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Bike reviews

Reviewed: Yamaha MT-09

Yamaha MT 09 Rider on Road

Yamaha’s MT-09 has been a huge hit for the Japanese brand, spawning over 200,000 sales globally. It’s had two significant updates (in 2017 and 2021) and a whole host of variants including the XSR retro, Tracer 9 sports-tourer and the up-coming XSR900GP café racer (not to mention the wider MT family, the MT-07 and MT-03 twins, and the single-cylinder MT-125). So, it’s perhaps no wonder that the new 2024, ‘fourth generation’ incarnation, on face value at least, is little changed, with the now 890cc 117bhp triple and Deltabox frame virtually identical to those of the 2021 model.

But that would be a mistake: instead, the new MT-09’s a revelation. A significantly revised riding position with 30mm lower bars and 30mm more rearward footpegs gives it a conspicuously sportier ‘super naked’ attitude, all-new bodywork including tank, two-piece seat and three-LED ‘face’ headlights (which reminds this reviewer of the first Iron Man character), sharpens up its looks, while an updated spec, including new 5” TFT dash, switchgear, Brembo front master cylinder and improved quality all-round polish the previous and slightly budget-feeling rough diamond into an all-round gem that can compete with the best. It’s the classiest, most enjoyable and most refined MT-09 yet.

 

Yamaha MT 09 infront of hils

 

Performance and handling

Although the MT-09’s famous triple is largely unchanged from the 2021 version, when it grew to 890cc and was tweaked to meet Euro5, there’s little reason to complain. It still delivers 117bhp and remains one of the best all-round motorcycle engines on sale today. Engine mounts have been tweaked to accommodate the bike’s revised posture while gearbox revisions help the updated quickshifter, which is now slicker and quicker on both up and downshifts, and the airbox has been updated (with neat mesh vents now atop the tank) to improve the aural experience. The overall result goes as well as ever, characterized by immediate, intoxicating grunt from the lower reaches before driving through a fat, characterful midrange towards a top end rush that’s a match for any bike of this capacity. There are few bike engines better. 

The chassis, too, is largely unchanged. The forks get heavier spring rates, the Nissin front calipers are now operated by a new Brembo radial master cylinder, but the aluminium Deltabox as introduced in 2021 is the same. As a result, the bike’s more nose-down attitude and revised riding position both make a big difference. The sense of sporting readiness is enhanced, the connection to the steering more immediate and integrated and the feel from the front brakes is better, too. It all adds up to a ‘middleweight naked’ that’s right up there with the best, Triumph Street Triple included – but at a temptingly affordable price.

 

Yamaha MT 09 Rider

 

Looks, comfort and equipment

Naturally the new MT-09’s looks and uprated equipment are what you notice first. Side-on, gone is the old, slightly tall and messy hybrid street tracker/roadster silhouette. In its place a more purposeful, nose-down, sportier posture. Apart from the different bars and peg placement, that’s been achieved via a new tank (which, due to its sharp shoulders, required an all-new production technique). Still 14 litres, it’s broad and flat on top yet heavily scalloped and slim towards the rear. In addition, there’s an all-new, now two-piece seat which is equally slim but all-day comfortable. The result is slim, roomy, natural and neutral that was immediately easy to get on with. We rode the bike at a press event arranged by Yamaha and the set-up seemed to suit all riders, from under 5’8” up to my 6’3”.

Finally, at the front, there’s a new ‘face’ comprised of three LED lights – one main for high and low beam and two smaller, lower riding lights with the trio combining to somehow remind of Iron Man’s facemask. The overall look is decidedly sportier, more integrated and more purposeful.

 

Yamaha MT 09 Gears

 

Yamaha MT 09 Display

 

On board, the second thing you notice is the improved spec and build quality. Up front is a new 5” TFT dash which is an update on the similar item introduced on last year’s Tracer 9 GT+. It is slick, smart and impressive with four different themes and nav’ and music/communication via Bluetooth and Yamaha’s MyRide app. This is all accessed by equally new switchgear, again an evolution of that introduced on the GT+ and which accesses most functions through the left switchpod via chunky joystick and return button. There’s even a new indicator switch which is now a rocker rather than a toggle. It’s all classy, quality fare, mostly intuitive and effective (although it took me a little while to attune to the new indicator switch), and a quantum leap forward from the basic, plasticky items of early MT-09s.

Nor is that the end of it. Where even with the last model, it wasn’t that difficult to either be irked by the styling or bemoan the odd ‘budget’ element, the quality and refinement of this new one is everywhere, with seemingly no corners cut and a sheen of class everywhere. The mesh grilles atop the fuel tank are a nice, noisy, touch too, amplifying the sound of the soulful triple.

 

Yamaha MT 09 Front Profile Studio Image

 

What’s it cost and should I buy?

But perhaps best of all is the fact that this new, improved, more refined, more involving and better equipped MT-09 is barely any more expensive than the old one. At £10,100 it’s very difficult to fault as an all-round, fun-packed ‘naked’, is significantly cheaper than rivals such as KTM’s 890 Duke or Ducati’s 937 Monster and the only area I could even attempt to criticize is the (very) slightly basic front and rear suspension, which is arguably a tiny bit soft and offers little adjustment. Most won’t have an issue and if you do there’s the option of the upspecced MT-09SP which comes out next month! For the rest of us, however, the latest MT-09 is now more irresistible than ever.

 

Yamaha MT 09 Winding Road

 

2024 Yamaha MT-09 specification

 

Price:                                            £10,100

Engine:                                      890cc triple, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, liquid cooled

Power:                                          117.3bhp (87.5kW) @ 10,000rpm

Torque:                                        93Nm (68.6lb-ft) @ 7000rpm

Transmission:                        Six-speed, chain final drive

Frame:                                          Aluminium Deltabox

Suspension:                                 (F) Non-adjustable 41mm USD fork, (R) preload adjustable mono shock.

Wheels:                                    Cast aluminium, 17”/17”

Tyres:                                     (F) 120/70 x 17, (R) 180/55 x 17

Brakes:                                         (F) 2 x 298mm floating discs, four-piston Nissin radial calipers, Brembo master cylinder (R) 245mm disc, two-piston Nissin caliper. Cornering ABS as standard equipment

Weight:                                     193kg (kerb)

Wheelbase:                               1,430mm

Seat height:                               825mm

Fuel tank:                                 14 litres

Service intervals:                       6000 miles/12 months

Warranty:                                 24 months unlimited mileage

Contact:                                    www.yamaha-motor.eu

 

 

Words: Phil West 

Photos: Yamaha

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