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First ride: Yamaha MT-09 review

Three years after its debut, with the addition of traction control and an improved throttle response for 2016, the MT-09 is still an astonishing bike for the money

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Submitted by Visordown News on Wed, 24/02/2016 - 22:26

LIGHT, torquey, good value: that’s the recipe that has made Yamaha’s MT range such a success.

Three years after its introduction, the model that launched the range, the MT-09, still does the recipe better than any to follow so far.

It’s had a modest update for 2016, with the addition of traction control and a ‘refinement’ to the engine mapping, to address complaints of a slightly snatchy throttle response. And some new colours.  

Do those updates amount to justification for another press riding launch of the MT-09? If Yamaha’s only reason was to remind us how good it is, the answer is probably yes.

It takes very little distance to register that this is a convincing motorcycle for the price, which is £7,349 plus tax and registration, the same as last year. The thought had formed by the time I reached the exit of the car park.

Three things contribute to an immediate positive impression. The first is the MT-09’s size: it’s barely much bigger than an MT-07. The second is the riding position, which is relaxed and natural, the bars high and close to your body, your elbows bent. The third is the front tyre skipping at the first experimental input of throttle, a surprising, friendly warning of the mid-range at the end of the leash.

On twisty Spanish roads, the 847cc triple is strong from 4,000rpm in third gear. It’s got the balance of mid-range and top-end that characterises triples, so there’s a linear rush to toward the 11,000rpm red line.

There are three riding modes and none of them is troubled by throttle snatch now. Even in level one, the sportiest, the torque response to throttle input is aggressive but it doesn’t jerk at the initial movement; it’s easy to feed the drive in smoothly.

The middle mode, ‘Standard', delivers the same peak figures of 115hp and 64.5lbft, so allows you to go just as fast but asks for a bigger wrist movement to do it. This seemed best suited to the winding tarmac, demanding less precision than level one but eating up the straights just as quickly. Level two trims about 4hp off the peak and offers the softest throttle response by some margin. It would be useful for carrying a pillion as well as riding in the rain.

As a corner arrives, there’s lots of power from the four-pot calipers on twin floating front discs, a two-finger input the only requirement for rapid and controlled deceleration.

A non-ABS MT-09 is available for £6,949 but only while existing stock lasts. I’d find the extra £400 for this one.

The system intervened once under hard braking on a slightly dusty, uneven patch of road, the caliper momentary releasing and sending a pulse back through the lever before resuming the business of stopping. It’s as good as any ABS, apart from the most sophisticated systems that also work mid-corner – but no bike has that at this price.

The aluminium chassis offers stability under hard acceleration and braking. The natural, almost supermoto-like riding position and wide bars help minimise the effort of tipping the MT-09 in and out or turns, as well as aiding low-speed manoeuvrability. 

The suspension isn’t fully adjustable, only for preload and rebound damping at both ends, but it’s capable. It was taut and well-damped enough to keep the MT-09 unrattled by anything on the test ride but soft enough for comfort throughout. With a morning on the MT-09s before switching to the new MT-03, the ride felt if anything cut short. I’d happily go much further on the bigger bike, although the absence of wind protection would probably make hard work of long motorway rides, especially without the benefit of Spanish sunshine.


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