BMW R ninet Racer v Tri­umph Street Cup v Yamaha Abarth v Du­cati Scram­bler Café Racer

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Matt Wildee SE­NIOR ED­I­TOR

With more bikes be­ing un­veiled each year, it looks like the café racer and retro craze is here to stay, and with bikes as at­trac­tive as th­ese it is easy to see why. At a time when sports­bikes are get­ting ev­er­harder to ex­ploit on the road, a 2017 café racer po­ten­tially com­bines the best of modern dy­nam­ics with great looks.

All four bikes here are new for 2017 and each of them is a stun­ner. But which is the best to ride and which can tran­scend its stretched-out rid­ing po­si­tion to be­come a ma­chine with which you can build a re­la­tion­ship ? We spent a day on our favourite roads to find out.

Yamaha XSR900 Abarth No more than the sum of its parts

A spe­cial edi­tion of Yamaha’s XSR900 – it­self a retro ver­sion of the MT-09, the Abarth is a rolling con­tra­dic­tion: Part retro café-racer, part car­bon-clad mod­ernist cus­tom. When the time is right, it’s en­gag­ing and ex­cit­ing to ride. But thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of a tor­tu­ous rid­ing po­si­tion and be­low­par sus­pen­sion, those mo­ments are few and far be­tween.

The lim­ited-edi­tion Abarth model uses a com­bi­na­tion of be­spoke parts (such as the de­li­cious car­bon tail unit), those from Yamaha’s ac­ces­sory cat­a­logue (the ace bars are an op­tional ex­tra on a stock XSR) and Yamaha’s parts bin (the car­bon head­light cowl is from the dis­con­tin­ued XJR1300 Café Racer).

Though it com­bines old and new in a way that pleases many, the de­tail­ing is in­con­sis­tent. The fin­ish of the twin Akrapovic pipes is flaw­less but the bent metal fair­ing sup­ports look like some­thing you could make in your garage, es­pe­cially com­pared to the brack­etry on BMW’S classy R ninet racer.

Dy­nam­i­cally, there is a huge amount go­ing for the Abarth. The 847cc triple is one of the most en­ter­tain­ing mo­tors on the planet, de­liv­er­ing a glo­ri­ous com­bi­na­tion of midrange shunt with a wail­ing top-end. It’s matched with

well cho­sen gear ra­tios and creamy fu­elling. Af­ter the com­plaints of the first-gen, modern Yamaha triples, there is no doubt the fu­elling is fixed.

The chas­sis has huge po­ten­tial, too. Its 1440mm wheel­base and sports­bike­like ge­om­e­try gives the Abarth light steer­ing and a sense of agility. The prob­lem is the sus­pen­sion can’t keep up. The su­per-low bars mean the rid­ing po­si­tion only feels right be­ing rid­den faster than you would a stock XSR. And when you do, the bike re­sponds by weav­ing and wob­bling on bumpy roads as the rear sus­pen­sion gives up and the front gets light. Crouched down, the Abarth’s dig­i­tal dash gy­rates in your face, mak­ing it feel even more hairy. But ride it slowly and the rad­i­cal rid­ing po­si­tion is quite lit­er­ally a pain. In town, it would be hard to live with.

Al­though of­fi­cially sold out, there are still a good few avail­able on­line, and while the lim­ited-edi­tion Abarth may not de­pre­ci­ate as much, a stan­dard XSR900 is more fun, more com­fort­able and bet­ter bal­anced. All the ad­vent of the Abarth has done is take an ex­cel­lent bike and make it worse. Con­tin­ued over

‘Dy­nam­i­cally, the Yamaha has a huge amount go­ing for it’

YAMAHA XSR900 ABARTH £9999 113bhp O 195kg BMW R NINET RACER S £11,360 108bhp O 220kg Lim­ited-edi­tion café racer boasts cool styling, loads of car­bon and an amaz­ing en­gine. Just 695 are to be pro­duced. Race-rep retro has a fine chas­sis and styling based on the 1970s R90S. The S has heated grips, LED in­di­ca­tors and spoked wheels. TRI­UMPH STREET CUP £8800 54bhp O 200kg The sporty ver­sion of the Street Twin road­ster has ace bars, sharper ge­om­e­try, plus styling cues from the orig­i­nal café rac­ers.

DU­CATI SCRAM­BLER CAFÉ RACER £9395 73bhp O 188kg A Scram­bler with lower, stiffer sus­pen­sion, clip-ons and bet­ter brakes, it com­bines sub­stance with the bike’s pop­u­lar style.

The smoother the tar­mac the bet­ter...

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