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