The motorcycling world was blessed when Yamaha introduced us to a new-age MT range last year with the first, a brand new triple called the MT-09, landing on our shores in September 2013. A middle-weight parallel twin, MT-07, followed in February of this year which was quickly joined by an entry level, MT-125. Therefore Yamaha are offering models relating to an A1, A2 and A licence.
Two more versions of the 09 (Sport Tracker and Street Rally) and an extra 07 (Moto Cage) have also been added to the hugely popular range. So popular in fact that the 07 and 09 are the second and third best-selling motorcycles across Europe this calendar year. Behind the all-conquering BMW R1200GS if you must know.
The 7th and latest MT family member is the physically largest and has the latest spec engine mapping and a whole host of other upgrades and goodies, it’s a sports tourer called MT-09 Tracer which is due to land in your local dealership in February 2015 priced from £8,149. We’ve been to the world press launch in Southern Spain to be among the first to ride the new Yamaha.
The Tracer uses the same 849cc, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, three-cylinder engine as the MT-09, a fact which immediately excites given the sporty characteristics and revy nature of the 115bhp triple which combines with the stubby, under-belly exhaust to offer a beautiful howling, growling audible note. After a few teething problems with fuelling on the original 09, the refined version of the engine has deliberately been used to offer the Tracer its sporty performance while the long distance capabilities are aided by new fairings and suspension and a larger fuel tank (18 litres, 4 more than the 09).
By the way, in case you were wondering, ‘MT’ stands for ‘Master of Torque’ according to Yamaha’s marketing chaps and the Tracer’s family DNA cannot be mistaken because it certainly has an abundance of torque on offer.
Because the bike has been designed as a sports-tourer, the design and development has naturally focussed on a more comfortable rider and pillion seating position which has been achieved through its taller, wider and firmer seat as well as taller and wider handlebars plus a 30mm adjustable screen. Having covered 160 miles around a combination of tight twisty mountain roads and smooth dual carriageways of Southern Spain I would certainly be ready for another 160 tomorrow and the next day given the comfort of the Tracer.
The windscreen is adjusted simply by unscrewing a knob on either side of the brand-new instrument panel and while I rode with the seat in its highest position at 860mm, it is adjustable down to 845mm with the optional lowering kit available which takes the seat height down to 815mm (same as the MT-09) and adjusts the rear suspension linkage. A good sign of comfort was the lack of leg stretching during the final few miles of the test ride, by any member of the group. I found the footrests ideally placed for the riding position and if you wanted to relax a little while covering the less interesting motorway miles then then simply slide back to the wider part of your seat, up against the front of the slightly raised pillion seat.
So we’ve established that the bike is comfortable but what’s it like to ride and operate? The Tracer has a one-touch master switch and ignition which thankfully is becoming the norm. The gearbox is sharp and quick while the long gears mean you won’t spend your life changing up and down. In turn, it gels nicely by the torque and punch delivered from low down in the range all the way around to 11,500rpm so go on, use all the revs. You can be confident if there’s an overtake to be made and your in fourth gear for example, there’ll be no need to change down.
The throttle is hyper-responsive, sometime a little too snatchy but I actually like that. Others might find it a little aggressive but the Yamaha offers three engine modes to help you; Standard, A or B. Standard is in the middle while ‘B’ is the most gentle. ‘A’ mode is sharper and more direct and while not vastly different the changes are certainly noticeable. There’s the added benefit of being able to alter the modes while on the go all by just closing the throttle once you've tapped the mode switch on the right-side handlebar.
The higher bars mean the Tracer doesn’t have the same dynamic handling capabilities of the 09 but it can’t be knocked in the twisty bits thanks to having a 17” front wheel and a 51:49% weight split courtesy of the positioning of the engine. The motor is low down in the chassis and it’s relatively small too and that helps with the balance and therefore the control of the bike. Thankfully the suspension is adjustable; the 41mm upside down forks on the front and link-type Monocross on the rear could do with being a little firmer to offer a little more confidence in the corners especially.
Yamaha have taken the LCD screen straight from the new Super Tenere and it offers plenty of information a user-friendly way. Traction control is not only standard but it can be switched off from a button on the display. Meanwhile all the usual temperature, average mpg, trip details etc. are displayed on the smaller right-hand screen and these menus are operational via the left-side handlebar switches. With exception to the gear indicator, I found the smaller harder to read while riding. The riding info such as revs, speed, fuel gauge and time are on the main, larger screen.
The more I rode the bike, the better I got on with it. Certainly the theory of a sports-touring version of the MT-09 grabbed my attention and I’m glad to say it’s not disappointed. Taking the character-laden 849cc triple and giving it a new home in a sports-tourer might just give Yamaha another top-selling bike. It’ll appeal to many types of riders but especially those who are looking for a combination of performance from a middle-weight tourer. Yamaha’s claimed specifications are impressive when compared to the Tracer’s nearest rivals which show it to be cheaper, more powerful and lighter but not necessarily better, that’s in the eye of the rider:
Yamaha MT-09 Tracer (2015)
Triumph Tiger 800 XR (2015)
Honda VFR800X (2015)
Oliver Grill from Yamaha’s Product Planning department, said about the Tracer, “Its power-to-weight ratio is great and in the mountains you can be faster even than over-1000cc bikes from our competitors. The low weight, combined with the powerful, explosive engine and the practicality of the bike even for traveling, gives it a unique place in the market. Anything else is much more heavy and more expensive.”
Yamaha say there are over fifty accessories available for the Tracer and our highlights include a full Akrapovic exhaust system, heated grips and of course a pair of side cases.
For a starting price of just over £8,000, the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer offers terrific value although I would have preferred a slightly higher cost if only to have cruise control included.
847cc, 3-cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valves
Front: Telescopic forks, 137mm travel
Rear: Swingarm, 130mm travel
115 bhp / 84.6 kW @ 10,000rpm
87.5 Nm @8,500rpm
Front: Hydraulic dual disc, Ø 298 mm
Rear: Hydraulic single disc, Ø 245 mm
Front: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W) (Tubeless)
Rear: 180/55ZR17M/C (73W) (Tubeless)
Height: 1,345 – 1,375mm
845 – 860mm
Lava Red, Race Blu, Matt Grey
Action camera: Drift Ghost-S
Helmet: Shark Race R-Pro, designed by Rich-art Concepts
Jacket and trousers: Richa TG2 jacket and Richa TG1 trousers
Gloves: Savage Waterproof by RICHA
Boots: S-Speed by TCX
For information on Yamaha insurance policies, click here.
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On paper, the MT-09 Tracer has it all; torque-centric, 115bhp three-cylinder howling engine with a low centre of gravity, super comfortable riding position and an 18 litre tank. It doesn't disappoint on the roads either. Priced very competitively and sure to be a big seller.
Author Michael Mann
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