The first small turn of the throttle as the XSR900 warmed up served as an enticing preview of what the new Yamaha had in store beneath its retro-styled aesthetics. The high-performance CP3 cross-plane triple-cylinder configuration of its engine possesses an enthralling sound and a quick-revving demeanor. Once underway, the bike’s lithe presence and snarling motor spoke loudly and clearly to the 80s-era of Grand Prix racing that had inspired the bike, setting the stage for the afternoon ahead.
A versatile, naked upright, the XSR900 is part of Yamaha’s Sport Heritage line-up, borrowing design cues and attitude from the company’s illustrious racing legacy. The new machine is a 90% ground-up redesign, laden with a fully reworked engine and chassis with expanded electronics. Yet equally as important as the mechanical aspects is the Faster Sons design philosophy Yamaha imbues the machine with, embracing an emphasis on iconic styling married to advanced technology, capturing the essence of the past and melding it with modern performance.
Engine and Transmission
With regard to the XSR900, I really can’t start anywhere else than with the engine. Borrowed from the MT-09 Hyper Naked, the 890cc (up from 846cc) in-line three configuration is a highly refined platform that delivers exceptional performance. Pistons, rods, crankshaft, and cams have been redesigned and lightened to reduce engine weight, gifting the XSR with a fast-revving character. The torque curve and power delivery are surprisingly fluid with virtually no fall-off or hiccups in the climb to maximum output. The bike has been fitted with a YZF-R1-type Accelerator Position Sensor Grip, the ride-by-wire system rendering a perfectly organic throttle feel, connecting your right wrist directly to the rear wheel drive.
Yamaha engineers redesigned the airbox and air ducts so that induction sound resonates harmoniously, producing what they proudly call the Tuned Triple Soundtrack. The result is an alluring aural accompaniment to match the performance and feel of this engine under acceleration, with declarations of potency in each blip of the throttle. The exhaust system that carries that internal combustion music to the world is low-slung to help centralize the mass.
Carrying over from the MT-09 is state-of-the-art six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) which has two three-axis sensors that measure pitch, roll, and yaw, as well as acceleration. All data is sent through the engine control unit (ECU) for an extensive range of rider aids—traction control, slide control, front wheel lift, and brakes. Each one can be adjusted to independent levels of intervention or turned off completely to suit rider preference. The rider can select between two ABS settings—BC1 is for straight line braking and BC2 provides intervention determined by lean angle.
Power modes are now represented in user-friendly setting numbered 1 through 4, with Mode 1 being the most aggressive and each subsequent setting softening the power hit, with Mode 4 reserved for the equivalent of rain or wet riding. The modes can be switched on-the-fly but require full closure of throttle.
Standard for 2022 is the Up & Down Quick Shift. This system allows for clutch-less shifting (both up and down), which smooths out acceleration while also aiding downshifts. Augmenting this system is an assist-and-slipper clutch that has been modified to handle the engine’s increased torque, with new friction plates and an altered cam angle implemented to reduce the load on the springs. The result is a light feel through the lever—when you choose to use it—and smoother downshifts regardless of how ambitious your gear changes, with virtually no rear wheel hop. Also fitted as original equipment is cruise control. Surprisingly, for a sporting bike, this came in quite handy on the long hauls to get to the good stuff (the twisties).
Chassis and Suspension
Thanks to Yamaha’s Controlled Filling die-cast manufacturing, the new compact aluminum chassis features the thinnest frame sections to date for the company, reducing weight while providing more strength and torsional rigidity. The new chassis with a lengthened swingarm delivers stability under hard acceleration and at freeway speeds, as well as under hard braking. The XSR900 is light and agile, delivering a highly intuitive feel for the rider, responding with appreciable predictability for such a light machine. True to its racing heritage the bike has exceptional behavior on turn-in and savors directional changes, making for a perfect canyon-carving machine.
The front fork is a fully adjustable, inverted 41mm KYB unit that has been shortened to accommodate the new head pipe position, resulting in a lower overall profile. It’s paired with an adjustable single KYB rear shock mounted at a steep angle. The suspension components complement each other by delivering a balanced feel front to rear.
Brakes and Wheels
The XSR900 employs a Brembo master cylinder for the front brakes with an exceptionally well-shaped lever. Mated to dual 298mm rotors (with a single 245mm disc on the back) the result is solid stopping power in an even and measured package.
The 10-spoke wheels are manufactured in Yamaha’s exclusive “spin forge” process, producing an attractive and lightweight wheel that reduces unsprung weight, which contributes to the bike’s responsive handling.
Styling and Ergonomics
Engineers worked hard to capture the essence of design flow reminiscent in their racing efforts of the 1980s. The result is a stylish retro machine that delivers as much in curb appeal as in performance. Bar-end mirrors help the design flow enormously and add an element of personalization right from the showroom.
As for ergonomics, somehow Yamaha has managed to craft a seating position that angles the rider forward, helping to place body weight on the front end (aiding in the responsiveness of the chassis) without any sense of that weight being felt in the arms or hands. The position is surprisingly comfortable for long hauls.
The one criticism I had was that without any kind of fairing or windscreen my body acted as a sail and I found myself having to hang onto the bars on long straight sections of road at speed—enough so that my hands fatigued after a long stint. The bike would benefit significantly from even just a small bikini fairing to help break up the air.
Yamaha has created a stylish naked sport bike that is highly versatile. And although the 2022 XSR900 delivers style and character in abundance, there’s no getting around the seductive and intoxicating snarl of that luscious in-line three engine—the sound, the feel, and the response of the motor alone are enough to keep you pleasantly satisfied. Add to this a motorcycle that works exceptionally well in the handling and braking departments for a base MSRP of just $9,999 and you have a sporting retro machine with an illustrious heritage that is within the reach of most enthusiasts.
2022 YAMAHA XSR900
+ that engine, that price
- wind fatigue on long straights due to no fairing
Distributor: Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA
Engine: 890cc in-line 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC 3-cylinder, 12-valve
Power: 117.3hp @10,000rpm; 68.6lb-ft @7,000rpm (based on EU specs)
Transmission: 6-speed w/ multi-plate assist-and-slipper wet clutch
Rake/Trail: 25.0˚/4.3 in
Wet Weight: 425lbs
Seat Height: 31.9in
Fuel Capacity: 3.7gal
Fuel Consumption: 49mpg (claimed)
Colors: Legend Blue, Raven