CAFÉ RACER SHOOTOUT
BMW R ninet Racer v Triumph Street Cup v Yamaha Abarth v Ducati Scrambler Café Racer
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...