THE HOOLIGAN YOU NEED IN YOUR LIFE!
If you’re familiar with the arm-wrenching, sportsbike embarrassing, race-trackloving mastery of the MT-10, you’re probably wondering how the R1-derived hyper naked could be bettered? Well, Yamaha have had their pimp stick out and given the MT a Sports Production-style makeover. Which means what, exactly?
Much akin to the higher spec R1M, the flagship MT’s been covered in glue and sprinkled with lots of new shiny bits. Costing £13,399, its spec includes the R1M’s fancy silver/blue paint scheme, a TFT dash – nabbed straight from said R1 – and some über sexy Ohlins semi-active electronic suspension. Plus, there’s a new assist and slipper clutch to write home about, and a factory fitted quickshifter makes the package even sweeter.
As for power, the 158bhp output of the crossplane-inline-four motor is unchanged, despite now being Euro 4 compliant, though sleeker mapping’s been administered to make the power’s delivery even more spine-tinglingly good. Impressed? On paper I was, but it was only while being let rip around some of Cape Town’s finest roads that the model’s true genius hit me smack in the face.
The MT-10 was born to be different, and the avant-garde, Transformer-like design of the bike pulled no punches in standing out from its relatively conventional looking rivals when released 12 or so months ago. At the time Yamaha was convinced its image would grow on people and, considering the huge demand for it has meant it’s pretty much outsold its supply from the get-go, it would appear they were right.
To be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original MT’s looks, but that was mostly down to its retina burning grey/fluro paint scheme. Each to their own and all that, but it really didn’t float my boat. I can’t say the same about the SP’s new colours, though.
Seeing the model in the flesh in South Africa made an instantly positive impression. Like a chubby ex who’s been smashing the gym and shedding those undesirable pounds, the MT-10SP seemed to offer a fresh visage, made even sexier by its newly acquired Thin Film Transistor (TFT) dash and blingy golden forks. And don’t even get me started on the polished and lacquered swingarm, which is another nod to its R1M-inspired pedigree.
From an ergonomic point of view, there’s nothing new to note about the riding position of the SP. It mimics the base model in every way, so its wide bars and sportily placed pegs felt menacingly familiar having clambered aboard the firm and stepped saddle. What did pleasantly surprise me though, was the boom emitted from the bike when fired into life. In a world where motorcycles have been quietened to mirror the output of a mouse’s fart, it was refreshing to hear such a raucous and meaty note, which got even better with the addition of revs.
HITTING THE ROAD
The SP’s motor didn’t just sound good, though… it delivered a mind-morphing experience crazier than a cat lady (but in the best kind of way). It took a good few miles to adapt to the insatiable pace of the SP, which seemed as eager to hoist power wheelies in first gear as it did in third, or in even higher selections if the contours of the road worked in one’s favour.
The MT’s motor is its soul and it took all of three seconds to fall in love (again) with the torquey and characterful crossplane powerhouse, as we set out on a five hour bender across some of the best mountain passes known to mountain passes. The most endearing trait to the four-cylinder was its relentless ability to fire linear power to the rear wheel regardless of pace or revs. It meant I could afford to be lazy with gear selection and never be left longing for the power to make an appearance.
The lack of a quickshifter was undeniably the fly in the ointment on the first generation MT, but its presence was definitely noted and appreciated on the SP test, and the same goes for the smoother fuelling. Once the throttle was engaged, the delivery of drive was unquestionably silky, but the initial pick-up could prove a bit snatchy. One way of lessening the jerkiness was to dumb down the mapping of the throttle. There are three modes available on the big Yam, with ‘power one’ being the most instantaneous. That was great for the fast stretches of tarmac that demanded a pinned throttle, but I actually found level two, or even three, to work better on some of the more technical and winding roads. The max power of 158 ponies remains a constant on all three selections, but the way in which they’re geed-up alters according to your choice of mapping.
The traction control works in much the same way, with three different tiers available. Level one was the least intrusive and was little more than a passenger unless the rear wheel encountered loose gravel or roadkill.
The lower selections were much keener to show their hand, with level three going as far as to quash the joy of wheelies if engaged. For that reason, it was only used for a stint long enough to appreciate its drawback.
THE KING OF BLING
The key componentry difference between the SP and the base model MT is Ohlins electronic suspension. The semi-active setup is pretty much identical to the kit used on the R1M, although it’s been calibrated to suit the longer and heavier naked bike.
There are two automatic modes on tap (A1, A2), with three additional manual options (M1, M2, M3) that can be completely customised for damping. I never thought the MT-10 was a bad handling bike but, riding with the Ohlins set to A1 (the firmest automatic option), it didn’t take long to find a whole new level of trust in the bike’s front end. The rear end felt great too, and the grip was never an issue. As for agility, the bike was razor sharp and it was easy to hustle the 210kg of the SP around without feeling it was a workout. Some of the roads we were riding were a little bumpy, but the automatically adjusting damping did a good job of keeping my fillings in place. For the worse sections or tarmac a switch to the A2 setup made life a little more amenable, but I never felt obliged to go dialling in a completely custom damped setup. Besides, that would have meant pulling over, as it’s not possible to navigate the dash menu on the go.
As to whether the system’s worth the additional £2600 that the SP costs over the MT, I’d say it depends who you are and what your plans are. On track, the Ohlins will no doubt make riding a whole lot easier and you’ll get a lot more from your bike. If you’re more accustomed to pootling around on the road at a relaxed pace, it’s maybe not an investment you need to make. Sure, it looks pretty and it’s a great talking point, but the base model’s suspension will more than do you justice. But if performance is your thing, the Ohlins is a must have. It makes life so much easier, as there’s no need to be a suspension expert; you just tap a few buttons and let the system’s wizardry do the rest.
The same goes for the TFT dash. It’s a really nice feature that carries over much of the same track-focused technology seen on the R1M. It’s stunning to look at and makes riding that much more pleasurable and informative. What’s even more, rather like the fancy paint scheme, it makes this bike look suitably desirable and exclusive – which is nice.
But for all the glitz and performance you’ll have available on tap, the SP also offers a good dollop of practicality and comfort. Yes, it’s fundamentally a head down, arse up hooligan of a bike, but that doesn’t mean it has no manners. Cruise control comes as standard on the Yam and that made life pleasantly sedate at times when we compelled to rigidly adhere to speed limits or follow convoys of traffic.
The relaxed riding position also won my vote, along with the SP’s lack of vibes regardless of the revs you were feeding it. The seat was a little on the firmer side, but that’s a personal critique and the fitment of a comfort saddle (one of over 50 official Yamaha accessory parts) would soon eradicate any sore backside-related qualms you might have.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is the SP is a very rounded machine, as well as being exceptionally innovative and exciting. Judging it on sheer pleasure, riding performance and ease of use, it’s also worthy of being classed as one of the very best hyper nakeds on the market, and undoubtedly the finest wheelie machine known to motorcycling. If those are the virtues you’re after, get a deposit down while you’ve got the chance. You won’t regret it.
Bling, glorious bling! The SP’s natural stance...
The addition of trick Ohlins suspension has made the SP a right weapon.