Yamaha XSR700 review and road test

At the beginning of 2014, Yamaha unveiled their MT-07, a versatile, lightweight, flexible-chassied, leaner-friendly middleweight that punched well above its weight. It also appealed to the commuter, the more experienced rider who was after a bit of weekend fun…and pretty much anyone in between.

Priced extremely sensibly and oh so rewarding to ride, the MT-07 gained plaudits globally, winning several bike-of-the-year awards on its march to becoming the second best-selling bike in Europe in 2015.

Then, back in July of this year, the Japanese firm announced the next string to their Yard Built / Faster Sons customisable bow; the first mass-production model from the Faster Sons concept, XSR700. A bike that would mix all the good bits from the MT-07 with the learnings from the Yard Built philosophy since its inception back in 2010. Combined, Yamaha aim to create an exciting modern classic extensibly at home either in its standard format or as a base from which the owner is encouraged to create their very own, bespoke machine using any combination of the 40 genuine accessories on Yamaha’s shelves.

Yamaha XSR700; mixing sport heritage with modern technology

VIDEO REVIEW: see the XSR700 in action

Using the same torquey 75bhp, liquid-cooled, parallel twin, 689cc engine from the MT-07, the team behind the XSR700 project set about creating a motorcycle that would offer “tonnes of customising possibilities,” says Yamaha Product Manager, Shun Miyazawa.

The £6249 price tag makes it attractively only £500 dearer than the ABS model of the MT-07 yet £1000 cheaper than Ducati’s Scrambler Icon. The XSR700 will be available in the UK from January 2016. And just like the 07, an A2 restrictor kit is available reducing the power in accordance with the licencing regulations to a more humble 46.6bhp.

And it’s with this kit in mind when we look at who Yamaha are aiming this Faster Sons concept at. Like Ducati who marketed their      new 2015 803cc air-cooled twin model along with its accessories and apparel as ‘Scrambler’ and not as ‘Ducati’, in an attempt to appeal to a different audience, using alternative promotional ideas away from the traditional Ducati brand. Yamaha also appear to be positioning their mass market, off-the-shelf Yard Built project machines at a newer audience, those who perhaps don’t yet ride but who are interested in the style, trend or even engineering and customising opportunities.

To class as being individual then of course they didn’t copy each other. Both manufacturers can rightly claim their idea came first but rather than compete against each other, and Triumph, there’s an opportunity here to encourage more motorcyclists on the road. What a win that would be for manufacturers, existing riders and all the dealerships and service providers associated with the industry. There are in excess of 6 million licence holders in the UK, yet only 1.2 million ride. The more riders, the stronger the industry which in turn brings commercial benefits to those within it and they passed to the consumer. Win-win.

These three manufacturers and several others have the young, the new, the less experienced, the customiser as their target audiences.

Designed by Yamaha’s external design house, GK, Jun Tamura (Head of Design) introduced a 5-stage concept brief for the bike: he aimed to interpret the words Modern, Timeless, Original, Neutral and Universal and has created a retro-styled, lightweight bike for riders of all abilities.

XSR700 is available in two colours: Forest Green and Metal GarageXSR700 is available in two colours: Forest Green and Metal Garage

But what are the main differences between the XSR700 and its older brother, MT-07?

The frame is the main change. The XSR700 uses its engine as the stress member on the frame, incorporating it into its shape. This leaves no down or bottom tubes therefore reducing weight down to 186kg, wet i.e. ready-to-roll. While that figure is actually 4kg heavier than the MT-07, it’s still 40kg lighter than the current Triumph Bonneville, one of the Yamaha’s main competitors.

The subframe is new and has been designed in such a way that encourages customisation. The same goes for components such as the front mud guard, which is only attached by four small bolts, and the aluminium panels surrounding the 14-litre fuel tank are easy to replace without disturbing the whole tank and pump. Yamaha will release 40 genuine accessories at the same time as the XSR700 to offer an opportunity to those who are perhaps new to customising to select the parts they want. Two recommended concepts will be available too. More of that later.

Also new on the XSR700 are the round, LED head light and rear light plus the round and very easy-to-read LCD display. The heritage/sport classic nature of the bike and its accompanying clothing range suggests an open-face helmet is the required look and this would help when glancing at the display mid-ride. For a 6-footer like me without a hipster beard who wears a full-face lid, it means a head move instead. And this is because the handlebars are positioned towards to rider by comparison to the MT-07 to encourage a more upright riding position thanks also to the increased seat height of 815mm, 10mm higher than the 07.

Revised riding position includes closer bars and a taller seat

This alternate riding position works in favour of the XSR, a taller ride offers more leg room. There’s also the narrow waist of the bike where the slightly pitched seat meets the fuel tank, again offering a decent position from which to move your weight as you flick the agile bike around the twisty bits. The tank is sculpted to hold your knees while the foot pegs and gearshift are ideally situated for a comfortable riding position. The gearshift is direct, short and without issue while the gear indicator is illuminated as part of the funky new round display.

It’s got some pace too, the liner torque delivery from the 75bhp parallel twin is very smooth and surprisingly powerful in the mid-rpm range. The red line is at 10,000rpm but even rolling on the throttle in 3rd or 4th gear around the 5,000rpm mark at 50mph is very effective to achieve 70mph in no time. Don’t underestimate the 689cc twin, it packs a punch despite being housed in a cool, modern-classic frame.

The gear ratios are long in the XSR from 2nd up. The late bite point of the clutch lever should suit newcomers as should its lightweight feel. 3rd and 4th gear have a great range although 6th is almost redundant because it’s not necessary for anything other than cruising and that isn’t what this bike is about. An around-town commuter, a Sunday bimbler, a garage project, maybe. But certainly not a motorway mile muncher.

Just £6249 and available in the UK in January

Only if you’re really hustling around the twisty bits would the hero blobs on the foot pegs meet the tarmac but there’s plenty of ground clearance and there’s no danger of it being the collector box or sidestand instead. Again, that’s not the style of this bike, as fun as you might want to make your ride!

Its performance in the corners is excellent for a motorcycle not designed with this as its primary responsibility. Like the MT-07, it has a lightweight, compact engine which still provides 75bhp and over 50 ft-lbs torque plus it has quite the dynamic-handling chassis. Add that to the new Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tyres, which have a rather aesthetically pleasing tread pattern, yet proved themselves on the variety of Sardinian roads from pot-holed back streets to fast mountain sweepers. Some with extra, unwanted gravel and others that were fresh with rain. At times when the launch ride picked up pace, the Pirelli’s stood firm and are worthy of praise.

As are the twin, wavy, 282mm brake discs with their Nissin callipers and ABS as standard. The sharp, reliable feel through the adjustable brake lever helps the already very effective engine braking to scrub the speed off.

While not MotoGP-spec, the suspension with its 130mm travel both at the front with the telescopic forks and with the rear monoshock/swing arm link-type, may look a little budget. However, given the price of the bike, adjustable components such as these cannot be expected. That’s not to say they under-performed, far from it. In fact, given the condition of some of the roads I’d go as far as patting them on the back for saving my own back.

The standard seat is a maybe a little firm for some tastes but only if you’re going to be travelling 100-miles or so in one sitting. I’ve mentioned the comfort of the ride and that’s partially attributed to the padding in the removable seat unit. The narrow waist of the seat, shape of the fuel tank and the riding position all contribute too.

For whatever reason, many customisers feel the seat is one of the first changes to a standard bike and we see this with the two official Yamaha customised examples both with alternative seats. Don’t feel this is a reflection of the standard seat though. On the Garage Metal colour option, the two-tone brown seat looks the business. On both colour options, the other being Forest Green, the seat has a neat, sunken XSR700 logo at the rear. Just one of the nice touches that for me, stand this bike above the MT-07 for its more-refined appearance.

Yamaha claim figures of over 185 miles per 14-litre fuel tank but later admitted that while these were homologation official figures from real-life testing, the roads were smooth and straight. After 120 miles of the riding launch, most of my fellow journalists were on or close to seeing that little orange light on the display. The European-spec digital display showed 5 litres per 100 km which equates to a claimed 47mpg.

Liquid-cooled parallel twin 689ccSub frame designed for customisingWavy discs are helped by ABS as standard

The modern-classic style of the XSR700 and the manner in which it has been created from its concept stage to production leaves the customer with an opportunity to easily personalise the bike. Yamaha have given a leg-up with that process by creating a range of suitable accessories and apparel.

The Japanese firm has also created two recommended templates using a host of the accessories, both of which were shown at the press launch. ‘Fun Ride’ is in Garage Metal and features a flat seat, fly screen, chain guard and high Akrapovic exhaust. While ‘All Rounder’, in Forest Green, is equipped with knuckle guards, canvas side bags, fly screen and a single seat unit.

If you’re like me and lack the creative juices or even vision then the official Yamaha Sport Heritage app can help. It includes other models from the same sector; XV950, SR400 and VMAX. Select your model and click on the colours and accessories before seeing a 360-degree view of your own Frankenstein machine.

Yamaha told Bike Social to expect full running versions of the XSR700 on their stand at Motorcycle Live where potential customers can ride one and even win one.



689cc, parallel 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valves

Bore x stroke    

80.0 mm x 68.6 mm

Compression ratio

11.5 : 1

Maximum power

55.0 kW (75 bhp) @ 9,000 rpm

Limited power version

35.0 kW (46.6 bhp)

Maximum torque

68 Nm (50.2 ft-lbs) @ 6,500 rpm


Diamond using the engine as a stress member. No down tubes or bottom tubes


Front: Telescopic forks, 130 mm travel, 90mm trail

Rear: Swingarm, (Link type suspension), 130mm travel


Front: Hydraulic dual disc, Ø 282 mm

Rear: Hydraulic single disc, Ø 245 mm


Front: 120/70 ZR 17M/C(58V) (Tubeless)

Rear: 180/55 ZR 17M/C(73V) (Tubeless)


Overall length: 2,075 mm

Overall width: 820 mm

Overall height: 1,130 mm

Seat height




Weight (wet)


Fuel tank

14 litre


£6249, available in UK from January 2016

Practical, easy to ride and very well priced. Grab a ride on an XSR700


Helmet: Arai RX-7V

Jacket: Tucano Urbano Selvaggio

Jeans: Resurgence Ultra Lite 

Boots: TCX X-Rap W/P

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