Looking Back on a Review of the 1997 Yamaha Virago 750 from our Middleweight Comparison

The 1997 Virago 750 was Yamaha's middleweight v-twin for '97. The Cruiser staff at the time reviewed this ride.

Yamaha Virago 750
Yamaha Virago 750Cruiser

Launched in 1981 to a brief swell of controversy about an Asian invasion of “Harley’s market,” the Virago 750 pioneered the Japanese V cruiser. Although the chassis has changed almost completely, the engine is essentially the same 75-degree air-cooled single-overhead-cam with two valves per cylinder design that Yamaha rolled out 16 years ago.

Back in 1981, when the thought of a Japanese tandem V-twin was a perplexing idea for some, Yamaha had to sell the virtues of the design: narrowness, lightness (compared to the then-prevalent fours), simplicity and the sound and feel of a V-twin. Yamaha chose a 75-degree V-angle for its good balance, because it spread the cylinders wide enough to aid cooling, provided space for carburetors, and didn’t make the engine as tall as a 45-degree design. A single crankpin with two rods side by side is used, and the cylinder heads on both barrels are identical though the cams are different. Like the other Japanese bikes here, the XV750 drives its overhead cams—one for each cylinder—with chains. Like it’s 1063cc stablemate, the Virago 1100, the 750 inhales through a pair of 40mm carbs, and sends power to the road through five speeds and shaft final drive. The other three Japanese manufacturers followed Yamaha’s lead and made 750-class V-twins with shaft drive, though Honda’s original Shadow 750 is no longer available.

Though the engine has proven quite reliable except for a starter problem that plagued early models, it does have the look of an early effort, with hoses cluttering the engine bay and dummy chrome airbox pods, complete with fake grilles, clinging to each side of the engine. (The actual airbox is up under the tank.) Both exhaust pipes dump into a common chamber and emerge from a pair of staggered mufflers.

Yamaha Virago 750
The 75-degree angle of the Virago's V-twin engine was chosen for its good balance.Cruiser

Although the first Viragos had a triangulated single-shock rear suspension, that was retired in favor of a conventional two-shock configuration more than a decade ago. However, the engine remains a structural frame component, eliminating downtubes that would interfere with your view of the engine or service access to it. These days, the 750 and 1100 Viragos share virtually identical chassis. Most aftermarket pipe makers even make the same pipes for both models. The 1100 has a passenger backrest, holds 0.6 gallon more fuel and costs $1600 more. For better or worse, Yamaha has changed the big Viragos very little in the last several years. Although good for existing owners and buyers who want a proven design, this means that the styling is a bit dated. Perhaps its ugliest piece is the lumpy, rough-polished upper triple clamp.

This article was originally published in the August 1997 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

One sign of the Virago’s extended production run is a long list of features. In addition to shaft drive, the Virago offers effective dual horns, a centerstand, a tach, self-canceling turn signals, dual front brake discs and handlebar-mounted choke lever. Its cast wheels, though not as stylish as wire wheels, permit safer tubeless tires. Since the tooling has been paid for, Yamaha can provide those features for $6499, midway between the other two veteran Japanese bikes, the Vulcan 750 and the Intruder.

High Points: Low Points: First Changes:
Excellent ergonomics pleased everybody Unfinished look to engine plumbing Tauter suspension
Great seat Soft suspension permits wallowing Replace ugly oil-line hose clamps
Strong power
Shaft drive
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Air-cooled, 75-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 1 intake, 1 exhaust valve, operated by rockers, threaded adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 749cc, 83 x 69.2mm
Compression ratio: 8.7:1
Carburetion: 2, 40mm, Mikuni CV
Lubrication: Wet sump, 3.2qt., spin-on filter
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet multiplate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, 3.207
Wheels: Cast, 15 x 3.00 front, 19 x 2.15 rear
Front tire: 100/90-19 Bridgestone Exedra, tube-type
Rear tire: 140/90-15 Bridgestone Exedra, tube-type
Front brake: 2, double-action calipers, 10-in. discs
Rear brake: Drum, rod operated
Front suspension: 38mm stanchions, 5.9-in. travel
Rear suspension: Dual dampers, 3.8-in. travel, adjustment for preload
Fuel capacity: 3.8 gal., (0.7 gal. reserve)
Handlebar: 29.5 in. wide, 7/8-in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 31.7in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 240 watts
Battery: 12v, 20 AH
Forward lighting: 55/60 watt, 5.75-in. headlight, position lights
Taillight: 2 bulbs
Instruments: Speedometer, tachometer, odometer, tripmeter, warning lights for neutral, high beam, oil level, fuel, left turn signal, right turn signal
Fuel mileage: 40—51 mpg, 47.4 mpg ave.
Average range: 180 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top gear: 3760
200-yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 72.3 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 13.77 sec., 95.8 mph