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The XT can be great fun to ride. Even though it feels like it falls into corners, the handling characteristics encourage the rider to throw the bike around. It is nimble and predictable. The seat height is perfect for me (at 6 feet 1 inch). I have no problems putting both heels on the ground straddling the bike at a standstill. The XT has about the lowest seat height in its class, though those with shorter inseams will be on tiptoe at stoplights. The brakes work quite well, but expect to use the surprisingly effective rear brake more than you might be used to. Stepping on the rear brake pedal has the added benefit of reducing dive, which plagues the front end of the bike, something not unexpected on a bike with nearly a foot of travel on the front fork. The first time I tried to use the steering lock on both test bikes, I was flummoxed. The lock is so stiff and awkward to engage, I thought the machine didn't have a lock, despite the ignition barrel indicating otherwise. Warning: It takes much jiggering and shaking to engage the neck-mounted locking mechanism. You'd figure after manufacturing the same bike for more than a decade these details might be ironed out.
Let's give Yamaha the benefit of the doubt and chalk up the unfortunate demise of our first test unit as an anomaly. For the record, yes, the first XT went Mr. Hyde and had a meltdown. But this second bike has been such a kick to ride, I'm willing to forgive and forget. This is a machine any beginner could learn to ride without worrying about breaking the bank repairing damage from simple tip overs. This is a machine any dual sporter could happily ride to the ORV area for a day of pummeling the mud.
This is a machine abord which any urban assault warrior could conquer the meanest pothole-ridden battlefield. I love being able to ramp off curbs and over parking stops with impunity. I love being able to shift through the gears on one wheel - and still keep to a reasonable speed. I love being able to steer off of the beaten path and feel confident navigating rough and tumble trails. The XT350 is good fun. At first, I was ready to lambasted this bike; but since I have had an opportunity to re-evaluate my evaluation, I've changed my tune. I want one.