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Four years on, AMCN’s long-term WorldSBK reporter Gordon Ritchie and his Italian colleague Carlo Baldi finally completed the plans Covid so cruelly quashed.

I love it when a plan comes together. A positive response to my tentative Aussie bike-loan request from editor Deano saw two Yamaha Tracers turned over to us from the middle to the last day of February this year. Enough time for all the WorldSBK work/work stuff to get done, between some road testing and simply drinking in the sights and sounds of Australia as NSW, ACT and Victoria rolled past under our wheels. Here’s a Scotsman’s and an Italian’s take on Oz. Not quite the A-Team but…



Our perfectly prepared Tracers, a 7 and 9 GT+, were loaded up with work and regular travelling gear at Yamaha’s modern HQ in Sydney. My iPhone was going to play sat-nav (except it overheated regularly under your vengeful Australian sun) and my UK phone was not compatible with the Aussie Yamaha satnav lingo on the 9 GT+.

Having only had one restless night in Sydney after being liberated from the 24-hour penal colony of economy class from Europe, we bailed out of a longer coastal run from Sydney at Bateman’s Bay to head to Canberra and stay with my formerly Scottish mate Brian Davidson. A nice meal with him and his better-half Arlene (in the surprisingly historic Canberra Inn) was well overdue.

We took Brian’s advice about routes but, as usual, had to compromise based on the sheer size of even this small part of Australia.


With the original full-coastal riding plan out of the window on day one the Tracer roadshow headed for the hills and a place no doubt famous and well-know to many of you – Jindabyne.

We opted for main highway road to start, then it was a bit of mountains, lochs (sorry, lakes to you lot), verdant green stuff, riding on the left-hand side of the road… we could have been in Scotland. Except it felt, smelt and melted the rider like nothing in Scotland ever will.

Smashed trees lined our path in many places on this trip, pointing the way forward after what were massive storms and vast rainfall hammerings shortly before we got to that part of Australia. By contrast it had been millions of acres of freshly and heavily burned trees we had experienced in our unforgettable 2020 ride up the Great Alpine Road.

Gordo and Carlo rode some of the best roads on offer in south-east Australia

Neither of us had been to Jindabyne, and it was certainly worth the ride up to end up in such a nice wee place. In fairness, we got there largely on the main road through Cooma and its lunch stop, just for time-saving reasons. We were definitely riding in Australia now, as the vegetation, weird birds (feathered kind, calm down!) and sunshine constantly reminded us.


Leaving the undercover bike and human shelter of the Banjo Patterson Inn at Jindabyne we aimed to gravitate straight south. The Suggan Buggan road, not being fully asphalted so they said, was out. We wanted to keep both shiny new Tracers in unsullied condition. And yet… I had so wanted to see what the map called Ingeegoodbee – just to check they weren’t making that one up.

Avoiding the dry dirt roads, we went south-ish on the asphalt to one of my homeland’s many namesakes in Australia – Dalgety.


Gordo and Carlo rode some of the best roads on offer in south-east Australia

We then headed through Snowy River territory (after seeing what must be Kel Buckley’s family hotel on the way…) to Maffra, past Mount Cooper and through Bombala to the Cann River. Some flat higher bits, some nice sweepers and the wind farms that power our lives all over the globe now, were all satisfying enough, especially with jet-lag still riding pillion. The nicely placed M Hotel in Sale rested our weary heads.


Top brekkie at Sale’s Red Cat Cafe and we made the final strike out for our Phillip Island home-from-home for a few days. We stopped off at Inverloch, mind you, to find fuel and get Carlo beside the seaside as much as possible. We stumbled into a farmer’s market there, all set up to refresh us with weird soft drinks and excellent vegie samosas.

Eventually Phillip Island – and it did feel like eventually – hove into view like a familiar old friend. I must have been there 30 times or more now. A day to settle in at our nice rental house, work for a bit and then it was on to the day job. Two days of intensity at the track for the WorldSBK official tests, with a quick sneak attack into pitlane for a visit to the Pata Prometeon Yamaha garage and a fly-through photo-op for the 9 GT+. Carlo even ‘papped’ new Yamaha star Jonathan Rea to do a quick photo with the 7 behind the garages later.

First taste of the Island’s hallowed tarmac

Post test, a day off, before it was back again to work at the circuit for the race weekend proper and the bikes again pressed into a daily commuter role. Strong pass marks for both the 7 and the 9, especially with their useful panniers.


For nearly two days after the noisy WorldSBK bikes had stopped, we stayed on the island to finish off straggling work commitments. My Canberra mate Brian joined the gang on his BMW S 1000 R wheelie wünderbike. He had been at the island for race weekend anyway, so the logic was strong to follow him back north-east, what with him being a local these many years and the road knowledge that comes with it.

Annoyingly, we had to head the wrong way – to Melbourne – at first to get us up the Yarra Valley and find some great riding roads that were new to us. And him. However… our lunch stop in Warburton made me realise I had been on this one before. A few years ago, for a previous AMCN feature story, Steve Martin and I had tried to get to the source of the Yarra. Fire restrictions had closed the final section and we had to retire for a refreshing something at that famous local biker haunt, the Reefton Hotel.

Another bucket-list item ticked out outside the official Yamaha pitlane garage at Phillip Island during the pre-season test

Completely by accident, after Carlo, Brian and I had restarted our trip north-ish from Warburton,

I recognised the Reefton Hotel on my right and swung in. Haunt was an operative word here because it was shut… and we took a moment of quiet reflection to see the plaque with several names of those bikers who had lost their lives nearby over the years.

A slightly sobering moment, especially with no beer to be had.

But probably a good and not-so-good preparation for the hairpin and blind corner overdose that is the Reefton Spur. We finally went at our own individual pace, which is how to avoid an early Reefton memorial, of course.

Next up was Marysville, Taggerty, Eildon, more awesome windy roads and cool views up another body of water above Jamieson. Then… our booked-last-minute motel at Mansfield.


A brekkie next morning at the unspooky Witches Brew Cafe and we were off fun-hunting again.
We lunched at Myrtleford, then rode through King Valley, before stopping at the top of a twisty section at Tolmie for photos.


Gordo and Carlo settle in to their Phillip Island digs

This day the ambient temperatures peaked at 41°C near a lake at Huon, and it was in the high 30s nearly all day. Punishing, truly punishing for a wee Scottish laddie like me, but we saw some amazing sights. The sunken township and all those dead trees at Tallangatta East was another unique vista we had to stop to take in fully.

We headed up the hills again, partly to cool off and also to see the Tooma Dam and the otherworldly Jagumba region. Were all those billions of grey trees and bushes dead, alive or in stasis?

Brian, now knowing the roads again, showed us something that linked our joint Scottish and his now-Aussie culture; a hilltop ‘Bothy’. Never knew Australia had them, but there are loads of basically abandoned shepherds’ stone huts in Scotland that offer shelter to any weary adventurer hiking the Highlands.

Located near Cabramurra, the one-room shack, just like Glasgow tenement buildings at one time, even had an outside toilet.

The Tumut Pond Reservoir introduced more man-made concrete alongside the asphalt roads.
Adaminaby and its giant prancing trout centrepiece was… a bit too much for my knackered wee head to process.

Some young punk always has to leave his mark on nature

Once in Corryong, and still way too hot, never has a tall ‘cleanser’ worked so efficiently for a man as it did at the Corryong Hotel Motel – but only after I had a shower and three bottles of water before challenging the north face of the 40m uphill walk back up to the pub. I accidentally left the aircon on way too low that night and caught a man flu that lasted a month.


After another night at Brian’s in Canberra, our final day of riding took us back to Yamaha HQ. Taking Arlene’s advice this time we headed roughly towards Sydney via Kangaroo Valley. She said it was a bit twisty…

Waving bye-bye to our great hosts, we headed for Goulburn (I recognised being there before, too) then wound our way to this Kangaroo Valley place.

As soon as we made the first tight hairpin entry I knew I had ridden this mad set of tight downhill switchbacks in dry conditions a few years ago.

This time, we quite suddenly went from sunshine to into a thick mist, with wet, damp or partly dry roads under us for almost all of it.


The sign was too big to put in the pannier and take back to Gordo’s Scottish man cave

Concentration was suddenly back in the red zone with all senses on full alert.

We popped out of the crazy mist as quickly as we had entered it, finally joining the main coastal road to Sydney, amazed but unscathed.

We wanted to get to Sydney’s western suburbs via Wollongong – in another fated attempt to get Carlo riding along the waterside for a time. We found an ugly factory, a golf course path, but failed to find any seaside or statues of Wayne Gardner.

Even a day later, with a raging cold and the prospect of another giant flight home nothing could negate the intense memories and lingering buzz that a big road trip always leaves with you, me or anyone.

Carlo assures me he did 2630kms. But it felt like more. So much more, in every positive sense.


THE TRACER 9 GT+ is not so big and the Tracer 7 is not so small. In the engine department and in ‘feel’ at least. The 9’s 890cc triple is a well-known powerplant that has evolved over time. The 7’s engine comes in at 690cc, thus only 200cc and one cylinder less than the 9. It is also not a newcomer, but a well-proven cross-plane parallel twin. However, after two weeks in the saddles, these bikes felt a bit more than 200cc away from each other.

Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+

The 9 is a scaled-down and civilised superbike turned hyper-modern sporty Grand Tourer. It is laden with useful electronics and obvious modernity. A fat KYB USD fork, electronic suspension damping, a beautiful 7-inch multi-function colour screen, sport/street/rain modes for TC, etc. Adjusting it all from the handlebars was surprisingly easy, once you mastered a very few basics.

The touring tech runs to dedicated and unique side cases, heated grips (operated via the display again), an adjustable and pretty good screen, a classy embossed suede-look (two-piece) seat, cornering lights, centre and side stands, plus angular handguards. The list goes on. A cynic about all things too complicated on modern bikes, I eventually used the up-down quick-shifter a lot and the radar-assisted cruise control maybe even more to help cover those famous Aussie-style ‘short-trips’.

Sport mode for the engine/suspension, etc. was best in almost every riding scenario, and even seemed to help the imperfect initial clutch take up. Weird, but that’s how it felt. Oh, and one more. Even with a very nice engine note, decent midrange power and occasional triple tingles, this bike does not grab you by the soul as a three-cylinder oddball straight away. At least, it feels much more like a linear four than a syncopated twin. More like a Yamaha keyboard than a set of drums, if you like. But it’s a lovely thing to jam on all the same.

Yamaha Tracer 7

The 7 really feels like a middleweight-twin punching up a bit. It welcomes you, on first impression, like a best-in-class 1990s middleweight (the CB500 sprang to mind) but with a bigger, better engine and way superior on-road dynamics. It feels slightly skinny, tallish and not quite this decade’s TDM replacement.

Once really up and running, of course, it delivers a lot more riding modernity and capability than the 1990s ever dreamed of having. The 7 has a nicely sized foam cushion for two to share.
A bright and clear, if smallish screen, offers enough info without overload. A proper set of brakes, a conventional fork and single shock let the 7 keep up with the 9 in almost all real-world riding scenarios, while feeling even more manageable in the Coles carparks or hyper-tight debris-strewn hairpins in the hills.

You do have to rev it a lot to stay in accelerative contention with that 900 triple, as you would expect. Watch your fuel consumption fall off a cliff as a result.

That cross-plane-crank engine does add a little something to the 7’s ‘feel’, though. It was a relatively funky touch on what is a cool modern interpretation of a traditional, straight-ahead kind of motorcycle under its sharp half fairing and mini-headlights.

But which one?

The best explanation of what each of these Tracers is and is ever going to be comes from the length of the spec list and the final bill if you want to liberate one from your local Yamaha dealer.

The half-faired Tracer 7, sans the panniers we asked to be fitted, comes in at $15,999. The 9 GT+ earthbound NASA electronics platform comes in at $27,550. No real surprise, eh?

The big answer to your unspoken question – which of these should I buy – lies in that price differential. If you want a fully modern superbike feel and spec list, with a hard coating of grunt and top end, get your bigger wallet out. If enough is enough, with nice Japanese build quality and versatility, the 7 is more than fine.