What you should know about
Italian fine art
1. TM is a tiny Italian motorcycle company that is fiercely
proud of its products. A small group of people makes almost
everything by hand. Not only does TM manufacture the engine and
frame, but a surprising number of other components, like the hubs
and sprockets. The 2012 model even has a TM-built shock. Our
test bike was an early version and didn’t have the shock, but we
can hardly complain about the Ohlins in its place.
2. Everything on the bike looks good. The frame appears to be
a Honda copy at first, but on closer inspection, you realize it’s
much more refined. Whereas the Honda has ugly robot welds
under the cradle and around the steering head, every weld is perfect on the TM. Even the brake pedal is well finished. The exception is the motor, which is rough and kind of like an old-world
3. The motor is a five-speed, fuel-injected DOHC affair. It has
kind of a Yamaha look. It does not meet EPA standards and is
imported as a “closed-course competition” bike, much like a
motocrosser. It is not eligible for a California green sticker. TM is
much too small a company to deal with the bureaucracy of the
U.S. government. Even so, the bike is reasonably quiet—no louder,
anyway, than the KTM.
4. Performance-wise, the bike’s strongest point is its handling. It’s stable and never does anything bad. The rider compartment is big and roomy, making it a particular favorite of big test
riders, like Tom Webb. It feels heavy even though it only weighs
5. The bike’s weakest point is its gearbox. The motor’s powerband doesn’t match its ratios. First gear is low, second gear is tall,
and the motor’s power spread isn’t broad enough to fill the gap.
The actual power output is fine; it might even be one of the more
powerful bikes, but it doesn’t like to rev.
6. TM’s fuel injection is perfect. Unlike most of the others, it
has no lean popping, no coughing and no sputters. We need to
point out that it has the advantage of no federal emission standards to get in the way.
7. The suspension is mixed. It’s well-balanced and excellent for
a race pace, but the Marzocchi fork is a little harsh on small
bumps. The rear is excellent. Later models with the TM-made
shock are rumored to be just as good, if not better.
8. All the parts that aren’t made by TM are very good. The
rear brake is a Nissin, the front is a Brembo and the hydraulic master cylinder is a Brembo. Our clutch developed a leak, but we
know from experience that this is unusual.
9. The TM likes being ridden hard and fast. At slower speeds,
it sometimes overheats, and there’s no catch tank.
10. The TM is not a bike for the masses. It’s for the guy who
wants race-level performance and has a passion for handmade
machinery. It’s very expensive, too, at $9942.
TM is a very small Italian company that makes even Beta look large by