2022 Yamaha XSR900 – Getting It Right Again?

With the 2022 Yamaha XSR900, the tuning fork brand aims to improve on what was a fantastic bike by fixing – or rather improving – what wasn’t broken. May the challenge begin.

The yellow and black bike seen here was one of the best looking Yamaha motorcycles of the past ten years. It would be even fair to say that it is the best looking and enjoyable Yamaha of the last ten years.

 Why? A couple of reasons.

 One: It gave the world an inexpensive option for a glorious inline triple motor in an accessible platform.  There were very few triples outside of Triumph offerings at the time and it was past time for the another option. The XSR motor was torquey, powerful and sounded fantastic.

 Two: The XSR900, while having a retro flavour, was unique in appearance. The bonus was a touch of steam-punk to truly set it apart. It wasn’t a thinly disguised rehash of a bike form twenty years previous for those pining for thier 1983 ride. Yamaha also took the time to think about the details of the bike, the little styling elements that added together to complete the package. A few well thought out accessories only made the bike even more attractive.

 Three:  The XSR900 was comfortable. That may not seem like a appearance issue but it most certainly was. Yamaha balanced form with function in the XSR900 design making for a pleasant all-day ride with a growling heart.

The best looking XSR900 of all, as we have said before, was the 2016 Anniversary version. Other iterations were attractive but the yellow and black livery combined with a few dedicated accessories was as good as it got. Yamaha realized they hit the mark as the XSR900 spawned the smaller XSR700 and the not-for-Canada XSR125. The XSR700 didn’t quite attain the same beauty of the larger bike and the little 125, well it is good for some regions to have another small bike with a sense of style. 

Yamaha has just announced that the XSR900 will be all-new for the 2022 model year and this is what it looks like.

The changes, of course, are intended to make the 2022 Yamaha XSR900 a better bike.  The most obvious is the new Deltabox-style frame that pays tribute to the revolutionary Yamaha sport bikes of the 1980s. This iteration provides the XSR with additional longitudinal, lateral and torsional rigidity for better straight line stability. Above the tank sits a race inspired fuel tank with more sculpted cut-outs. The motor, the glorious triple, gets a boost in displacement to 889cc (up 43cc) already seen in the MT-09 and Tracer which increases the horsepower to 119 but that gain, for this bike, is less significant than the 6% increase in torque which now peaks at 93 Nm and occurs 1500 rpm closer to idle. The new torque curve is addressed with a slight revision of the gear ratios. To handle the decrease in weight and increase in power, the XSR900 comes with the long list of electronic aids including lean sensitive traction control, slide control, wheelie control, 4 power modes, “brake control” two-mode ABS and an upgraded ride-by-wire system.

Additional styling features include a 3.5 inch TFT for the gauges, bar end mirrors, and a hidden LED tail light tucked beneath the seat. Yes,… that seat. The sculpted pilot position looks good but it then morphs into a large mass for the pillion seat. It takes a while and a perusal of the media images to realize the profile is likely intended to emulate the solo seat profile of a 1980s era race bike. Perching a passenger back there must be a secondary purpose as those passenger pegs look remarkably quick and easy to remove while leaving little trace behind. Aft of that foam hump and due to the new hidden taillight, the funky Bolt-borrowed taillight of the previous model is gone while down below the underslung exhaust remains. Yamaha says the styling is cleaner but does cleaner mean more interesting?

new SXR900 beside an old racer from Yamaha

Yamaha had a challenge on their hands in updating the 2022 Yamaha XSR900. It will no doubt be a better bike. The obvious improvements are the increases in power and rigidity, the decrease in weight and the addition of further electronic aids. But, as the company states in the media release, some of the changes were made to make the bike more aggressive in appearance. The new frame for example allows for a more forward leaning seating position. Only riding the bike will determine whether the XSR900 becomes a better all-around experience. Only time and thoughtful consideration will determine if the new bike is as stylish as the previous XSR900. 

blue 2022 xsr900 from the front blue 2022 xsr900 from the side

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