Back in the day, when one wanted to purchase a motorcycle, local pickings were pretty slim. You had your usual tried and true Japanese 4-cylinder bikes with that top-end rush and classic angry hairdryer sound, then there were the Italian twins known for punchy torque and interesting-sounding exhaust notes, and you had the rumbling American V-Twins with their unmistakable sound. We were missing something the rest of the world was enjoying for quite some time: 3-cylinders, the best of a 4-cylinder with the torque of any twin. Yamaha changed all of that when they brought in their updated crossplane engines for their MT series of motorcycles. Such a good platform deserves an equally impressive encore. Enter the XSR 900.
Now, I understand that the MT series have been hot bikes ever since Yamaha Motors Philippines introduced them a little over a year ago, with updates to their model lineup to keep up with the times. It was only natural that the already impressive 847cc 3-cylinder crossplane engine found in the MT09 would be the beating heart of what Yamaha calls a Sport Heritage motorcycle; a tribute to the glory days of Japanese bikes. It doesn’t take long after viewing the XSR 900 and the MT-09 side-by-side to tell that the two bikes share quite a bit of their substance; the engine, frame, and swingarm all appear to come from the same parts bin, but this is definitely not a bad thing. What the Yamaha has done with the XSR 900 is taken a good base and put it in a new wrapper, and the result is more than just the sum of its bolt-on parts. Styling is definitely on point with the classic round headlight, aluminum touches such as the tank, brackets, instrument cluster, and probably the brightest brake light I’ve ever seen in my life. A true example of old meets new; the XSR 900 received a lot of compliments in my week’s time with it, with both the young and old approaching me in parking lots and coffee shops. Even in black, the XSR 900 screams classiness.
Straddle the XSR 900 and you’ve got a bike that’s just begging to be ridden. At around 812mm of seat height, pegs and controls are nice and comfortable, while the handlebars are slightly raised. The seat is plush and the texture is great; no sliding butts here! Front suspension is adjustable, so is the rear, but I found stock settings (I assume they were stock) to be decent for my weight. A little tweaking would be best to dial it in. At the helm, you’ve got 3 rider modes: B mode for smoother throttle response, STD mode for all-around riding and general usage, and A mode for full power delivery, and quite honestly, the only way to ride this bike. Make no mistake, even in the tamest mode, the XSR 900’s 115 horsepower and 64 lb ft of torque are no laughing matter, and in the hands of a beginner can prove to be dangerous. There’s a reason that this engine was called a wheelie machine. ABS is standard and complements an already great set of 300mm discs. Traction control is also programmable with three modes, there’s off, level 1 – which provides a minimal amount of riding intrusion, and level 2 – maximizing the amount of computer wizardry to prevent wheelspin from the 180 rear tire. Frankly speaking, with the amount of torque generated by the XSR 900’s motor, expect to see the traction control indicator flash, especially when flat out from a stop. Oh and there’s an eco indicator that tells you when you’re shifting and riding with maximizing fuel consumption in mind. Yeah, like we need that light with a fun bike like this. Everything else on the instrument cluster is presented neatly, with a gear indicator, tachometer, two trip meters, riding and traction control modes, and a digital speedometer. My only gripe being the fuel gauge, as the sections aren’t in the correct proportion. At full tank, all sections are lit, and then once one bar disappears, the rest of the bars seem to disappear quicker.
With a motor that just begs to be ridden like a hooligan, the XSR 900 is equally at home on the straights as it is on the curves. The torque is what struck me the most, and will keep pulling you into the next riding week. Seriously. It’s light as well, making the XSR 900 a hoot on sweepers and tighter corners; exiting and pegging the throttle never gets old. Ridden well, this motorcycle can keep up with your sport bike buddies and then some. The suspension never skips a beat and inspires confidence, whether you’re on bumpy city streets or mountain passes. Expect the motor to reach beyond 200 km/h easily, with aerodynamics being your only rival; no windscreen and wind buffeting are expected. The great riding position helps inspire tighter turn-ins and easy countersteering, resulting in enjoyment in almost every ride. Darting in between cars in traffic is also a cinch since the handlebars and mirrors can clear most vehicles with ease. The throttle and the clutch in traffic are easy and forgiving, with no abruptness or jerkiness in the lower RPMs. Also expect a buttery smooth gearbox. The great thing about the XSR 900 is that it’s tame when it’s asked to be, but always ready to punch you in the gut when allowed.
For a motorcycle that some may call a “parts bin special”, the XSR 900 will surprise you with its character; it just looks good and everything fits together nicely. The XSR 900 is the kind of motorcycle that will reward you when opened up, with you stupidly grinning inside your helmet. If you’re someone who’s looking for power but not the weight and awkwardness of liter bike for riding around town and commuting, then this bike is almost perfect.
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 3 cylinder inline, EFI, dohc, 12-valves, 4-stroke
Max power: 115 bhp @ 10000 rpm
Torque: 64 lb ft @ 8500 rpm
Seat height: 812 mm
Fuel capacity: 14 liters
Curb weight: 195 kg
Top speed: 270 km/h
Price: PhP 579,000
Plus: 3 cylinder power, agile handling, superb brakes
Minus: Not much