I didn't have time to post this yesterday, but I cheated on Ruby yesterday. We have a local motorcycle shop in our small town that has just been booming called Caro Motorsports. They just did a MAJOR expansion to a 13,000 sq-ft facility with 12 bays, dynos, a machine shop, as well as a nice showroom. When they did it, they also became an official Yamaha dealer. For their open house for the new facility, Yamaha brought out their Demo Days trailer with street bikes to test ride! (They did motocross bikes last weekend.)
I've been considering upgrading to a newer bike for a couple years now, but been afraid to. I really like my XJ, but I waste a lot of gas waiting for warm up time for short rides. I'd really like to get something fuel injected so I can just hop on and enjoy the ride. However, as much as I love my Ruby, I'm afraid to buy another bike and be disappointed. Unfortunately, there is no Yamaha dealership within a 2.5 hour drive that allows sport bike test rides (yes, I called and asked all of them). You can ride any other street bike or motocross bike, but insurance won't cover test rides on sport bikes thanks to a few stunting morons. Well, I don't have enough spare money to risk blowing $5-6k on buyer's remorse if I don't like the new ride, so I won't buy without a test ride. I even joined a couple other forums looking for an owner that would let me test their bike with no luck, so I was thrilled when I heard we were going to have a local factory sponsored demo event!
They were doing the demos as group rides with an official rider leading and another tailing. They lead us on a pretty good route with some regular highway riding, country roads (common for our area), a couple good straight aways to stretch the bikes legs a bit, and a couple nice corners to get a good feel for stability. It was really enjoyable! Sorry, I didn't think to put my GoPro on my helmet before the ride. I really wish I had! Here's the route we took:
All in all, there were 15 bikes ready to ride, and a couple on the showroom floor available at special request (don't think anyone did request those, though). They were all 2017 models, of course. Here were the options:
Back Row: FZ-09, Bolt, FZ-09, V Star 1300 Deluxe, YZF-R6, FJ-09, SCR950, Super Ténéré
Front Row: YZF-R1S, XSR900, FZ-10, YZF-R3, YZF-R6, FZ-07, FJR1300A
They were allowing 3 rides, but I managed to talk them into letting myself and a guy I met there go on a 4th ride since the bikes we wanted to test were still available. Glad I did, too!
I took a pic of each bike I rode, and one of the owners was there taking pics of most of the riders, that she kindly texted to us later.
For my first ride, I chose the one I really thought I would like the most: the FJ-09. I've grown up riding dirt bikes, prefer to sit up to ride most of the time, and want more power.
This is a very impressive bike! The engine feels amazing! Excellent throttle response, smooth and predictable, and actually too quiet for my taste (only heard a slight whine unless I really got on it). There's a ton of power hiding in that deceptively tame feeling motor. If this is your style of bike, you'll love it. It's not mine, though. I found it very uncomfortable. I really didn't like sitting up so high and straight as much as I thought I would. It really feels like an enduro bike with a high, firm, narrow seat, and wide almost perfectly straight handlebars. It's a very stable bike, but sitting up so high really sacrifices the nimble feeling I'm used to on my XJ. Plus, my hands went numb pretty quick from the straight bars (just doesn't work for me).
For my second ride, I chose the sporty version of my first ride: the FZ-09. I figured this might be a good combination of that engine that impressed me so much, and the nimble sport bike feeling.
I was right...but unfortunately unimpressed. To be clear, the FZ-09 is a really great bike. It has tons of power, but is very tame and enjoyable. It's plenty comfortable and nimble. After riding a faired XJ for several years now, it felt weird to see nothing in front of me. It's a naked bike that sits very forward, so it took a little getting used to. There's really every reason I should have really liked this bike. However, that was it; I just liked it. I wasn't impressed by it. I don't want to make it sound bad, because it is a great bike. I just was expecting more "wow" coming from a 24 year old weaker ancestor. I'd gladly enjoy an FZ-09 if I had one, and it is a logical upgrade for fuel injection and more power, but it didn't inspire me to want to pay for it right away.
For my third ride, I had decided I wanted to try the YZF-R1S. I knew I wouldn't buy one, but I also knew I may never get another chance to ride one, and didn't want to miss the opportunity. However, as I was waiting to sign up for it, a salesman started talking to me about the XSR900. In fact, he was the third person that morning to tell me how much they enjoyed riding the XSR. I had looked at it, and thought it was a really nice looking bike, but was afraid it was too different for me to like it, so I didn't want to waste a ride on it. The way they talked about it, though convinced me to give it a try. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, someone had already signed up for it...but the R1 was still available!
Now I really understand where the term "crotch-rocket" comes from! I mean, I knew in my head, but I'd never really experienced it before. That is one steroid-injected adrenaline-inducing blurred-vision beast of a bike! It quite literally scared me in 1st gear giving it just enough throttle to not stall it...again. Once you get it going, it's like an F1 car: WAA, WAA, WAA, WAA, WAAA, WAAAA; just blasting through the gears as the speedo moves faster than you can read. I had to get used to using only my index finger on the clutch so the rest of my hand could hold on! I feel my heart pounding just remembering it as I write this! About 2/3 of the way through the ride, there's a nice sharp corner. Man, can the R1 corner! I hung back a bit so I could go into the corner with a little speed, and punch it on the way out. I don't know if I was laid down as far as it felt like, but it was low...and it felt great! It laid over with great ease, still felt like it was velcro'd to the road, and kicked off like an Olympic swimmer turning around when I got back on the throttle. Best corner I've ever felt on any motorcycle!
However, that's about all the bike has going for it, as far as I'm concerned. I make it sound like a lot; like I love the bike, but it was really the opposite of the FZ-09 to me. The R1 is all impressive with none of the practicality. It was terribly uncomfortable. Of course, you have to lay out on it, but it just didn't work for me. The tank doesn't come up quite high enough to lean my stomach on (and I have a decent sized stomach), so I had to hold myself up with my hands on the bars...which gets really tiring. I might have felt more comfortable laying down on the tank on a long straight drive, but I'm not sure. Plus, the suspension is way too stiff for our rough country roads. It would be a great freeway blaster, but on regular roads, there were times I literally couldn't see where I was going because my helmet was bouncing and vibrating so much. So, it was a wicked fun experience, but I was right: I wouldn't want to own one for myself.
As I said, since there were still 2 spots available, I was able to convince the organizer to let me take a 4th ride. Fortunately, the XSR900 was one of the 2 bikes left available.
(Sorry the pic is a bit blurry)
I'm sorry Ruby, truly I am...but I am in love! The XSR900 is an amazing bike! Seriously, overall, I have don't think I have ever enjoyed riding a motorcycle that much...and it was a very fun-limited demo ride! It's a very comfortable bike. It really feels like you're riding an old classic bike; like, I could picture an old dual-shock setup in the rear. That's just how it "seems" when you're on it, though. Aside from the classic image (Yamaha calls it "Sport-Heritage"), it has all the manners and capability of an impressive modern machine. It's the same engine as the FJ-09 and FZ-09 in a bike that actually weighs 20 lbs less than our XJ's at only 430 lbs wet. With 115 hp (53% more) and 65 lb-ft of torque (51% more) in such a lightweight and nimble package, it's a thrilling ride!
Thrilling, yet completely controlled. On the R1 (167 hp, 77 lb-ft, 448 lbs), the power was beastly and scary at times; like the Hulk on a rage fest. The XSR feels like Clark Kent; all the power of Superman in perfectly pleasant control. Well, okay, not perfect control, but perfectly pleasant. It's really not too hard to pull the front wheel up if you want to, but it never did by accident. However, it's not the most aerodynamically stable design, either. At higher speeds, the front end feels a bit light. At first I was a little uneasy about it, worrying that it was unstable, but a few miles later I was used to it. The faster you go, the more you can feel the wind on the front end, but once you're used to it, it's not unstable; just noticable.
During the ride, there was a guy on an R6 (117 hp, 46 lb-ft, 419 lbs) that was really toying with it; hanging back, then accelerating hard enough to pull the front end up a few times. Every time he did, the XSR would grunt like an ox and pull right with him. It was just really impressive how much power it had, and yet was so comfortable and easy to control. Oh, and speaking of grunt; it has a really nice exhaust note, too. It's quiet when cruising, and has a nice little growl when you get on it.
The suspension felt about perfect, too. The big bumps were still obviously there, but the little annoying bumps unavoidable on country roads were no more than a little noise as the bike floated over them with the shocks soaking them up smoothly. Yet, it felt remarkably solid and stable when I leaned it into the sharp corner on the ride.
I truly fell in love with the XSR. Like, if we weren't trying to buy a house this summer, I probably would have brought it home. I can't think of anything I didn't like about it, and that was after going into it expecting to not like it. Even the price is pretty good. I'd probably ask $2,500 for Ruby if I was to sell her, and be willing to take $2,000. With little internet effort, I found several leftover 2016 XSR900's for $7,500 brand new from a dealer. That's twice as much as our XJ's were new, but it's 3-4 times the bike with 24 years of inflation. That's a pretty fair price.
For all the bikes I rode, including the XSR, my favorite feature is the "Mode" button. Yamaha is really utilizing technology with ABS, traction control, and more, but the different programming modes are just excellent. For instance, the XSR has 3 modes: "A", "B", "Std". I only had a few miles to play with them, so I didn't really explore the "Std" mode, but "A" and "B" are great. The "A" mode is an aggressive sport mode. The throttle response is quick and very touchy. If you really want to get on it and have fun, it's just that; fun! The "B" mode is perfect for cruising. In the short time I had with it, I don't know what other changes it may make, but it makes the throttle response much more pleasant. In "A" mode, every bump in the road caused the engine to blip just a tiny bit as the throttle inevitably moved a bit. That gets annoying when you're just cruising down the road. In "B" mode, all the power is still there (at least it feels like it), but the throttle isn't nearly as touchy. There's a little bit of "slop" where the throttle can fluctuate a little bit without making the engine jump; bumps on the road have no effect, and it cruises nicely. All it needs is cruise control!
I'm sure there's much more to say, but as usual, I've already said plenty. I'm just glad to have had this chance...and I made sure to tell them all so in hopes they'll do it every year! I found I didn't like the bike I thought I would, and fell in love with the bike I was totally unsure of. This experience could have saved me from a very costly mistake.
Though, there was one significant negative. After it was over, I hopped on Ruby to head to my son's soccer game, and was instantly reminded of just how old and outclassed she was there. Even with that wonderful Corbin seat, Ruby wasn't nearly as comfortable as I remembered after getting off of the XSR900. Then, when I pulled out onto the road, I literally looked down at the throttle to make sure my hand hadn't slipped and let it twist back some. My poor little XJ is so weak! As I twisted the throttle nearly all the way, I thought, "Really?!? Is that all you've got?!?" I never thought Ruby was weak and slow before. I've been tainted.
Seriously though, if you get a chance to ride a Yamaha XSR900, take it...unless you want to keep riding your XJ happily, that is. I know it sounds sacriligious to say this here on XJRider, but Yamaha really hit a home run here, and has thoroughly outclassed our beloved little XJ's many times over with the XSR. Guess what I'm hoping to get next summer (not holding my breath, but hoping)...
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