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...
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 It’s probably partly down to the Bridgestone S20 rubber, now four generations out of date, but the firm fork set-up doesn’t help.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