2022 Yamaha XSR900: Retro Done Righteously Sporty

2022 Yamaha XSR900 article highlights:

  • Yamaha overhauled the retro XSR900 for 2022 with ‘80s-inspired looks as well as the new chassis, engine, and technology from the recently-updated MT-09
  • The updates have fixed the XSR900’s previous issues and left it as a sharp-looking and sharp-handling bike
  • There are some cheaper retro motorcycles, but the $9999 2022 XSR900 beats them on features and performance

What happens when a retro motorcycle needs an update? A slightly oxymoronic question, sure, but throwback machines can’t wallow too much in the past or they’ll stagnate. Yet if they evolve too quickly, they might lose some of their vintage-like appeal. For some retro bikes, such as the Triumph Bonneville, this results in a careful and sometimes subtle evolution. The 2022 Yamaha XSR900, though, takes a big leap forward. And it more than lives up to the vintage performance machines its revised retro wrapper references.

The 2022 Yamaha XSR900 packs more power into a thoroughly refreshed retro package

2022 Yamaha XSR900
Engine890cc liquid-cooled inline-three
Horsepower117 hp
Torque69 lb-ft
TransmissionSix-speed manual with slipper-assist clutch
Front suspension and travel41mm fully-adjustable KYB inverted fork; 5.1”
Rear suspension and travelPreload- and rebound-adjustable KYB monoshock; 5.4”
Seat height31.9″
Curb weight425 lbs
Starting price$9999

When Yamaha launched the XSR900 a few years ago, it drew inspiration from the original 1970s XSR. But it’s a new decade now, both for the calendar and the bike itself. For 2022, the XSR900 has a new look reminiscent of Yamaha’s 1980s Grand Prix motorcycles. And while the bike under those rad robes uses the same general formula, it’s working with fresh new ingredients.

As before, the XSR900 borrows heavily from the current Yamaha MT-09, which just got refreshed last year. So, compared to the 2021 version, the 2022 XSR900 has a bigger engine and reworked ergonomics. Furthermore, the 2022 bike’s chassis and wheels are lighter and stiffer than before. The retro motorcycle does have stiffer suspension settings and a longer swingarm than the MT-09, though, RevZilla says. Also, rather unusually, the 2022 XSR900 has factory bar-end mirrors.

In addition to using the MT-09’s drivetrain and chassis, the 2022 Yamaha XSR900 also gets its tech upgrades. It now has a full-color 3.5” TFT dash, electronic quickshifter, full LED lighting, and enhanced safety features. Not only is the ABS now lean-sensitive, but it’s now joined by lean-sensitive adjustable traction control, wheelie control, and slide control. Plus, the 2022 XSR900 ditches the 2021 model’s three engine-response settings for four riding modes.

This friendly neighborhood retro bike really puts the ‘Sport’ in ‘Sport Heritage’

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Although the outgoing XSR900 was a fun, rowdy ride, the retro motorcycle had some notable flaws. For one, the bike’s throttle was snatchy, Cycle World reports, and the front brake matched it in aggression. Also, the soft suspension dived under braking and didn’t deal with road imperfections well. The 2022 Yamaha XSR900 fixes all of that.

The new 890cc inline-three engine, for example, delivers power far more smoothly and doesn’t stutter when you hold the throttle steady. Plus, its new electronic aids expand its already excellent performance capabilities. No matter what mode you’re in or what rpm you’re at, this triple rips. Yet the extra refinement hasn’t taken away the crisp response that characterizes Yamaha’s best sportbikes, RevZilla notes.

“This is what the XSR900 should have been all along.”

cycle world

Admittedly, the 2022 Yamaha XSR900 isn’t a sportbike per se. However, it’s definitely a sporty bike, more so than before. The stiffer chassis’ revamped geometry makes the refreshed retro motorcycle far more stable in a straight line and around corners. You won’t dive under braking or wheelie by accident, nor will you slide out if you, say, run into a patch of gravel, RevZilla reports. And the new quickshifter keeps things steady even if you shift mid-corner.

In addition, the extra sportiness doesn’t come at the cost of rider comfort. Well, the new seat gets a bit uncomfortable after an hour or so, CW says. However, while the 2022 XSR900’s seat and handlebars are further forward and lower, the footpegs are lower and farther back. Although the riding position is a smidge more aggressive than the MT-09, it doesn’t strain your wrist or back. But if you need to change things up, the footpegs are adjustable, as are the brake and clutch levers.

The 2022 Yamaha XSR900 still has rad retro looks, but it’s not a slave to style. This throwback machine knows when to take the rose-tinted goggles off.

Is the 2022 XSR900 worth buying over its vintage-style bike rivals?

A green 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS in front of a green 1970s Kawasaki Z550 by a cafe
2022 Kawasaki Z650RS in front of a 1970s Kawasaki Z550 | Kawasaki

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At $9999, the 2022 Yamaha XSR900 costs $500 more than the 2022 MT-09. The latter also has a more upright riding position, RevZilla says, though its shorter swingarm makes it more wheelie-happy. Still, as with many retro motorcycles, you’re mostly paying for the style.

On that note, the 2022 XSR900 costs $1000 more than the 2022 Kawasaki Z650RS. However, that extra grand buys you a more powerful engine, more suspension adjustability, and more technology. Also, the Yamaha only weighs 13 pounds more than the Z650RS. And while the Kawasaki Z900RS can match the XSR900’s features, its 948cc inline-four makes less power on CW’s dyno. Plus, it starts at $11,749.

For roughly the same price as the 2022 Yamaha XSR900, you could get a 2022 Triumph Street Twin. But it weighs almost 50 pounds more and has less power, torque, and features. It does have a lower seat, though, which might tip the scales for shorter riders. And while the similarly-priced 2022 Ducati Scrambler Icon is lighter than the XSR900, it’s also lighter on features.

It seems there’s a lot to like about the XSR900 besides its design, then. Now that’s righteous.

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