Owning a classic motorcycle is often far better in one’s imagination rather than in reality.
For the enthusiast who prefers to ride rather than wrench, there are now a plethora of options for new models inspired by classic designs that won’t leave you stranded, searching for used parts or perpetually marking their territory by leaking oil all over your garage floor. Clearly drawing inspiration from the classic XS series, the 2018 XSR700 is one such model.
Main components such as the frame, engine and suspension setup are identical to the XSR’s stable mate MT-07 (formerly known as the FZ-07), but the styling is miles apart. Your eyes can’t help but dart all over its many details as you approach the XSR, taking in all the unique features and styling cues incorporated, like the multi-reflector headlight, big honking radiator, stitched double seat and round LED taillight. The design is somehow classic and modern all at the same time.
The XSR700 has been engineered to be versatile and customizable. If the Matte Grey Aluminum or Raspberry Metallic paint, like that on the gas tank cover of my tester, don’t strike your fancy, you can easily swap or paint as they are easily unbolted in three easy pieces. The Yamaha parts catalog also offers a selection of accessories – from saddlebags to number plates to add substance or style.
Settling into the saddle left me confused where to put the key. Strangely, it is located behind the round LCD instrument gauge. Once familiar with the setup, it would become second nature, but inserting and removing the key made for awkward bookends to each of my rides for the long weekend. The display does, however, offer essential information like rpm, gear indicator and fuel at a quick glance.
Thanks to electronic fuel injection, the 689cc liquid-cooled DOHC engine fires up instantly, eagerly, and quietly; ready to tackle the urban jungle or the open road.
Yamaha claims 50 ft. lbs. of torque from the parallel twin-cylinder powerplant which has been tuned to offer optimal grunt in the low and mid-range. Known for its torquey attributes, the engine’s initial throttle response is strong without being abrupt, easily offering the ability to send the front wheel skyward on command. Power really comes on after about 5,500 rpm, with the power curve tapering off near redline. Acceleration is smooth and predictable with ample torque to swiftly run up through the gears. Featuring a vibration-reducing counter-balancer, the “Crossplane Concept” 270-degree crank ensures your limbs don’t keep vibrating after the bike is shut off.
Compared to its MT-07 sibling, the XSR’s handlebars are nearly 8cm wider and are free of everything but the essentials. Starter, signals, hazard, horn and high beams – what more do you need? Peg placement is comfortable and suitable for long rides or leverage in turns, but not sitting in traffic or at stop lights. Located in line with the 32.9-inch high seat, your choices are to go fore, aft or bow legged which felt awkward even as a six footer.
Some bikes can be a real handful and take time to tame or get accustomed to, but the XSR700 is very approachable. The clutch releases with an ideal amount of effort, roll-on is smooth and everything except for the key is located where you would expect it to be.
Thanks to the Single MonoCross shock in the rear and 41mm telescopic fork up front offering 5.1-inches of travel, the XSR eats up asphalt irregularities with surprising and impressive ease. The 25-degree rake and 186 kg curb weight make it easily tossable into the twists and turns. Predictable and substantial stopping power is provided by dual hydraulic 282 mm discs with 4-piston calipers in the front and a 245 mm disc with single-piston caliper out back. ABS is standard equipment and thankfully strikes the balance between being useful and not overly intrusive, both of which can be disconcerting.
New Yamaha Bikes for a New Season
The total package is one that would ideally lend itself to indoctrinating new riders, but would be anything but boring for experienced ones looking for a ride that will do most of the things you want it to and do them well.
Available at your friendly local Yamaha retailer for only $9,599.00, the user-friendly performance and ergonomics of the XSR match its styling – comfortable, easily accessible and engaging without being overly aggressive or polarizing. What you see is what you get.