Costa vs. Yamaha XSR900

0
58

Photos by Roger Yip unless otherwise specified

If you get easily bored  with all the technical details you can skip the techie stuff and move on down to The Ride portion of this review, otherwise just carry on.

The bumblebee paint scheme recalls Yamahas of the past, particularly their racebikes of decades ago, but the XSR900 is new technology.
The bumblebee paint scheme recalls Yamahas of the past, particularly their racebikes of decades ago, but the XSR900 is new technology.

THE TECHIE STUFF

Yamaha re-introduced the Japanese-made inline triple in 2014 when the company launched the FZ-09. Before that you had to go back to the late 1970s to find a four-stroke triple from Japan (Laverda and Triumph had triples also back then, and BMW made them for a decade beginning in the mid-1980s). In fact, it was Yamaha that produced the last Japanese triple in 1981, the XS850, though it wasn’t really an all-too-desirable motorcycle to begin with.

Yamaha followed up on the FZ-09 this year with a spin-off model that puts a spin on the retro movement we’ve been enjoying as of late. The all-new XSR900 is built on the FZ-09 platform, and it shares the FZ’s chassis and engine, though there’s a bit more to XSR than just a fresh set of retro bodywork.

It still uses a 12-valve, 849 cc inline triple that claims 115 hp horsepower and 64 lb-ft of peak torque. The compression ratio is 11.5:1, so you need not gas up with pricey premium fuel, and maintenance intervals are set at 42,000 km. Mikuni provides the 41 mm throttle bodies, which are part of closed-loop EFI that is controlled by Yamama’s YCC-T ride-by-wire system.

Traction control and an adjustable slipper clutch are the difference between the XSR900 engine and the standard FZ-09.
Traction control and a slipper clutch are the difference between the XSR900 engine and the standard FZ-09.

Where Yamaha has distinguished the XSR’s engine from the FZ’s, which also in part justifies the XSR’s higher price (starts at $10,699 versus $8,999 for the FZ), is with the addition of a slipper clutch, as well as adjustable traction control. The mechanically assisted clutch has a 20-percent lighter pull than the FZ, and the traction control has two levels of intervention, or it can be shut off.

Chassis components are shared between the two machines with the XSR using the same CF die-cast aluminum frame and swingarm, 41 mm USD fork and single shock, with preload and rebound damping adjustability front and rear. Steering geometry is unchanged with rake at 25 degrees, trail at 103 mm, and wheelbase at 1,440 mm (56.7 in).

Where the XSR surpasses the FZ-09 is in the braking department. Although it uses the same 298 mm front discs with radial four-piston calipers, and a 245 mm rear disc and single-piston caliper, the XSR comes standard with ABS, a feature that isn’t available on the FZ, at least not in Canada.

Although it shares much with the FZ-09, you'll notice differences with the XSR900 as soon as you get on board.
Although it shares much with the FZ-09, you’ll notice subtle differences with the XSR900 as soon as you get on board.

THE RIDE

Yamaha Canada held a press intro for the XSR900 (as well as the all-new FZ-10 which you’ll read about here in the near future) in Ontario’s picturesque Muskoka region, where there are plenty of winding roads, lakes and cottages to meander around.

Hopping onto the XSR900, the first noticeable difference compared to the FZ-09, is that the seat is wider and more supportive, and it is a touch taller at 830 mm from the ground (15 mm taller than the FZ). This added seat height allows for a more relaxed reach to the footpegs, while still allowing a relatively easy reach to the ground.

The front of the bike almost disappears from your view when seated, though when you do look down you’ll see a new, round digital gauge, as opposed to the trapezoidal unit on the FZ-09. I’d have preferred an analogue gauge, mostly to remain faithful to the XSR’s retro styling, but it does offer lots of information, like time, gear position, fuel consumption and air temperature aside from the basics like speed and revs.

Weight is up a bit over the FZ-09, probably due to bodywork and electronics differences.
Weight is up a bit over the FZ-09, probably due to bodywork and electronics differences. Fuel capacity is unchanged at 14 litres.

Being heavily based on the FZ-09, it’s no surprise that the XSR rides very much like its techo-styled naked brother, feeling light and nimble at low speeds. This is expected considering Yamaha claims that it weighs just 195 kg (430 lb) wet. This is 7 kilos heavier than the FZ-09, despite both bikes carrying 14 litres of fuel with a full tank. The added weight can probably be attributed to the different bodywork and the added electronics controlling things like traction control and ABS.

The bike is very flickable, easily threading its way through tight turning transitions, and it exhibits very good staight-line stability, though like on the FZ, the wide handlebar does introduce a bit of rider-induced twitchiness if you hold on too tightly.

The suspension proved a bit firm over a quick succession of sharp bumps, and a check of the front damping setting revealed it was in the middle of its adjustment range. Softening the front damping (via a flat blade screwdriver) improved the fork’s compliance. Had our ride been longer I would have probably softened the rear damping a bit, though I left it as is to handle our slightly spirited pace.

Custom-style accents set the XSR apart from the average Japanese naked bike.
Custom-style accents set the XSR apart from the average Japanese naked bike.

CONCLUSION

The XSR900 is pricier than the FZ-09 but it comes with the added electronic safety features and slipper clutch, and it costs a few hundred dollars more than the Triumph Street Triple, which also has ABS but doesn’t come with traction control or selectable ride modes.

Unfortunately, it’s the only triple in Yamaha’s line up that has ABS, so you if that’s a criterion you must absolutely have it’s the bike you’ll have to choose. This might prompt the folks at Yamaha Canada to eventually import the FZ-09 with ABS (it’s available in other markets) at a more affordable price. Or not.

Despite this, it’s a great handling naked bike with styling that should appeal to a broader range of riders than the FZ-09. Older riders will appreciate its ties to the past, especially in the 60th anniversary yellow and black livery available for just $300 more than the brushed aluminum finish, which also looks quite dashing. However, its lines are also modern enough that it should also appeal to newer, younger riders. Whatever your riding background, you’ll find that the XSR900 is a very likeable bike that’s easy to get along with.


GALLERY

Check out all the pics that go with this story!

 


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike  2016 Yamaha XSR900
MSRP  $10,699
Displacement  847 cc
Engine type  Inline triple, DOHC with 4 valves/cyl, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke
Power (crank)*  115 hp
Torque*  64.3 lb-ft @ 8,500 rpm
Tank Capacity  14 L (3.1 gal.)
Carburetion  Mikuni EFI with 41 mm throttle bodies
Final drive  Chain
Tires, front  120/70-ZR17
Tires, rear  180/55-ZR17
Brakes, front  Twin 298 mm discs with 4-piston calipers; ABS
Brakes, rear  Single 345 mm disc with 1-piston caliper; ABS
Seat height  830 mm (32.7 in)
Wheelbase  1,440 mm (56.7 in)
Wet weight*  195 kg (430 lbs)
Colours  Brushed Aluminum & Mat Grey, 60th Anniversary Yellow & Black
Warranty  12 months, unlimited mileage
* claimed