Yamaha unleashes a new retro-inspired budget middleweight
During the presentation of the Yamaha XSR700 I decided to have a quick game of word bingo. Hipster, Scrambler, fashion, customisation, retro… yes, the XSR700 is another bike designed to appeal to a fashion-conscious buyer and to achieve this, Yamaha has taken the MT-07 as a base and bolted on a few extras to create a modern interpretation of the XS models from the 1970s.
For a small premium over the standard bike you get brushed aluminum covers, a new speedo, round lights, taller bar, an altered seat (below which the rear section of the subframe is now removable to help customisation) and some Pirelli Phantom tyres with their retro-style tread pattern. Thankfully, in no way do these somewhat cosmetic features detract from the overall riding experience. In fact, they subtly enhance it.
Styling is subjective, but I love the new look of the XSR – true to its roots without going over the top. The lights are neat, the flatter seat is comfortable and the new round digital speedo still has a gear indicator, fuel gauge and various trips. However, it is the small changes that make the biggest difference.
The slightly taller bar and new seat put you in a more upright and comfortable riding position, a stance that really suits the XSR. It manages to strike a nice balance by giving the bike a laid-back attitude that matches the retro look. And it does this without detracting from the basic MT-07 strong points: fun and ease of use.
On a twisty back road, few bikes are as much fun as the MT-07 and the XSR is much the same. It may weigh 186kg, but this the XSR retains the MT’s lightweight and agile chassis. You can really throw it around corners, while the sportsbike-size tyres mean you are unlikely to ever run out of grip. Ride it with a lot of enthusiasm and the soft suspension can start to protest, but only if you are really pushing. The standard ABS works without complaint and the four piston calipers provide more than enough stopping power. However, as with the MT-07, the real star of the show is the engine.
It may only make a fairly modest 55kW, but Yamaha’s parallel twin is a beautiful power plant that is smooth revving yet contains enough torque to ensure you aren’t changing gear all the time. Relaxed when required, more than happy to bang up a few wheelies if stirred into action, it’s a motor that both new and more experienced riders can enjoy and get the most out of.
Yamaha like to claim the XSR is a rival for the likes of the Scrambler and Triumph Bonnie, but to me it is a very different machine. The Ducati and Triumph are bought by people who want the prestige and style that comes with the classic name on the tank while I feel the XSR will be bought by riders who recognise it is not only great value and good looking, it is also an excellent bike to ride day to day rather than just pose on.
Surprisingly good handling
Suspension is soft
Being labeled a hipster!
Too easy to misbehave on
SPECS 2016 Yamaha XSR700
Configuration parallel twin
Cylinder head DOHC, 8 valves
Bore/stroke 80 x 68.6mm
Compression ratio 11.5:1
Power 55Kw @ 9,000rpm
Torque 68Nm @ 6,500rpm
Final drive Chain
Frame material Steel
Frame layout Diamond
Front: Conventional forks, non-adjustable
Rear: Monoshock, adjustable preload
Front: 120/70-17 Rear 180/55-17
Front: Twin 282mm discs, four-piston calipers.
Rear: 245mm disc, two-piston caliper.
Weight 186kg (wet, claimed)
Seat height 815mm
Max width Not given
Max height Not given
Fuel capacity 14L
Fuel consumption 4.6L/100km
Top speed 190km/h (est)
Forest green, garage metal
TEST JOHN URRY PHOTOGRAPHY