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Yamaha MT-01 2005-2013 | BIKE TESTS

It’s a city cruiser that’s tough as, and it doesn’t wave the white flag once the tempo increases

If the basso profundo bark of a mean Big Twin grabs you every time, leaving revvy multis sounding like high-pitched background noise, Yamaha’s MT-01 could very well be your kind of motorcycle.

Its release in 2005 showed the factory was up for a fresh take on musclebike design – different to the approach 20 years earlier for its V4-powered VMax. Avoiding the VMax’s narrow focus on bulk horsepower and dragstrip acceleration, the MT-01’s super-torquey V-twin engine and decent handling and braking made for a far more versatile motorcycle.

First shown as a concept bike at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show, it went into production with its original features pretty much intact. Looking like an industrial sculptor’s tribute to the art of aluminium casting, it’s basically a showcase for the massive 1670cc, air-cooled powerplant.

The fuel-injected engine is a warmed-over XV1700 Road Warrior cruiser motor – modifications include a lighter crankshaft, fatter crankpin, hotter cams and a bi-modal titanium exhaust system.

While its max-power figure of 67kW (90hp) isn’t a headline grabber, the 150Nm of torque peak at 3750rpm demands your attention, providing what Yamaha called the bike’s ‘Torque Sports’ on-road character. The
flat torque curve makes most of the grunt available from just above idle until close to
its power peak.

There’s a five-speed gearbox hooked up to a chain final drive. In top gear at 110km/h, it’s loping along at a calm and relaxed 2400rpm in top gear. Wanna go quicker? Forget changing down, just twist and go. If no one’s looking the MT will charge toward the horizon, finally topping out at about 4800rpm. Do the maths…

The powertrain is mounted in a stiff, cast-alloy twin-spar frame with a braced alloy swingarm. Like the swingarm the adjustable 43mm inverted fork and rear monoshock, as well as the entire braking system, are adaptations of the equipment fitted at the time to Yamaha’s legendary YZF-R1 sportsbike.

Being a big, high bike with a 1525mm wheelbase, weighing in at 243kg dry, and with a seat height of 825mm, the MT-01 isn’t ideal for shorties. However the ergonomics and seat comfort are fine for a surprisingly wide range of rider sizes, which is more than can be said for the marginal pillion perch with its high-mounted footpegs.

As well as impressing the casual observer with its size, the attention to design detail and the fit and finish of all of its components get a big tick on close inspection. The MT-01 was from start to finish a top-quality, premium motorcycle that was priced accordingly.

On the road the big MT immediately seems lighter and more agile than you expect. Its arm-stretching acceleration in any gear is exhilarating, supported by agreeably good handling and braking. Even commuting becomes a pleasure as you short-shift your way through the traffic, feeling every power-thrust from the pistons of the big rumbling engine between your knees.

It also acquits itself unexpectedly well in sportsbike company, thanks to its torque-on-tap engine and sportsbike-derived chassis.

Clutch and gearshift action are pleasingly smooth and easy for a big twin, and fuelling is excellent. Vibrating mirrors can be irritating and the modest 15-litre tank limits its safe touring-range to about 220km. But this bike is more about the joy of relaxed cruising and the occasional spirited dash down the coast than long-haul touring. From 2009, an up-specced, Öhlins-equipped SP version was also available at a price-premium of about $6000.

The MT-01’s styling boldness, engineering excellence, outstanding reliability and above all, the rewarding riding experience, should have won it a bigger fan base than it achieved.

If you’re into thumping V-twin roadsters, and you appreciate a bike that not only goes like the clappers, but also turns and stops, look here. From 2007 the earlier four-piston front calipers were replaced by a six-piston version that also featured radial mounting.

The ancestry

Cruiser roots

1981 – The release of the Yamaha XV750 marks the factory’s entry into the V-twin powered road-bike category.

Mad Max

1985 – With the launch of the 1200cc VMax model Yamaha enters the big-bore, muscle-bike class.

Road warrior

2003 – Yamaha’s XV1700 Road Warrior provides the basic engine for the MT-01, a different take on V-twin muscle bikes.

The Low Down

What to look for

The MT-01 is a robust, well-engineered motorcycle with a bullet-proof engine and chassis. If the bike has been flogged it’s likely to show up in the clutch. So check that the clutch is slip-free and grab-free. Check also for worn steering-head bearings because MT-01s can be hard on them. As always adjust your offer to cover worn consumables like tyres, chain and sprockets and brake pads, also brake rotors close to minimum thickness. I’d give extra points for one with a full service record.

Service history

Capable DIY owners can look after a lot of the normal servicing on an MT-01. Access is pretty good – the dry-sump oil-tank is within easy reach at the front of the engine. Hydraulic lifters take care of valve clearances for you. Service interval for oil and filter changes is 10,000km.

Engine management and EFI-system adjustment are best left to specialists.

Due to vibrations from the big V-twin it’s good practice to regularly run a spanner over the main chassis nuts.

New price

$21,499 (2005) 
$19,899 (2013)