Yamaha MT-10 vs BMW S1000R: Naked Ambition

Naked Ambition: Yamaha MT-10 vs BMW S1000R

“Revs your heart” says Yamaha’s marketing gubbins about its MT range, which stands for ‘Masters of Torque’ by the way.

They’re not wrong. About either. And if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already read one if not many of the glowing reviews of just how epic the MT-10 is. That’s once you’ve made your mind up about its looks of course; hard as nails or Johnny 5 meets Optimus Prime? Either way, with its very attractive price the Yamaha surely has one wheel on the ‘Bike of the Year’ award.

Forget Prozac, forget caffeine, Dr. Mann prescribes a hearty 158.3 bhp dose of MT-10 for a full factory spec, energy bursting, heart pounding hit of bad ass power to awaken the senses and put a spring in your step.

The new kid on the sports naked block was vaunted as the ‘naked R1’ when first announced, although at first Yamaha teased us all by offering limited details, deliberately no power nor price – two of the key features for building interest. Would it rival the phenomenal Aprilia Tuono V4 or KTM’s mad 1290 SuperDuke each with their 180bhp or were we looking at the 160bhp Ducati Monster 1200 or 138bhp Triumph Speed Triple R as its closest competitor?

As near as some of those four may seem with their specs, power or price, we reckon the MT-10 has come straight for BMW’s supremacy in the market with their two-year old S1000R. But the shocker wasn’t really the match in power and torque figures, it was the £1350 lower price tag of the new Yamaha.

As soon as the first MT-10 stock landed in the UK, we grabbed the nearest S1000R and headed for a multi-part, head-to-head test on the B-roads, at Silverstone on the full Grand Prix circuit and for a round of performance testing with datalogging equipment at Bruntinghtorpe airfield. And it could not have been closer. We’re talking tenths, if not hundredths of a second between some of the measures.

Fighting for the crown: Yamaha MT-10 meets BMW S1000R

As standard both bikes come packed with the kind of plush spec we now come to expect on new models including engine modes, cruise control, adjustable traction control and plenty of dashboard-based measurement options. The majority of S1000R buyers will spend the extra £1400 over the £10350 base price for the Sport model which offers Gift Shift Assist and Dynamic Damping Control among other goodies. While on the Yamaha side of the ring, the base price of £9999 is highly attractive but I would highly recommend the extra £200 on a quickshift and a further £120 for heated grips – that’s still £1400 less than the BM.

The first point to clear up is the misconception that the MT-10 is merely an R1 with higher, wider handlebars and less fairing. Nor is the spankingly good engine simply a detuned version of the Superbike version. Yamaha tell us the bikes were developed simultaneously.

The MT's chassis is 60% the same as its sportier sibling but it has a steel sub and the geometry, namely a lower centre of gravity, has changed to suit more urban riding with stability at lower speed for example. The same KYB adjustable suspension features on the MT-10 as it does on the R1 yet is slightly softer for the different style of riding it’s been designed for. That’s if you can keep the front wheel on the ground for long enough to find out.

The riding positions for both the BMW and Yamaha is idyllically comfortable, taller and more upright than your conventional sportsbike, with plenty of room to move around and enough ground clearance allowing for more-than-necessary lean angles. The Yamaha feels as though it has a wider tank at its waist but its negligible so the shorter rider needn’t worry. The Yamaha's seat at 825mm is 11mm higher than the BMW, though that is still 30mm lower than the R1 emphasising the feel of sitting ‘in’ the bike and that lower centre of gravity I mentioned good for manoeuvring the bike at lower speeds.

Protection from the wind has never been a forte of a naked bike and the BMW follows the unwritten rule at being next to useless with its token gesture of a screen. Yep, there are optional extras which would be suitable for a bit of touring or for the longer journey, just as with the MT-10’s own range of accessories, but the Yamaha’s standard fit protection is by far the more competent.

While the BMW is the sportier and probably quicker over one lap, the MT-10 is where the exhilaration lies

Like being trusted to keep a massive secret and wanting to just blurt it out, I can’t write anymore without waxing lyrical about just how awesome the MT-10’s crossplane, 270 degree, 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, 998cc engine is. It is Yamaha’s not-so-secret weapon and within 60 seconds of riding the Yamaha you too will understand this is something a) special, b) different, and c) worth riding. When a bike shows you a loveable character instantly, like a Labrador puppy wagging its tail and licking your hand, you can’t fail to smile. The torque curve peaks at 82 ft-lbs at 9000 rpm but realistically anywhere from 4,000 – 10,000 rpm and the Yamaha has a deep spread of power alert and ready, driving you hard out of corners as you clip the optional extra quickshifter through the gears. It’s well worth spending £200 on by the way. Yamaha say the airbox is larger on the MT than the R1 hence the benefit in the midrange.

And while the Yamaha is all leapy and excitable from low-range into and across the mid-range, it’s here where the BMW takes over. The two bikes are virtually identical in their performance figures from 0-60mph with the S1000R edging it by 2/100ths of second according to our GPS datarecording figures. However, the BMW shows it’s grunt higher up the rev range when asked to go all the way to 100mph (at Bruntingthorpe airfield) when it gets there over ½ second faster than the Yamaha.

The German entrant of the duo is the more refined in terms of the quality of finish and also the power delivery. Still an absolute peach of a bike two years after its debut and it still out-equips most other supernakeds with the quickshifter (or Gear Shift Assist Pro as BMW call it) plus clutchless downshifts. There’s electronic suspension which is the other feature on the Sports model plus rider modes, wheelie control and of course, traction control. Which is where the difference between prices ends up.

Both bikes also have cruise control – a pre-requisite along with gear shift indicator on all new 800cc+ bikes as far as I’m concerned. The BMWs system is identical to all its other models; the on/off slide switch is then actioned by flicking an adjacent switch forwards or backwards. On the Yamaha the operations are also located on the left-side of the bars although the large up/down rocker switch is above a simply on-off button.

Neither throttle is too snatchy or obnoxious just simply there with power on demand with the slightest hint of throttle movement. I felt alive because the bike felt alive. Just as alive as the brakes in fact. Both have hydraulic twin 320mm discs on the front that coupled with the KYB forks on the Yamaha and the more technically advanced and adaptive electronic suspension on the BMW are both stable and hugely competent should the excitable Labrador bound into the road ahead. The BMW managed to stop dead from 70mph in just 3.3 seconds, 0.4s quicker than the MT-10.
MT-10 is an absolute hoot on track


Pootling down the pit lane ahead of the first session on the Grand Prix circuit at Silverstone’s bike track day and the anticipation of unleashing every single one of the Yamaha and the BMWs brake horses is a nice feeling, particularly when surrounded by heroes on their purpose-built machines. 

Despite the Bridgestone Battlax S20R tyres not being ideal for such purposes, they hold up well enough to test the other attributes such as the sportsbike motor in its more road-relevant chassis.

Give it a lap to warm everything up and by the time you’re accelerating out of The Loop, a slow second gear left-hand hairpin and short-shifting into third for Aintree before powering down the Wellington Straight, the MT-10 drives hard, sitting down at the rear with its softer and more road-oriented rear shock. The front wheel wants to lift, admittedly less so with the throttle cranked open in third, fourth and even fifth. Pushing back in the seat against the small mound in between the rider and pillion helps find the ideal position. The 998cc four-stroke howls beautifully as the MT-10 covers ground quickly, smoothly and noisily. Hard on the brakes and down two gears and lean it over searching for late apex at Brooklands, the Yamaha behaves impeccably.

The MT-10 will max out at, or rather is restricted to, an indicated 164mph (which according to our datalogger is actually 150mph) but as I’ve said, it’s lower down in the rev range where the Yamaha’s performance excels.

It's almost like the BMW takes over from where the Yamaha runs out of steam - its performance is epic yet conservative because rather than shouting about it, the S1000R just gets on with accelerating harder, faster and with a little more stability thanks to its chassis and clever dynamic suspension set-up. The quickshifter is both precise and fast, requiring the slightest touch to feel the pop of another gear being engaged. A lower seat height and longer wheelbase aid stability and offer a slightly sportier riding position. Neither of these two were designed for lap record pace, their engines might be have a sports-based heartbeat but their road-going bodies have more comfort in mind. Fellow tester, Marc Potter, and I agree that if push came to shove, the BMW would win a race.

The BMW suspension suits the track more than the Yamaha


Yamaha MT-10

BMW S1000R

0 - 60 mph



0 - 100 mph



0 - 150 mph



70 - 0 mph



Standing Quarter mile (secs)



Standing Quarter mile (speed)


145.63 mph

0-60mph via a GPS datalogger
0-100mph via a GPS datalogger
0-150mph via a GPS datalogger
Braking: 70-0mph via a GPS datalogger
Standing quarter via a GPS datalogger

So many riding experiences are based on the way you feel during and after the ride, what the bike does to you, how we gel with it and the way it can boost riding confidence. It may be corny but if it makes you happy then that must be worth a few quid, right? The MT-10 does exactly that.

Some may grumble at its front-on looks, I like it, I think it gives it a USP and in fact I’m not a fan of the messy side profile instead but who cares when it treats you like a besotted puppy when you arrive home from work. With a sackful of character that makes you feel as if you’ve won the lottery jackpot, married a supermodel, found the key to eternal health and happiness plus a Brit has finally won a MotoGP race…all in one day, it won’t matter if you don’t like the Yamaha’s looks because you’ll be so deliriously over-the-moon! Putting it simply, the Yamaha makes you feel brilliant.

On paper the BMW might edge it with its extra smidgeon of power, slightly lighter weight, 0.5 litres advantage in fuel tank size and so on...but you don't ride bikes on paper. While I prefer the BMWs more grown-up looks and better finish, it simply doesn’t offer either the value or the heart-pounding nature of the Yamaha.

I love the MT-10 so much that I’ve been costing one up with the optional quickshifter and Akrapovic pipe of course! Hope my wife isn’t reading this.


I was blown away by the Yamaha when I rode it on the launch in Spain a few months ago and now that I’ve ridden it on the road and on the circuit, I’m absolutely loving it.

If there’s a better bike for 'bike of the year' then I don’t know what it is. It’s all about that engine, that monstrous, crossplane crank, Yamaha R1-based motor is simply phenomenal.

The chassis is a bit softer than the BMW, the suspension is a bit more fluid, it’s not quite as sporty but what a bike, it’s big, its comfy, its fast and it wheelies like nothing else I’ve ridden. 

The BMW is a lovely bike but in this company it’s starting to feel its age. The power is all a bit high at the top. As the chassis goes, it’s a sportier ride for sure. The brakes are maybe better, it sits up a bit more on its nose so it gets into a corner harder. Also, in this spec, it comes in just under £12,000 with the semi-active suspension with the quickshift.

The BMW is good but the Yamaha is absolutely phenomenal and if I was in the market for a supernaked bike with about £10,000 in my pocket, I’d buy that Yamaha.

***Thanks to Yamaha UK, BMW Park Lane and Spyderclub for the loan.***

Close up details of the S1000R
Close up to the Yamaha MT-10


From £9,999

BMW S1000R

From £10,350


Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, in-line 4-cylinder

Water/oil-cooled, 4-stroke in-line 4-cylinder engine, DOHC, 4-valve


998 cc

999 cc

Bore x stroke

79.0 mm x 50.9 mm

80 mm x 49.7 mm

Compression ratio

12.0 : 1

12.0 : 1

Maximum power

158.2 bhp @ 11500 rpm

160 bhp @ 11000 rpm

Maximum torque

81.86 ft-lb @ 9000 rpm

82.6 ft-lb @ 9250 rpm

Clutch type

Wet, Multiple-disc

Multiplate clutch in oil bath, anti-hopping clutch, mechanically controlled



Aluminium composite bridge frame, partially self-supporting engine

Front suspension

Telescopic KYB forks, Ø 43 mm

Upside-down fork, diameter 46 mm travel 120 mm, rebound/compression damping adjustable, ride height adjustable

Rear suspension

Swingarm (link suspension)

Aluminium double sided swing-arm, 120 mm of travel, central spring strut adjustable rebound damping; spring pre-load adjustable via 17 mm nut

Front brake

Hydraulic dual disc, Ø 320 mm

Double disc brakes, diameter 320 mm, radial four-piston calipers

Rear brake

Hydraulic single disc, Ø 220 mm

Single disc brake, hydraulic, diameter 220 mm

Front tyre

Bridgestone S20, 120/70 ZR17

120/70 ZR 17


Rear tyre

Bridgestone S20,190/55 ZR17

190/55 ZR 17


L: 2095mm

W: 800mm

H: 1110mm

L: 2057mm

W: 845mm

H: 1228mm

Seat height

825 mm



1400 mm


Wet weight (including full oil and fuel tank)

210 kg


Fuel capacity

17.0 litres

17.5 litres

PRICE (as tested)

£10,199 (inc. Quickshift)

£11,750 (Sport model)