Yamaha XJ900 Diversion Review

Date 22.3.2011

Presented by
  • Motorcycle Trader

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Yamaha XJ900 Diversion

ROCK OF AGES

There are thousands of motorcycles out there that can boast impressive credentials when it comes to being practical, and many of them are certainly very worthy. It’s my contention that the most practical motorcycle ever made may well be the Yamaha XJ900, in either the guise of the XJ900F or the XJ900S Diversion. So let’s consider the things that make up ‘practicality’, and see how the venerable XJs stack up.

 

DOLLAR SIGNS

Let’s start with price. Despite the age of both variants, they still hold their value reasonably well if they’re in good condition. You can pay up to $7500 for a nice, clean and low-kay Divi, ranging down to about $5000 for one with higher kays but in reasonable condition. The earlier XJs, like Deputy Editor Blackbourn’s, still manage to command somewhere in the order of $3500 for a good-un down to about $2000 for one that will do the job so long as you’re not fussy.

 

TROUBLE FREE

Reliability has to be high on the list and both are amazingly robust, so it’s no surprise that XJ9s rate highly in a courier’s assessment. Time and distance will ultimately take their toll on the camchain and tensioners so they can be a bit noisy, especially the F. There can be a clunk from the clutch basket on the Divi and I’m told the regulator rectifiers on the F can give trouble. But really it’s very simple to fix and 300,000km is quite on the cards for either machine.

Simplicity is good and the engineering on both machines, with their roots firmly in the air-cooled ’80s, is quaintly uncomplicated. The F has a capacity of 891cc and boasts a claimed 72kW (98hp) from its DOHC, air-cooled, four-cylinder engine, and perhaps more importantly some 8.3kg-m of torque at 7000rpm. Equally ’80s is the tubular steel chassis carrying a 22lt tank, atop skinny 100/90-18 and 120/90-18 tyres slowed by 267mm discs.

Tragically the Diversion is the last of the XJ line of budget, four-cylinder shaft-drive bikes. By no means exciting as a performance motorcycle and perhaps doomed to be regarded as dull, the Divi has persevered, soldiering on through the H, M and N models with very little in the way of change. That’s a good thing for the ‘would be’ Divi owner.

In truth the Divi is a much more civilised package than its forebear. The rubber-mounted 892cc DOHC, air-cooled, four-cylinder donk is single malt smooth at 110 to 120km/h (around 5500rpm), and there’s enough power at a claimed 66kW (89hp) for deceptively rapid transit.

 

FROM THE SADDLE

Depending on your expectations, both XJs are still excellent at doing what their designers intended, which was to provide all-round capability that focussed on long-distance travel. Both have an upright touring stance coupled with a good footpeg position and wide, supportive seats – perfect for travelling big distances with or without a passenger. Both machines have effective integrated fairings, although the later wind-tunnel-designed Divi unit – which contains a much nicer and more modern dash arrangement – is by far the better of the two. Economy is excellent regardless of model and 20 to 22km/lt is entirely feasible, although both the F and the Divi are saddled with pessimistic fuel gauges.

When it comes to handling, you notice the Divi’s extra 20kg or so of lard, especially when pushing it about, but both bikes really do share quite similar characteristics on the road. Expect the forks to dive alarmingly under brakes, boing about and then settle down briefly before the back end starts to wallow and the steering slowly wanders. Although the F sports twin shocks and the Divi a monoshock, neither will have any damping by now. From 1996, the Divi got preload adjustment, which helped, but not by a huge amount.

Yet with a suspension freshen up, which doesn’t really cost that much, and a firm hand at the tiller, the XJs are more than capable of providing entertainment in the time-honoured manner. Both steer sweetly and hide their weight well once decent tyres are fitted, although to be completely honest the Divi is a better handling unit overall.

The brakes, although low-tech twin-piston units, are actually quite good when they’ve been properly maintained. My overseas experiences on both machines has been that even from 225km/h, you can pull up with confidence, although you do need to be aware of the fact despite the feel, the distance is always going to be longer than for a more modern machine.

 

IN THE WORKSHOP

Both machines are easy to keep going. There’s no complicated bodywork, no liquid cooling, and no techno trickery to get in the way of servicing. As a result, service costs are very reasonable. You can do the job yourself for about $100, or part with about $120 plus parts for a minor service every 6000km, and $250 plus parts for a major at 24,000km.

 

SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?

Absolutely! These babies were built to last and they do. It’s true that a nice F is getting harder to find these days, but they are out there. I recently saw a beauty on eBay for $3000 with less than 40,000km and stainless mufflers. Divis are a little more common but quite sought after simply because they represent the last of the cheap Japanese non-cruiser shafties. Being that much older the Fs are getting a bit noisy, which can put some people off, whereas the Divi is inherently quiet, even at quite high numbers. Yet a new camchain, tensioner and tune up can do wonders for an F if you’re prepared to take the time.

Check for crash damage and make sure the thing steers straight. Thanks to the weak rear shocks on both bikes, they both shake their heads to some extent if you take your hands off the ‘bars and slow down – especially with loaded panniers. Good tyres and a careful eye on the pressures helps, just don’t be alarmed – a gentle hand on one of the ‘bars calms it all down.

Like a lot of Yamahas, the discs seem to warp with monotonous regularity, which results in a pulsing sensation at the lever. All the same, discs are now quite cheap at about $90 from eBay.

 

WHICH ONE?

This is hard as I really rate both variants. The F wins my nostalgic heart for its faithful service over an epic trip a few years ago, while the Divi is a more sensible decision. Both deserve good suspension and the F would get some good shocks, some springs and a revalve at the front, while the Divi would get a lengthened rear shock and a set of straight rate springs married to some decent damping.

Both bikes have surprising amounts of character and there’s no doubt that they are very, very practical at doing everything from commuting to touring without costing much money. Even though I have a Divi in the garage at this moment, I have to confess I’d probably go for the F, simply because not everything should be about being sensible.

 

SUMMING UP

The kind of person who’ll buy a Divi is likely to be someone who got scared off by the price of a BMW and is scared off by the age of an F. An awful lot is going to be down to how much money is in your bank account and the F is always going to be cheaper than a Divi. No matter what model you buy, both bikes are great machines and excellent used buys.

 

THUMPS UP

 • Generous fuel range

 • Smooth shaft drive

 • Excellent comfort

 • Renowned reliability

 

THUMBS DOWN

 • Average brakes

 • Dated suspension

 • No longer available

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Yamaha XJ900F/Diversion

 

ENGINE

Type: Air-cooled, DOHC, two-valves-per-cylinder, four-stroke four-cylinder

Bore x stroke: 68.5 x 60.5mm

Displacement: 891 or 892cc

Fuel system: Four 34mm Mikuni

 

TRANSMISSION

Type: Five-speed, constant mesh

Final drive: Shaft

 

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR

Frame type: Tubular steel cradle

Front suspension: 37/41mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable

Rear suspension: Twin shock/ rising rate monoshock, adjustable for preload

Front brakes: Twin 267/320mm discs with twin-piston calipers

Rear brakes: Single 267mm disc with twin-piston caliper

 

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES

Dry weight: 218/239kg

Seat height: 790/795mm

Wheelbase: 1480/1505mm

Fuel capacity: 22/24 litres

 

PERFORMANCE

Max power: 72/66kW (98/89hp) at 9000rpm/8250rpm

Max torque: 8.3kg-m/8.5kg-m at 7000rpm

 

GLASSES GUIDE

1986        $3400

1987        $3800

1988        $4000

1994        $6000

1998        $6800

2000        $7300

2003        $8200

 

INSURANCE

2000 Yamaha XJ900S Diversion

Quote: $260 (12 months)

Standard excess: $500

Sum insured: Market value

Comprehensive insurance calculated using QBE private use insurance premiums allowing for a 30-year-old rider with 60% No Claim Bonus (Rating 1), cover restricted to policy holder only, travelling less than 8000km a year and living in Melbourne. GST and stamp duty are included. Other options are available – please call 1800 24 34 64 for details.

Quotes current as at March 2011.