Yamaha's XSR900 Rides into the Neo-Retro Motorcycle Arena

A quick look at the Yamaha website and it’s easy to think Yamaha have every genre of riding covered. Between the Yamaha and its Star brand, the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has always managed to cover all the two-wheeled bases.

But when one looks at the new XSR900 there’s a realization it’s unique in the Yamaha line-up, if not riding into a crowded and interesting industry segment.

In a series of reports, Clutch and Chrome looks closer at some of the motorcycles seen at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show which, at the time of writing, is making its way around the United States. For this article, we look at Yamaha’s XSR900.

Riding the trend of simpler motorcycle times the XSR900 blends Yamaha engineering with what the Japanese manufacturer refers to as a ‘neo‑retro style’. With terms such as ‘scrambler’ and ‘café-racer’ being bounced around Yamaha chooses a slightly different descriptive road saying the XSR900 is ‘an authentic and honest motorcycle’.

Drawing influence from Yamaha’s classic “XS” series of motorcycles, the XSR is certainly an eye-catching ride featuring exposed aluminum details, retro-influenced bodywork, stepped seat and custom lighting and instrumentation.

Practically living the saying of ‘old is new again’, the XSR900 is taken from Yamaha’s FZ-09.


The XSR900 is taken from Yamaha’s FZ-09 - Source Yamaha

Starting with the powerhouse, the XSR900 features an 847cc Crossplane Crankshaft Concept liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder, DOHC, 4-valve-per-cylinder engine based on the FZ-09. The compact motor promises the best balance of both 2- and 4-cylinder designs. With a 78mm x 59.1mm bore and stroke and 11.5:1 compression ratio, Yamaha describes as an ‘exciting, torquey and quick-revving engine character’.

If there has to be anything to love about the industry’s interest is the classic motorcycle style, it’s enjoying the retro look with modern technology.

An example of this would be Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) for precise throttle control, as well as Yamaha’s selectable D-MODE, which allows the rider to adjust engine character on the fly. STD Mode is set to accommodate a wide range of riding conditions, A Mode gives the rider a sportier throttle response in the low-to mid-rpm range, and B Mode lets the rider enjoy a softer throttle response.

Along these lines, the XSR900’s Traction Control System lets the rider get on the gas with more confidence, by regulating ignition timing, fuel injection and throttle valve opening based on wheel speeds. Three modes are available: Mode “1” is for minimal intervention, Mode “2” is for maximum intervention, and “OFF” switches the system off entirely.


Yamaha 2016 XSR900 - Source Yamaha

The XSR900’s 6-speed transmission takes full advantage of the low-to-mid-range torque and excellent response of the inline triple, while further enhancing the narrow 3-cylinder design.

To wrap up giving riders a modern ride while enjoying that classic look, the XSR900 includes an advanced assist-and-slipper clutch unit that provides both greater clamping force and back-torque reduction. What this means is the use of lighter clutch springs which not only reduces clutch lever effort by 20% but it minimizes rear-wheel hop under aggressive deceleration.

While the wheels are from the FZ-09, they look like they were made for the XSR900. Lightweight 10-spoke cast aluminum wheels are fitted with a 120/70ZR17 front tire and 180/55ZR17 rear tire for excellent traction.

As is the case with this style of motorcycle, instruments retain a simple look, but offer the gamut of information. The new round LCD panel features a digital tachometer, speedometer, gear position, eco mode indicator, TCS and D-MODE indicators, ambient and coolant temperature, a fuel gauge and range of trip computer functions, including a clock, instant and average fuel consumption, fuel reserve trip meter and the usual trip meters.


Yamaha 2016 XSR900 - Source Yamaha

We’ll admit, it’s the silly things that catches a rider’s eyes. When Clutch and Chrome saw the XSR900 at the Miami edition of the Progressive International Motorcycle Show, our eyes eagerly followed the lines and textured colors of the motorcycle. From the hand-finished aluminum tank to the mat black engine and frame to the two-tone red/burgundy seat, it was a visual feast. The single-piece stepped saddle features a stitched “XSR900” logo and two textures. The mirrors are classic teardrop shapes, the compact radiator is flanked by exposed aluminum covers and the front fender uses retro-influence aluminum stays.

All this may just be eye-candy, but does warrant the ‘second look, every time’ Yamaha boasts on its website.

It’s fair to say we liked what we saw and the specifications promise a fun and lively ride, but we should address the elephant in the room. This looks an awful lot like BMW Motorrad’s R nineT Scrambler due to come out in the third quarter of 2016.

Aside from brand loyalty, the differences on paper are engine size with BMW using its 1200 cc boxer and Yamaha putting an 847cc engine based on the FZ-09 in the XSR900. The other difference may be price.The motorcycle BMW’s Scrambler is based on, the R nineT starts at $15,095 while the XSR900 is expected to find its price between the FZ-09 at $8190 and $10,490 for the FJ-09. Yamaha have promised to release the pricing in February 2016.

This price point and optional appearance also places the XSR900 firmly alongside the Scrambler offerings from Ducati. All this leads us to use a well-worn phrase, ‘2016 is going to be one interesting motorcycle year!’

Share this article

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.

About us

Clutch and Chrome covers every aspect of the motorcycle lifestyle. Daily news, in-depth articles, reviews and anything that would interest a rider.


We not only produce our own motorcycle related videos but scour the internet to bring our readers the latest, greatest two-wheeled hits online.

Last posts


Want to really stay in touch? Here's our newsletter!