Yamaha XSR900 – Cool Cafe Racer or Slick Modern Speed machine??

A Simple, Clean Looking Bike…

The latest addition to the ever growing MT family is this lean modern twist on a retro theme, the XSR900. The meaty 3 cylinder engine turns up this time in a paired back, simple and clean looking bike. It sits somewhere between a 1960’s cafe racer and a 1970’s Japanese dirt bike in looks and stance. There is a hint of the ‘hipster’ special look to it, but it gets away with it just about.

Slick, modern, minimalist…

The seat is a little high, but I am growing used to this irritating trend in modern bikes, and once that superb motor fires up and we pull away with the exhaust emitting a distinctive rasping bark I am a happy bunny. The controls are neat and simple: The three engine modes are a doddle to select on the move via a dedicated button on the RH switch back. The traction control only has two settings but again it is easy to switch between them. This may sound like a small thing, but these same operations are hideously complicated to undertake on my MV, and I find that irritating. So well done to Yamaha for that one.

The clocks, or should I say clock is a basic circular affair reminiscent of the one fitted to the XV950. It still managed to convey the required information in a simple, effective manner. Better that the standard MT-09 and I also prefer it to the bigger, clumpier set up on a Tracer. It also plays well to the stripped, cool look of the bike.

Nicely done, but still prefer analogue clocks in pairs…

Great fun to ride, but can be a little ‘flighty’

More important than all this though is the bike is a hoot to ride, with a definite hooligan edge lurking behind that urban chic look. Fast and responsive, especially in the A ‘full nutter’ mode of the three available to choose from. The ‘STD’ is fine for most riding, but that ‘A’ map certainly has a crisp, immediate response, especially welcome when going for snappy multi vehicle overtakes. The bike feels frisky, naughty even. The slick 6 speed box, chassis and brakes back up the engine well. I covered about 70 miles during my ride, mostly on challenging A and B roads. The XSR generally cornered really well. Just a little front twitchiness was in evidence when really pushing on. I seem to remember both the MT-09 and Tracer had this characteristic too, so maybe it something to do with geometry of the frame set up. I have a theory that the upright riding position in coming into play here: The wind pressure on your chest pushing you back, causing you to inadvertently pull back on the bars. This then rise to that flighty feel from the front.

A bike that just begs to be ridden

So overall, simple straight forward fun, with the ghost of the RD350LC somewhere in there. A great bike for less than £8000 new (2016).

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly