May 23, 2017

2016 Yamaha XSR900

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The XSR900 at first glance.

There were two versions to choose from with this bike, a traditional Yamaha colored yellow and black model, and the more industrial looking beast with a brushed aluminum tank and black everything else, except a few accent aluminum pieces that bring the whole look together. For my review, I chose the brushed aluminum as I felt it really resonated with me in the raw-ness/nakedness of the bike. There was something that really attracted me to the bike but I wasn’t sure what it was. I like the a lot of the different versions of naked bikes out on the market, some more than others.
Because I don’t know what it is specifically that I like about the bike, while I write this I am slowly figuring it out… I think it’s the fact that that it’s not over done. It’s not so artistically designed that it looks futuristic, nor is it trying to copy, or repeat, what they have done in the past. And there it is! For those are the reasons I like this bike, visually.
There are many reviews out there that regurgitate the tech features and improvements made over last years model, but would you, or I, even know the difference that it would make? I feel the reasons we all ride street bikes is very different from one to another, but would knowing that the angle of the piston movement had changed by 1.2 degrees to increase the efficiency, and the horsepower increased by 2 horses, would that influence a buyers decision? Maybe, but in the end, the improvements or changes to a bike in the new model are supposed to be beneficial. Sometimes it’s a perfect work of excellence, and a few times, it’s a step sideways if not backwards. But for this machine, it is a work of art packed on top of an amazing power plant.

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This bike is all about the bare bones beauty of technology. We twist that throttle because… we love the feel of it.

 

First impression:

With the brass at Yamaha watching as I leave the Yamaha headquarters parking lot, I lightly giggled just one word… !!! WOW !!!

To be honest with you, I didn’t research this bike before I got it because of the time line that happened when I made the choice to review this bike. So when I drove off the property of Yamaha Canada, I didn’t realize this bike had only 3 cylinders. Looking back, I actually preferred not knowing because I wasn’t making an adjusted thought process about the power of just 3 cylinders. In my mind all I was thinking was about the 900cc power plant and how it responds. The engine is based off of the FZ-09, and this torquey and lively power plant is a lot of fun.

In another review I had made the decision that 800cc, as an all-around-do-everything bike was enough, but after feeling this extra 100cc, my new conclusion is that this is the perfect size engine.
So for 2 days, I was riding around feeling out the 3 cylinders and the power was excellent. In all areas, cruising down low in the RPMs, and then rolling on from the low RPMs to pass people, and to ride it high in the revs. It had lots of pull everywhere. With the weight of the bike it felt super flickable and nimble. At 430lbs, this bike felt light, and yet had enough weight for highway cruising.

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There is a Mode selection button to change the mapping of the engine. It starts at “A” then “STD” then “B”. “A” is the most aggressive with instant throttle response at the lightest twist, and it is impressive. When your head is into the ride and you want to get the very most from the engine, this is the setting.
I switched to the “STD” mode on the same roads, and it also is very good. There is a noticeable adjustment to the power delivery and throttle movement you get with the “STD” mode. The power is still pretty snappy and it feels more like a normal machine of this engine size. I rode most of the time in this mode. It’s nice to know you can get more out of your motor by changing the mapping instead of adding an after market pipe or do any other engine adjustments… and without spending the extra cash.
The “B” mode is more for wet weather. There is a very noticeable, I mean hugely noticeable, throttle delay and power delay. Riding in this mode is not fun, honestly. The engine lags quite a bit, the clutch acts like the first gear is too tall, but it is amazing that we can do this to the engines now and gives a whole new level of confidence to your time on the road, wet or dry.
I used this setting at the end of my rides, when the road wat a bit wet after a short rain. It made the ride home much more comfortable and relaxed. There is still good power and speed if you need it, it just takes a little extra effort on the twist to get it to happen. Riding in the wet with this setting is great. No wheel spin on acceleration and I felt comfortable.

Navigating this bike in tight city traffic, was a real treat. As in fun. Being more upright in the riding position makes quick shoulder checks easy, and accurate. Making quick lane changes at low speeds is where you really notice the flickability of this bike. It’s light and easy.

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Having said all that about building extra confidence in wet weather using the “B” mode setting, there is another feature on the bike that adds even more. It comes with a traction control setting as well. there are three setting here as well. “OFF”, “1” and then “2”. As you can imagine “OFF” would be the flat out sport mode to match with mapping mode “A”. An exhilarating combo for sure.
When you start the engine, the tracking control system defaults to “2” which is the best to use for wet roads and possibly mapping mode “B”. A little extra security when you need it, and it’s really simple to adjust when you need to.

So, all of that was just for the engine and traction tweaking. Now for the actual feel of the bike. 2 words… Absolutely Perfect! (for me anyway). The ergonomics of the cockpit are spot on. I’m 6’1” with longish arms and legs, and I felt very comfortable on this bike. The bars are wider than a sport bike by far, with a 2-3” rise. The seat feels a bit wider than most sport bikes and the biggest feature for me was the location of the foot pegs. They are lower and forward, by a few inches, than the typical sport bike. It makes for comfortable negotiations of tight city traffic and it’s very sweet out on the highway for longer treks. Speaking of city traffic, this bike is very nimble side to side. It doesn’t feel short nor does it feel heavy, yet it tracks very well in the city and holds a solid line on the highway. This is probably the most comfortable naked bike I’ve ridden.
There is one other interesting characteristic that I noticed and no one has mentioned it in other reviews that I’ve read. I’m calling it a burly-ness to the engine. What I mean is, I feel there is a roughness within the power delivery. A rumble with a slight vibration that felt raw. I felt more bike feedback thru the grips and the seat than on any other bike to date. BUT, I like it. I feel it matches the industrial look of the bike. Pure raw power. At no time did this bike lack in power delivery, comfort, or cornering agility, given what it looks like.

An addition to the feel of the bike was the cockpit length. From seat to bars, it felt longer than another bike I reviewed and the wind in the chest, while on the freeway, was totally manageable. For a bigger guy, I thought that I’d take a huge hit in the chest but it’s not like that, at all.

I love the aluminum accents on the front light and the detail near the stepped seat. The design of the frame and swing arm pulls this retro feeling bike into the present. Stopping power is very sport bike educed and topped off with ABS to maximize safety.

All in all… this is a real winner in a class that has many entries. A definite favorite of mine.

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About Jay Newman 9 Articles
Jay Newman is an accomplished international model, actor and photographer. Jay brings two decades of experience from both sides of the camera. Jay has traveled and lived in many parts of the world and currently calls Ontario, Canada home. He is an extreme sports enthusiast, an active kite-boarder and has been a passionate motorcyclist since his early years. Jay enjoys street bikes but won't pass up a day in the dirt either. You can contact Jay at jay.newman15@gmail.com.