available.

It doesn't matter if you are a brain surgeon, teacher or a sales rep, we all have tools of the trade. Some tools such as the simple pen see no boundaries, while other items such as a nail gun are more employment-specific.

Your average Kiwi farmer is no different. They, too, have an arsenal of tools and equipment, from wire strainers to 120 horsepower tractors and everything in between. All these items are amassed to make the sometimes challenging life on the farm a little easier. One such item is a good, reliable two-wheeled farm bike.

Now I know every man and his working dog is going to have their opinion on what makes a good farm bike. I have to admit that before riding the Yamaha AG200 that I was in the small bracket of people who believed a lightweight trail bike was the answer for every farmer. Given the chance to put a slightly used bike to the test on a good friend's farm in rugged country out towards Mokau, I was proven wrong.

The AG200 was originally designed in Australia to meet the demands of the Aussie farmer. Its history dates back to the Yamaha XT of the early 80s. Unlike Yamaha's extensive range of road rockets and off-road weapons the poor AG200 has remained unchanged over the ages. There is, however, method in Yamaha's madness, because as their sales brochure states, this bike is "built from the ground-up for one purpose".

At first glance the AG200 is nothing spectacular to look at. because of the era it was designed in it appears almost retro, and it wasn't until I really started to look the bike over that I noticed the details that make this bike such a sensible choice.

Double side stands and farm carriers are just the start. At 118kg the bike is a tad heavy but it's built to withstand the rigours of the farm. My only gripe with the cosmetics of the bike is the use of a steel fuel tank. They have a tendency to get dented easily and therefore make the bike look a little scruffy, as was the case on this bike.

An electric starter on a farm bike is mandatory and Yamaha knows this. But they also know even their best-engineered starter motor is no use if you end up with a flat battery, so I felt that it was a great idea to include a backup kick starter. The bike easily started off the button and as the 18hp 196cc single cylinder engine murmured into life it become evident that this was a function review rather than a performance review.

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The AG200 engine is bullet-proof but in all honesty it accelerated only slightly quicker than a new-born calf. But in Yamaha's defence the last thing any farmer needs is a weapon of mass destruction tearing up their lush green pastures. I absolutely loved the concept of the gearbox, with neutral at the bottom and 5 up, stopping for gates, and if that's not enough the bike also has an ingenious lever on the clutch assembly the holds the clutch disengaged while you get off the bike.

The suspension like everything on the AG200 functioned well. It's certainly not motocross spec stuff but even if by default, the suspension on the bike has benefits in its design. With Yamaha's cradle mono-shock there is no suspension linkage dragging through mud and the shock is tucked up out of harm's way.

What the suspension lacked, the comfy, well-padded seat certainly made up for and even on my short stint on the bike I could see how this would be great when on the slow journeys to the milking shed behind the cows. Being someone who is very particular about tyre choice I was impressed to see an 18-inch wheel on the rear and 21-inch front. This means that you will be open to an array of tyre options as these are the more common sizing unlike some of the other so-called farm bikes.

The AG200 has shoe brakes front and rear. They worked OK but unfortunately because the bike was a few years old the front cable was a bit stiff. I was in two minds about the design. A shoe brake will remain far cleaner than any disc setup but unfortunately the front cable will require maintenance and both ends will require adjustment from time to time. The perfect solution would be hydraulic shoe brakes. They would be self-adjusting, remain clean and perform better. Also worth a mention was the fully enclosed chain and sprockets. This will mean less chain wear and less maintenance a win, win on all accounts.

The list of farm specific features on the AG200 goes on and on - a DC outlet on the handle bars, large mudflaps, hand guards, and a reasonable headlight all show that this is truly a bike designed with purpose. Like I stated earlier, I always thought that a trail bike would make a good farm bike, but after riding the AG200 I have changed my mind.

The Yamaha AG200 won't impress you with its appearance or engine performance, but if you ever get the chance to ride one I am sure you will be won over by the overall practicality of this machine. Yamaha market the AG200 as "the only genuine ag range" and I feel I can't sum it up any better.

- The Press

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