The Yamaha XSR900 combines hipster looks with a level of nimbleness, performance and sheer stunt-ability. Derived from the popular Yamaha MT-09, the Yamaha XSR900 has all the hallmarks of a classic budget performance motorcycle. And it will be available in Thailand soon...
There’s a great engine, sweet steering and the ability and appetite to get up to no good at every opportunity. It’s the same recipe that made Suzuki’s Bandit an icon in the ‘90s, but with a level of performance a ‘90s rider could only dream of.
The 885cc three-cylinder engine is a marvelous piece of machinery, meting out a claimed 114 horsepower, what is about 105 horses at the rear wheel, with consistency and beautiful fueling. The CP3 engine is one of Yamaha’s most versatile – and is also the motive force behind Yamaha’s Tracer. It’s the perfect companion between 68 to 82Nm of torque throughout its rev range in one of the flattest, most accessible torque curves I’ve ever seen. This of course means instant response and the kind of get-up-and-go that would slaughter a low-revving 1000cc class motorcycle, but also the most delicate, beautifulyy controlled wheelies. It means that if you’re the kind to occasionally pop a wheel up on the power,k it’ll go higher and longer than before. It’ll just sit there and float as you click from one perfectly-spaced ratio to another like some kind of black-belted wheelie ninja. For some, that will be reason alone to buy one.
The fueling is, for the first time on a Yamaha fuel-injection triple, sublime. Yamaha have spent the last couple of years struggling to give the CP3 engine the low-throttle opening and low-rpm finesse it deserves. The first Yamaha MT-09 was declared a success by throttle-happy motorcycle journalists on a, by Yamaha paid, Spanish holiday, but early owners tickling their motorcycles in the damp weather of tropical Thailand complained of a jerky, all-or-nothing response off a closed throttle. I experienced it too and while it wasn’t horrible and something that couldn’t be ridden around, it took time, lots of kilometers and a kind heart to accept.
It was such a hassle that Yamaha offered to re-map dissatisfied customers’ motorcycles and later motorcycles had it more or less sorted. But this issue is now a thing of the past. The Yamaha XSR900 comes with three riding modes: mode A giving a direct, aggressive response, STD, which softens off the initial jerk and mode B, which is not really worth bothering with unless it’s snowing (not likely to happen in Thailand). To be honest, you may as well just tape up the selector and leave it in STD – it’s near-perfect and treads the line between responsiveness and over-aggression perfectly.
Traction control is good, too. There’s two levels - ‘2’ is for wet riding, while level 1 doesn’t intervene and even allows wheelies. But so good is the power delivery that TC is redundant unless you’re in real need.
On the right roads, everything combines to such an extent that you wonder why people bother making 160 horsepower naked-bikes – this is everything you need. Without being stymied by having to hit 260km/h top-speed like a full-power supernaked and needing a gearing hike to facilitate that speed, the Yamaha XSR900 is lively and pulls strongly in the magic 120 to 160km/h bracket that makes fast, flowing road a dream. Top-gear overtakes are dispatched with eye-opening responsiveness, accompanied by the kind of off-beat airbox growl that has made Triumphs a joy for years.
The Yamaha XSR900 is a quality product. The ally chassis is a looker and also keeps weight down, while the cast swingarm looks as mean for the job as any in the same class would. It’s advanced designed contributes to a sub-200 kilogram wet weight and while the 1440mm isn’t the shortest ever, the XSR900 is as nimble as it gets, giving the same light steering that makes British triples such an addictive machines.
It’s a bigger motorcycle than most of the competitives in the same class, which for most of us is a good thing. Normal guys look fine on an Yamaha XSR900 and unlike an British Triple, there’s nothing feminine about the Yamaha. It’s a motorcycle that harks back to when men were men and women were women.
But sadly the suspension quality is not that much to write about. The Yamaha XSR900 has been built with price in mind and motorcycles like this are always going to be a compromise when it comes to the quality of components. With a bespoke engine and chassis for this platform, the cost-cutting was always going to come from elsewhere. So, it seems that to save money Yamaha decided not to fit any higher-quality suspension internals.
The 41mm Upside-down forks look great and are adjustable for preload and rebound, but they just aren’t stiff or well damped enough for really hard riding. Under heavy braking the bottom out, triggering the ABS and causing a pogoing effect that upsets the ABS even more, backing off the stoppers and elongating braking distance. It’s a shame as the brake are excellent. The radial-mount Sumitomo calipers bite onto 298mm discs with loads of power and feel, but the limit is the forks they’re bolted to.
The same goes for the rear shock. Adjustable for preload and rebound, too, what the shock actually needs is more low-speed compression damping, and for a motorcycle like this who want to ride at 160km/h everywhere, a stiffer spring. As it is you feel the rear give up and squat under load, but you’re loathe to wind in any more rebound as it’ll just make the back jack down.
We understand that Yamaha had to do some money saving to get the Yamaha XSR900 into the right market segment. According to statistics most owners, after they replaced the exhaust system, will upgrade the suspension… With this in mind, Yamaha did not do that bad. Some motorcycles currently on the market have a chassis designed to deal with low grade suspension, upgrading from that is much more difficult and more expensive.