Motorcycle Sport & Leisure - - Launch -

We’ve long loved the Trac­ers. And the MT-09 is also a firm fam­ily favourite. Mike took to the road dur­ing the world launch of the new Tracer 900 and the GT

ver­sion. He loves this lin­eage too.

Yamaha ob­vi­ously isn’t sat­is­fied with 50,000 MT-09 sales – be­ing hell bent on squeez­ing ev­ery lit­tle bit of value pos­si­ble out of their cross-plane crank triple (CP3) mo­tor. And with an en­gine so ver­sa­tile, who can blame them? To some sports­bike fans, 113bhp might sound a lit­tle pedes­trian, but teamed up with a se­ri­ously strong 87.5Nm of torque, you have an en­gine that will do ex­actly what you need it to, al­most all of the time.

And when 22% of Yamaha’s sales in 2017 were in the grow­ing sports tour­ing seg­ment, it’s no won­der they’re putting so much ef­fort into bikes like the lat­est Tracer 900 and its GT sib­ling.

So what we have here is the up­dated Tracer 900, priced at £9249 and along­side it Yamaha is launch­ing the all new Tracer 900GT. The GT is a spec’d up, slightly more bling model that comes in at £10,649.

For that ex­tra £1400, you’re treated to a sexy full-colour TFT dash (lifted from Yamaha’s flag­ship sports­bike, the YZF-R1), front and rear ad­justable sus­pen­sion, a quick­shifter, cruise con­trol, heated grips and a pair of colour-coded pan­niers.

Yamaha knows that a grow­ing num­ber of mo­tor­cy­clists want a bike to do every­thing from pop­ping to the shops to tak­ing the wife on a tour round Europe, and that’s what the Tracer 900 is de­signed for. But what the fac­tory also knows is that there is a grow­ing fra­ter­nity of those who want to do those things while in­dulging them­selves in a lit­tle bit of lux­ury and style – and that’s where the Tracer 900GT comes in. At the launch event in Granada, Spain, the first model we were let loose on was the stan­dard Tracer. The new Tracer has the same recog­nis­ably tall stance as its pre­de­ces­sor, akin to that of a big ad­ven­ture bike rather than a tra­di­tional sports tourer. Its high screen, wide han­dle­bars and lack of any mean­ing­ful body­work only em­pha­sised this no­tion up close. Which­ever cat­e­gory you put the Tracer in though, it is a smart enough look­ing bike… well, apart from the dash on the stan­dard model.

It shows you every­thing you need – there’s plenty of in­for­ma­tion – but it’s ugly. Surely there is no need for a less-than-pretty dash on a mod­ern mo­tor­cy­cle? The stubby ex­haust pipe goes some way – in the aes­thet­ics de­part­ment at least – to­wards mak­ing

up for the ropey look­ing dash how­ever; it looks suit­ably stylish and smartens up the rear of the mo­tor­cy­cle no end.

I threw a leg over and every­thing in­stantly felt as though it was in the right place for a com­fort­able ride, and as an added bonus my rear was hap­pier for be­ing treated to a new thicker, com­fier seat. Nice.

On the stan­dard 900, the Trac­tion Con­trol Sys­tem (TCS) is op­er­ated with a but­ton on the dash, which I set to num­ber one for the be­gin­ning of our ride. Saun­ter­ing through the streets of Granada, the torquey CP3 en­gine that so many have grown to love didn’t dis­ap­point. Although it some­times felt a bit jerky at low revs go­ing on and off the throt­tle, once we were rolling along the mo­tor purred quite beau­ti­fully. It didn’t take me long to get bliss­fully reac­quainted with the mag­nif­i­cent en­gine that the Tracer shares with the MT-09 and XSR900 (and will soon share with the three wheeled Niken).

By the time we had got out of town and onto some big fast open roads I was ab­so­lutely lov­ing life. The up­right rid­ing po­si­tion proved just as com­fort­able as the pre­vi­ous Tracer and the uber soft sus­pen­sion made glid­ing over even the rough­est Span­ish tar­mac no prob­lem what­so­ever. Trundling along, com­fort­able though I was, I did strug­gle to get my feet into a nat­u­ral feel­ing po­si­tion. Be­ing used to sport­bikes, I tend to sit the balls of my feet on the pegs, but as the pil­lion pegs have been moved out and for­ward slightly (in an at­tempt to aid pil­lion com­fort) my heels would catch them be­fore I could get my feet as far back as I would have liked.

And on the sub­ject of com­fort, Yamaha’s new screen ad­just­ment mech­a­nism is an ab­so­lute dod­dle to op­er­ate – just squeeze the han­dle and pull the thing up or down. It’s a cool sys­tem but with only 50mm of travel, I was left won­der­ing whether it was all worth it; with the stan­dard sized screen there wasn’t a great deal of dif­fer­ence wher­ever you had the screen set.

As ex­pected, the en­gine lived up to ex­pec­ta­tion when things got go­ing too. It didn’t seem to mat­ter how fast or slow the mo­tor was spin­ning, as soon as I opened up the taps there was mean­ing­ful drive and the bike would con­tinue to pull up to and beyond 10,000rmp. And not only did the mo­tor per­form, it sounded great while it was do­ing so and its dis­tinc­tive triple sound­track was egging me on to­wards the red line.

Af­ter a hand­ful of miles on some big long open roads, we started climb­ing up a nar­row, wind­ing moun­tain pass – which was when I started to ask for a lit­tle bit more from the Tracer. The first prob­lem I

had when I upped the pace was the brakes, or more specif­i­cally the rear brake. The front brake was ac­tu­ally very good, the ABS didn’t kick-in too much, it was eas­ily strong enough at first, and only faded a lit­tle bit when I was rid­ing like I had stolen it. As for the rear, well that’s an­other story. I’m sure there was enough power there to slow the bike down but the ABS would barely let me use any of it – as soon as I put any­thing like enough pres­sure on the pedal the ABS forced it (and my foot) back up.

Although the soft, un-ad­justable, sus­pen­sion on the stan­dard 900 didn’t ex­actly help the bike’s agility, it would turn and hold a line sur­pris­ingly well. When push­ing on, the Tracer did start to make some shapes and move around a lot, but the shapes didn’t once trans­late into run­ning wide or not be­ing able to get the bike to change di­rec­tion. It took some man­han­dling but it al­ways did what I wanted it to do, it just got less pretty the more I pushed on.


Lunch time came all too soon, such was my en­joy­ment at hus­tling the Tracer along, but I didn’t get too up­set as I knew it would soon be time to have a blast on the all-singing, all-danc­ing GT ver­sion. De­spite look­ing a lit­tle bit lost be­tween the big han­dle­bars and wind­screen, the mini TFT dash in­stantly gives the GT an air of supremacy over its cheaper coun­ter­part. The dash, and menus thereon, can be nav­i­gated us­ing a scroll wheel on the right hand switchgear and once you get used to press­ing and hold­ing at the ap­pro­pri­ate times, it’s a piece of cake to use. The scroll wheel is also used to ac­ti­vate the heated grips (an­other GT-only treat), and to scroll be­tween their three lev­els of toasti­ness.

For the most part the only real dif­fer­ence be­tween the stan­dard Tracer and the GT, as far as the ac­tual rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence went, was the quick­shifter, which worked a treat. Han­dling-wise the GT I rode, in its fac­tory setup, felt akin to the soft stan­dard model, but with ad­justa­bil­ity front and rear, a stiffer setup could al­ways be ac­com­plished if needed.

While I was rid­ing the GT, the Span­ish heav­ens opened and we were forced to en­dure an almighty down­pour. Never one to let rain st play, I used it as an ex­er­cise to test the Trac­tion Con­trol Sys­tem (TCS tricky con­di­tions. With the TCS se to 2, any­thing ex­cept the smoothe ap­pli­ca­tion of throt­tle was met by hor­ri­ble jerky loss of power that d very lit­tle to in­spire con­fi­dence an even less to help the bike turn. Lev 1 was much bet­ter, the jerk­i­ness w less when the TCS did kick in, and you had to be ask­ing a lot more from the throt­tle and the back tyre be­fore it did rear its ugly head.

My favourite set­ting was ‘off ’ though; in the tor­ren­tial rain with the throt­tle to the stop­per and the back


In an at­tempt to im­prove long dis­tance rid­ing com­fort, Yamaha has equipped these new mod­els with a thicker and com­fier rider and pas­sen­ger seat. The han­dle­bars are also nar­rower, as is the newly sculpted tank, al­low­ing the rider to get his (or her) knees tucked in a lit­tle more tightly. The wind­screen is a dif­fer­ent shape and can now be ad­justed eas­ily with one hand, even while rid­ing along, but only al­lows 50mm of ad­just­ment. SUS­PEN­SION

There are no frills in this de­part­ment on the stan­dard Tracer 900 but the GT comes with Kayaba forks, ad­justable for preload, re­bound damp­ing (in the right leg) and com­pres­sion (in the left leg), and a Kayaba monoshock, also ad­justable for preload and re­bound, but not com­pres­sion. The GT’s shock has a re­mote preload ad­juster, and the forks come with a gold fin­ish for that premium spec look. PRAC­TI­CAL

The new Tracer is fit­ted with an 18-litre fuel tank which Yamaha says is good for more than 300km (186 miles). Both mod­els have fully in­te­grated at­tach­ment points for soft and hard lug­gage op­tions, and the GT model comes with a pair of eas­ily de­tach­able, colour coded 22-litre gen­uine Yamaha hard pan­niers which are locked by the ig­ni­tion key. EN­GINE

Both mod­els are pow­ered by the cross­plane crank triple (CP3), robbed straight out the pop­u­lar MT-09. The 847cc mo­tor pro­duces a sen­si­ble 113bhp and, for sheer us­abil­ity, 87.5Nm of torque. The mo­tor’s strong and us­able power serves the Tracer per­fectly. Down­shifts are smoothed out by Yamaha’s ‘As­sist and Slip­per’ clutch on both mod­els, while the GT ver­sion also en­joys the ad­di­tion of a quick­shifter. STYLING

Both the Tracer 900 and Tracer 900GT have had a com­plete body­work makeover. Both fea­ture new side pan­els and a new front air in­take. The stan­dard model can be Nim­bus Grey or Tech Black, whereas the op­tions for the GT model are Mid­night Black, Nim­bus Grey or Phan­tom Blue. ELEC­TRON­ICS

The GT’s full colour TFT dash looks great com­pared to the stan­dard bike’s dot-ma­trix type in­stru­ments. The Trac­tion Con­trol Sys­tem (TCS) op­tions are 1, 2 and off, 2 be­ing for street rid­ing and 1 for sport rid­ing. You also get three power modes: ag­gres­sive A and slower STD and B. On the stan­dard model the TCS can only be al­tered by press­ing a but­ton on the dash, whereas on the GT you can use the han­dle­bar switchgear. Both get ABS, and the GT gets a quick­shifter, cruise con­trol and heated grips.

wheel spin­ning a mil­lion times faster than the front my in­ces­sant laugh­ter was clearly au­di­ble over the sound of the rev lim­iter.


What­ever your age, li­cence, bud­get or ex­pe­ri­ence level, there is al­most cer­tainly go­ing be some­thing in a Yamaha show­room for you. But not only do they want to sell you that mo­tor­cy­cle, they want to make ab­so­lutely cer­tain that they’re sell­ing you your next one, too.

You see, the en­tire Yamaha range seems to be all about stepping stones. It’s easy to won­der why the new Tracer 900 ex­ists, when the Tracer 900GT has got so much more tech and equip­ment for such a small amount of ex­tra cash – what’s an­other £1400 when you’re al­ready shelling out £9249?

But the fact is, the stan­dard Tracer 900 is al­ready a big enough step up from the Tracer 700, and that is ex­actly the kind of cus­tomer that Yamaha is keen to get on the new

900. And you had bet­ter be­lieve that out of the 30,000 Tracer 900s al­ready sold since the model’s in­tro­duc­tion to the mar­ket in 2015, there are go­ing to be a whole lot which are com­ing to the end of their PCP agree­ment and look­ing to be traded in for a newer model. Neatly, here is pre­cisely where 2018’s Tracer 900GT en­ters the equa­tion.

In all fair­ness, although the GT looks a bit cooler with its TFT dash, is a lit­tle bit more civilised with its quick­shifter, cruise con­trol and heated grips, and is cer­tainly more prac­ti­cal with its two 22 litre pan­niers and fully ad­justable sus­pen­sion, there re­ally isn’t any more fun to be had on it com­pared to the stan­dard Tracer 900.

To spec the stan­dard bike up to the level of the GT would cost you a whole lot more than £1400, so if you want that level of spec then it’s a no-brainer but if the ex­tra spec on the GT doesn’t float your boat, don’t think for a sec­ond that the Tracer 900 of­fers a sec­ond fid­dle rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Far from be­ing the runt of the lit­ter, the 2018 Tracer 900 is just as fan­tas­tic and ver­sa­tile a bike as its top dog GT brother – it sim­ply lacks the added style and panache.

Per­haps you have enough style as it is, per­haps you don’t. What­ever the case, there is a Tracer 900 for you.

WORDS: Mike Booth PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: Yamaha

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