Yamaha XSR900 Abarth: PH2 Review

Have you spotted the Abarth scorpion logo on the side of the Movistar Yamaha YZR-M1? It's up by the screen on the front fairing. If you have and wondered what it was all about, wonder no more. For the last few years Abarth has been supplying Yamaha's MotoGP team with cars. In fact, Abarth and Yamaha have been working together on projects for over 10 years but, until now, we haven't seen any production vehicles as a result.

For 2017 this has changed with the launch of the XSR900 Abarth, a limited edition bike unveiled alongside an Abarth 695 XSR Limited Edition car. Although calling the XSR a new model is a bit of a stretch of the imagination.

Sting in the tail?
To be brutally honest, the XSR900 Abarth is an exercise in styling rather than a tuned to the hilt special. Taking the standard XSR900 as a base, Yamaha has left the chassis and engine untouched and instead modified the bike's aesthetics using various bolt-on extras. As well as an absolutely stunning 'afterburner' carbon pillion seat cover you get a carbon nose fairing (taken from the XJR1300 Racer) and a carbon front mudguard. Attached to the motor is a road legal stainless steel Akrapovic exhaust system boasting twin stack titanium silencers while the suede seat gains a bit of red stitching. Add to this a tail tidy and a few final touches of grey paint with some scorpion Abarth logos lacquered in it and it all adds up to quite a stylish package. And one that at £9,999 is just £1,700 more than a stock XSR, despite the fact it is limited (like the car) to just 695 units worldwide. But, as you can spot from the images, there is one addition to the XSR that I haven't mentioned - its bars...

According to Yamaha, the 'swallow tail' bars (an American name for what in the UK we call ace bars) give the Abarth rep a 'committed sports riding position.' After riding the rep, I think the only thing that needs to be committed is a date in my diary to get my wrists worked on by an osteopath. In short they are absolutely hideous. In fact, I think they are marginally worse on the XSR than they were on the horrible XJR1300 Racer.

Fashion victim
I have no problem at all with items being added to a bike in the name of fashion, just not when they ruin the fun. And in the case of the Abarth replica, those bars almost destroy what is in every other way a brilliant motorcycle.

The swallow tail bars (which are an official Yamaha accessory for the XSR) are really extreme, not only in their downwards angle but also their position on the bike, forcing huge amounts of weight onto your wrists. On the Abarth you almost feel as if you are lying flat on the bike, which I guess is kind of authentic to retro cafe racers, but for a modern road bike it is way too extreme. At slow speed it only takes a few miles before you are shaking life back into your aching wrists. And if you hit a bump in the road it's agony. Up the pace and things do improve marginally as the wind effect supports your body slightly, helping reduce the strain on your wrists. But it's still fairly uncomfortable. However, there are a few (small) upsides to these bars.

Get the Abarth rep into a set of bends and the drop bars make a bit more sense. Their position is more race-focused than the XSR's stock flat bars, so you feel a bit more in touch with the front wheel. And hanging off is far easier and more natural. There again, I have never found the XSR's flat bars hindered my enjoyment of the bike and they actually help you lever it into bends, so the gains are pretty marginal. And when it comes to braking the Abarth's bars make hitting the stoppers a fairly traumatic experience as your already aching wrists are hammered with even more force, increasing the discomfort levels even further. All in all, they are basically a terrible addition unless you base your buying decision on style rather than riding. Yet despite this, I can't help but look at the Abarth rep with genuine appreciation.

Hand relief
I am a massive fan of the XSR900. Its triple engine is an absolute barnstormer and the chassis and electronics equally impressive. It's one of those bikes that just makes me grin when I ride it and is pure joy on the road. And the Abarth rep very nearly makes it even better. The look is fantastic and the pipes, half fairing and dashes of carbon really work. The 'afterburner' pillion seat cover itself is a work of art, absolutely stunning to look at and it gives the tail a sharp look from behind. The grey paint with the Abarth logo is sporty but subtle (the eagle-eyed may spot it is a different shade to the car's paint) and I like limited edition vehicles and their associated exclusivity.

If you are into retro bikes, but want one that performs with modern spirit, try an XSR900 for size as they are brilliant. But if you are considering the Abarth replica, take one out for a spin and see if you get on with those bars as for me they ruin the riding position and I'm not sure if the front fairing will allow them to be swapped for less extreme ones without running into interference issues.

Yamaha XSR900 Abarth PH Clip - watch the video here

847cc inline triple, 12v
Power: 113hp@ 10,000rpm
Torque: 64.5lbft @ 8,500rpm
Top speed: 140mph (est)
Weight: 195kg (wet)
MPG: 44mpg (est)
Price: £9,999

[Sources: YamahaMotoGP.com]







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Comments (13) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Spannerski 18 Apr 2017

    Anything wearing the Abarth badge should have performance to match.
    I do like the look of the thing.

  • Mr2Mike 18 Apr 2017

    I love the XSR900 (still very tempted to get one) but £10k is a hell of a premium over the standard bike and it doesn't even address the main problem i.e. the budget suspension. It does look nice though.

  • sprinter1050 18 Apr 2017

    Maybe we should wait for Mr Fleegle's verdict.

    I don't believe the "budget suspension" is still a valid criticism on the 2017 MT09/XSR900 is it?
    Unless of course you think every bike should have top spec Ohlins or whatever ?

  • Ho Lee Kau 18 Apr 2017

    I test rode the standard XSR900.
    Already in the standard form it looks very stylish and solid.

    This Abarth version takes it to a different level style-wise, looks really sweet.

  • gareth_r 18 Apr 2017

    The whole "ace bars = cafe racer" thing always amuses me.

    When I was a lad (between the cafe racer heyday and the spread of the UJM to the masses), ace bars, or, even worse, standard handlebars turned upside-down, other than on a production racer or a Seeley Honda, equalled someone who was too poor (or mechanically inept) to do the job properly and fit clip-ons and rearsets. smile

    Those "swallow tail" bars look like standard handlebars turned upside-down, i.e. naff.

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