XSR700: Yamaha embraces the neo-retro craze with “modern classic” MT-07 makeover
As Yamaha embraces the neo-retro frenzy that has taken over the motorcycle industry, its XSR700 is the first model inspired by the Yard Built custom series to go into mass production. The brand new vintage-styled MT-07 (FZ-07) variant draws influence from the Faster Sons concept motorcycle, with its name paying homage to the iconic XS650 twin from the 1970s.
The basis for the XSR700 is the MT-07 roadster, and in technical terms there isn’t much to separate the two models. Engine, frame, suspension and brakes are identical, as Yamaha understandably relied on a very competent package that has hit the best sellers’ list in several countries. The 689 cc twin with the crossplane 270-degree crank pushes out 74.8 hp (55.8 kW) and 68 Nm (49.9 lb-ft) of torque, which is more than enough for a vigorous ride from the 186 kg (410 lb) motorcycle.
The vintage effect is provided by elements such as the headlight, the aluminum fuel tank and the tail/seat unit. Complemented by scrambler-style handlebars, the result arguably owes more to Ducati’s Scrambler than the Faster Sons custom that Yamaha states as a source of inspiration.
Available in Forest Green and Garage Metal colors, it will go on sale in November, apparently after a proper presentation at EICMA in Milan, Italy. The XSR700 will be escorted by a substantial catalogue of model specific accessories as well as a dedicated clothing line. The only thing that remains to be disclosed is the price tag. In Europe the MT-07 costs in the range of €6,000 to €6,500 (US$6,500-7,000) depending on the country, and goes for $7,000 in the US. If the XSR700 attracts a similar price tag, it would make for a pretty attractive value-for-money bike.
The modern classic scene has boomed in the last few years, encouraged by the phenomenal success Triumph has enjoyed with its Bonneville series. Individual custom builders have flooded the global market, offering a huge variety of builds ranging from rejuvenated old motorcycles to modern models obscured behind retro designs.
Several mainstream manufacturers have also jumped in for a slice of the pie. Honda came up with the CB1100 classic roadster and BMW invested on the R NineT, yet it was Ducati that hit the jackpot with the already iconic Scrambler. The Italians report a 22 percent sales hike for the first half of 2015, with almost a third of this achieved single-handedly by the Scrambler – 9,000 units by June for a motorcycle that hit the markets in March! Can they produce them fast enough?
Yamaha is acting upon what appears to be a carefully designed strategy. For several years it has been marketing the Yard Built custom series as a collection of one-off motorcycles by renowned custom shops from all over the world. All these customs are based on the Sport Heritage lineup, spearheaded by the mental V-Max and also including the XJR1300, XV950 and the SR400.
A few days ago Yamaha announced a competition for its European dealers to create their own customs based on the above Sport Heritage models, using only official after-market parts and accessories. Later in the year, the same competition will open up to the public. Sounds like a very clever way to form a bond with customers, create a lot of publicity and market the accessories’ range all at the same time.
The Faster Sons custom project is a Yard Built spin-off series, not necessarily restricted to specific models. Yamaha uses this concept to sponsor fashionable events like the Wheels and Waves in Biaritz, France in June, headlining with a parade of Yard Built customs and the public debut of the first Faster Sons custom, a Shinya Kimura café racer take on the MT-07. The XSR700 unveiling came less than a month later. We should expect more such models from Yamaha in the near future.
The competition is definitely planning several more modern classics. Triumph is about to reveal a new liquid-cooled 1,100 cc Bonneville engine and is rumored to use it in at least three different models: a classic roadster, a scrambler and a bobber. Some of these have already been photographed during testing. BMW will almost certainly present a scrambler version of the R NineT, while Suzuki is said to have a Gladius-based scrambler on the way.
Is this going backwards or, as Yamaha eloquently put it in the video presentation below, born tomorrow?