Yamaha, with its 2022 XSR900, pushes the bounds of neoclassicism and forges into the realm of “retro cool”, for just under $10K.
I’ve always been attracted to naked bikes. It is not so much, the less is more perspective. Instead, it’s what is absolutely necessary. And in the modern world of slim, sleek, and slipstream, the neo-classic naked bike class often is lost in the shuffle. Once in while, machines like the new 2022 Yamaha XSR900 come along and help push the category to the forefront.
The Yamaha XSR900 is by no means pretty and it’s not supposed to be. It’s handsome. Rugged yet refined. It’s old school and new school… at the same damn time. The XSR900 is James Dean and Keanu Reeves and Chadwick Boseman… at the same damn time.
Drawing upon its own history, Yamaha set its mission to style the 2022 XSR900, blending the nostalgia of heritage and the desires of today’s motorcyclists. The modern rendition of the XSR made its debut in 2016, as 700 and 900 models, defining the Yamaha Sport Heritage category. To update the model, Yamaha looked into the history books of its iconic race machines and found elements that were performance-proven and forward-thinking.
When standing next to and visually examing the XSR900, the nod to Yamaha’s racing legacy emanate, profoundly. The race inspired quick-release bodywork, the race bike tail inspired seat, and the 3.7-gallon flat-top fuel tank, are all notes from classic Yamahas from the 70s and 80s.
Developing those nods, the 2022 Yamaha XSR900 includes modern features that move it forward, into the now. The electronics package stands out as a premium offering. Borrowing from the Yamaha M1, the XSR900 employs a proper suite of rider aids that include a six-axis IMU (manages traction control, slide control, left or wheelie control, and brake control), four drive modes (1 through 4, from most to least engagement), and quick shifter. This new IMU is more advanced than the M1’s and more dialed in with 125 calculations per second and offers the rider more customization in levels of electronic engagement when riding.
The settings, as well as the cruise control, can be accessed via the switches on the left handlebar. Your options are viewable on the color TFT display. The display offers a lot of data but is a little cramped for my taste. A slightly larger screen would have made a big difference.
Looking at the XSR900 is one thing, but the ride is an absolute execution of joy. There’s no other way to say other than that it is a really fun bike to ride. The culmination of ergonomics, power, and suspension… A proper cocktail with all of the right ingredients. And as usual, the testing roads of the Southern California canyons and hills did not disappoint.
In the saddle of the 2022 Yamaha XSR900, the components of engineering and design are impressive. Minor details like the ported aluminum headlight brackets and forged aluminum levers and footrests give old school vibes. Major design high fives are given for the stock bar end mirrors, a first, and the trick fold away rear passenger footpegs… Innovative and borderline genius.
Being on the larger side of the rider scale, comfort, or the lack thereof, is always a box that needs to be checked for me. There is a difference between “riding on” the bike and “riding” the bike. The XSR900 has you sitting in, as opposed to sitting on the bike. Everything is within reach. I felt connected to the bike but not cramped.
This is in part to the new riding position of the 2022 model. The seat is moved forward by 5mm and down by 35mm. The adjustable handlebars now feature a grip point that is 14mm forward and down 35mm. Footpegs, also adjustable, are moved back by 2mm and down by 7mm. This riding position is better suited to match a number of rider types.
The chassis of the XSR900 is brand new with improvements to the rigidity of the frame, subframe, and swingarm, compared to the prior model and it contributes to the decreased overall weight of the bike. The curb weight of the 2022 Yamaha XSR900 is 425 pounds, less 5 pounds than the previous version.
A short highway rip allowed for a spirited introduction to the XSR900’s CP3 engine, the same powerplant found in the MT-09 and the Tracer 9 GT. This CP3 engine is new for the XSR900 and increases the output to 890cc (up from 847cc), while torque is increased by 6%. Again, this boost in performance, from the 2021 XSR900 is credited to the CP3’s crankshaft (3mm longer with 15% increased inertia), shorter connecting rods ( 1.5mm, fractured split) and new concave shaped top forged pistons.
Access to this new found power is courtesy of Yamaha’s cableless throttle system which exhibits a seamless “roll on” feel, as the throttle position is detected by a sensor at the grip, then engages the throttle valve motor. The XSR900 is a highway ripper. Don’t get it twisted.
However, it was in the twisties where the torque of the 2022 Yamaha XSR900 really shows up. Coming out of the technical tight left and right handers, the open sweepers… You can really squeeze a lot out of the gearing with a huge grin plastered on the inside of your helmet.
Diving in and driving out of those corners, again, the XSR900 gets high marks for its stability and handling performance. For the 2022 model, Yamaha has lengthened the swingarm by 59mm. The suspension setup utilizes a pair of 41mm adjustable KYB front forks and an adjustable KYB rear shock. The front end is shorter than the 2021 model by 39mm to match the new lowered position of the steering head.
The 2022 XSR900 is supplied with ABS as standard and the Brembo radial master cylinder with the 298mm dual rotors compose a great front end braking setup offering great feel, especially when trial braking in the twisties. The confidence in the XSR900 is complemented by the impressive grip and feel of the Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 tires that it is fitted with.
The 2022 Yamaha XSR900, available in Legend Blue and Raven, has an MSRP of $9,999.00. You’re getting a lot of bike and massive amounts of fun for under ten grand. The XSR900 packs a load of unexpected joy and is just fun, both in the straights and in the bends. Retro cool is the now and the XSR900 is standing under the spotlight.
Images: Adam Campbell