In a sea of four cylinder Japanese superbikes Yamaha's XS750 stood out from the crowd with its three cylinder four stroke motor and shaft drive. In 2016 Yamaha have repeated the concept with the XSR900, a quirky three cylinder sports naked.
How similar are they? Well both model designations begin with an X !
Having said that, they are both triples, both have distinctive sounds, they share a similar design concept and fulfil similar roles in a similar class.
40 years is a long time in machinery design however and todays bikes are naturally a world away from those of the seventies in terms of performance. The XSR is only 100cc bigger in reality but unsurprisingly it has tons more power, the front brake will lift the rear wheel with effort from just two fingers and it has ABS, adjustable traction control and three throttle response settings as standard. It is also extremely light and the old bike feels like a tank by comparison.
Outright performance isn't everything though and the original XS750 is actually plenty quick enough, sounds gorgeous and is a very fine classic motorcycle with stacks of individual character. The ride is far more relaxing without the intensity of the latter evolution. The XS feels like it could be ridden all day with pleasure whereas the XSR feels more suited to a short and frantic blast.
Look at the engine of the original too - an attractive unit with a burly and purposeful appearance as opposed to the motor of the latest machine which has no pleasant aesthetic features and quite frankly looks a mess. Not helping the visual of the modern are the electronic modules that are so numerous that some are even mounted on the outside of the frame in astonishingly prominent positions with no attempt to integrate or hide them.
In conclusion, the XSR is a cool and distinctive looking machine. It is staggeringly quick and super light but the riding experience lacks character and aesthetically it doesn't stand close scrutiny. The XS however has a distinct and unique character and is a joy to ride. It is currently unappreciated by most and as such is very undervalued - surely a situation that will change?