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Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

by editor

Yamaha’s XSR Heritage Sport models take styling cues from the past, but performance is bang up to date.

Nostalgia is all the rage nowadays. Hipsters are pulled in by the lure of the past and everything old is new again. Beard trimmers, microbrewery workers and coffee roasters all know this and market accordingly. The motorcycle industry is no different.

Some brands go right for the jugular. Think of the Triumph twins styled on their 1960s counterparts, right down to fuel-injection systems designed to look like vintage Amal carburettors. Royal Enfield’s Interceptor is also visually remarkably close to the 1960s model of the same name. BSA is reborn and is offering a modern version of its classic Gold Star. These models look the part and offer an ownership experience with all the style and feelgood vibes of vintage motorcycling, but without the oil leaks and breakdowns.

Yamaha, on the other hand, plays the retro game differently. Instead of re-creating a classic model from yesteryear, the tuning fork engineers have used the modern MT twin- and triple-cylinder platforms to create the XSR range. Instead of full-blown retro, Yamaha terms these ‘neo-classic design’, focuses on performance and bundles them under its Sport Heritage umbrella.

The latest XSRs tip the hat to previous Yamaha models, but it is just a subtle acknowledgement. The new XSR700 has a colour scheme that early-1980s boy racers will remember from the all-conquering RDLC or RZ street-bike range. Top riders back in the day knew nothing could pass a well hidden RD350LC two-stroke, a model thatrightly deserves cult status.

Meanwhile, the 2022 XSR900 references a race bike – Yamaha’s Deltabox chassisframed YZR500 GP machine from the late 1980s. Frenchman Christian Sarron competed in blue-and-yellow Gauloises colours on this model, and despite being more obscure than an RD350LC it’s as cool as cigs and coffee in a Parisian cafe.

Unlike the slightly ponderous Triumph andRoyal Enfield twins, the XSR900 is specced to really blow your hair back, with an 889cc triple-cylinder engine housed in a new Deltabox chassis running on lightweight, spinforged aluminium wheels. The new for 2022 model features the latest rider control technologies such as traction, slide, brake and lift control – all governed by a six-axis IMU offering a level of refinement that would spin the flat cap of a vintage rider.

XSR900 owners are also treated to highspec adjustable suspension for precise handling, a quickshifter for seamless up and down gear shifts, cruise control, and assist and slipper clutch for added refinement.

But like any good heritage model, it’s the styling that’s the main talking point. The round LED headlight, humped seat and drilled aluminium headlight mounts all echo an era when privateers could build and tune a race bike in their home garages with a fair bit of success.

So while XSR styling cues are up to 40 years old, the ride experience is very much 2022. That means owners can enjoy the nostalgia trip at the front of the pack and not get left at the café.

Yamaha’s MY22 XSR900 is available in Legend Blue and Midnight Black priced at $17,299 including GST ride away, while the MY22 XSR700 is available in Heritage White and Heritage Black, priced at $13,699 including GST ride away.

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