2001 Yamaha Raptor - After a year and a half

Well, things have certainly changed since my original review of the 2001 Yamaha 660R Raptor. I still love the machine, but as I go back and read my earlier review, one line sticks out in my head- "However, nothing major (knock on wood) has ever gone wrong with the Raptor" - apparently I didn't knock hard enough.

Shortly into my riding career with the Raptor, the machine started to pop out of second gear under hard acceleration. If finally got bad enough that I tore the machine down. All the way down. In the transmissions of motorcycles (and ATV's), there's an essentially round dowel of metal with grooves cut in it that is called the shifter drum. As your foot moves the shift lever, the drum rotates and lines up the corresponding gear selection. I noted that other than a tooth missing off the flimsy reverse gear (seriously flimsy) the only other damage I could find was that the drum grooves were a bit rounded. Upon closer inspection of the drum, I realized that it was so soft that I could actually scratch it with my finger nail!! This thing is supposed to be hardened steel!

I took the opportunity to upgrade the transmission to 2002 gearing, which offers a slightly different ratio as well as stronger components. Neat thing to note here - Yamaha changed the transmissions of the Raptor - very quietly I might add - half way through 2001. I have both and early and late 2001 as well as a 2002 at my disposal, and the difference is evidenced by the fact that the early 2001 and 2002 output shafts are different. The sprocket nuts are not interchangeable. The late 2001 output shaft is the same as the 2002. Funny, Yamaha knew there was a problem, and when I contacted Yamaha Canada on this issue, they claimed rider abuse (of course) denied an issue, told me they had never heard of a problem before, and said they'd get back to me with respect to the early/late 2001 tranny issue - I still await their call.

With the engine torn down, I took the opportunity to install an 11:1 Wiseco piston. Great mod. Cheap power, and it really makes the Raptor bark down low. I also noticed that the valves were no longer seating and replaced them as well. I left the stock cam in the machine - nice to see that Yamaha got something right.

Upon reassemble, the 660 ran great! for about 2 rides. Then the dreaded starter issue got me.


The one way bearing pictured above (starter one-way assembly) is really a collection of oblong bearings, held in a bearing race with a flimsy little spring. What happens is that the spring breaks, allowing the little oblong bearings to turn (most of them) to their non binding side - no binding, not starting. It's about $750Cdn to have this replaced by your dealer, or you can simply go out and buy a rubber o-ring or two and re-align the oblong bearings and replace the spring with the o-ring (or two just for fun). Voila - 27 cent fix. If there is damage on the contact surfaces your going to want to buy some emery paper and clean it up.

. . .

This great and valuable info is explained in detail at the following address: http://www.raptortranny.com/starter-o-ring.php
It cost me 2 visits to the dealer and about $1000 before I found this fix. Yamaha, of course, has never seen this problem before, and they're going to get back to me on it. Honest.

Yamaha claimed that it was my 11:1 that caused the starter to fail - I, of course, mentioned the decompressor and suggested that compression ratio had nothing to do with the failure - then Yamaha claimed that it was the low idle that caused this failure and set my idle to about 3 thousand RPM and happily pronounced the problem solved. I don't know what it's like in the USA, but I am convinced that Yamaha Canada is staffed by incompetent, non mechanical people that are only interested in their paychecks and have no desire what-so-ever to ensure customer satisfaction. But, I can't complain too loud, I knew this when I bought the Yamaha, and I knew that after leaving Honda I'd be dealing with more maintenance, and less corporate assistance, but seriously, does Yamaha think that the rest of Canada hasn't discovered the internet??? And that we don't talk to each other?? And that the customer in general is a total moron? In the year 2003, Yamaha Canada should win the most pathetic, incompetent, offensive company award. They truly stand a head above the rest. Congrats guys - on a job well done. I can't wait for Yamaha to return to it's rightful place on the bottom of the pile so that I can laugh - with others - while the administrative and corporate executives site around some table behind closed doors and look with astonishment at each other and say "What happened".

Now that I'm done ranting, I also replaced the airbox filter with a K&N and an aluminum adapter that actually makes the airfilter completely contact the carb face, as opposed to the "instal and pray" method employed by most Yamaha atv's. I replaced the exhaust system with an Extreme pipe and can - Now this system deserves a little acknowledgment as well - I had the GYTR carbon fiber hunk of crap that I detailed in my last review, the went to the GYTR aluminum - which worked much better. But it was loud - real loud, and didn't really seem to do a whole lot for me with out a header, and one day I stumbled across this polished stainless Extreme system. I haven't seen one before, or since. Great pipe. Nice sound, big power improvement when combined with the airbox mod. If you can find one, get it.

I replaced the bars with Renthal's - I'm really happy with them. They survived the big wreck I had last July 6th - however the stock axel didn't. I replaced it with a +1 and I'm really happy with it. I was worried that it would cause me grief in the bush up here, but it doesn't. You hardly notice it going through the trees and the few times that I've caressed a tree, the GYTR heel guards allow the atv to slide sideways just enough to clear the obstacle. Also, and a huge side benefit is that the Raptor doesn't quite fit in the ruts made by the other machines, so I can carefully straddle the groves and avoid high centering - definite plus here!

I've broke and repaired the reverse switch so many times that I don't even worry about it anymore, and just this week I noticed a new product out that replaces the switch with a lever. Even comes with a plug for where the original switch is located. I'll end up trying that. It sounds like a good mod.

I've had zero clutch problems since the original crap clutch. In fact, I've now got enough miles on the machine that I probably should be thinking about replacing the discs, but the machine continues to pull hard, even with the engine mods.

The plastic on the machine wears quite well, but after multiple inverted excursions, I figured it was time for an esthetics upgrade and replaced the plastic with an all black set. I put the GYTR swirl graphics package on it and I am VERY happy with the new look. They should have come out of the factory this way.

Essentially, I'm very happy with the way the Raptor drives. It's very, very strong, and now that's it's mostly after market parts, I have very little trouble with it. Yamaha corporate has gone out of their way to earn my disrespect, and has gotten it, however, I still await the Kaesa 1500 or the 880EX from Honda, and nearly 3 years after the introduction of the Raptor, in my humble opinion, there's still no equal.

Polaris has come out with an interesting ride with the Predator 500, but from what I've seen it's more aimed at the 400EX / Z400 market, and from what I've seen does extremely well in that market. Kawasaki has entered the open class atv market with their 700 V twin, but it's pretty hard to take an automatic sport quad seriously, and at damn near a hundred pounds heavier than a Raptor, and the size of a DS - well.......next....

The Bombardier continues to populate dune areas (DS=dune sport by the way) but is proportionately challenged in the woods, and a 550lb ATV with no reverse in the bush just scares the begeezus outta me. And in typical Honda style, they create a 650! Put it in a utility quad (!) and go out and win the baha 1000 with it.(?) Some things I just shake my head at, cuz frankly, folks, if that engine was in a 300EX chassis with real suspension and reverse, well, there'd be more than one Raptor for sale I suspect.

We've had significantly less issues with the 2002/2003 Raptors in our little group, but they are plagued as well (Jimmy just blew a timing chain for no apparent reason, and Panz's cam is long overdue) but nevertheless, the way mine runs, they way it feels, the way it handles and jumps - I'm pretty happy with it.

So long as I ignore my pocket book that is.

As always, opposing opinions and/or additions are welcome.


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