Niall's Spin: Yamaha MT-01 review

It promised so much that it was bound to fall short, but now the hype has died down, what's it really like to ride?

Posted: 21 September 2010
by Niall Mackenzie

Big money, bad finish, poor performance and terrible resale value. Er...

Click to read: Yamaha MT-01 owners reviews, Yamaha MT-01 specs and to see the Yamaha MT-01 image gallery.

Tuned-up, air-cooled 1670cc cruiser engine and an image that makes all Harleys and retros look like effete antiques. This is the cruiser that isn't, and perhaps the ideal stepping stone from sports bike to full-on custom.

The MT-01 is most definitely a bike you buy for the looks. Wallflowers need not apply.

The ride doesn't live up to the image if you want cutting edge cut and thrust. Yes, it's fast but not sports bike rapid, and that motor runs out of puff very early on. Huge low rev torque makes it quick off the line and prone to spinning up in the wet but, like the latest turbo-diesel cars, the powerband is narrow and it lacks the high end zap to keep it accelerating hard above 100mph. No wind protection and small tank make distances a pain but it's still a delight to ride at moderate speed for short to medium hops.

It's too heavy to be nimble although it's a stable, fine handling machine, but the suspension is surprisingly adjustable and a few tweaks can make a big difference.

Finish isn't great and a lot of the styling details are actually cheap and plasticky - this is a machine best admired from 10 paces or so. But for most buyers this was a sunny Sunday posing tool, so mileages are low and levels of TLC are pretty high. The MT-01 was way overpriced when new - £9289 list - so not that many are around, but those that are should be well looked after. Yamaha wanted owners to 'buy into the brand' in the way Harely's customers are so willing to do, and with that in mind a whole range of customising and tuning accessories were made available too, not least a thundering great set of offically-approved Akrapovic exhausts. Any add-ons from the offical Yamaha catalogue will rightly add a few quid to the selling price.

Pillions get a raw deal. The rear perch is spacious enough but the pillion pegs are impossibly high, so only the tiniest of passengers will be comfortable for any length of time - although they may be pleasantly distracted by the vibrations through the seat pad.

  • Key ID: blinged-up, Mad Max on steroids looks and a monstrous V-twin motor on show - nothing else comes close
  • Don't fear: tastefully modified bikes - as long as you get the standard exhausts for MoT time
  • Also consider: 2007 Suzuki GSX1400, 2007 Honda CB1300

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The local dealer only just managed to offload the last batch of new 2006 bikes that had been sitting in the storeroom. He let them go for half thier original  recomended price.The second hand ones are almost impossible to sell unless you almost give them away.Great looking engine, but with a small fuel capacity and lousy pillion ergo's, they are only good for a quick blast around the hill's. The novelty soon wears off and they become tiresome and boring because they lack the verstility of other bikes. I sold mine after six mounths and lost thousands but had heaps more fun and use out of its replacement.

Posted: 22/09/2010 at 12:17

I've owned a few different bikes since 1995 when I first started riding. I had a 5 valve yamaha maxim X (with the sportier 5 valve engine) and a few other bikes. I have to say I understand the allure of the of MT-01. It really has a nice sound and feel to it and the torque is great (and for me it is very quick). I find that it is excellent for just cruising along and when I need to get aggressive it is a blast to ride with more than enough power for me to be smiling at a steady pace. Compared to the hard core fast adreline riders the bike may be slower but for me riding comfortably and confidently at 120-135 kms/hr all day is more than I need. Passing power and the ability to ride faster is definitely there but I would rather save my money then give it to the police (most of the time anyway). I don't miss the loud whine of a 4 cyclinder engine and I love the feel of the seat, seating position, and attitude of the bike. I find the bike beautiful but as any rider knows it is all a matter of opinion. Most people don't get this bike, and that's okay, but if you can get it at a bargin price it is definitely worth considering. When switching from a 4 cylinder bike to this bike just remember to shift quickly through the gears and you'll find yourself flying. Ride safe! 

Posted: 01/06/2011 at 17:31

Journalist suggest to "also consider: 2007 Suzuki GSX1400, 2007 Honda CB1300". This bike has nothing to do at all with those, it's like telling someone looking for Ducati Panigale to also consider a KTM dirt bike, both can be great but won't be aimed at the same clientele. You don't buy an MT-01 for the race track, for its max power on paper. You buy it for it's character, looks and it's torque (it only runs out of puff if you redline it like a sports bike, which it's not, short shift and you'll be rewarded with plenty power, 70% of the torque is available at around 2000rpm). It's also very comfortable, and you'll be enjoying this bike as much at 80km/h as you would at 180km/h on a standard inline-4 bike. Even with stock exhausts it sounds like a WWII airplane. Yamaha were asking too much for this bike when they launched. But if you find a used one, you'll be getting an awesome motorcycle for a very decent price.

Posted: 14/02/2013 at 20:31

I had 50.000 kms on it so far, completely trouble free and very exciting to ride. An awesome bike, comfortable also for long international rides too. I can not find any other bike to replace it so I will keep it for manymore years I guess. It takes a mature rider to appreciate this big and mean machine.

My only concern was finding a proper pannier for long rides.
Later on I found the Bagester tank cover letting you attach really large tank bags.

Posted: 01/05/2013 at 12:47

I've owned a 2009 MT-01 for almost 2 yrs now, and it's almost on 50,00km. Previous bikes include FJ1200/ZZR1100 both 'serious' Continent destroyers. The MT is a far more relaxed bike to ride that the ZZR, it's as much fun between 80-140kph, as the Zed is at 160-200+. It's very reminiscent of riding an old Guzzi Lemon, stable, built for sweeping bends, rather than point and squirt. I live in Wellington (NZ) and am familiar with English country roads. Local rides include a 'hill' (Rimataka's) that would be similar to the IoM TT Mountain section.. select the right gear, roll the throttle on and off, surfing the high level of torque.. and scare the bejeezus out of a few sprotbike riders... As said above, DONT ride it like a 20 zillion rpm sprotbike.. Ex Guzzi owners would feel right at home on one. So range is 'limited' but is the same as an XR1200 HD. 200-220km's to reserve. It's a 'Man's bike', it requires 'Riding' rather than 'falls' into corners.

Posted: 08/10/2013 at 07:26

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