Yamaha XSR900: Review

Putting a little more 'sport' in Yamaha's Sport Heritage

Yamaha XSR900
2016 Yamaha XSR900 in raw aluminumYamaha

At some point, the Universal Japanese Motorcycles (UJM) of the ‘70s made way to faster, more specialized street bikes and the “universal” aspect faded off. Your Suzuki GS750 became your GS1000, which became then your full-blown GS-X Katana sport bike. It wasn’t until recent years that we started to see more of these standard, upright, universal motorcycles start hitting the market again—giving consumers a well-rounded bike with canyon carving capability, but also classy looks and commuting comfort. While it may not have been the first in the genre, Yamaha’s XSR900 leads the pack as a forward-thinking, performance based universal motorcycle that bring back the aspects we loved so much about retro UJMs, without being an antiquated replica of a previous model.

Yamaha XSR900
2016 Yamaha XSR900 in raw aluminumYamaha

Looking at the XSR, it’s not shy about the modern tech it holds within. Borrowing from its brother from another mother, the FZ-09, the liquid-cooled motor, trellis frame and bendy swingarm are anything but old school. Fortunately a metal gas tank, round headlight, leather seat and other details easily draw your eye away from the blacked out mechanics beneath them. For 2016 you could get the bike in the iconic Kenny Roberts 60th anniversary black and yellow paint, or opt for a little more understated brushed aluminum that paired with its dark red seat so well it almost looked aftermarket. This year it comes in a Titanium Blue with just a little bit of flake and a white stripe which is very unique for the only color option, but I think it looks awesome.

Yamaha XSR900
The single gauge unit that includes all the info you needYamaha

The last Yamaha I rode before this bike was the SCR950, so let’s be nice saying that they wear their 900-something CCs very differently. The 3-cylinder engine in the XSR is an absolute beast, but luckily for me, it has a few riding modes to help tame it down. “B” is the most mellow of the three, followed by “STD” and then “A,” which is the most aggressive. I started off in standard mode, then tried “B” but the bike was so torquey and the throttle so responsive, I was picking up the front tire a little too effortlessly. Leaving the bike in “B” mode, I found I still had plenty of power to float the front tire out of turns, but also have a much more enjoyable riding experience.

With 41mm inverted forks up front and a monoshock in the rear, both with adjustable preload and damping and over 5 inches of travel, the XSR is at home in the twisties. With a wet weight of 430 pounds, it’s light for its class and you can feel it. Easily dropping into turns, holding stable, and then pulling you out quick and smooth. It’s a very easy bike to ride, but also not to be taken lightly.

XSR900 brakes
Front brake caliperYamaha
2016 Yamaha XSR900 in raw aluminumYamaha

I had gotten used to invasive traction control modes that cut off power when you need it, but that was not the case here. Even on the more active of the two modes, what on other bikes is an abrupt cut-off, the restriction came on much more smoothly on the XSR. Dual front discs and a single rear built up to full sportbike spec give you some serious stopping power and great feel on the levers. ABS also comes standard for both front and rear brakes.

Yamaha XSR900
2017 Yamaha XSR900 in Titanium BlueYamaha
2017 Yamaha XSR900 in Titanium BlueYamaha

The XSR900 is an absolute beast of a 900cc sport bike, just wrapped up in a stylish neo-retro package. I honestly found the wealth of power to be a little too much at first, not having a ton of experience with sport bikes and, like I said, coming from the SCR950. While it is a ton of fun to go hit the canyons and shred some twisties, it felt spooled up going 65mph on the freeway and just wanted to lurch free up to 90mph or higher. This bike did everything that it was built to do incredibly well, and looked damn good doing it, but as a ‘cruiser guy,’ it was just a little too much for me and I finished my test jealous of the Europeans that get to ride the XSR700, as I think that would be just what I’m looking for.

Yamaha XSR900
2017 Yamaha XSR900 in Titanium BlueYamaha
Engine Type 847cc liquid-cooled DOHC inline 3-cylinder 4- stroke; 12 valves
Bore x Stroke 78.0mm x 59.1mm
Compression Ratio 11.5:1
Fuel Delivery Yamaha Fuel Injection with YCC-T
Ignition TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission 6-speed; multiplate assist-and-slipper wet clutch
Final Drive Chain
Suspension / Front 41mm inverted fork, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.4-in travel
Suspension / Rear Single shock, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.1-in travel
Brakes / Front Dual 298mm discs; ABS
Brakes / Rear 245mm disc; ABS
Tires / Front 120/70ZR17
Tires / Rear 180/55ZR17
L x W x H 81.7 in x 32.1 in x 44.9 in
Seat Height 32.7 in
Wheelbase 56.7 in
Rake (Caster Angle) 25.0°
Trail 4.1 in
Maximum Ground Clearance 5.3 in
Fuel Capacity 3.7 gal
Fuel Economy** 44 mpg
Wet Weight*** 430 lb
Warranty 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)