YAMAHA MT 09 SP

Now as­sisted by ”hlins shock and gold KYB forks, the up­rated MT tears through cor­ners with ease. It’s fi­nally a Tri­umph Street Triple R chaser...

BIKE (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Ben Lind­ley Pho­tog­ra­phy Yamaha

MT triple flat­tered by qual­ity sus­penders. Now track-ready.

THAT’S A RE­LIEF. This is still an MT-09. Still an im­pu­dent, torque-rich MT-09. The jagged body­work is still present, the quick-steer­ing, al­most su­per­moto feel is there. The fab­u­lous triple re­mains un­changed. So what about those two ex­tra let­ters: SP... Stroll around this up­rated MT-09 and it looks every bit the MT-10 SP’S lit­tle brother. Here’s the sil­ver-blue liv­ery of Yamaha’s ex­treme R1M (see p20), there’s the choice de­tail­ing: name badges on blue rims, coloured stitch­ing on the seat. Ob­serve gold fork and shock. A smart ma­chine, no doubt. But where the spe­cial MT-10 boasts semi-ac­tive elec­tronic Öh­lins, the new­est SP re­quires span­ner and screw­driver. In­stead of leads and plugs, there’s smart KYB let­ter­ing on fully-ad­justable stan­chions, and a re­mote preload ad­juster for an Öh­lins shock. In keep­ing with tra­di­tion there’s an SP price bump, too. The swanky R1M is a whole £3600 more ex­pen­sive than the core R1, and there’s a £2700 dif­fer­ence be­tween the two MT-10S. With the MT-09, though, the gap is just £800. Not much for what Yamaha claim is a track­ready up­grade, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the Öh­lins shock alone costs £860. Why bother, though? The base MT-09 is al­ready a fab­u­lous ma­chine with a snort­ing 847cc triple and nim­ble ge­om­e­try. Plus sus­pen­sion that’s evolved since its 2013 launch into a bal­anced, re­li­able, and ad­justable ex­pe­ri­ence. Only at very fast speeds does the core ma­chine’s ram­pant at­ti­tude be­gin to floun­der. Steer­ing be­comes vague when charg­ing through cor­ners, dulling feel and in­creas­ing re­sis­tance to steeper lean. Not so on this SP. I’m push­ing into fast at­tack ter­ri­tory on a

bril­liant sec­tion of Por­tugese road. Twelve quick-fire cor­ners force the ma­chine from left to right lean, knee pucks al­ter­nately scrap­ing the tar­mac. The ac­tion is smooth, con­trolled, and above all, nim­ble. Brisk rid­ing like this re­ally ben­e­fits from the gold bouncy bits, but it’s not quite per­fect. At deep lean, with the left ‘peg tick­ling the tar­mac, I’m aware of a slight skatey feel­ing com­ing through the KYB fork. It’s probably partly down to the Bridge­stone S20 rub­ber, now four gen­er­a­tions out of date, but the firm fork set-up doesn’t help. Even with preload fully wound off there’s still 5cm un­used travel in the fork leg. It’s sim­ply too stiff for my 65kg. But blaze out of the cor­ner – wring­ing an ad­dic­tively flat torque curve – and you can feel the rear Öh­lins of­fer well-judged sup­port. What a treat. Öh­lins equip­ment can some­times feel too stiff for the road, but not here. There’s but­tery damp­ing aplenty and enough preload ad­just­ment to haul a pil­lion in com­posed com­fort. And that’s the MT-09 SP’S Achilles Heel. The Öh­lins is so good that even a fully-ad­justable Kayaba fork can’t quite match its qual­ity, es­pe­cially with such stiff springs. Why no Swedish sus­penders pok­ing through the top yoke? Yamaha say that would put the price too close to £11,439: MT-10 ter­ri­tory. They’re aim­ing to en­tice MT-09 cus­tomers into spend­ing more, rather than en­cour­ag­ing MT-10 cus­tomers to spend less. Busi­ness-wise, this makes sense. But it’s dis­ap­point­ing for those of us han­ker­ing af­ter the ul­ti­mate triple-en­gined MT. Slight crit­i­cisms of the donor bike re­main: quick­shifter ac­tion is still a tad lumpy, down­shifts re­quire the clutch, and brakes are strong but lack qual­ity feel. The up-down quick­shifter from the R1M might fix the first two, and the calipers and 320mm discs from the MT-10 would sort brak­ing is­sues… So it’s not a full SP. But for fast road rid­ing it suc­ceeds in chal­leng­ing the likes of Tri­umph’s Street Triple R (which is £39 cheaper on the road). There’s more bal­ance to Tri­umph’s pack­age, but the SP’S rear is ar­guably bet­ter qual­ity, and that 847cc triple is an ab­so­lute peach. If you spend time tun­ing the sus­pen­sion to your weight, you’ll have an MT-09 for com­mut­ing, fast road rid­ing, and race­track. Ideal.

Use­ful re­mote preload and com­pres­sion ad­juster on hlins YA535 rear shock

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