BETTER ALL ROUND
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.
GT OR NOT GT?
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