M T- 09 OLD V NEW
The 2017 Yamaha MT-09 has new suspension and styling – but do the changes make the triple £600 better?
They say that at the heart of every good bike is a great engine, and Yamaha thoroughly nailed that theory with the very first MT-09 back in 2014. Its inline 847cc triple, or CP3 as the firm call it, is a pure gem.
Since then the MT-09 has sold by the ship-load and Yamaha have gone on to produce the MT-09 Tracer and retro looking XSR900, both of which share that same sweet motor. The Tracer was awarded our prestigious ‘best allrounder’ award in 2015 and the XSR900 has won numerous road tests. And their success has largely been down to that brilliant CP3 engine.
However, the original MT-09’S performance was undermined by poor fuelling and underdamped suspension. It has three engine modes to choose from and in the sportiest A-mode the throttle response was lively to the point of being abrupt. In a 2016 model update Yamaha smoothed out the fuelling and added traction control for the first time, both of which were taken from the XSR900 retro version. And now for 2017 they have gone one step further, changing the suspension both front and rear and adding more adjustment to the forks while a shorter sub-frame and facelift completes the visual upgrade. There’s also a new quickshifter, just for a welcome bit of extra bling, and a subtle alteration to the riding position.
Despite the dreary Lincolnshire weather that hung over our test the new Yamaha MT-09 still looked eye- catching and made the older bike appear slightly dull by comparison. The most obvious visual difference between the bikes is the new Mt-10-aping twin headlight, but the subframe is now shorter and disposes of a conventional numberplate hanger; the plate is now mounted to a plastic arm that reaches around from the swingarm, Ducati style. There are also small changes to the radiator side cowling, where the indicators now sit, while the clocks remain the same but have been moved slightly forward.
The more time I spent with the new MT-09 the more I liked its look, though those fluro wheels will be a pain to keep clean, and as an owner I’d probably ditch the wrap-around numberplate hanger in favour of a traditionally positioned plate – though it seems current MT-09 owners aren’t exactly falling in love with the new model’s looks (see story right). Then again, the initial reaction to the MT-10 was similarly love-it-or-hate-it.
Once on board the new MT feels like the old bike except the seat is 5mm higher – at 5ft 6in I still have no problems getting my feet securely to the ground – and, of course, those forks now have compression damping adjustment added. Even though the front suspension is all new, the rear remains the same but leaves the factory on different damping settings.
In sketchy weather and low grip conditions it’s hard to detect any differences in the suspension. The old bike feels OK as I’m not making full use of the travel or the brakes and ensuring my every input is as smooth as possible. In fact, after a cold, 60-mile blast chasing Bruce on the new model I was struggling to fault the 2016 MT at all. After all, both MTS share the same engine and brakes, and even the traction control is the same.
The aggression and response of the triple takes you by surprise at first as you simply don’t expect it to be as quick as it is – and it’s all supported by a lovely rasping sound track from the side-exiting exhaust. The 2017 bike is no different in this respect, and quickshifter aside the changes aren’t immediately obvious until you get a few more miles under the new MT’S wheels.
The forks have more feel and the ride is plusher than before, while there’s a reduced tendency to skip or bounce between high frequency bumps. The rear, criticised in the past for its softness, has a tad more support and although it is just a little increase, I would anticipate amplified benefits in more summery conditions.
The lighter clutch with slipper action is also more noticeable with every minute spent on the bike, especially when we got stuck in Lincoln’s congested traffic and roadworks. But Bruce and I spent the whole test jumping from
‘The new bike makes the older one appear dull by comparison’
‘The gap between the 2016 and 2017 MT-09 models isn’t huge’
one MT to the other, at times re-riding the same stretch of road, in a bid to feel quantifiable improvements in the new bike’s performance. Quickshifter apart, though, it’s subtle stuff.
I’ve ridden a 2016 MT-09 at a decent speed before and have experienced the underdamped suspension struggling to maintain control, and the front understeering in confusion, but it’s still hard to know if Yamaha have fully rectified this problem. Certainly, the new front end and tweaked rear didn’t make as much difference as I’d anticipated.
The problem is that Yamaha already have, in the 2016 MT-09, an excellent bike, with one of the best engines on the market.
The MT-09 has rightly been a success story for Yamaha, competitively priced at just under £8000 it’s able to compete with bikes costing considerably more. Yamaha also significantly improved the bike in 2016 by adding TC and improving the fuelling, which now means, ignoring the looks and quickshifter, the gap between the 2016 and 2017 models isn’t huge.