Yamaha Tracer 900GT

Wav­ing sum­mer good­bye with a sun-up to sun-down ride on Yamaha’s Tracer 900GT


A WEEK BE­FORE the clocks go back and it fi­nally hits me: sum­mer’s over. Call me slow; per­haps I’ve just been in de­nial for weeks. But here we are, end of Oc­to­ber, the sands of 2018’s rid­ing sea­son slip­ping through my fin­gers. The Tracer 900GT still doesn’t have a Grand Tour to its name. Never made that pil­grim­age to Ap­ple­cross I’d been promis­ing. Never got round to chas­ing the Isle of Man’s Moun­tain road into a set­ting sun. Never un­packed the pan­niers in a Parador.

Woe is me, tune up your tiny vi­o­lin and so on, but the guilty re­gret of missed op­por­tu­nity is real. If I’d been liv­ing with a su­per­fi­cial retro or a fo­cused su­per­bike I wouldn’t mind so much, but the Tracer GT’S all-round as­pi­ra­tions mean it de­serves a big ride. Or at least the big­gest I can man­age be­fore the nights draw in. Un­for­tu­nately, I can only man­age a day. Less, in fact: I want to cram my Tracer tour into the 11 hours and 19 min­utes be­tween dawn (7:06am) and dusk (6:25pm). Seems a suit­ably so­lar send-off to the sum­mer.

I leave my Lin­colnshire lock-up 20

min­utes late, after for­get­ting to fit a sat nav the night be­fore. The sun rises as I pass Peter­bor­ough and head on to Up­ping­ham, where I pick up the much-loved B664. It’s deep into rush hour but traf­fic’s still sparse on this squig­gly, di­verse back­road. No need to rush along but the Tracer’s ef­fort­less mo­tor de­vours the empty tar­mac, surg­ing for­wards with ir­re­sistible force from all revs and howl­ing with a feral snarl on wide throt­tle open­ings. Tour­ers aren’t sup­posed to sound or feel like this.

One round­about after cross­ing over the M1’s mid-week mis­ery I stum­ble across the Frank Whit­tle Mon­u­ment, which never fails to lift spir­its. Who isn’t cheered up by the sight of a sil­ver jet tak­ing off from the mid­dle of a round­about? Just a few miles up the A5 is a less glam­orous but no less his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant mon­u­ment: High Cross, a stone marker lo­cated at the cen­tre of Ro­man Bri­tain. Weirdly for some­thing so note­wor­thy it just sits unas­sum­ingly at the side of the road, pro­ject­ing the cul­tural im­por­tance of a dis­carded Lu­cozade bot­tle.

Still, when in Rome… I head south­west on the Fosse Way, one of Eng­land’s most fa­mous Ro­man roads. On the map it’s a te­dious-look­ing, ar­row-straight

stripe down to the Cotswolds but the re­al­ity is a charm­ing, ever-evolv­ing, gen­tly me­an­der­ing back­road through quiet coun­try­side. I fol­low it to More­tonin-marsh, turn right where my grand­dad owned a bak­ery decades back, and take the A44 up to and down the twist­ing Fish Hill. I got my knee down here for the first time back in 2004. De­mol­ished a Benelli here too six years later. Ah, me­mories.

The Tracer’s fuel light stops me at 140 miles. A hurredly scoffed cheese sand­wich primes me for the hour(ish)long dual-car­riage­way slog down the M50 and A40 to Aber­gavenny. The GT’S cruise con­trol is a god­send when it comes to churn­ing out the miles, and er­gonomics are gen­er­ally re­laxed. I’ve added Yamaha’s sup­pos­edly plusher ac­ces­sory seat, though my but­tocks can’t dis­cern £150’s im­prove­ment from the stock perch. But the Tracer’s big­gest lim­i­ta­tion is its noisy screen (dis­cussed in the last is­sue). Hav­ing spent a month with Yamaha’s taller tour­ing screen (£143) I’ve now swapped for a Skid­marx op­tion (£90) which doesn’t cure the prob­lem ei­ther. The search con­tin­ues.

At last: the B4560. All of five miles long and less than 10 min­utes end to end, this gnarly moun­tain road north to Llang­y­nidr is a per­sonal favourite: wide, mostly smooth, al­ways var­ied, gen­er­ally quiet and stun­ningly scenic. The Tracer dances across it joy­ously, steer­ing with the sharp speed of a street­fighter through the tighter turns. Well worth a 200-mile trip.

I’d hoped to steal a longer ride through the Bre­con Bea­cons, but the sat nav tells me it’s home time al­ready. So it’s north through Bwlch, a snig­ger as I pass Three Cocks, and a spon­ta­neous U-turn to check out the sign­posted Or­gas­mic Cider Com­pany (shut to­day, sadly). On to the belt­ing A44 at Leomin­ster, across to Worces­ter and pick up the M5 for the ride home. The fuel light rears its head again at 300 miles, by which time my bum, head and back are all beg­ging for a break too.

Two hours later I’m home, a fit­ting 20 min­utes late, though the un­planned night ride high­lighted the Tracer’s stonk­ing LED head­lights. Grand to­tal for to­day’s Grand Tour: 426.5 miles. Farewell sum­mer­time, and roll on Sun­day March 31, 2019.

Sun-up in Lin­colnshire at the start of the ride

The beauty and iso­la­tion of the B4560 to Llang­y­nidr Welsh tar­mac un­folds in the late sum­mer sun

The glo­ri­ous Bre­con Bea­cons

Frank Whit­tle mon­u­ment out­side Lut­ter­worth

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