Good rubber is crucial
Better tyres are needed to transform the MT-09 SP
Yamaha’s MT-09 SP is a lovely motorcycle that as standard is only dragged down by two things; the harsh out-of-the-crate suspension settings and the poor quality of the OE tyres. Japanese manufacturers are notorious for driving very hard bargains when it comes to OE rubber while at the same time having very specific requirements for things like longevity and stability. The end result is that the stock Bridgestone S20s are very different from the ones you’d buy from a dealer; right down to compound and construction. Simply, they let down a brilliant bike. Slow to warm up, they offer very little in the way of feel and unnerve you in the wet. However, in the dry on an abrasive road surface they offer enough grip and I found their inherent harshness was reduced if I lowered rear tyre pressure to 36psi. But there was a price for this. After 1500 miles they were starting to square off and handling deteriorated rapidly, picking up on camber changes and needing more effort from the bars. My replacement was Michelin’s Power RS. Designed as a fast road tyre that Michelin claim can handle decent track use, they fitted the bill perfectly. A multi-compound tyre, they follow the tradition of a silicarich, harder centre and softer edges with very little tread. Handling was instantly improved. Ride-quality, steering and chassis feel moved a step forward, imbuing the MT with a weightless quality and giving the confidence to use the triple’s joyous torque on corner exits. They’re surprisingly good in the wet, too. On track, it was much of the same; although Cadwell Park on a very hot summer’s day meant localised overheating when I pushed really hard, but even they remained friendly. Best of all, they lasted more than 3000 road miles after the trackday and, although they’d started to square, the bike still handled well.
Since then I’ve also tried rival Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso Corsa II and Dunlop’s SportSmart TT. Both are slightly grippier track tyres but the Yamaha doesn’t steer as well on the Pirellis and the Dunlop’s stiff carcass means its on-road ride quality is worse. But if you own an MT-09 SP, any of these three will help unlock its true potential.
Track days have benefitted from Matt’s tyre change