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The stylish Yamaha XSR155 is easy to like

This affordable machine is a scrambler from the factory

The XSR155's styling compensates for its small engine. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

It has been a while since I owned a motorcycle with a manual transmission. After I sold my Suzuki Shogun Pro in 2012, I only had automatic scooters because of the worsening traffic condition in the metro. While bikes with manual shifters are a lot of fun, my aging hands just can’t cope with the punishment that clutch actuation brings especially in stop-and-go situations.

You can go on long rides as the saddle is comfortable. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

I do love the Vespa Sprint I currently own, but I miss the fun that can only be had with a manual gearbox. Whenever I can, I take my brother’s Honda TMX for a ride around town just for kicks. And speaking of that bike, I was thinking of transforming it into a scrambler—quite a popular conversion these days. However, parts and labor would cost me a fortune. In addition, the changes could affect the overall balance and rideability of the bike. I began to have second thoughts about pushing through with the project.

While I worked out my options, I was given a chance to review the Yamaha XSR155—an affordable retro-style bike. I made my way to the company’s warehouse in Kapitolyo (Pasig) hoping that the lend-out would help solve my dilemma.

Yamaha didn't skimp on the little details that make the XSR charming. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

The first thing that went through my mind was how beautiful the XSR is. Though the spec sheet says that it and the MT-15 are one and the same underneath, Yamaha has done a great job of prettifying the former. Styling bits like the 10L gas tank and the handcrafted heritage pieces give the XSR more character.

My bums felt at home with the durable but good-looking saddle. The LCD speedometer is nice to look at and legible in all conditions. The XSR is exactly the way I wanted my brother’s TMX to look like. Wherever I went, I got curious stares from other riders. Some even approached and asked me about the demo unit. This bike is that charming.

The engine roars eagerly with small blips of the throttle. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

As mentioned, the XSR and the MT-15 are mechanically similar. They share the same 155cc liquid-cooled engine (19hp and 14.7Nm). I was surprised when I hopped on the bike. It looked heavy but was a lot lighter than I expected. When I fired up the motor, I was impressed by its smooth idle. The assist-and-slipper clutch needs some getting used to, but I eventually got the hang of it. It’s not bad at all, mind you.

Whenever the roads allowed it, I took the XSR all the way to the redline. The engine loves to rev. There is a sudden rush of power whenever the variable-valve timing system kicks in. It’s quite scary at first, and inexperienced riders should definitely be extra careful. But after a while, I was grinning like silly.

Another thing that I really liked was the XSR’s suspension tuning. It has just the right amount of rebound and play, giving you the confidence to take on corners at speed. The system properly irons out road imperfections, so the ride remains very comfortable. The dual-purpose tires are ideal for a wide range of road conditions, so you can go anywhere without worrying about losing grip. If only it had ABS, the XSR would have been perfect.

No problem reading this gauge pod even under direct sunlight. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

It has been a while since I had fun with a bike, and the XSR didn’t disappoint. My short stint with it was enough to make me fall in love with this sweet-looking ride. At P162,000, it is proof that something so good need not be so expensive. Suddenly, my TMX project no longer makes any sense. There is now an affordable machine that is designed to be a scrambler from the get-go. While it serves a niche crowd, there’s no denying that Yamaha has a winner in the XSR155.

Red Santiago

A jack of all trades, Red is passionate about cars, motorcycles and audio. He sometimes drives for a ride-hailing app company—just because he really loves driving.