There can’t be many more logical new derivatives than a Gran Turismo version of the Tracer 900. Yamaha has sold more than 30,000 of the sports-touring triples since launching the MT-09 Tracer, as it was then called, in 2015. Many customers have fitted accessories including touring screens and luggage, so a more comprehensively equipped Tracer coming out of the factory makes plenty of sense.
Hence the revamped Tracer 900 and new 900GT. Both get a new screen, whose wider lower section provides slightly more protection. Its range of adjustment is increased to 50mm, via a new, one-handed pinch mechanism like that on the Ducati Multistrada. Reworked hand-guards help reduce bar width by 10mm, boosting manoeuvrability in traffic although, by contrast, the mirrors are slightly wider to enhance visibility.
There’s no change to the 847cc, twin cam 12-valve triple engine, as used in the MT-09 and still putting out an unchanged 113bhp at 10,000rpm, with a choice of three riding modes. The aluminium main frame is also retained but holds a swing-arm that is 60mm longer, for improved stability and traction. The rear subframe is also longer, giving a bit more room and allowing fitment of rigid panniers, rather than the original Tracer’s optional semi-rigid bags.
The bigger rear end also allows a thicker and wider pillion seat, which is complemented by redesigned grab-handles and extra legroom, thanks to longer rear footrest brackets. A new, slightly thicker seat with multi-density foam is intended to add comfort without altering the ergonomic triangle between bars, seat and footrests.
To this reworked standard Tracer, the GT adds six new features. Most colourful is the now TFT dashboard, unless that is you count the hard panniers, which are matched to the blue, grey or black paintwork. Suspension is upgraded, with fully-adjustable Kayaba forks replacing the standard model’s non-adjustable units, and a hydraulic preload knob plus rebound damping adjustment for the shock. The GT also borrows the MT-09’s quick-shifter, and adds cruise-control and heated grips.
The new seat, shared by both models is 5mm taller, at 850mm in the lower of its two positions (the taller is 15mm higher) but Yamaha says the Tracer’s “stand-over” height is unchanged. It’s a fairly tall bike but most riders should still find it manageable, helped by its fairly light weight of 215kg with a full tank (but not panniers, which add 12kg). Those narrower bars will also help in traffic, where the original model can feel wide despite its generous steering lock.
There’s no reason why this bike should feel different to the old one in a straight line, unless perhaps you like pulling wheelies, in which case the longer swing-arm won’t help. Yamaha’s torquey triple motor is excellent for sports-touring use – or pretty much any use, really. It’s superbly flexible, helped by fuelling that lacks the MT-09’s directness, even in the most aggressive A riding mode, but makes for easy control.
Strong, instant midrange acceleration hardened to an exhilarating top-end charge, and the Yamaha was smooth, too. It tingled slightly through seat and footrests when I cracked the throttle at low revs, but mostly stayed vibe-free, although at some engine speeds there was enough of a buzz to make the mirrors lose their sharpness. The shifter worked well in conjunction with the sweet six-speed box, especially when it was helping smooth up-changes on wet roads. Shame there’s no blipper for down-shifts.
Riding on the Spanish press launch, the Tracer was happy to cruise effortlessly at an indicated 90mph on main roads, the fairing and screen doing a reasonable job of keeping off the breeze. But although the screen’s Ducati-style height adjustment was easy to use, the 50mm of adjustment was nowhere near enough for most riders. Even on its tallest setting the screen generated turbulence that made for a fairly noisy ride.
At least the GT incorporates heated grips, which were suitably warm on their higher setting. I was also slightly disappointed by the TFT display, which is colourful and attractive but not very big, so looked slightly lost in its larger console, and wasn’t especially easy to read at a glance. There was too much traffic to have much need for the cruise-control, which would doubtless be useful on a longer motorway ride.
Despite its longer wheelbase the Tracer still handles like a sporty sports-tourer. It cornered with a light touch on those narrower bars, and made the most of its relatively light weight, as well as Dunlop Sportmax D222 tyres that gripped reliably on some slippery looking roads, without intervention from the two-way adjustable traction control.
The GT’s adjustable suspension worked well at a reasonably quick pace in the morning, giving decent ride quality and maintaining stability in conjunction with that longer swing-arm. There’s an unchanged and fairly generous 137mm of travel up front, and an increased 142mm (up from 130mm) at the rear, where the remote preload knob allows a quick fine-tuning for pillion or luggage.
Things weren’t quite so controlled after lunch, when the roads were finally almost dry and the lead rider upped the pace considerably. Suddenly I was calling on the considerable stopping power of the 298mm discs and four-pot radial calipers, and the Yamaha was feeling distinctly bouncy and vague. But before I had a chance to stop and add some damping, another shower meant we had to slow, so the GT couldn’t show its suspension’s full advantage.
But at least the bad weather gave the panniers a chance to shine as I dragged out the waterproofs yet again. They seemed well made and nicely finished, didn’t leak, locked with the ignition key and held a useful amount despite being fairly narrow, although neither of them can take a full-face helmet. Combining the panniers with a top-box is not recommended, either, though some owners doubtless will.
In other respects the Tracer remains respectably practical. Its unchanged, 18-litre tank is good for a realistic 160 miles at the average of 45mpg we got during our test, which many owners will no doubt be able to better. A 12V socket and centre-stand are fitted as standard, while a second socket is available as an accessory, along with parts ranging from billet levers and engine protectors to an Akrapovic silencer.
If there’s a touch of disappointment at the Tracer GT, that’s perhaps because its core elements of engine and frame are so good that they could have provided the basis for a brilliant sports-tourer, instead of merely a very good one. If the GT had a taller screen with more adjustability, a larger TFT display with genuine connectivity, more fuel and luggage capacity, plus ideally a two-way quick-shifter, it really would be a top all-rounder.
But if the GT doesn’t quite deliver its full potential, it compensates in familiar Tracer and MT-family way: with a very competitive price. At £10,649 it’s more expensive than the standard Tracer 900, which is £9249, but undercuts the big Kawasaki Versys, has a useful edge over the Multistrada and costs far less than BMW’s S1000XR. The standard Tracer 900 has some worthwhile upgrades too, but the GT provides the biggest sports-touring bang for the buck.
Riding the standard Tracer 900
While Yamaha’s press launch was mostly about the new 900GT, an opportunity to ride the updated standard Tracer showed that it might make sense for some riders. The new screen and seat are identical on both models, as are the engine and most chassis parts, so in many situations there’s no difference between the two.
Although the standard 900’s LCD display isn’t as attractive as the GT’s TFT unit, and can’t be toggled from the bars, it shows the vital information and is fairly easy to read. If you opt for the standard model you’ll also have to make do without cruise-control and the quick-shifter, but the GT’s panniers and heated grips can be added as accessories to the standard Tracer.
The other difference is suspension, where the GT offers full adjustability up front, instead of just preload and rebound damping; and more usefully has a remote preload knob that allows easy rear shock fine-tuning to suit pillion or luggage weight, instead of knuckle-skinning with a C-spanner. It’s a shame Yamaha didn’t fit the remote adjuster to the standard Tracer too.
Mixed weather, limited time and lack of two-up riding meant we didn’t get full benefit of the GT’s adjustability, but it’s certainly a superior set-up. Given that adding panniers and hot grips to the standard Tracer would use up most of the £1400 price difference, most riders are likely to find the 900GT a better value proposition.
Yamaha Tracer 900GT [2018 Tracer 900]
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled DOHC 12-valve triple|
|Bore x stroke||78 x 59.1mm|
|Maximum power||113bhp @ 10,000rpm|
|Maximum torque||65lb-ft (87.5N.m) @ 8500rpm|
|Front suspension||41mm Kayaba usd telescopic, 137mm travel, preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment [preload and rebound damping adjustment]|
|Rear suspension||Single Kayaba shock, 142mm wheel travel, preload and rebound damping adjustment|
|Wet weight||227kg [214kg] (full tank; GT including panniers)|
|Fuel tank||18 litres|