Up until this point, Yamaha’s retro Sport Heritage models have utilised a 1970s design motif. With the launch of the new XSR900 the marque’s jumped a decade back to the (relative) future.
Yamaha XSR900: Overview + Specs
Yamaha was later to the retro motorcycle segment than some major manufacturers, however earlier than most. It opted for the comparatively low barrier to entry by utilising existing platforms to launch its Sport Heritage line.
Clever utilisation of period-specific iconography and shapes, with model-specific subframes on the XSR125, XSR700 and XSR900, have created retro bikes that are (seemingly) entirely distinct from their modern donors. Nonetheless, they perform in a similar way.
Yamaha has branded this approach: “Faster Sons”. It’s a philosophy that sees the imagery of motorcycles from Yamaha’s history reflected within the Sport Heritage line while utilising improved modern technology.
The previous XSR900 was built on the old MT-09 platform which was completely redesigned and released earlier in 2021. Therefore, it was merely a matter of time before the XSR900 received the same treatment.
So, it wasn’t unexpected when in early November 2021 it was revealed that the new XSR900 would once again be based on the latest MT-09. To boot it would come with all the benefits of the super-naked sports bike’s new upgrades.
And it’s not a moment too soon – this is the first major update the model’s had since it launched in 2016.
Yamaha updated the CP3 engine found in the MT-09 (mainly for Euro5 compliance). Unsurprisingly, it’s the same engine that sits in the updated XSR900.
The stroke of the triple-cylinder engine is 3mm longer which has increased the capacity by 43cc – so, it’s now 889cc. That additional capacity has been utilised to achieve greater peak power (circa 3.5%) which now sits at 87.5 kW (117 bhp) at 10,000 rpm. Peak torque has also been raised and this time by 6% to 93.0 NM (68.6 ft-lb) at 7,000 rpm (1,500 rpm lower than the previous engine).
Radical in design at the time, the Deltabox frame was first introduced to Yamaha racing bikes in the eighties and then to the road-legal bikes.
The MT-09 benefits from a lightweight, aluminium evolution of the frame. Accordingly, so too does the XSR900.
Combined with an advanced die-cast manufacturing process, variable thickness is used throughout the Deltabox frame to ensure rigidity matches the expectation of load throughout the frame. The result is a lighter yet more rigid frame.
The head pipe position on the XSR 900 has been lowered to improve agility – while the rear has a new slimmer swingarm that’s been lengthened for straight-line stability. Overall the wheelbase has increased by 55m over the previous model.
Additionally, a new low-profile subframe with foldaway passenger footrests has also been introduced above the swingarm. This combined with low-mounted handlebars means the XSR900 has a more aggressive stance – a decidedly 1980s vibe.
Suspension, Wheels and Brakes
Further enhancing the era aesthetic are the fully adjustable gold-finished KYB USD front forks. However, the rear adjustable KYB shock is virtually hidden from sight further supplementing the clean lines effect.
Significantly, the XSR900 loses around 700 grams with its newly designed aluminium, 10-spoke, SpinForged wheels. According to Yamaha “The lighter wheels decrease the moment of inertia at the rear by 11% to make the new XSR900 feel much more responsive, particularly when cornering and braking…” Equally, the gold finish once again affirms the 80s look.
The power of the new engine is brought to heel with a 245mm single rear disc and 298 mm dual front discs, combined with a Brembo radial master cylinder, further complemented by an ABS system.
XSR900 1980s Styling
While it could be said, the previous XSR900 was inspired by the seventies, the new XSR900 roadster, however, takes its inspiration from Yamaha’s racing bikes of the1980s. Yamaha says the Legend Blue (multi-tonal blue and cyan) colour scheme is a reinterpretation of the design sported by Christian Sarron’s GP race bike.
For riders swayed by a more contemporary finish, there’s a Midnight Black option which features blacked-out components.
The bulky fuel tank, bodywork and humped seat are reminiscent of Yamaha’s racing models of the 80s and early 90s. To emphasise this the tank features a racing-style filler cap.
While the XSR900 harks back to Yamaha’s racing pedigree – there’s more than a hint of custom influence. It seems the XSR900’s designers have been inspired by some of the customs builds within its own Yard Built programme and the resurgent new wave custom scene.
The cleanness of the XSR900’s contemporary café racer-esque silhouette could have been lifted from the Instagram feed of any of a multitude of new-wave custom bike builders.
There are plenty of fine styling touches on the new XSR900. All are executed with high-quality materials. Good examples of this are the drilled fork caps and the aluminium XSR logo which appears on the machined top triple clamp.
Blacked-out brake reservoirs, an embossed aluminium rear underplate and bar-end mirrors, combined with the forged foot controls further underscore the air of quality.
With the quality of details in mind, it’s no great revelation to see that the headlamp is housed in a round, retro, brushed aluminium case. Though in keeping with the Faster Sons philosophy it’s a thoroughly modern LED headlight.
The low-slung exhaust, on the other hand, doesn’t pretend to be retro. Nevertheless, it keeps the outline of this motorcycle incredibly clean.
Yamaha engineers spent a considerable amount of time tweaking the muffler chamber size, resulting in what the marque says is the perfect sound. The note should be throaty – equally, clearly audible due to the exhaust outlets on either side of the XSR900.
Yamaha, sees its heritage models as blank templates to be individualised through its catalogue of parts or even customised by more adept customers. And yet out of the crate the XSR900 is a fine-looking machine.
Electronics and other Features
In keeping with the Faster Sons doctrine, a surplus of modern technology accompanies the new XSR900.
D-Mode offers four riding modes to handle variable riding conditions and styles.
A fatigue-reducing Quick Shifter System (QSS) is in place and accommodates both upshifts and downshifts. Additionally, a slipper clutch system manages aggressive downshifts. That should be particularly useful in respect of managing the motorcycle’s attitude before it dips into corners.
Yamaha’s proprietary ABS system Brake Control is also provided and triggered in both upright and lean positions. Rider safety is further enhanced with a full house of rider aids: traction control, slide management and anti-wheelie.
With all that tech it’s fitting that a contemporary 3.5-inch full-colour TFT display replaces the LCD of the previous model. Though modern, its boxy shape accentuates the eighties aesthetic.
Interestingly cruise control is also now included on the XSR900, making it a contender for longer journeys.
XSR900 Thoughts, Price and Availability
The XSR900 caters to a breed of retro rider who’s unwilling to compromise in any way on performance for the sake of style. It’s among good company in the form of the R nineT, Speed Twin and Z900RS (to name a few). It’s clear that the evolution of the retro motorcycle segment has been heading in this direction for several years.
Riders want it all, looks and performance. Retro looks with retro performance do not cut the mustard anymore. Retro looks, coupled with modern performance is the preferred formula.
As such, performance numbers and standard features of retro bikes have incrementally increased and broadened respectively year-on-year. That’s alongside an ever-growing catalogue of parts for individualisation. It’s with that likely in mind that this motorcycle has been produced.
Aside, from building a beautiful retro motorcycle, Yamaha has created a machine that has the potential to win over many new riders with its rich feature set. To that end, the marque looks poised to increase its share within this segment.
Yamaha dealers in Europe will start receiving deliveries of the XSR900 (available in Legend Blue and Midnight Black) in February 2022. Pricing has not yet been confirmed though expect a starting price of upwards of £9,500.