Hot new bikes

TESTED: Yamaha Abarth, SCR950, and new In­di­ans

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents - By Si­mon Har­g­reaves MCN TESTER

Yamaha’s 2016 XSR900 is a street­bike suc­cess story. It takes the MT-09’S charis­matic 847cc, 115bhp in­line triple, die-cast ally frame, up­graded sus­pen­sion and suite of trac­tion con­trol and en­gine mode elec­tron­ics – and en­dows them with vin­tage colour, styling and er­gonomics to cre­ate a great mid­dleweight road­ster.

The lim­ited-edi­tion XSR900 Abarth takes the base XSR900, al­ters the rid­ing po­si­tion and adds tasty cos­metic mods to cre­ate a col­li­sion of new tech and old style. It’s a 1960’s café rac­er­cum-mod­ern sportsbike mash-up – and it’s an­other clas­sic Yamaha. But it’s a clas­sic that won’t suit every­one.

Yamaha built the new XSR spe­cial in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Fiat-owned Ital­ian car-tun­ing com­pany Abarth. Both have a long-term as­so­ci­a­tion with Yamaha and spon­sor the Mo­togp team. Re­stricted to a once-only run of 695 bikes, the XSR900 Abarth is made up of parts from Yamaha’s ac­ces­sories cat­a­logue and ex­ist­ing mod­els – ace bars, Akrapovič steel and ti­ta­nium ex­haust, the nose cone from the XJR1300 Racer – mixed with be­spoke Abarth items – a strik­ing ‘af­ter­burner’ tail unit, solo sports seat and spe­cial grey and red paintscheme with Abarth lo­gos on the fuel tank, front mud­guard and tail.

The Abarth’s ace bars are the same item as of­fered in Yamaha’s cat­a­logue for the reg­u­lar XSR900. They’re a nod to the in­verted cowhorn bars rid­ers re­versed on their road bikes back in the 1960s, to get a low-down racer look as they bombed round Lon­don’s North Cir­cu­lar. The bars are ex­tremely low, drop­ping up­per body­weight onto fore­arms and wrists, and bring­ing the Abarth’s speedo al­most up to eye-level.

The rid­ing po­si­tion de­clares it­self im­me­di­ately. There’s no es­cap­ing it; it’s rad­i­cal al­right. It feels cool and pur­pose­ful to ride with hands down by the front wheel spin­dle, but af­ter a few min­utes the only way to con­tinue is to shift weight distribution. The best tech­nique is to grip the tank, sit for­ward, tense long-ne­glected ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles, and ro­tate wrists as if do­ing press-ups. It sounds un­com­fort­able – but as a cop­ing strat­egy it works well and the Abarth could be rid­den a fair dis­tance this way.

But every­one knows the best way to deal with a sports rid­ing po­si­tion is to speed up. And the Abarth is very good at speed­ing up, thanks to a bar­rage of glis­ten­ing, pris­tine torque spun from the three cylin­der’s crank like a layer of fine silk wrapped round a fly­ing house brick. The en­gine pours it out, sig­nif­i­cant and im­mensely con­trol­lable. It’s a solid, road-based power fig­ure too – 115bhp is in the Goldilocks zone of per­for­mance, nei­ther too hot nor too dull; just fast enough to be the thrilling side of in­ter­est­ing.

The Abarth’s sus­pen­sion is more civilised and so­phis­ti­cated than the MT-09’S, let­ting the bike sweep through bends in a stream of feed­back, dig­ging in when grip is needed front or rear. Top brakes too – power and con­trol, when you need it.

The ef­fect of the rid­ing po­si­tion, chas­sis abil­ity and power de­liv­ery pro­duces an out­stand­ingly sporty, Sun­day ride. You’d think twice be­fore tak­ing the Abarth on a mo­tor­way slog, but for short-range chi­canery it’s hard to think of an­other bike that’ll do it with such panache.

‘The best way to deal with a sports rid­ing po­si­tion is to speed up’

Stylish seat unit and nose cone works well on the Abarth

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