The 10 Best Yamaha MT Models

The MT-09 is Yamaha's best 'Master of Torque' yet, but which other versions run it close?

2022 MT-10 Visordown Review

Yamaha’s ‘MT’ – 'Masters of Torque' – family of bikes has come a long way since the unveiling of the original 25 years ago. For, yes, although the MT-09 and its spin-offs, the MT-07, MT-09 Tracer etc we’re all most familiar with today only date back 10 years, to the first MT-09 in 2014, the line actually dates all the way back to 1999 when the first concept MT-01 was unveiled at the Tokyo Show.

That torque-riddled monster, based as it was around a massive V-twin cruiser engine, eventually went into production as the first MT-01 in 2005, in turn spawning the MT-03 single. Then the whole family was kick-started proper with 2014’s first MT-09 proving such a success it inspired a whole family of MTs, which have been constantly updated and revised since, culminating in today’s current nine-strong ‘hyper-naked’ Yamaha line-up.

But which have been the best, the stand-out bikes of the breed? What have they got? And should you buy them? Here’s our pick of the 10 best, in chronological order…

2005-2011 MT-01

The MT-01 initially debuted as a concept bike at the 1999 Tokyo Show. A wild roadster based around an XV1900 pushrod cruiser V-twin with R1 forks and brakes, what it lacked in conventional power (just 90bhp) it made up for with monster torque (111lb ft no less) and wacky styling. The response was so great Yamaha was actually persuaded to put it into production, although it didn’t arrive until 2005 and was so pricey it wasn’t a big hit. 

Today, though, with fantastic build quality and presence and grunty delivery like little else, it’s considered something of a modern classic, with the appreciating used prices to match.

2006-2016 MT-03

Perhaps conscious that its new MT-01 might be too ‘out there’ for many, Yamaha swiftly followed up its first monster MT with a little brother – the single-cylinder, 660cc MT-03, a funky roadster based around the engine from the XT660 trail bike. Agile, stylish and comparatively affordable, it outlived its bigger brother and, although now ageing, remains a quirky, unintimidating first big bike– especially around town or for smaller riders.

2014-2016 MT-09

After the financial crash of 2009 and the doldrums that followed, Yamaha first hinted it was on its way back when it unveiled its new 900cc ‘CP3’ Crossplane crank three-cylinder engine concept at the Cologne Show in the autumn of 2011. Big things were promised but it wasn’t until late 2013, when the first MT-09 was launched, that it was clear what they would be. 

It’s worth repeating here what a revelation the MT-09 was at that. Lithe, punchy, accessible entertaining and, above all, affordable, it became an instant best seller. It wasn’t perfect. The throttle was a little snatchy, the forks a little soft, the quality a little basic and the styling not to everyone’s taste (although Street Tracker and SR optional body kits could help) but it set a new benchmark for middleweight roadsters. 

2015- MT-07 

The MT-09 triple was followed a year later by the twin-cylinder MT-07, which essentially used the CP3 triple but with one cylinder lopped off. The result was just as punchy and fun but even more lithe and affordable and, as a result, an even bigger seller than the 900. 

Again, it wasn’t perfect. Odd looks and soft forks were addressed first in 2018 with a further, more thorough update in 2021 and the result is still one of the best all-round, ‘first big bike’ roadsters, although the opposition has now arguably finally caught up in the form of the 2023 Honda CB750 Hornet and Suzuki GSX-S8 – but it took them a fair while to do so.

2015-2018 MT-09 Tracer

Yes, we know, Yamaha’s current Tracers, the 7 and 9, aren’t called MTs at all – but they were originally, which is why it’s included here. Initially launched in 2015, the very first was the MT-09 Tracer which, as its name suggests, was based on the then MT-09 but turned into a more comfortable, versatile and longer-legged sports tourer essentially by dint of a frame-mounted half-fairing, revised riding position and extended rear subframe with larger twin seat. 

It worked, too, proving immediately so popular it spawned a series of spin-offs and updates, first the (differently named) Tracer 700 in 2016, followed by the updated 900 version in 2018 along with the first higher-spec GT version. Those bikes were updated again in 2021 to become the Tracer 7 and Tracer 9 in 2021. The latest, top-spec, Tracer 9 GT+ introduced last year, complete with radar-assisted braking, cruise, TFT dash, adjustable screen and more is arguably the best sports-tourer of all.

2016- MT-10

The Crossplane crank roadster reached arguably its ultimate incarnation in 2016 when Yamaha launched the first MT-10. Essentially a naked R1 with a detuned 160bhp engine and oddball styling, the result was a grunty, loony super naked with one of the most addictive power deliveries in all of motorcycling. 

Things got even better still with the arrival of the up-specced SP version the following year with semi-active Ohlins suspension and more, while both received an overdue update with improved midrange, uprated electronics (including new TFT dash) and subtly improved styling in 2022. If you want the best, most addictive Japanese super naked, this is it.

2017-2020 MT-09

Although a ‘stonker’ from the outset, the original 2014 MT-09 was a long way from perfect. This was addressed in its first major update in 2017 which saw not only all-new styling (although, to be honest, it was still a bit odd), revised, repositioned instruments (the originals were oddly offset), revised suspension, most particularly the forks and new three-level traction control (from the Tracer). The following year saw it then get even better yet with the introduction of the first MT-09 SP with fully adjustable Ohlins rear shock and uprated forks.

2021-2023 MT-09

Another significant step up. Out went the old 847cc/113bhp engine to be replaced by a longer stroke, 889cc (and Euro5 compliant) version producing 117bhp. Out, too, went the old frame, this time swapped for a new aluminium Deltabox, and there was also all-new styling (which still looked a little odd), 3.5-inch colour TFT dash (in place of the old LCD version), switchgear and more. The result looked better, went better, handled better and was a nicer ‘thing’ all-round. And, as before, if it wasn’t quite ‘nice’ enough for you, a new SP version also followed soon after. 

2024- MT-09

Which brings us bang up to date with the new 2024 MT-09, which, assuming you’ve already read our review, you’ll know takes things to yet another level when, considering how small the changes seem on the spec sheet, we didn’t really think it was possible. This time, the 889cc engine and frame are essentially unchanged, but what is, is the whole MT-09’s posture and quality. 

A significantly reworked, sportier riding position names it more super naked than ‘tracker roadster’, without sacrificing comfort; there’s a much improved five-inch TFT dash and accompanying switchgear and there are plenty of detail improvements, too – adjustable levers, new Brembo brake master cylinder to improve feel, ‘acoustic enhancement’ via a reworked tank/airbox, the list goes on. No more does the MT-09 feel a little ‘budget’. In fact, it’s arguably the best middleweight naked you can buy.

2014- MT-125

OK, we know, this was supposed to be in chronological order, but we’ve bumped Yamaha’s A1-compliant MT to the end ‘cos it’s a little bit different. But it’s still a great MT. First launched in 2014, the MT-125 is essentially a naked, roadster version of the class-leading YZF-R125 learner sportster. But as the donor bike is so good and the MT version so well executed, it deserves to be mentioned in any ‘great MT’ roll call. 

Its 15bhp Minarelli engine is among the best, it looks and handles great and it’s well-equipped and finished. First updated in 2020 and then again in 2023, it now has a classy five-nch colour TFT dash, traction control, improved switchgear and even a form of variable valve timing. No 125cc roadster really comes close.