The MT-09 has a lot to answer for. Thankfully.
Yamaha’s hugely successful triple has since inspired a series of spin-offs that have transformed the company’s fortunes.
The MT-09 was soon joined by the parallel twin MT-07, which was arguably even more successful, and the two machines both spawned alternative versions to suit different tastes.
Both nakeds inspired a long-legged version called the Tracer and a retro-styled variant going under the XSR moniker. And the idea has been a huge success, delivering six flavours of bike from just two sets of base ingredients.
And now the spin-offs have started generating their own spin-offs, with this XSR700 XTribute paying homage to a particular Yamaha legend: the 1981 XT500.
It’s a styling and ergonomics exercise as the XSR700 XTribute is a naked road bike dressed in trailie-style bits, wide bars and pseudo-knobbly tyres… not a single-cylinder trail bike like the XT on which it’s based.
Not that it’s a bad thing. One day the MT-07 will likely be viewed with the same misty eyes as the XT, and combining the performance of one with the style of another is a sensible move.
Photography: Adam Pigott
The MT-07 has rightfully earned a reputation as a belter of a middleweight naked, wrapping its punchy parallel twin in a tight chassis that’s a little underdamped but in keeping with the budget ethos.
Chances of anyone wanting an XTribute as a genuine off-roader are slim, so perhaps we’re better looking at it as an MT-07 for those who don’t want futuristic and angled styling and are willing to pay a premium for that (the XTribute’s £8147 asking price is £1500ish more than an MT-07).
Some of the changes go beyond aesthetics and have a material effect on the riding experience: the handlebars sit slightly taller and are 40mm wider, giving a greater amount of leverage. The flat seat elevates the perch by the same amount over the MT, lifting it from 805mm to 845mm and giving more legroom.
It’ll be seen as a styling point by some, but the stripped-back clocks reduce any risk of information overload. The XTribute’s circular dial is dominated by the speed reading, with a gear position indicator and either time or trips underneath with a rev counter sweeping around from the left. They’re small, but perfectly formed.
Photography: Adam Pigott
The knobbly Pirelli MT60 tyres contribute the least to the riding experience. They’re capable on the road, but it’s clear that styling demands win the day in this area and those who want to push matters will be looking for more road-dedicated rubber.
The majority of potential XTribute owners, though, will be happy with the compromise between looks and performance. My guess is they’ll be looking for a relaxed ride, the punch to make things fun and an authentic dirt bike look.
After spending a few hundred miles on one, short riding bursts either side of Britain’s compulsory Corona lockdown in 2020, I reckon that’s exactly what they’ll get.
There’s nothing frantic about the XTribute. The spec sheet suggests the motor will be strongest from 6500rpm to 9000rpm, between its 50lb-ft peak torque and 55kW peak power. Yet I spent the majority of my time riding the wave from 5000rpm to 6000rpm and found it perfectly pleasant and flexible.
That riding style delivered a pleasing 60mpg and a fun ride without inducing any pressure to perform. Riding a motorcycle in a country fighting a pandemic brings a heavy dose of circumspection. And bikes like the XSR700 XTribute are ideal for that psyche, inducing an element of chill without ruining the riding experience. Regardless of the environment around us there’s a lot to be said for that.
YAMAHA XSR700 XTRIBUTE
£8147 (price correct May 2020)
Engine 689cc parallel twin four-stroke, liquid-cooled DOHC
Bore x stroke 80.0mm x 68.6mm
Compression ratio 11.5:1
Power (claimed) 72.7bhp @ 9000rpm
Torque 50.1 lb-ft at 6500rpm
Fuel system Fuel injection
Tyres 120/70-17 (front), 180/55-17 (rear)
Seat height 840mm
Kerb weight 188kg
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Fuel economy 60mpg (tested)
Optional accessories (as fitted to bike reviewed)
High-level Akrapovic exhaust system £1479
Tank bag (Sport Heritage) £60.20
Tank bag base (Sport Heritage) £62.70