Evaluation: Using the gorgeous Yamaha XSR900 GP retro sportbike


Some bikes beg to be ridden in anger. Others drip with nostalgia. Should you draw a Venn diagram of these two paradigms, you’ll discover the Yamaha XSR900 GP smack dab in the midst of the intersection.

The Yamaha XSR900 GP nearly melted our servers (and lit up our feedback part) when it first broke cowl in October of final yr. Drawing inspiration from Yamaha’s illustrious racing heritage, it’s a homage to iconic bikes just like the Yamaha TZR250 and YZR500 OW01, reimagined on the fashionable, three-cylinder XSR900 platform. And its retro sportbike underpinnings make it one of the crucial hanging manufacturing facility bikes presently available on the market.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
However does the Yamaha XSR900 GP look nearly as good within the flesh because it does in images? Is all of it present and no go? And what’s the Portuguese coast like this time of yr? I headed to the picture-perfect coastal city of Ericeira, on Yamaha’s invitation, to seek out out.

Between consuming disproportionate quantities of contemporary seafood, beautiful wines, and stylish desserts, my friends and I sampled a number of the area’s finest backroads—and even squeezed in a photograph op on the famed Estoril race circuit. However we additionally rubbed shoulders with the individuals behind the XSR900 GP’s growth, gaining perception into its compelling backstory.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
If the game heritage motorbike section is a distinct segment, then the Yamaha XSR900 GP occupies a distinct segment inside that area of interest, by prioritizing efficiency with out sacrificing type. It’s a tiny needle to string, making the XSR900 GP arguably one of many gutsiest OEM releases in recent times.

The story begins eight years in the past, when Yamaha product supervisor, James McCombe, sat down for his first interview with the Japanese marque. Requested what he would create, given the chance, his response was a variant of the XSR platform that might characterize Yamaha’s racing lineage, and legitimize the sport facet of the game heritage tag. However turning that idea into a totally homologated motorbike that, whereas it does make compromises makes few compromises, was a tumultuous journey.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
The XSR900 GP undertaking stalled twice and survived a world pandemic that restricted contact between Yamaha’s international group, which is cut up between Europe and Japan. Workarounds have been wanted—like signing off the design utilizing 3D renders as a substitute of the tried and true modeling clay technique. After which there was the same old inner stress that comes from attempting to paint outdoors the traces with out blowing the funds.

It’s simple to neglect that manufacturing facility bikes take an inordinate time to develop, and that they’re conceived, designed, and engineered by actual people. Product managers arguably have the hardest job of all. They should look right into a non-existent crystal ball to foretell what the trade zeitgeist might be years down the road, after which they should rally a group round them and persuade the powers that be that their thought is an efficient one.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
It takes imaginative and prescient and moxie to deliver a motorcycle just like the Yamaha XSR900 GP to market. The truth that this bike has hit the scene simply because the 80s and 90s sportbike revival is reaching fever pitch is a testomony to the tenacity of Mr McCombe and the designers, engineers, and take a look at riders who labored on the undertaking.

The GP hits all the suitable notes, evoking motorbike racing’s golden years whereas nailing the steadiness between trendy and retro. My temporary time in Portugal was fraught with moody climate, besides, the bike shimmered within the gentle of day. Each element that had struck me after I first noticed images of it was now cranked as much as eleven (twelve, when the solar lastly poked via the clouds).

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
Tailored from the ‘normal’ Yamaha XSR900, the GP mannequin trades the platform’s black body paint for a silver end that highlights the bike’s Deltabox-like chassis. Recent bodywork sits up prime; a half-fairing with bolt-on wind deflectors, new facet panels, and a boxy rear cowl that covers the pillion seat. These items create a faultless silhouette, making the GP’s heritage simple.

The XSR900 GP’s flagship ‘Legend Pink’ livery [above] pops onerous and begs nearer inspection. The white bits are ever so barely silvery, the purple bits present a touch of orange, and the yellow quantity boards boldly recall the Yamaha racers of yesteryear. (Even the brake rotor carriers are painted, to disguise them towards the purple wheels.)

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
The aptly named ‘Energy Gray’ colorway [above] is in some way each extra subdued and bolder than its livelier counterpart. Wrapped in swathes of gray and black, it foregoes the throwback racer vibe for a brooding look that might look killer underneath Tokyo’s neon lights. For my cash, I’d be hard-pressed to choose between the 2.

The bike boasts a excessive stage of match and end, and nowhere is that this represented higher than within the trivia of its cockpit. From the rider’s place, the peerlessly proportioned fairing stays and TZ250-inspired beta pins that maintain the fairing in place transport you proper again to the 80s. (Yamaha would have used the identical pins on the decrease fairing attachment factors, however sure European rules demand that no less than a number of the bodywork fasteners require instruments to take away.)

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
A drilled strut extends from the middle of the highest yoke to the entrance of the fairing, the place the bike’s modern TFT show lurks quietly. The entire wires are neatly wrapped collectively, and anchored to a purpose-built bracket that attaches discreetly to the triple clamp. Small bulges alongside the highest fringe of the fairing accommodate the clip-ons at full steering lock; the bars usually are not adjustable, presumably to keep away from any clearance points.

Yamaha loses half some extent for one tiny ugly connector that was uncovered on the bike I rode on the day. And though I can settle for the necessity for contemporary switchgear that may concurrently function the bike and navigate its dashboard menus, I can’t tolerate the brand new flip sign button that Yamaha has debuted on the XSR900 GP. It’s a clunky button that’s purported to make life simpler with short- and long-burst capabilities and an auto-canceling function, nevertheless it feels awkward to make use of and by no means fairly works proper.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
The remainder of the XSR900 GP’s accouterments are executed with panache. The LED flip indicators are slim and unobtrusive, and the tail bracket manages to increase the license plate to the place rules require, whereas additionally offering somewhat further rear wheel splash safety. The passenger pegs additionally use a singular design that makes them much less seen than most setups.

Not desirous to damage the bike’s race-inspired visage with an enormous headlight, Yamaha’s group designed a slim headlight housing that mimics an air vent, then packed an ultra-bright LED headlight in there. On the reverse finish of the bike, what I initially thought have been twin taillights within the bum cease are simply slits that mimic the slim warning lights on monitor bikes. The true taillight, taken straight from the common XSR900, is hidden decrease down—nevertheless it’s neat sufficient to not disrupt the general design.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
All these issues make the XSR900 GP’s one aesthetic misstep virtually unforgivable. Conserving the bike’s growth prices cheap meant leaving a number of the ‘base’ mannequin’s components untouched. Whereas that labored out effectively for components just like the taillight, bar-end mirrors, and wheels, the XSR900’s exhaust is an eyesore on the GP.

Part of me likes the brutality of the entire unit and the race prototype impact that it invokes—notably once you discover how tidy the welds are. Nevertheless it’s onerous to disclaim that it seems to be like somebody hacked the bike’s silencer off and left the lardy catalytic convertor behind. And it solely will get worse once you see the bike with the non-compulsory Akrapovič exhaust system on, and notice how a lot better it seems to be.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
The Akrapovič system trades the boxy inventory half for a slimmer underslung collector and a stubby muffler that sits precisely the place you’d count on it to on a motorcycle of this ilk. It’s a part of the bike’s non-compulsory ‘race’ equipment, which additionally consists of fairing lowers, a tinted windscreen, and a slimmer tail tidy. (Little doubt, many patrons will fortunately fork out for the added swagger.)

Behind the truckloads of intercourse attraction lies top-of-the-line engines presently available on the market; Yamaha’s totally good 890 cc triple-cylinder ‘CP3’ crossplane engine, which is now Euro5+ compliant. It makes 117.3 hp at 10,000 rpm and 93 Nm of torque at 7,000 rpm, however these numbers are in the end irrelevant. As a result of the place the XSR900 GP’s engine actually shines, is in its impeccable energy supply.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
The hyperlink between the throttle and the rear wheel is seamless, the response is visceral, and the quantity of usable mid-range torque and energy is astounding. All of it makes for a rider’s motorbike—a motorcycle that may pull onerous from low down within the rev vary if it must and howls once you correctly open it up. It additionally makes for a motorcycle that may deal with a squirt of energy out of a nook with out getting bent out of practice.

Regardless of how the exhaust seems to be, the XSR nonetheless emits a guttural growl—partly due to its new consumption design, and partly as a result of it’s a triple, in any case. And whereas this engine often seems to be busy and overbuilt within the extra bare XSR900, it really serves the manufacturing facility race prototype vibe of the GP mannequin.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
Yamaha struck gold with the XSR900 GP’s electronics package deal too. For starters, the onboard rider modes, traction management, ABS, and different digital aids function in a useful, quite than obtrusive, manner, guided by a six-axis IMU (as has turn into the trade normal). Flicking between the rain, street, and sport modes, the habits change is tangible, however the bike’s elegant throttle really feel isn’t sacrificed.

Hooligans and wheelie fiends will little doubt wish to dive into the bike’s customizable rider modes to dial again the traction and anti-wheelie management, however I discovered the usual settings greater than ample for a day spent sashaying via the Portuguese countryside’s tree-lined twisties.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
The TFT show itself is fairly neat too. It hosts a smorgasbord of smartphone connectivity options, together with navigation, however I felt it labored finest after I simply left it on the ‘house’ display screen, which makes use of a design distinctive to the GP mannequin. Centered round an analog-style tachometer, it distributes the remainder of the knowledge across the display screen in diminishing ranges of precedence, making it simple to observe.

The opposite large replace on the XSR900 GP is its revised quick-shifter. Fast-shift methods are infamous for under working effectively at sure spots within the rev vary, however this technique is much extra forgiving. Between the shifter, and the updates to the bike’s six-speed transmission, the GP by no means missed a shift, irrespective of how ham-fisted I used to be with it.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
The brand new system additionally permits for upshifts throughout deceleration and downshifts throughout acceleration—which sounds pointless, till you’ll want to kick down a gear to overhaul a truck, and don’t wish to let go of the throttle.

Backing up the XSR900 GP’s peach of a motor are a number of chassis and geometry adjustments. The clip-ons and rear-set pegs are apparent deviations from the usual XSR method. They pitch you ahead, however cease shy of the extra aggressive using place discovered on bikes just like the Yamaha R7.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
Yamaha opted for this explicit format as a result of they’re effectively conscious that the XSR900 GP’s goal buyer isn’t searching for an outright superbike (and the accompanying chiropractor payments). I can affirm that the GP is certainly extra snug than your common superbike, however I can even affirm that, by the top of our journey, my wrists and legs have been nagging me.

My butt, nonetheless, was superb; the XSR900 GP’s seat is surprisingly well-padded. And if I’m being completely honest, at 1.83 m [6 foot] tall and tipping the scales at a svelte 139 kilos [306 pounds], I used to be extra snug on the GP than I assumed I might be. I used to be additionally shocked at how effectively the windscreen mitigated turbulence—despite the fact that a Yamaha staffer later confessed that it was designed for type and never aerodynamics.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
It was no enjoyable round city (the place I used the bike’s onboard cruise management to stick to hurry limits whereas giving my wrists a relaxation), however as soon as I bought it on top of things it felt extra compliant. It’s unlikely that I’d choose it for touring or commuting, however as a weekend warrior, it really works, and Yamaha isn’t promoting it as anything.

The adjustments to the XSR900 GP’s setup transcend simply the controls. Yamaha tuned the chassis to compensate for the additional load that the using place locations on the entrance of the bike, by revising the engine mounting brackets. That is additionally the one bike amongst its stablemates (the XSR900 and MT-09) to function an aluminum steering shaft.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
Different updates embrace a strengthened subframe, an prolonged swingarm, and a better headstock. These adjustments push the GP’s wheelbase to 1,500 mm and its path to 110 mm, making it much less nervous and extra secure. The bike weighs in at 200 kilos [441 lbs] moist, with a seat top of 835 mm.

As a lot because the XSR900 GP’s visuals encourage recollections of legendary Grand Prix racers, its functionality on the street had me imagining I used to be one in all them (despite the fact that I’m not). The crossplane engine and full-adjustable KYB suspension encourage spirited using, and the chassis responds effectively to enthusiastic physique English. The extra gusto I rode it with, the higher it bought.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
Its revised geometry does imply that the XSR900 GP relishes sweeping bends greater than tight corners, nevertheless it was no slouch in both situation.

If, like me, you like bikes with upright handlebars, the marginally raised clip-ons will provide help to adapt your using type shortly, since they’re far much less intimidating than these you’d discover on extra centered machines. And despite the fact that I’m an enormous dude for a motorcycle this compact, I discovered the attain from the seat to the bars nearly excellent—and the saddle gave me loads of wiggle room to shift my weight round.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
The Bridgestone Battlax S23 tires that the XSR900 GP is specced with are stellar, and did an awesome job of preserving me and the GP from getting bent out of practice on a moist Estoril race circuit. Likewise, the suspension saved the bike planted—even after I hit an sudden and quite sharp bump within the street. Fidgeting with the fork and shock settings would little doubt have unlocked extra of their potential, however, as with the electronics, I used to be fairly pleased with how the bike was arrange out of the field.

Discerning prospects would possibly pine for a swanky set of Brembo calipers on a bike this trendy, however the OEM items (manufactured by Advics) are literally good. Actuated by a Brembo grasp cylinder, the dual four-piston entrance calipers and 298 mm floating discs have finesse for days. Using within the hills and through our temporary time on the monitor, I may confidently and constantly path brake into corners—after which make the most of the XSR’s extensive energy band to fireplace out of them.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review
On the floor, the Yamaha XSR900 GP is a contemporary basic that completely encapsulates the period that impressed it—a motorcycle that one passionate group fought to make a actuality, even when it didn’t all the time make sense. On the street, it’s an outstanding machine that, though not billed as a sportbike, deserves the moniker.

And once you get off it, it’s a motorcycle that’ll make you look again and smile, each rattling time.

Yamaha Motor Europe | Photos by Alessio Barbanti

The Yamaha XSR900 GP might be accessible within the UK and Europe from Might 2024, with a beginning worth of £12,506 within the UK. There isn’t any phrase on US pricing or availability but.

Yamaha XSR900 GP review

Wes’ gear Shoei NXR2 helmet, Icon Slabtown jacket, Saint Street gloves, Icon Superduty3 pants, Icon Alcan WP boots.


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