Yamaha MT 09

Bril­liant en­gine, real-road han­dling and a front end that lifts on any crest. Cheapest here, too


‘The MT sim­ply blurts torque all over the tar­mac at any revs’

THROUGH THE NEW LED eyes of the MT-09’S pug­na­cious coun­te­nance, we spy an up­side-down world where hav­ing fun doesn’t cor­re­late to rid­ing fast. Tri­umph’s new Street Triple R is built for per­for­mance. Kawasaki’s in­line-four Z900 feels most alive with the throt­tle fully open. But Yamaha’s up­dated MT-09 de­liv­ers plenty of its fun-lov­ing char­ac­ter while only reg­is­ter­ing road-le­gal num­bers on the dash. Twist the throt­tle, and the en­su­ing crack of the en­gine takes some get­ting used to. The Street Triple’s 765cc mo­tor has tur­bine­like pre­dictable drive and the Z900 makes its power higher up the reg­is­ter, but the MT just blurts torque all over the tar­mac at any revs. Touch the light twist­grip and the 847cc triple is off and away, gur­gling and grind­ing and whin­ing through its rev range with the ur­gency of a mo­tocrosser. It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing. Third gear is a great place to be, prov­ing ver­sa­tile and full-bod­ied com­pared with the Tri­umph. The MT hasn’t as much power, but it’s way eas­ier to ex­ploit what it de­liv­ers. It’s the most en­joy­able en­gine here. Early MT-09S were knocked for their sus­pen­sion. The rear shock was soft and sup­ple, while the forks were firmer and the front end felt high, giv­ing a slightly un­usual feel. Twirling the ad­justers pro­duced a more level stance and con­ven­tional feel, but many rid­ers still found the back end too squidgy. So for 2017 the MT-09 has new forks with greater ad­just­ment, and the rear shock from its retro XSR900 sib­ling. Yamaha’s sus­penders are still softer than Kawasaki’s, which in turn don’t have the depth of feel awarded by the flashier Tri­umph. This is a good thing, how­ever. The chas­sis is sub­tle and sup­ple, soak­ing up Welsh bumps while giv­ing am­ple feed­back on what’s crack­ing off with the tyres. True, it’s not as classy as the stuff on the Street Triple, but where the Tri­umph is kicked out of shape by mid-bend lumpy tar­mac, the Yamaha soaks it up and re­mains sta­ble. On the pass be­tween Llang­ynog and Bala the MT wafts over im­per­fec­tions, charges be­tween switch­backs in sec­ond with the fu­ri­ous gur­gling of its glo­ri­ous triple right be­hind your heels, and im­presses with its su­per-light han­dling on the tight and spi­ralling de­scent to Bala’s lake. The whole bike is bright and en­cour­ag­ing. Langy is in love with the sprightly low-speed ride. ‘It shakes its bars when fir­ing out of bumpy cor­ners – not dan­ger­ously, but just enough to keep me fully en­gaged. Makes me feel like I’m wrestling the thing around bends like a road racer on Irish back lanes.’ It’s only when ush­er­ing the MT through end­less fast cor­ners that things get a bit squirmy. Wal­low­ing un­der the pres­sure of steep turns and giddy pace, the front end and rear shock be­gin to com­plain while the sportier Street Triple romps stead­fastly on­ward. It’s dif­fi­cult to pin down why, but I reckon the Yamaha also has some­thing like an op­ti­mum lean an­gle. Up to a quite healthy tilt it re­sponds quickly, and al­ters course eas­ily and im­me­di­ately. Crank past this point and things turn a bit gooey. There’s less fo­cus to the han­dling, a re­duc­tion in ac­cu­racy, and more re­sis­tance to in­put. You’ve got to be trav­el­ling fast to no­tice, but it’s here that both the Z900 and the Street Triple R have the edge. In such sit­u­a­tions the MT’S rid­ing po­si­tion needs fa­mil­iari­sa­tion too. It’s al­most like a supermoto; you sit on the bike rather than co­cooned within it, as is the case with the Kawasaki. The Yamaha’s high, close ’bars are great for low speed con­trol, and the up­right stance makes it oh-so-easy to toss about. But the sat-in, pro­tected feel of the Z900 and ag­gres­sion of the Street Triple make more sense when get­ting a se­ri­ous lick on. No is­sues with com­fort, though. The seat might be slim, but it’s all-day fine for our rid­ers of mixed pro­por­tions. Nice, easy gad­gets too. Set­tings are read­ily ac­ces­si­ble on the MT, with trac­tion con­trol and modes al­tered with ded­i­cated switchgear but­tons. Power wheel­ies are fair game in trac­tion level one as well (level two has none of it), and pref­er­ences are re­mem­bered when the bike is switched off. Mike rates the off-set dash too. ‘All the info I need, set­tings aren’t buried in menus, and there’s no Z900 fake car­bon ei­ther.’ Langy uses ‘func­tional’ to de­scribe the Yam’s looks, and Mike is on the same chan­nel. ‘It’s not ex­actly pretty, I’ll give you that. Noth­ing like the garage pres­ence or class of the Street. But while I want the Tri­umph for its looks, I want a bike that rides like the Yamaha. Its dy­namic gives the big­gest grins in the most sit­u­a­tions.’ Choos­ing the MT also saves nearly £800 over the Tri­umph, and an eye­brow-rais­ing £1000 over the Z900 Per­for­mance. It’s the best bang-for-buck if units of fun are chis­elled on your yard stick.

still works well. Be­ware flap­ping fobs

(Above) Sim­ple, but in­di­ca­tor gets you the horn (Be­low) Lop­sided dash still looks odd,

Wales. Lovely view see. Yamaha. Lovely bike see

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