- Published: Tuesday, 28 March 2017 16:36
Despite Singapore's ARF hikes, the Yamaha XSR 900 modern retro is still a great value proposition
Text by Deyna ‘Authenticracker’ Chia
What's an XSR? Is it a dirt bike?
No, not quite. You're probably thinking Honda XR, but the Yamahah XSR 900 is quite different. It's a retro-styled modern bike (yes an oxymoron) that joins an increasingly popular segment. The Triumph Bonneville, BMW R Nine T and Ducati Scrambler as the most visible examples around, while the Japanese have actually had retro models on offer for some time, like the Honda CB 1100 and Kawasaki W 800.
Sure looks retro enough...
We agree, to an extent. Visually, the XSR looks retro from afar, modern close up, and perhaps a little bit budget even closer, unlike for example Triumph’s Bonneville, which pulls off the retro image convincingly, fake carbs and all.
Dimensionally, the bike looks short and stout, almost British bulldog like. From a design perspective, the XSR looks like the product of engineers incorporating a retro-bike design brief, ticking all the boxes, and clicking "submit" whilst the designers themselves went to lunch. Not ‘manga’ (like the rest of the MT series, especially the MT-10), but at the same time clearly not European or American.
The XSR is high-quality, but in some places it seems a bit strangely designed. For example, the undersized headlight (with modest halogen beam) is mounted to the fork by chunky cross drilled and lacquer-finished mounts, and a fender that's mounted with aluminum holders reminiscent of that found on the BMW R Nine T. Typical Yamaha solidness, but up front, two similarly sized boxes are mounted to the chassis, one presumably housing the fuse box, and the other the rectifier. Let's say that overall some may like it, others may not.
But does that mean lots of style and less power...
Not quite, since it's based on the successful MT-09, that’s now available as both a naked and ‘Tracer’ half-fairing sports tourer. With the performance offered by the 847cc triple engine, the XSR is in immediate contrast to more staid retro bikes. It's a good choice, even if the 'modernness' of the platform might have contributed to the weird design.
Whilst we were undecided about the styling of the XSR, riding it did turn quite a few heads, quickly followed by raised eyebrows, as the XSR would sprint from the lights, like no other retro bike this end of the R Nine T or Ducati Scrambler can. Like the stirring exhaust note of the R Nine T, the XSR’s distinct triple-engined exhaust note was most pleasing, and audible even with foam earplugs in.
Ooh, so it's got go and show?
Its 847cc three-cylinder engine, with improved engine mapping and ride-by-wire (aka Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle) is still a firecracker, belting out 115bhp at 10,000rpm and 87.5Nm of torque at 8,500rpm in a linear fashion. B-mode is limp, with A-mode slightly too edgy, leaving Standard mode as the best of the crop.
The other stand-out feature is the new and improved suspension (compared with the pre-2017 MT-09), adjustable for preload both front and rear, rebound adjustable only in front. Yamaha has gotten it very right now, following feedback on the horrid handling of the first gen MT-09.
The XSR is sprung on the right side of sporty and whilst the rear shock is slightly under-damped, it's very composed. Weighing a relatively lean 195kg wet, the XSR tackled direction changes effortlessly, and would hold the line with hardly any lever input. Impressive stuff.
It's definitely got power and capability then. How comfy is it?
Fortunately, the XSR's seat feels plush, the suspension comfy and with a fairly compact reach, unlike some cafe racers or conversions. One let down we found with the otherwise spot-on ergonomics of the XSR was the position of the footpegs, in particular the right rider's footpeg - it's too far backwards. Coupled with a low-ish seat, this meant an acute knee angle, and discomfort even after 10mins of moving off. This contrasts with the R Nine T's mid-forward foot pegs which are comfortable for a full day’s riding.
A winning recipe so far.. but wait..it's a big bike, has the price gone up due to ARF?
Yes, but far less than you think. Like the MT-09, the XSR has been priced very competitively, and that means it didn't have a big price tag to begin with. Currently it goes for $20,229 machine price, and in this day and age, that's about as good as it gets for a mid-sized, sporty and cool-looking bike.
* Special thanks to Ban Hock Hin for the test bike featured here. The XSR900, and other Yamaha machines, is available for public rental/ paid test drives at Ban Hock Hin.
Yamaha XSR 900
Engine type 847cc, 12V, inline 3
Bore X Stroke 78.0 x 59.1mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual
Max power 115hp at 10,000rpm
Max torque 87.5Nm at 8,500rpm
0 to 100km/h Not stated
Top speed Not stated
Wet Weight 195kg
Seat Height 830mm
Price S$ 20,229 machine