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Brute in a Suit: Yamaha XSR900 Review

Yamaha XSR900 review: the brute in a suit
Key specs The XSR900 has the same frame, suspension, wheels and engine as the FZ-09.

The inline triple uses Yamaha’s ‘Crossplane Concept’ engine architecture. In essence, it has a 270-degree crank that is said to provide linear torque all through the rev range. The numbers are 84.6kW at 10,000 RPM, and 87.5Nm at 8,500 RPM (with a wet weight of 195kg.)

Yamaha XSR900 review: the brute in a suit
The six-speed gearbox is paired with an assist-and-slipper clutch. In simple terms: it operates differently under acceleration and braking, to optimize every shift.

The clutch is an upgraded version of the FZ-09’s, and it’s not the only thing that’s been reworked. Criticisms of the FZ-09’s jerky throttle response had Yamaha’s engineers redo the fueling too.

Yamaha XSR900 review: the brute in a suit
The XSR900’s also running D-MODE switchable power maps and TCS switchable traction control. ABS is standard.

The forks are 41mm upside-down units, with a mono-shock out back. They’ve been tweaked for the XSR, with adjustable rebound up front, and rebound and preload out back.

Yamaha XSR900 review: the brute in a suit
Riding the XSR900 Crossplane, D-MODE, TCS…do they work? Yes, surprisingly well. If the styling doesn’t strike a chord with you, the ride will.

TL;DR: the XSR900 is fun. Bucket loads of it.

Yamaha XSR900 review: the brute in a suit
The engine has torque and character in spades—with an engine note to match. And it’s available on demand, whether you’re accelerating out of a corner or looking for a boost on a long straight.

Plus, Yamaha’s tech-speak about the assist-and-slipper clutch was spot on. Shifts are smooth and precise, all the time.

Yamaha XSR900 review: the brute in a suit
But the real gem is the D-MODE system—mainly because it’s delightfully simple. There are three modes, swappable via a switch on the handlebars: Standard, A and B. Standard is self-explanatory, B is super-mild, and A turns the throttle into an on-off switch.

The TCS traction control system is just as straightforward. ‘1’ offers a little bit of interference, and ‘2’ a lot. As with D-MODE, a button on the bars cycles between modes (in both cases you can do so on the fly, provided the throttle is closed.)

Yamaha XSR900 review: the brute in a suit
We found a combination of ‘Standard’ and ‘1’ to be the sweet spot for most riding; a tasty blend of smooth throttle response and minimal traction control. But our personal favorite was ‘A’ and ‘1’.

It uncorked the XSR900, making the throttle far more abrupt in a way that made it harder work to control, but more grin-inducing to ride. And even with traction control turned off—which has to be done at stand still—the bike was still pretty rideable. (Just don’t pair ‘A’ with ‘2’; full throttle and maximum traction control together make for unpredictable results.)

Yamaha XSR900 review: the brute in a suit
As for the handling, the XSR900 is extremely well balanced. The weight sits in a good place, and the ergonomics put the rider in a neutral-but-slightly-sporty position that makes for great control.

We like the round speedo too. It’s in a decent spot, and crams all the information you need into an easy-to-follow layout. There’s no fuel warning light though, despite there being plenty of space for one. Instead, the graphic surrounding the fuel level indicator flashes annoyingly when you’re low.