The 2017 Yamaha MT-09 has new sus­pen­sion and styling – but do the changes make the triple £600 bet­ter?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - By Adam Child MCN SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

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.

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