YAMAHA MT-09

We’ve made our MT-09 han­dle and play around like a mod­ern TDR250; now it looks like one, too

Performance Bikes (UK) - - Contents -

2017 YAMAHA MT-09 MARK WHITE

WE BEAT YAMAHA to the punch with the idea of a sharper MT-09 – but the sneaky sods then made the MT-09 SP such an ap­par­ent bar­gain (only £800 more, for bet­ter sus­pen­sion and lovely fin­ishes) com­pared to the bounc­ing, plain-faced stan­dard model my bike once was. But this home­grown ver­sion has to be MUCH bet­ter in all re­gards: match­ing the real SP pound-for-pound isn’t pos­si­ble.

Af­ter two months away at Dream Ma­chine, I think you’ll agree our bike has come back very much head and shoul­ders above even Yamaha’s ‘Race Blu’ spe­cial: I wasn’t too sure when Com­man­dant New­big­ging dic­tated the TDR250 ‘Far­away Blue’ retro theme to mark the MT-09’s spir­i­tual con­nec­tion to the two-stroke su­per­moto (you have poor form for cus­tom fin­ishes, it was the right thing to do – CN), but I’ll ad­mit that Dream Ma­chine’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of our idea looks bril­liant.

There were enough sim­i­lar-ish ar­eas to paint and ap­ply graph­ics be­tween the TDR and MT-09 that the de­sign cues could be car­ried through and adapted to suit. We did con­sider car­ry­ing the flu­oro paint from the MT on to the TDR graph­ics, but it’s not a true flouro, and it would have looked a bit wishy-washy against the Gauloises-in­spired blue base, so we kept the 1980s yel­low, too. I was a bit con­cerned about how the orig­i­nal wheels might look, but they’re OK. I may yet get those redone in gold: I prob­a­bly won’t go as far as fit­ting TDR spoked rims and trail tyres, though...

It’s not as straight­for­ward as splash­ing a bit of blue around and whack­ing some old graph­ics on: the tank/ in­take graph­ics are be­spoke adap­ta­tions of the TDR’s sig­na­ture de­cals, as is the MT-09 logo, styled in the man­ner of the smoker’s name la­bels.

A mod­ern twist is the in­clu­sion of the MT fam­ily crest on the ra­di­a­tor cov­ers. Dream Ma­chine also painted the trim pieces un­der the head­light, and the seat pan­els – plain on my bike as stan­dard, though Yamaha did the same for the SP model, too.

Early in the de­sign process, Dream Ma­chine asked if we could fit a screen to it – the TDR had a painted nose fair­ing, whereas the MT-09 only has head­lights and un­painted plas­tics. So I or­dered a gen­uine Yamaha screen (£122) for them to paint, and for me to fit later. Sur­pris­ingly, it re­quires holes drilling: sim­ple but ob­vi­ously a per­ma­nent change. The smoked plas­tic is now blue and yel­low, with the TDR’s num­ber-board rescaled ap­pro­pri­ately.

The cost for Dream Ma­chine’s hand­i­work is £1200: given that in­cludes some de­sign work and one-off

graph­ics, that’s pretty good value for the man-hours in­volved, even though out­wardly the min­i­mal body­work doesn’t look like a big job. It’s flaw­less, too: it’s ev­ery bit as good as Yamaha’s own paint. Ex­cept it looks bet­ter...

Shipped back to the garage, I at­tended to some long over­due tasks. Firstly, sort­ing the in­ter­fer­ence be­tween the Yamaha/Gilles gen­uine ac­ces­sory rearsets, and the SP En­gi­neer­ing af­ter­mar­ket sys­tem de­signed around the stock footrest hangers. The brake pedal’s ‘heel’ bot­toms out on the can hanger. Af­ter con­sid­er­ing a new bracket to move the strap fur­ther along the can (which would look crap), I de­cided that cut­ting a lit­tle me­tal out of the stain­less strap would solve the is­sue. It did. There’s still enough mat­eral to sup­port the small, light silencer, and vi­bra­tion on the MT is min­i­mal so I’ve no con­cern about stress frac­ture. Easy.

More com­plex was ditch­ing the mud­guard/ num­ber­plate holder from the swingarm. Not only is it a bit out of place on a sporty naked (save it for the bob­bers and other faux-vin­tage shit­ters), but it’s also 2.1kg of un­sprung weight, hung from the end of the swingarm and prob­a­bly ex­ert­ing even more force through the lever­age it has on its mount­ing point. That’s no way to treat an ex­pen­sive shock ab­sorber...

R&G Rac­ing sent one of their con­ven­tion­ally-placed tail ti­dies to rem­edy that. The £134.99 kit is more con­vo­luted than your av­er­age tail tidy (usu­ally a bit of bent alu­minium, putting it crudely) – it comes with new chain ad­juster blocks (the mud­guard thingy in­cor­po­rates the orig­i­nals) plus other brack­ets to at­tach to the un­der­tray where it wasn’t in­tended to be. It also in­cludes in­di­ca­tor wiring ex­ten­sions.

Fit­ting it is an arse-ache, though that’s largely the

‘The tank and in­take graph­ics are be­spoke adap­ta­tions of the TDR250’s sig­na­ture de­cals’

na­ture of the re­lo­ca­tion. You need to get the bike on a pad­dock stand, re­move the wheel spin­dle to re­place the new blocks, have the wiring along the swingarm un­clipped, all the rear body­work re­moved, and the wiring rout­ing to the tail for the num­ber­plate light.

Long-winded, but straight­for­ward. The trick­ier is­sue in­volved the in­di­ca­tors. The orig­i­nal in­di­ca­tors (as I wished to use) no longer had enough wire to reach the main wiring loom. The in­cluded ex­ten­sions are for af­ter­mar­ket parts, with generic bul­let con­nec­tors. So I got busy with the sol­der­ing iron, and mod­i­fied the leads to ex­tend the orig­i­nal in­di­ca­tor leads. Again, not a big job, but if you can’t sol­der, you need to learn, rope in a mate who can, or just fit af­ter­mar­ket flash­ers. I ac­tu­ally quite like the orig­i­nals: they’re small, nicely shaped and bright enough to maybe not get squished over a round­about...

It’s been a cou­ple of hours well spent – it’s the es­sen­tial fi­nal touch for the vis­ual over­haul. Af­ter suf­fer­ing a bit project de­pres­sion (give over, you’re a mis­er­able git any­way – JM) – that feel­ing of be­ing mired in work, mess­ing around in a cold garage, or wait­ing for paint to come back. It’s easy to for­get why you did it in the first place.

But now, it’s fin­ished. It’s in one piece, and it looks bril­liant. Granted, you can buy a reg­u­lar MT-09 SP which is also all of these things. Which is why, next month, it’s go­ing to meet the fac­tory ef­fort so we can see if the home-built ap­proach is still worth it.

Photography Mark White & Si­mon Lee

Orig­i­nal bike looked pos­i­tively sub­dued

Whitey is now the proud guardian of the lairi­est MT-09 in the coun­try

Cowl mim­ics the TDR’s nose fair­ing. It’s a thing of rare beauty

Lin­ing up bee-at­tract­ing stripes was a chal­lenge

R&G tail tidy re­places ut­terly gop­ping orig­i­nal num­ber­plate hanger

Cut­ting notch out of stain­less strap stops rear brake foul­ing the ex­haust

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