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.


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 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.

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