September 30, 2020 By C! Magazine Staff Words by Maki Aganon Photos by Randy Silva-Netto

Bike Review: 2020 Yamaha XSR 700

Today’s Performance, Yesterday’s Heritage

It was in March 2016 when the internet broke upon the release of the new Yamaha XSR 700 in France. It was the same year when cafe racers, classic and vintage motorcycles are starting to gain popularity in the Philippine market. It is also the same year when the strong influence of social media platforms jumpstarted motorcycle communities online, events became easier to publish, reaching out to the market is simply a click away, trades and interactions became a whole lot faster.

Today, you can almost Google anything actually, and Google is now actually a verb. Now, what’s the point of putting up details about the XSR 700 when loads of information can be found online? True. Reading further can be nonsense, but I’d rather tell you my story. Would you believe that we only had the XSR 700 for 2 days? The bike I’ve waited to try for so long?! I actually made the most out of it.

A day was all I needed, and I can talk to you about it all day long. This is our date with the Yamaha XSR 700.

Like most people, the very first thing I appreciate is looking at the bike first from all angles, like a dog marking a territory. For a classic, custom motorcycle goofball like me, the first one I noticed is the horizontal line that you can draw from the head to the tail light. It should tell Yamaha’s expression for speed and performance. Next is the overhang – which marks the modern engine and chassis. Lastly, the overall component styling – the bike manifests a lot about high performance racing. From the tank grip to the lightweight part integrations, the design alone tells much about handling and agility without compromising comfort and most importantly, styling and craftsmanship. It looks and definitely feels premium.

The next thing I did was to look at the bike’s appearance from the right side. I wanted the bike to communicate with me. Where did you come from? How would our ride be like? What would other people think about you? These are the questions posed, as I stare at the XSR 700. At least for me, as funny as it may seem, I try to think that this bike has a soul? I felt like I needed to know.

Tradition Infused with Modern Technology

The XSR 700 belongs to Yamaha’s Sport Heritage category. The term Sport Heritage is not just any word, but for Yamaha, it is XSR philosophy itself. The name ‘XS’ pays homage to its predecessor, the 1970’s ‘XS-1 – a 650cc parallel twin’. The ‘R’ was added to represent Yamaha’s racing culture. The XSR means a rich history-bred bike infused with the latest technology. It’s a breed of today’s modern performance and yesterday’s timeless design. The XSR series, including the XSR900, follows the ‘Faster Sons’ philosophy by lauding Yamaha’s heritage with modern performance incorporation. Yamaha’s diligence in creating timeless machine veers away from just simply following trends and fashion. I believe that the XSR series was built out of respect to their ‘Fathers’ while their ‘Sons’ continue to progress in today and future’s bike development. I’m simply in awe how Yamaha and the XSR series steeped in tradition to make something unique, at least in their own terms, with the idea that rideability is still important.

Yamaha XSR 700 is a bike of timeless value cored with timeless racing spirit.

 Yard Built – Designed to be Customized

The XSR700 model is fully customizable. The design is built to be taken apart. The idea that the XSR series can be ‘easily’ customized was conceptualized by Yamaha Motorcycle Project Manager Shun Miyazawa. The XSR700 provides a standard performance-platform for any bike builders. Practically speaking, it can save a lot of time and resources. Most integrations are readily detachable from the tank cover panels, fenders, headlights, etc. Another thing that blew me away is that the subframe is totally bolt-on. Skip the grinder and customizing your bike is easier than a bottle of beer. The rear subframe is one of the most notoriously grinded out parts on most customized bikes I saw over the years. It’s fascinating how Yamaha thought about how important it is for people to personalize their own bike. The XSR700 provides people to make bikes their own without having to face the re-engineering process. The people from Yamaha already did that for you. All you need is your imagination.

Built Around The MT-07 Platform

The XSR700 is built around the MT-07 platform. A Crossplane Concept based, 689cc engine bike widely known as a very good all-rounder bike. The MT-07 engine is a CP2, 2-cylinder giver of a deep linear torque that ensures you performance. It has (55 kW (74 hp)) at 9,000 rpm and 68 Nm (50 lb ft) at 6,500 rpm. The MT-07 is equally a fun and thrilling bike where you can ‘ride at your own pace’ and ‘gun at your own risk’. The bike burns at about 26.4 km/l on the 14-liter  tank. Basically it’s the best of both worlds, especially if you are a daily big bike commuter. Ideally the XSR700, shares the same winning spec advantage of outstanding power-weight ratio of the MT-07. The lightweight frame is also the same with the MT-07. It should contribute to agility and easy-handling. With the XSR700, your seating posture is upright, compared to the MT-07s’ slightly ‘attack-mode’ posture.

 A Triple Threat – Mid-Sized Classic

In my first 15 seconds mounting the bike, at 5’6″ I have 30% of both my feet touching the ground with 835mm seat height (higher than MT-07). The bike’s weight totally complements it at 186 kg (410 lb) (wet). My riding posture is totally upright with 740mm tapered aluminium handlebars (79mm wider vs MT-07). The slim seat is comfortable, especially when standing idle in traffic. You also have a retro-styled round panel, with easy to read info, including a gas gauge on the lower portion. Seating posture is very comfortable.

From Yzone, I had to take the XSR 700 around Ortigas to see how it would fare in the city. The acceleration is easy on the throttle, yet it gives when you ask for it. It’s very easy to manoeuvre through traffic, thanks to the wider handlebars and light frame. Surprisingly, the bike is agile and fairly comfortable. The engine heat emission is fairly tolerable. The bike grunts well, but not totally annoying with the low mounted exhausts. I easily found the XSR700 good for short errands, quick meetings and definitely an easy commuter for a 700cc bike, but most importantly, you can count how many necks you break when you take this bike around. This bike is a looker and be prepared for quick chats with total strangers. The XSR 700 is an exceptional city bike.

The following day, we took the XSR700 out on the mountain roads. The ride is unbelievable. On paper, the bike had a lot to brag. Does it walk the talk? It definitely did. I was having a blast out there. Long hairpins, switchbacks, full straights, this bike is an acrobat. When you talk about performance, Yamaha lives up to expectations. The power to weight ratio is spot on. You can flick the bike easy as you please. It doesn’t go as sharp as the MT-07 but it is graceful on corners yet active going out. It has a strong power delivery output, with standard ABS. The throttle response is steady and linear. Because of the engine, I just couldn’t help but play aggressive; I found the suspension a bit stiff and felt a few bounces on uneven roads. Then I thought this bike was not built to fade in lenses, given the standard ergo, although it can duly perform.

I also thought if you tour with the XSR700, the seat can get uncomfortable, in comparison with the MT-07’s wider seat that can accommodate more butt-space. At the end of the day, our twisties-filled ride is sensational and intoxicating. I didn’t feel tired at all. I just wanted to keep on riding. You can definitely tour with the XSR700. If you want to play sports with it, I’d suggest change into a narrower handlebar.

Final Thoughts

Priced at P479,000 after its initial release this year in Motobuilds Pilipinas 2019, I’d say it’s a ‘smart-value’ rather than ‘good-value’ if compared to other bikes/brands of the same category. The mid-sized big bike category is already a royal rumble. You have to factor in a lot of things. But if you look at the bigger picture considering reliability, after-sales support and community support, it’s worth it. It’s a non-flair go-to big bike for your basic needs and it goes a long way with customizable options – backed up with a legacy. If you are looking for a beginner big bike, this is rider friendly. If you’re an advanced rider, you’ll benefit with superior handling and the right amount of power. The easy customization is a plus for all.

If I were to ride a good looking bike every day that gives me freedom, authenticity and validity with peers, without getting really tired, and customize my bike whenever I see fit, I’d love to have one in my garage sooner or later. I may have a lot of problems cleaning the bike because of it being ‘too naked’. It can be hard squeezing into those tight spaces. I also think that the headlight and turn signals are ‘too big?’ and lastly, I thought the ‘tank’ is pretty modern, or am I just in love with Greg Hageman’s XS650 Tank?

Now, considering the XSR700, would it be a good everyday ride? Absolutely. Strong reliable engine, authentic styling, comfort and performance, Yamaha was able to hit multiple targets with one arrow. City ride, a bit of touring and everyday lifestyle bike, it should score perfect for an all-rounder.

Most people would think that Yamaha simply jumped over the retro-classic bandwagon, but in fact, there is a rich history behind the XSR Brand concept. There is more than just sharing the spotlight to previously released modern-retro bikes in the Philippine market, but I thought, The XSR brand stands tall in tracing down Yamaha’s legendary roots. This bike was developed with one important detail – the consumers in mind.


Specs: 

Engine: Parallel twin, dohc, 8-valve, 4 stroke, liquid-cooled

Displacement: 689cc

Max Power: 74 hp @ 9,000

Max Torque: 50 lb-ft @ 6,500

Transmission: 6-speed

Seat Height: 815mm

Tire, front: 120/70-17

Tire, rear: 180/55 -17

Brakes, front/rear: Double Disc / Disc ABS

Fuel Capacity: 14 Liters

Curb Weight: 186 kg. (410 lbs.)

Price: PhP 479,000

+: Timeless styling with modern technology, high customization potential

-: Could use a comfier seat and a softer suspension damping

C! Rating: 9.5/10

 

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