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Believe the Hype ? Yamaha MT-09 | BIKE TESTS

They say: The MT-09 features a hot new look and a number of additional rider features

PMAC says: The new look MT-09 takes its inspiration from Yamaha’s goggle-eyed litre bike, the MT-10, but it’s undoubtedly an improvement. The hyper-aggressive ‘streetfighter’ beak fits the character of this model much better than the understated unit on the outgoing MT-09. The high-revving, short-stroke three-cylinder engine still delivers raw acceleration, but this year it comes with additional features that really encourage riders to embrace their dark side. In addition to the ride-by-wire throttle with switchable power modes (A, B and Standard) from last year, the 2017 MT-09 also offers a fully adjustable front fork and a quickshifter (QSS) for the bargain price of $12,299 (+ORC). The disproportionately small twin-eye headlight and the over-engineered rear hugger will divide opinion, but they are a step in the right direction.

They say: The new ultra-compact tail end design reinforces the MT-09’s athletic ‘Street Cred’ stance and enhances the bike’s aggressive good looks.

PMAC says: The subframe of the 2017 MT-09 has been shortened by 30mm from last year, and also has a more upswept design with integrated side grills. Together these elements give the bike a futuristic and minimalist look that fits well with its nimble handling characteristics and predilection for ‘hooning’. The high saddle (820mm) makes it easy to move from side to side when you’re scratching through the twisties, and the mushrooming tank allows you to lock your knees in and hang off to your heart’s content. Despite this bias for zipping to and fro at speed, it’s also a surprisingly comfortable ride for long trips with the flattened seat profile.

The LED taillight that shows the letter ‘M’ is a little too close to the ‘Z’ signature lighting that Kawasaki employs on their Zed range, but a little healthy competition is good for consumers and this deliberate move by Yamaha makes it clear that the gloves are well and truly off!  


They say: The MT-09 is the first Yamaha to benefit from this rear fender design… the redesigned rear end gives a more compact and lightweight look that reinforces the feelings of torque and agility.

PMAC says: I’m not sure ‘benefit’ and ‘lightweight’ are the correct words for the new rear fender design as it looks pretty industrial and downright heavy to me. But, we’ve seen when manufacturers get it right (e.g. MV Agusta’s Brutale and Ducati’s X-Diavel) so there’s plenty of room to improve, and Yamaha didn’t become one of the ‘Big Three’ by burying its head in the sand. Once it moves to a more integrated design I’m sure it will be accepted and loved by the cult following that this bike is sure to attract for reasons that run deeper than aesthetics. The short wheelbase and high rear ride height do suggest good flickability, and that geometry is backed up with a stonking three-pot powerplant that will bring a smile to even the most hardened critics.

The stripped-back appearance of the MT-09 is suggestive of a wild ride. Yamaha aimed to make a budget big-bore production streetfighter, and has scored a bullseye with this model.

They say: The new Anti-Slip and Slip-Assist (A&S) clutch gives improved control and gentler handling characteristics when downshifting aggressively – and its 20% lighter lever load reduces rider effort.

PMAC says: The A&S clutch is very refined and prevents rear wheel lock in most road-riding situations. Expecting the crank to freewheel while dropping down to first gear under heavy braking on the track is an unrealistic expectation, but I was satisfied by how it responded given the price point of this Yamaha, and the current standard of slip-assist clutches on the market. When the rear did start to protest under aggressive downshifts with a bit of juddering, it didn’t step out or prevent the bike from tipping in, which is impressive for a bike with such compact dimensions. The punchy short-stroke engine makes it challenging to resist riding like a loon, so this A&S system will likely be a welcome safety net for those stepping up a weight class.

They say: This game changing Street Cred model is equipped with a Quick Shift System (QSS), enabling riders to enjoy faster and smoother clutchless upshifts.

PMAC says: Yamaha has reinvigorated the triple-cylinder machine after more than 30 years of producing twins and in-line fours for the road, and the MT-09 fits perfectly in the company’s newly released supernaked stable. It’s somewhat of an underboss, nestled just below the Big Daddy litre bike (MT-10), but streets ahead of the super-smooth MT-07 soldiers which are selling like hotcakes. In my opinion every one of the MT models has street cred, but the new MT-09 is just a little bit sharper and more vicious than the rest.

I’m a big fan of the QSS. It sounds great and allows you to ride faster and more smoothly both on the road and on track. After a limited time with the bike (half a day on the track and one day on the road) I couldn’t fault the MT-09’s unit for action or reliability. Furthermore, fitting a QSS to a bike at this price point is unheard of, so Yamaha should be applauded. It has lifted the standard for big-bore supernakeds, and with a little luck the competitors will follow suit. Was fitting a QSS a major improvement to the outgoing model? Absolutely.

They say: The MT-09 is also equipped with a high specification front suspension system. Its inverted 41mm forks now feature a new compression damping adjuster in the left fork tube, while the existing rebound damping function is located in the right tube. By locating the compression and rebound mechanisms in separate fork tubes, the flow rate of hydraulic oil can be optimised, giving greater adjustability and more consistent performance.

PMAC says: As a street bike the MT-09 performs well, and there’s definitely been some noticeable improvement on the outgoing model’s 41mm Kayaba front end by placing rebound and compression damping internals into separate fork tubes. However, like the previous model, it is still a work in progress. The 2016 model tended to wallow a little, and while this wasn’t a big issue when commuting, the shortfall did become apparent when the pace hotted up.

The new model feels stiffer and offers greater feedback through the flat ‘bar from the front and rear, as well as a good sense of control when manoeuvring in tight situations or weaving through traffic. The steep head angle (25º) and short wheelbase (1440mm) give this bike an extremely quick turn-in, but this comes at the expense of straight line stability. The bike gets nervous when hitting small bumps, and while trying to hold a tight line through turns on anything but billiard table smooth surfaces. But it’s important to keep in mind that this machine is built to a budget and very few, if any, of the competitors offer fully adjustable forks at this price point. Those who need it can opt to visit a suspension technician and make the small outlay that is required to revalve the stock fork internals and realise their MT-09’s true potential – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

By Paul McCann

Photography iKapture