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Yamaha MT-09 SP (2021) - Review

BikeSocial Web Editor. Content man - reviewer, road tester, video presenter, interviewer, commissioner, organiser. First ride was a 1979 Honda ST70 in the back garden aged 6. Not too shabby on track, loves a sportsbike, worries about helmet hair, occasionally plays golf and squash but enjoys being a father to a 6-year old the most.



Yamaha MT09 SP 2021 Review Price Spec_099
Yamaha MT09 SP 2021 Review Price Spec_005
Yamaha MT09 SP 2021 Review Price Spec_060


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Once upon a time, SP stood for Sport Production though you could argue it also means Special Parts, Super Power or even Sexy Pants because the revised 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP has them all. The SP is based on the incoming and heavily revised MT-09 for this model year with its Euro 5-compliant engine that in turn has been increased in capacity courtesy of an increased stroke and therefore power and torque. It’s not the only new part though, despite appearances. The chassis, suspension, headlight, bodywork and electronics have all had a renovation but the SP is the blingier model it gains cruise control, an Öhlins rear shock, upgraded KYB forks and dedicated colours and graphics too.

Since the end of 2013 when Yamaha reintroduced a three-cylinder engine as well the MT name, over 250,000 that carry that moniker have been sold in Europe thanks to its package of being affordable, lightweight and highly engaging. Game-changer is an overused expression but Yamaha’s executives can look back at the MT’s R&D process with a cheeky grin. This SP is the latest addition, in fact, it joins a new MT-07 and MT-09 for 2021 as well as the Tracer 9 (and GT) plus Tracer 7 GT which also descend from or have an affinity with the MT range.

Off we trotted to the glamourous surroundings of mid-Suffolk to kop a first feel of the flighty, fighty super slick triple. Will its eccentric charm be stifled by those Euro regulations or will Yamaha’s engineers be victorious?


  • Value for money despite the +£10k price tag

  • An already brilliant engine just got even better

  • Steering; light, easy, direct

  • New instrument panel is small

  • Switchgear is outdated and not backlit

  • Limited lock-to-lock for low speed manoeuvres

Come for a ride on the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP

Upgraded engine, chassis, suspension, electronics and appearance but has it lost any of that sublime character? Mr Mann finds out.


Yamaha MT-09 SP Price

How much is the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP? £10,202

Available in dealerships right now but in just the one colour called Icon Performance which matches the R1M, the graphics and blue/black colour sets it apart from the MT-09 range. Yes, it’d be nice to have other colour options but this deep and moody look suits the MT demeanour and then there’s the exclusivity of its appearance along with the gold Ohlins RSU peeking out.

While a cash price in excess of £10k for the first time for an MT09 model might be met with some teeth sucking, a Yamaha Finance PCP example looks like this, which is an extra £330 deposit and £20/month over the standard bike:


Cash Price


Customer Deposit



36 months

Monthly Payment




Interest Charges


Total Amount Payable


Representative APR



Power and Torque

Peak power may be on par with the KTM 890 Duke R and while nobody rides around at 10,000rpm – if you did on this 3-cylinder you’d need some very good ear plugs – it’s good to know Yamaha have not only seen those Euro 5 rules but raised them too. It’s the mid-range torque allowing you to boot out of the corners or for overtaking where the SP excels. The charisma of the engine has the rider swooning every time they accelerate through 5/6,000rpm and beyond. A peak torque figure of 68.6ft-lbs or 93Nm can be found at 7000rpm and that’s a 6% increase on the 2018 model while at 1500rpm lower, while peak power is up from 113.4 to 117.4bhp at an identical 10,000rpm by which time the bike is screaming, or whatever the term for a huge howl is.

Because of that thick spread of very useable torque, you can just as easily and gracefully glide around the villages, towns, cities and anywhere with a 30mph limit trouble-free as you can wind it on as soon as you pass that encouraging national speed limit sign. The unremitting power, power, power as you twist that throttle grip is ruthless as it metaphorically grabs your stomach and tenses it… all this for a shade over £10k. And just think, it’s ‘only’ listed as having a peak power figure of 117.4bhp thus proving a read of a spec sheet doesn’t give you the right to demonstrate expertise. Coupled up to ride-by-wire action plus refined, revised electronics with a new 6-axis IMU and you’ve got a new level of sophistication to keep both you and the bike in check.

A choppy throttle action was evident in the first generation of MT-09 but that issue has been diluted to a degree. You still want purpose and the ability to instantly attack and that is still apparent but the lurching has thankfully long gone.



Engine, Gearbox and Exhaust

At the back end of 2013, Yamaha’s MT range was relaunched with the MT-09, the ‘Master of Torque’ lived up to its name with a short wheelbase, a brilliant engine character and oodles of mid-range boost for plenty of acceleration joy. Yes, there’ve been several updates since but none as comprehensive as the 2021 model including the standard MT-09, this SP version and of course the Tracer 9 (and GT) which all use the same platform. Euro 5 emission regulations offered the opportunity for Yamaha to increase the stroke and therefore capacity of the 3-cylinder motor which went from 847cc to 889c. New crankshafts, pistons, conrods, different camshafts, barrels and heads were all part of the engine’s overhaul that resulted in more power and torque while losing none of the triple giggles.

It’s the heartbeat of the bike with instant and urgent action which is almost electric-esque that climbs smoothly but purposefully through the rev range from a relatively sedate 4,000rpm through the big switch around 6,000-6,500rpm (where the rev counter turns from white to green to denote you’re in the peak torque range) where things start to get interesting towards the red line much later than the peak power at 10,000rpm. It’s addictive to hear the engine and feel that rush, and the bike seemingly eggs you on to feed it more. The quickshifter works both up and down now and it’s a peach. Gear changes are silky smooth with little or no jerk and minimal interference to power delivery and despite the technology, I still find myself using the clutch between first and second (up or down) just to iron out any nasty jolts, yet with Yamaha’s system my intervention isn’t required.

The new engine and exhaust system has obviously had to meet the emission regs and while many silencers have fallen foul in the looks department, at least Yamaha’s is tucked neatly out of sight, sort of. Praise must be directed at the engineers who redesigned it, added more capacity, power and torque without compromising the performance or, importantly, noise. Earplugs in or out the MT-09 SP sounds exciting. A three-cylinder motor is expected to but this has a two-tone orchestral note – low and grumbly sub-5k rpm that quickly becomes a warm hug of a howl gaining in pitch as you climb the revs.



Yamaha MT-09 SP (2021) Comfort and Economy

One specific difference between the MT-09 and its SP sibling is the double-stitched seat. And having read Kev Raymond’s review of the 2021 MT-09, one of his complaints lay with the comfort even though their press launch ride was sub-100 miles, oh and the SP comes equipped with a double stitched seat no less. Our press ride was also sub-100 miles with plenty of stopping for photos and messing around on a runway, so it’d be unfair to offer an accurate perspective on the seat comfort for a journey of more than 30-miles for which it's fine.

From a practicality perspective, the narrow tank waist and 825mm seat height makes hopping on and off a doddle, though the engine casing on the right side juts out further than the left and it’s positioned right where your leg wants to be when stationary on the bike. This model has long been welcoming with its rider comfort level and position of that holy trinity of foot page to seat to handlebar triangle. The high, wide bars are perfectly placed for a 6-footer like me to man handle this lithe being through the corners at speed or to trundle around at a more sedate pace. Yes, I’d like a better lock-to-lock turning circle but it’s not a deal-breaker.

Those foot pegs and handlebars are adjustable. I mentioned it in a recent bike review about how a car seat is much more versatile with finding a bespoke setting for the 5’5” 11 stone driver vs the 6’4” 15 stone version, and the same goes for motorcycles although manufacturers are wising up to the demands for flexibility without spoiling the quality of the ride with seat, foot peg and/or bar movement. On the SP the handlebars are already 15mm higher than the 2018 model but they can also be adjusted by 9mm forwards and 4mm up. And similar for the foot peg bracket; 14mm up and 4mm rearward.

The small 14 litre tank won’t get you too far but then again, does it need to? That’s not the style of this Japanese hoodlum. Enough gas to point and squirt with a return, at least from the road miles of our press ride, of 43.4mpg which in theory should offer 133-miles until empty (or should that be MT).



Handling, Suspension and Weight

The MT-09 SP’s road manners are impeccable when you need them to be, like visiting granny for Sunday lunch where you know not to eat the Yorkshire pudding with your hands. This Yamaha can do the towns just as well as it can do the twisty bits but it knows where it would rather be, scampering about on those B-roads with its fast, predictable and assertive handling.

The lower front end for 2021 has improved turning and grip plus those new Bridgestone S22 tyres too. Revised KYB shocks (with DLC coating for less friction on the SP) and the Ohlins rear shock also make for a far comfier ride than the previous generations of MT-09 and SP – they’re manually adjustable too and even have low and high speed compression damping adjusters on the forks. The MT-09’s forté has long been its handling and engine characteristics and now the whole package has been enhanced with a stiffer yet lighter aluminium chassis, lighter subframe (now made from aluminium instead of steel) plus lighter and stiffer swingarm (now mounted within the frame) to create a real weapon on the roads offering the right amount of craziness. The steering is direct, light and easy. Initial turn-in is very good and the bike stays on a line which enhances rider confidence too. It’s by no means an out-and-out sporty ride, there’s enough give in the standard suspension settings to soak up some naughty pot holes and overbanding on the B-roads we explored.

Overall weight has been trimmed by 4kg down to 189kg, including 2.3kg out of the chassis, and with the front-end feel improvements there’s no wonder the bike turns well at speed. Yet over the crests at legal speeds and the front wheel does enjoy being detached from the ground like it’s got an allergy to Tarmac.


Yamaha MT-09 SP (2021) Brakes

Nissin calipers front and back with a new R1-inspired Nissin Radial Master Cylinder offer consistent, powerful and reliable performance. Because the roads were dusty, dirty and full of dead animals, I didn’t brave the cornering ABS deliberately although even with an often intense pace of the ride, the quality of the engine braking (with downshifts), suspension plushness, excellent rubber, the ABS was unused. I shall reserve full judgement until I use them in the wet or when the roads are in better condition. That said, knowing the bike was equipped with the system was enough for me to carry that bit of extra corner speed.



Rider aids

Warning: lots of acronyms heading your way, stay alert. The MT-09 and SP models are equipped with a 50% smaller and 40% lighter version of the YZF-R1’s IMU (Inertia Measurement Unit) aka the bike’s brain. It controls the likes pitch, roll and yaw in conjunction with lean-sensitive rider aids: Traction Control (TCS), Slide Control (SCS – not the sofa retailer), LIFt (wheelie control) each with three intervention modes – or, if you feeling very brave, you can turn them off. Then there’s the ABS (you know what that is) and BC (any guesses…? Brake control, or engine braking). All packaged up in Two preset modes or a manual mode. Then there’s the power delivery modes from 1 to 4 depending on how sharp you want the throttle response.

It’s a good set of options to have in case you’re caught in a low-grip situation or fancy taking it easy. Cruise control is new for 2021 and comes as standard on the SP model with a simple on/off button nestled in between an up/down rocker on the left-hand side of the handlebars for speed adjustments, ideal for chomping through the motorway miles. There’s not much in the way of weather protection so if you are covering ground at 70mph then at least the CC offers some solace.

Yamaha list around 55 accessories for the MT09 all of which will be applicable to the SP model, from crash protection to heated grips to luggage to a full Akrapovič exhaust system ­– even though the stock pipe makes a tuneful racket. And, just like the standard bike, three ‘packs’ of accessories offered through dealers, offering a saving on full retail. They are the Weekend Pack (£692.90) with a front screen, more comfortable seat, soft panniers and a USB outlet. The Sport Pack (£571.40) has brake lever guards, a fly screen and grippy tank side pads. And the Urban Pack (£436.30) has a short screen, a rear carrier, a 39-litre top case, a USB outlet and a central tank pad.



The supernaked middleweights is a thriving class with plenty of choice in the that 750-900cc range, with twins, triples and four cylinder models offering aggressive styling and all sorts of power and torque figures with ample electronic gadgetry to keep it all under control, all with a £5k swing in price.

From Japan, I’ve listed the Z900 but could have easily included Honda’s 2021 CB1000R or the forthcoming upgraded Suzuki GSX-S1000. Equally, I could have snuck in the base BMW S1000R but that’s perhaps a little too lively for these machines:



MV Agusta Brutale 800

Kawasaki Z900 Performance

KTM 890 Duke R

Triumph Street Triple RS


798cc, in-line 3-cylinder

948cc, in-line four cylinder


889cc, parallel twin cylinder

765cc, in-line 3-cylinder


138 bhp (103kW) @ 12,300rpm

123.6 bhp (92.2kW) @ 9500rpm

119 bhp (89kW) @ 9250rpm

121.36 bhp (90.5kW) @ 11,750rpm


64 ftlb (87 Nm) @ 10,250rpm

72.7 ftlb (98.6 Nm) @ 7700rpm

73 ftlb (99 Nm) @ 7750rpm

58.3 ftlb (79 Nm) @ 9350rpm


175kg (dry)


166kg (dry)

166kg (dry)

Seat height





Fuel tank

16.5 litres

17 litres

14 litres

17.4 litres







Yamaha MT-09 SP (2021) Verdict

SP: ‘Simply Perfect’? It might be a stretch but boy oh boy this Yamaha offers a belter of a ride and Mystic Michael can see big sales figures ahead. The feedback is sumptuous from the KYB/Ohlins suspension partnership coupled with the S22 Bridgestone tyres and a lovely lightweight steering feel that’s more direct and predictable now.

Built for disobedience on the backroads but equally as adept for well-behaved commuting or village and town runs, the SP model with those blingy extras over the stock model is well worth a test ride. Will the novelty of the excellent chassis and raspy triple treat wear thin? Nope. It’ll open up a new and indulgent chapter of motorcycling if you’ve not experienced an MT-09 or SP yet. Yes, there could be small improvements here and there, or extra goodies but that’d only add to the price tag, so you find your balance.



Yamaha MT-09 SP (2021) Technical Specification

New price




Bore x Stroke

78.0 × 62.1 mm

Engine layout


Engine details

Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 4-valves, DOHC


117.4bhp (87.5kW) @ 10,000rpm


68.6ft-lbs (93Nm) @ 7000rpm

Top speed

143mph (indicated)


6-speed, constant mesh

Average fuel consumption

TESTED: 43.4mpg

CLAIMED: 56.5mpg

Tank size

14 litres

Max range to empty

CLAIMED: 174 miles

Rider aids

6-axis IMU with lean sensitive TCS (Traction Control), SCS (Slide Control), LIFt (Front wheel lift) and BC (Brake Control).


Diamond style with Crystal Graphite finish

Front suspension

KYB 41mm telescopic forks, 130mm travel

Front suspension adjustment

Preload, rebound and compression (inc. low and high-speed compression damping adjusters)

Rear suspension

Swing arm (link suspension) Ohlins rear shock, 122mm travel

Rear suspension adjustment

Compression and Rebound plus remote preload adjuster

Front brake

Hydraulic dual disc, Ø 298mm

Rear brake

Hydraulic single disc, Ø 245mm

Front tyre

Bridgestone S22, 120/70 ZR17M/C (58W) Tubeless. Aluminium wheels

Rear tyre

Bridgestone S22, 180/55 ZR17M/C (73W) Tubeless. Aluminium wheels


25 degrees / 108mm



Dimensions (l x w x h)

2,090 mm x 795mm x 1190mm

Seat height




MCIA Secured rating

3/5 stars


2 years / unlimited miles



Photos by James Wright (Double Red)

Video by Joe Dick



What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard

  • An ignition immobiliser system

  • A vehicle marking system

  • An alarm system

  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription 

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.