Heritage, or the hipper-sounding ‘heritage’: Yamaha has enjoyed it for years, as witnessed by the Faster Sons lifestyle concept that the brand launched a decade ago. Only, the so-called ‘real’ motorcyclist turned out to be more interested in the MT-07 and MT-09. In addition, the XSR and MT models in terms of seating position and driving feel (apart from the identical blocks) were very much in each other’s way.
Both in appearance and geometry, it is clear that Yamaha has abandoned the MT-09 build for the new XSR900 in favor of a more cafe racer-like look and feel. The newcomer has been stretched lengthwise and, viewed horizontally, visibly flattened across the board. The most crucial difference is the less ‘chopper-like’ riding position compared to the previous XSR, where you sat deep in the saddle and had to reach for the handlebars high.
The longer wheelbase and lower front end make a night and day difference; nevertheless, the seating position remains comfortable, without you getting the feeling that you have to reach extremely far for the handlebars. That cafe racer style combined with really cool finishing details suddenly makes the new XSR interesting or even desirable for riders who would otherwise shop in the European corner.
A further, immediately tangible aspect of the new XSR reveals itself during the first fifteen minutes of confidence-inspiring, but very firm steering over largely even road surface. The frame then offers the kind of inflexibility and unshakability that you know any flex will have to accommodate elsewhere. Stability on dramatically poor road surfaces repaired a thousand times seems to take full advantage of the extended wheelbase. The ultra-short, feather-light steering feel of the MT-09 seems to have been exchanged for, well, a cafe racer-esque style.
The XSR also convinces at all speeds on smooth spaghetti routes; steering is completely natural and transparent. When hubris sets in, you can always rely on the highly effective slipper clutch and braking, plus of course the electronic safety net system that includes lean angle sensitive traction control, slide control and cornering ABS. In any case, the standard up/down quickshifter does not require extra refinement; it works with the precision of a Swiss timepiece and can convince even a stubborn clutch user. Also standard: wheelie and cruise control.
Life on board the XSR900 is therefore pleasant in the old-fashioned way, albeit with some caveats. Like the MT-09, the XSR has a limited steering angle, which can be annoying if you want to turn in a tighter street. In addition, the steering wheel mirrors may get ten out of ten for cool factor, during a busy morning rush you leave them on the road first.
And even though the dashboard is a clear TFT copy, it is a damn small screen with an abundance of information. While you can eventually get used to the dashboard, after a full day in the saddle I still couldn’t blindly find the turn signal button. Speaking of that saddle: super cool and retro, also offers sufficient support during acceleration … but after half a day of stop & go you would like the motor vibrations to be transmitted a little less loudly one-to-one through the thin padding – although that falls too again under the heading of ‘character’.
Although Yamaha’s CP3 triple is known for its great torque, it still surprises you every time. From the lowest revs, it leaves every competitor in the dust, including a number of (significantly more expensive) Japanese 1,000cc nakeds. But also at high speed, at roughly 7,000 rpm in its five, this three-cylinder pulls through so hard that you fall from one surprise to the next, especially at the thought that you ‘only’ drive with an 889cc triple with 119 hp on the road. are.
You will find plenty of good and very good engines, but impressive? I recently found one of the latter category in Tuscany. What’s more, I found the XSR900 to ride like at least a 13 grand machine, not coincidentally peering at the prices of the GSX-S and CB1000R. The looks of the Gauloises blue, the finish, the sizzling engine and the overall ride quality make it a motorcycle with European allure with plenty of lusts, without significant burdens. And because there are even limits to greed (certainly in combination with budget), European haute couture should gradually start to worry. Because those lesser points of the XSR900, we know better than anyone how to pull out a cloak of love for them.
Pros and cons
+ That power…
+ Value for money greed factor
+ Sharp and stable
– Saddle pain
– Flashing light button
– Lowercase dashboard
Engine: 889cc, 4 cl./cyl., liquid-cooled DOHC three-in-line
Bore x Stroke: 78 x 62.1 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
max. power: 119 hp @ 10,000 rpm
max. torque: 93 Nm @ 7,000 rpm
Weight: 193 kilos (ready to drive)
Seat height: 810 mm
Tank capacity: 14 l.
Price Belgium: € 11,099
Price Netherlands: € 12,499
Text Joost Overzee • Photography Yamaha