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Yamaha Virago

The Yamaha Virago was the first V-Twin-powered cruiser-style motorcycle produced by a Japanese manufacturer, as well as one of the earliest mass-produced motorcycles with a single shock rear suspension. Originally sold with a 750 cc engine in 1981, Yamaha soon added 500 cc and 920 cc versions.

The bike was redesigned in 1984, switching from a rear mono-shock to a dual-shock design, and adding a tear-drop shaped gas tank. That year, Harley-Davidson, fearful of the inroads the Virago and other new Japanese cruiser-style motorcycles, pushed for a tariff on imported bikes over 700 cc. Yamaha replaced the 750 cc motor with 699 cc version to avoid the tariff, while the 920 cc engine grew to 1000 cc, and later 1100 cc. In the late 1980s a 250 cc Virago was added. A short production of 125 cc was also manufactured. [Yamaha made a XV125, XV250, XV400, XV500, XV535, XV700, XV750, XV1000/TR1, XV1100. The XV400 being the rarest of the breed.]

The larger-displacement Viragos have since been phased out of production, replaced by the V-Star and Road Star series of motorbikes. The only remaining Virago being produced is the 250 cc model.

Starter problems

According to Motorcyclist magazine, the early Virago has a design flaw in the starter system. This magazine states that the starter's defect exists in early Viragos models (1982 and 1983). However, the same flawed starter system was installed in the XV700, which was produced until 1988. The XV1000 had an improved system since it began production in 1984, which doesn't present the flaws. Also the XV1100 and the XV750 (1989 and up) do not present the starter system flaws found in the earlier Viragos. Motorcyclist Magazine suggested to weld the ring gear to its backing plate to solve the problem. Other solutions commonly used are the use of shims, which was Yamaha's proposed solution, then also the use of a new designed idler gear. None of this solutions are considered or proved to be permanent, and applying only one of them will not address other existing flaws in the system; however, great improvements have been reported by Virago owners that have applied them.

Yamaha Virago 250

The Virago 250 is designed to be an entry-level cruiser bike, and as of 2006 retails at $3499. It's considered by most publications and motorcycle enthusiasts to be a capable road bike with good handling characteristics and a top speed of 85 mph. The Virago 250 is a step above its 250 competitors due to the v-twin engine. The v-twin delivers greater torque at low RPMs than the parallel twins found in other 250s. The v-twin also has a cooling advantage since four sides of each cylinder are exposed to airflow. The v-twin also gives the Virago 250 a deep exhaust note that parallel twins are incapable of producing. The Virago 250 is a very economical motorcycle. With the stock gearing the Virago can return 80+ miles per gallon. A popular upgrade is to replace the sprockets so that the gearing is taller. Taller gearing requires less frequent shifting and returns even better fuel economy. The Virago 250's v-twin provides sufficient torque to cope with taller gearing.

In the 2008 model overview, the Virago 250 has been replaced with the V Star 250, but the specs remain very similar to the Virago 250.