OFF-ROAD TEST TM 250E
The two-stroke goes back to its roots
Here’s some two-stroke trivia: back in the old days, all the major manufacturers were pushing four-strokes. BSA and
Triumph had dedicated off-road strokers, while small, weird, little
companies like MZ were on their own to develop two-strokes. If
you wanted something other than a four-stroke, you had to go
looking for it.
Sound familiar? In today’s counterrevolution, small companies
like TM are still developing bikes like the two-stroke 250E, while
the giants of the industry show no real interest. TM is a tiny
Italian company that built a reputation building kart motors—
two-stroke kart motors. Today, TM has a full line of products, but it’s
clear that the heart and soul of the company runs on premix.
It’s actually somewhat amazing that a company like TM can
exist in today’s world. It has no parent company, and it’s not part
of any larger group. TM is all alone, making the motorcycles that
it wants to make out of sheer stubbornness. The U.S. importer
sells only a handful of bikes each year, but that’s enough to make
sure that the doors stay open and TM can be its own boss.
THE UNDERGROUND LIFE OF THE TM 250E
This bike isn’t the result of any massive engineering project. The current
TM 250E is just a snapshot in time of an ongoing project. While big companies go though massive redesigns on a regular basis, TM makes one
change at a time. The end result isn’t the end at all; it’s just where the bike
is right now. Frankly, if Honda had continued to make two-strokes, they
probably wouldn’t look that different. The TM 250E has an aluminum twin-spar frame. The motor itself has a case reed and a mechanical power
valve with a hydraulic clutch and a five-speed gearbox. There are two big
differences between this bike and what Honda might have had. One, it’s
an off-road two-stroke, something that Honda never made. Two, it’s handmade. The TM’s aluminum frame has no robot welds and no mass-manu-factured parts. It was made the way that the first two-strokes were made
50 years ago—one at a time.
Examples of the TM’s short production run are everywhere. The engine
cases are sand-cast, and parts like the brake lever are CNC-machined. In
some areas, you can see where plastic parts were trimmed with an Xacto
knife. TM makes a surprising number of parts in-house. The hubs and
sprockets are TM-made. And, as of this year, even the rear shock is made
by TM. It looks like the company took an Ohlins and reverse engineered it.
In other areas, the parts come from traditional sources. The fork is a
closed-cartridge Marzocchi, the ignition is Japanese, the bars are Reikon,
the brakes are Nissin front and Brembo rear, and the rims are Excel. TM
also uses a VForce 3 reed and a pipe that is made by HGS.