Farewell faith­ful friend

From stargaz­ing to car bon­net surf­ing, Andy re­flects on nine months with the Tracer

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage -

My time with the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer has come to an end and I’m al­ready miss­ing it. The term ‘all-rounder’ can of­ten paint a pic­ture of a bland bike that’s al­right at most things but doesn’t mas­ter any of them. The Tracer is def­i­nitely an all-rounder but it’s not dull — in many re­gards it’s nearly per­fect for most peo­ple, most of the time.

Af­ter the time I spent with the bike I think I can ex­plain my ar­gu­ment.

For a start it’s rea­son­ably priced at £8149. Sign up for PCP and you’ll need to find £2000 as a de­posit and then £109 a month for three years, with a £4000 op­tional pay­ment at the end of the term if you want to keep the bike. That’s great value for a bike that im­presses as a daily com­muter, week­end fun ma­chine or two-up tourer.

Its 847cc three-cylin­der en­gine pro­duces a sprightly 115bhp, which com­bines with the rel­a­tively light 210kg kerb weight to make a gen­uinely quick bike. The triple sounds good, has a lovely smooth throt­tle and just enough elec­tron­ics in the form of ABS, trac­tion con­trol and rider modes, with­out adding un­nec­es­sary com­pli­ca­tion or cost.

It looks good, han­dles well (more on that in a minute), stops well and the op­tional Yamaha heated grips (£144.99) are the best I’ve ever used.

In my time with the bike, fuel con­sump­tion av­er­aged 48mpg and the range could eas­ily hit 200 miles on steady rides. The seat was com­fort­able, the stan­dard ad­justable screen was not the best but good enough (though it does bounce around a fair bit in the breeze), and it looks good too. Build qual­ity has been top­notch, and the bike sailed through win­ter com­pletely cor­ro­sion free.

There are two nig­gles that I ad­dressed fairly quickly, eas­ily and with­out spend­ing a for­tune. The first was ditch­ing the stan­dard Dun­lop D222 tyres. Quite sim­ply, they weren’t good enough and the brit­tle and harsh ride they gave un­der­mined my con­fi­dence in the han­dling. I tested a va­ri­ety of al­ter­na­tives, all of which were far bet­ter than the OE rubber (see below).

I tried to get the stan­dard sus­pen­sion work­ing for me be­fore chang­ing any parts, and the ex­perts at MCT Sus­pen­sion in Stow­mar­ket did a £115 set-up of the stock stuff, which im­proved mat­ters. But then they went fur­ther with a £288 op­tion in­volv­ing new lin­ear fork springs, thicker oil and dif­fer­ent spac­ers, which trans­formed the bike and re­mains the best mod­i­fi­ca­tion I made through­out the year. De­tails of the set-up for the stan­dard sus­pen­sion, and in­for­ma­tion about the MCT mod­i­fi­ca­tions can be found on­line at http://bit.ly/1rj8ujx

Look­ing back, my favourite mo­ment with the Tracer was sit­ting up for a latenight beer on a Scot­tish camp­site in the Gal­loway For­est Park so I could watch the night sky. It wasn’t the per­fect time of year for stargaz­ing but it was still a fan­tas­tic way to spend a week­end and the ride there and back was bril­liant fun.

In con­trast, em­bed­ding my­self in the side of a car that failed to stop when it was join­ing a round­about, fly­ing across the bon­net, break­ing my foot and wear­ing a hole in the side of the en­gine was slightly less fan­tas­tic. Dam­age to the bike was nowhere near as bad as I thought it might be, with a holed ra­di­a­tor the big­gest ex­pense at £250. The hand­guards saved my hands from in­jury and the stan­dard ABS brakes did a bril­liant job of slow­ing me down while let­ting me keep con­trol, but they couldn’t change the laws of physics and stop me in time. The car driver was pros­e­cuted by the po­lice and I wasn’t able to ride for four weeks while the bro­ken bone healed.

There are more ex­pen­sive bikes than the Yamaha Tracer, there are more tech­ni­cally ad­vanced bikes, there are faster, big­ger, more pow­er­ful bikes. But the Tracer can do pretty much all of the things they do, but keeps it sim­ple, keeps it fun and best of all, keeps costs to a man­age­able level.

YAMAHA MT-09 TRACER £8149 The re­al­i­sa­tion heõll no longer be rid­ing to work on the Tracer sud­denly dawns on Downes. Here stands a bro­ken man

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