Impression Yamaha XJ 900 N
An encounter with the ex: editor Thomas Schmieder had the opportunity to once again drive the exact same Yamaha XJ 900 N that had once belonged to him. Just like in 1990 a little cocky at the foot of the Hohenneuffen (photo above).
Dear Icks-Jott, I know I made a mistake! That becomes clear to me now, when I got you from your today’s admirer again to go out together. I should never have let you go in 2002. It was love at first sight, back then, when we first met at the trade fair in Cologne, IFMA 1984. You were there. Elegant, seductive and yet not a diva. I fell for your classic beauty immediately.
And didn’t even have the A driver’s license, was only 17. I collected all the articles about you from the start. What had Yamaha built something beguiling there? The knitting pattern was very simple. For the 1985 season, the XJ 900 »F« was given an enlarged, frame-fixed half-shell fairing, including a cubic capacity that was appropriate for its class, 891 instead of the previous 853 cm. And with an identical 98 hp engine and chassis, you, the XJ 900 N, were born as a naked sister model: with tubular handlebars, completely without plastic clothes and only available in Germany.
Your distinguishing mark: the huge 200 millimeter headlight that you took over from the XJ 650, as well as the carrier for the control lights. Your cleavage was adorned by the air scoops from the 1983 model between the engine and the 22-liter tank, which is only bulbous at the front. In addition, the stylish paintwork in black-bordeaux or red-silver, done. And yet “this striptease”, as also certified by MOTORRAD 8/1985, “had about the same effect as if Brooke Shields had taken off a loden coat”. Nevertheless, you were ahead of your time, people wanted to have disguise back then. Only Zephyr and Bandit became a success.
In the mid-eighties my dreams were big and my wallet was slim. Somehow things worked out in 1987, with a civilian salary and a generous loan from my dad. Thanks again for that! Now, 20 years later, you are stepping into my life again with force. As borrowed happiness. It feels great how you park in front of our house in Bonn’s Sudstadt, just like before. It’s good to feel at home with you. After all these years together, I know you inside out. With the little quirks.
For example, the choke cable, which has not properly engaged for a long time, which you have to support a little with your right hand on the carburetor. Everything is so familiar: the angular ignition key, the automatically folding side stand snapping up when you sit down. Also how you want to have some gas assistance when starting, then immediately run smoothly and with a very moderate number of revolutions. Your four-cylinder heart purrs comfortably, discreetly and dull.
Kalonk. Hard hits after a cold start when engaging first gear. »A Japanese BMW«, as a magazine once called you? Well, the elevator effect, caused by the short cardan arm, may be similar; how your tail rises when you accelerate and lowers when you take it off on the 36 mm Mikuni carburettors. But no BMW in the last 30 years has been anywhere near as elegant (and reliable!). You come from another era, that of solid metal.
You are heavy and heavy, solid. 248 kilograms with the good, chrome-plated pannier rack from Hepco & Becker and crash bars. Are modern big bikes, because you were without a doubt one of those, lighter? Your proportions seem a little out of date today. Long, narrow, high. You have to stretch far over the tank, which was so slim that your knees always stick out a little. Even with 1000 kilometers in a row, Ursula and I always sat comfortably on your slippery bench.
You just drive earthy and honest. More comfortable than my friend Frank’s Triumph Speed Triple 1050. Just not half as stable. Konis at the back, Wilbers springs at the front: your double loop made of steel and your slender fork remain somewhat unstable. Your chassis reacts sensitively to disturbances such as longitudinal grooves. You are not unshakable. But not overly sensitive either. Just tell you if too much speed on the country road not only jeopardizes your driver’s license.
You’re a little weak on your feet. But »after all, nobody expects the Playmate of the Month to break the world record in peeling potatoes«, MOTORRAD 8/1985 put this into perspective. And that you commute on the autobahn with your suitcases loaded from 180, so what? In the long run, the wind pressure is neck-killing much earlier anyway. Still, I never wanted an “F” in disguise. What I find really annoying: that your (internally ventilated!) Disc brakes delay more badly than really. Despite steel braided lines, in favor of better meterability: Here, high manual strength meets moderate effect.
On the other hand, your lean angle, significantly more than 45 degrees, can still be seen. And the extra-wide retrofit handlebar from Spiegler really makes you extremely handy. On spaghetti-thin 18-inch wagon wheels with only a fat diameter, you can playfully fall into an inclined position. And at the same speed you need less of it than the fat modern slippers. You wear a 100/90 at the front and a 120/90 at the back. That’s how wide today’s front tires are. The taillights and indicators look all the wider in comparison. I will never forget the moment when you wore the then brand-new Bridgestone BT 45 for the first time sometime around the turn of the millennium.
You were transformed, light-footed and precise. In terms of steering precision, handiness and grip, it was a whole new world compared to the Metzeler ME 33, 55 and 99 that had been used up until then. So much grip even in the rain … We experienced our second spring with the BT 45. But soon afterwards I was unfaithful to you, ran off with modern sports tourers and travel enduros, thought I had to ride something new with a disguise. The world had turned on. But let’s leave that.
Understatement shapes your inner values. Your heart beats to the rhythm of solid Japanese mechanical engineering. Only two valves per cylinder, but also two camshafts and bucket tappets. Plus 16 rows of thick cooling fins. A four-cylinder, narrower than 50 centimeters. It’s no wider than Twins of that time, because you carry your alternator piggyback: at the back, over the gearbox instead of on the side of the crankshaft. All the more proudly you hold four shiny chrome elbows in the cooling airstream, completely uncovered. The narrow oil cooler sits very discreetly above it. Everything built to last. Nearly. Do you remember how overheated you went on strike in the middle of the Louvre on a night tour of Paris? A “heat fault” from ignition coil number 2.
You need ten seconds in fifth gear from 60 to 140. That was great 22 years ago. Today, the highly bred 600s easily undercut. Nevertheless, these hot spurs can not be driven so lazy. Your engine is extremely elastic, switching speed 3000 is enough. Even with 1500 tours in the fifth, you run 40 things without complaining. But easy to turn, no, you’re not really that. Seems a little strained beyond 7000. Especially since the clutch starts to slip a little. To do this, you hang on to the gas as soft as silk and content yourself with five and a half liters of fuel per 100 kilometers.
Have you always vibrated like this? A fine tingling sensation that makes your hands numb. The license plate is already torn. Perhaps you are not properly adjusted and synchronized, says Tom, your current owner. When he talked you out of me, you had already driven around the world twice. In mathematical terms, because we never left Europe. There are now 120,000 kilometers on the clock. And a new, old “N” in my garage. Please forgive me. It had to be easy. There were only three on the Internet in all of Germany. That’s when I struck. Hope you are not jealous. Warmest regards, Your Thomas
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