Yamaha Tracer 900 and GT (2018) | Review

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a KTM 1050 Adventure. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty, bumpy backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

With over 35,000 sold, the Tracer 900 has been one of Yamaha’s best-selling bikes since its launch in 2015, and it’s the company’s most popular sports tourer – leading the Tracer 700, and vastly outselling the FJR1300.

For 2018 the bike gets rider and pillion comfort improvements, a narrower form and a larger screen. There’s also a GT version, which comes with hard panniers, heated grips, cruise control, a TFT dash and uprated suspension.

Three years ago I rode a Tracer 900 through four countries; it was a great machine then, and with the improvements made for the new models, it’s even better…

 

The standard Yamaha Tracer 900 is available in two colour schemes for 2018

 

Price

The standard Tracer 900 now costs £9,249 – that’s about £100 above inflation over each of the three years since its launch in 2015, but given the pound’s drop in value it’s not surprising.

The Tracer 900 GT costs £10,649, but given its specification it’s still a hell of a lot of bike for the money.

 

The 2018 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT gets three colour schemes

 

Power and torque

Peak power is 113.5bhp (84.6kW) @ 10,000rpm, with peak torque being 64.5lb-ft (87.5Nm) @ 8,500rpm. Compared to its big-brother, the four-cylinder MT-10 engine, the Tracer 900 of course doesn’t have the sheer punch of the 998cc machine, but what it does have is a very usable spread, from very low in the rev range, right up to the rev limiter at 13,500rpm.

It’s in the mid-range that the engine doesn’t have the thrust of something bigger, or a V-twin for instance, but that’s not to say it’s lacking. As a touring machine, an aggressive delivery wouldn’t prove popular with your passenger, but there’s more than enough if wheelies are your thing, or you want to really hustle on back roads or even the track. And it’s deceptively fast, so fortunately the brakes are excellent.

 

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

The 847cc three-cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-valve motor has a distinctive growl, particularly from the rider’s position. Needless to say, the exhaust is muted, but worked hard it’s got a great noise when being followed.

The clutch is cable operated, but the slip-assist unit makes for a lighter action that shouldn’t get tiring in traffic (as well as allowing for aggressive downshifts without locking the rear wheel).

There are three riding modes, which while not reducing top-end power, do have a big impact on the fuelling. Like other Yamahas, the throttle tube has two mechanical cables attached to it, which run under the tank to a potentiometer – it’s ride-by-wire, but with the feel of a traditional mechanical linkage.

‘Mode B’ translates your throttle movements to the most gentle power delivery. ‘Standard’ is more immediate, while ‘Mode A’ gives the most direct delivery. I wouldn’t call it aggressive, and found I preferred this mode during our 140mile test route, despite half of the day being in the rain. I typically go for a softer delivery, but liked the response, particularly when driving out of corners. Surprisingly, the faster riders in our group of journalists (some of whom were racers) preferred ‘Standard’, though they’re more aggressive with the throttle, and use all of its travel a lot more than I tend to.

Something that really impressed me was how clean the fuelling was – while the same engine in the MT-09 had a snatchy throttle at launch, that’s long gone. From a closed throttle there’s little or no lag, and the pickup is easy… far better than some other modern fuel injection systems.

 

The standard bike has the same engine as the GT model

 

Economy

Given that I achieved an average of 44mpg during the launch, the 18litre (3.96gallons) tank should give a range of up to 174miles. The best achieved on the day was 47mpg (186miles), while the worst was 40mpg (158miles). Realistically, on a typical road ride you’ll probably be looking for fuel around every 150miles to be on the safe side.

 


The swingarm is longer than the 2017 version, to accommodate the increased passenger space

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

For 2018, the Tracer 900 has a longer, 592mm swingarm, taking the wheelbase from 1,440mm to 1,500mm. Made of die-cast aluminium (the same as the main frame), it’s been introduced to compliment the larger subframe, which creates more room for both the rider and pillion, as well as providing greater luggage capacity.

The basic machine weighs 214kg when fully fuelled, which is just 4kg up from the previous model, while the GT model is 215kg (without its luggage, which adds 12kg). Neither is unwieldy, and given that at 5’10” I found it easy to stand over the bike with both feet flat on the floor, it’s not an intimidating machine.

The Tracer 900 has a 41mm KYB front fork that’s adjustable for preload on both legs, and rebound damping on the right leg only. The KYB single shock is adjustable for preload using the C-spanner in the supplied tool-kit.

The Tracer 900 GT has a fully adjustable KYB fork (easily recognisable by its gold finish), and a KYB shock that’s adjustable for rebound damping and preload (in 25 steps) using a really handy remote adjuster.

We swapped bikes halfway through the day, so I only experienced the standard bike on wet roads, and without the fast sweepers that we took in the morning. The more basic suspension did seem a little less compliant over harsh bumps than the GT’s kit, but I’d say both are set up for a more touring-focussed ride. At very high speeds I thought the GT was a little vague and inaccurate feeling – to be fair these were sweeping bends at autobahn velocities, and we had panniers on, but the soft forks meant that a brisk pace on tighter roads also felt less dynamic than a more sport-orientated set-up, and braking deep into corners saw the bike slightly more reluctant to tip in than some others.

If you’re riding two-up, and especially if you have luggage, be sure to crank up the preload; the ground clearance of 135mm is 5mm less than the MT-07, and with two people on board the centre stand gets very close to the ground thanks to the large degree of sag at factory settings.

 

The GT is easily distinguished by its gold forks

 

Brakes

At first, I found the brakes to be a little sharp – having ridden a few machines recently with less bite from the front anchors, the radially-mounted four-piston calipers and standard master cylinder surprised me. But after a few miles I was dialled in, and appreciated the sheer power and feel, which got me out of trouble a couple of times when I went into corners faster than my confidence would allow, including in the wet.

The calipers are a semi-monobloc design, in that the main body is a single casting, but the piston bores are machined from the outside in, then plugged. This is a more simple construction method than a full monobloc (which needs the bores machining from within the small gap for the disc and pads), but still offers a greater degree of rigidity than a traditional two-piece design.

 

The pillion seat and grab rails are larger than on the previous model, while the screen is adjustable with one hand

 

Comfort

Comfort has been the main focus of the changes to the Tracer 900 for 2018…

The bars are 16.5mm narrower to help keep your arms out of the wind, while redesigned hand guards make the overall width of the bars 100mm shorter, making filtering easier.

The screen is larger and adjustable with one hand, so no more faffing with the two knobs of the old bike. It does give increased protection, and diverts wind well; at 5’10” I could still feel the wind on my head, but it was only at very high speeds that I noticed any real buffeting (and by this point, the screen was shaking too).

The rider and pillion seats are larger, offering more room.

The seats have thicker, multi-density foam and a new shape to reduce pressure points. It means the seat height has gone up 5mm to 850mm (or you can pop the seat off and move its mounting plate without any tools for an 865mm height), but the new shape promises no change to the stand-over height. If you could get your feet flat on the floor on the old model, you’ll be able to here as well.

The pillion pegs are 33mm lower, so your passenger has more space. The downside to this is that if you ride the Tracer as a sportsbike – with the balls of your feet on the pegs – the pillion pegs tend to knock the backs of your boots. Honestly, I think Yamaha made absolutely the right decision in giving your passenger the most comfort possible.

The pillion grab rails are larger so it’s easier for your passenger to comfortably hang on.

I had a sit on the back of the bike, and found it very spacious and comfortable – your passenger should really appreciate the 2018 Tracer 900.

From a rider’s point of view, the new seat is good looking, but I did find I was getting an achy bum after a day’s riding, which wasn’t helped by tending to slide forward, so I couldn’t take full advantage of all of the room in the saddle. Others were standing up by the end of the day, but not all were grumbling – take a test ride and see what you think.

 

The standard model is well-specified, despite losing out to the GT

 

Tracer 900 equipment

As standard, the new bike gets a centre stand (brilliant for looking after the chain), a 12V power socket to the left of the dash, remote headlight beam adjusters, a one-touch adjustment screen, two levels of traction control plus off, three riding modes and ABS (as all other new bikes over 125cc), which is non-switchable.

The mirrors give a great view behind, helped by the 30mm-longer stalks, while the LCD dash, which is split into two parts, has plenty of info including gear position, average fuel consumption, clock and a gear change light that can be set to flash at the revs of your choice.

The pillion seat can be removed with the ignition key, but there’s not a huge amount of space under there – you might be able to get a small U-lock type disc lock in. The battery is under the rider’s seat, which can be removed by lifting out a rubber bung then pushing a lever across – no tools required.

 

The GT model gets the TFT dash, luggage, and uprated controls

 

Tracer 900 GT equipment

The pair of 22litre colour-matched panniers are the most obvious extra that the Gran Turismo model gets – these are opened and removed with the ignition key (if bought for the base model, they can also be keyed to your ignition), but they’re not quite large enough to fit a full-face lid.

There’s also a full-colour Thin Film Transistor (TFT) dash, but more likely to sway buyers are the heated grips, cruise control and that remote preload adjuster on the rear shock.

The GT comes with a quick-shifter too, which can help give smoother up-shifts (there’s no auto-blipper for downshifts), reducing the number of times your passenger bashes their helmet into the back of yours.

The cruise control works in fourth, fifth and sixth gears between 31mph (50km/h) and 112mph (180km/h); it’s operated really easily by the left switchgear, which is different to the standard model, and also has a button to select the traction control mode (you need to reach to the clocks on the standard model). TC can be set while riding with the throttle rolled off, but you have to be stationary to turn it off entirely, and it’ll turn on again when you next start the bike.

The right-hand switchgear is also upgraded on the GT, with an easy-to-use thumbwheel that allows you to cycle through the dash menu and set the heated grip temperature.

 

How much can you carry on the Tracer 900?

The Tracer 900 GT weighs 215kg, but the panniers that come with it (and their brackets) add a further 12kg, taking the bike to 227kg – still impressive given that it’s with the luggage.

The maximum gross weight of the bike is 394kg; take 227kg off that for the bike with a full tank and the luggage, and you’re left with 167kg. My wife and I together weigh about 145kg, which potentially leaves 22kg for our clobber. The panniers are designed to take 8kg each, so we wouldn’t have a lot to spare.

Having said that, motorcycles are built for a global market, so need to handle predictably for any weight of rider and pillion with a full load of luggage. A safety margin has to be built in for poor maintenance by the rider (under-inflated tyres for instance), so a lot of motorcyclists do carry more. A top-box bracket is available for the bike, but Yamaha says it must only be used instead of panniers, not with them. Of course, a rider on their own would have a lot more carrying capacity, and might decide to load up with a bit more luggage than is recommended.

 

 

2018 Tracer 900 and Tracer 900 GT verdict

Bikes have got more expensive over the past couple of years, and regardless of your political stance, the weakened pound has not helped. The Tracer doesn’t feel quite the bargain it used to, but the GT, with its great level of equipment, certainly seems the logical option if you can afford it. The panniers have a very neat fitting system, so it’d be a shame to use an aftermarket brand that requires an additional frame, plus the GT’s remote preload adjuster is almost an essential. I’m not so worried about the TFT dash or quickshifter, but the heated grips and cruise control are very attractive.

While it’s billed as a sports tourer, and is very capable, the riding position and relatively soft setup make the Tracer 900 more focussed on touring. Which I believe is exactly the right move – this is a bike for exploring over a day, a weekend, or much longer, and your passenger will love it too. Well worth a test-ride…

 

Three things I loved about the Tracer 900…

• Improved comfort for your pillion

• Great engine

• High spec on GT model

 

Three things that I didn’t…

• It’s not the comfiest bike I’ve ridden

• Not much space under the pillion seat

• It’s a bit of a jump in price over the old model

 

2018 Yamaha Tracer 900 and GT specification

Price

£9,249. GT model: £10,649

Engine

847cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valve triple

Bore x stroke

78.0mm x 59.1mm

Compression ratio

11.5 : 1

Power

113.5bhp (84.6kW) @ 10,000rpm

Torque

64.5lb-ft (87.5Nm) @ 8,500rpm

Transmission

6-speed, chain final drive

Frame

Die-cast aluminium with aluminium swingarm

Front suspension

41mm upside down KYB fork, adjustable for rebound on right leg and preload. GT model: Fully adjustable 41mm KYB upside down fork.

Rear suspension

Single KYB shock adjustable for preload. GT model: Fully adjustable KYB shock with remote preload adjuster

Front brake

2x 298mm discs, four-piston semi-monobloc calipers

Rear brake

Single 245mm disc, single piston caliper

Front tyre

Dunlop Sportmax D222, 120/70 ZR 17M/C(58W) (Tubeless)

Rear tyre

Dunlop Sportmax D222, 180/55 ZR 17M/C(73W) (Tubeless)

Overall length

2,160mm

Overall width

850mm

Overall height

1,375mm (max 1,430mm)

Seat height

850mm or 865mm

Wheel base

1,500mm

Minimum ground clearance

135 mm

Wet weight (including full oil and fuel tank)

215kg GT Model: 215kg (sidecases and brackets add 12kg)

Fuel tank capacity

18litre

Fuel consumption

44mpg (tested)

Oil tank capacity

3.4litre

Contact

www.yamaha-motor.eu/uk

To insure this bike, click here

 

Yamaha Tracer 900 & 900 GT review

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