Yamaha MT-09 triple revealed

Delight or disappointment?

THIS is Yamaha’s first production triple since the demise of the XS850 thirty years ago and the first result of the company’s latest attempt to engage with customers and deliver them something new, unique and appealing.

We’ve known a triple was coming since Yamaha first revealed its ‘P3’ three-cylinder concept engine at last year’s Cologne show – a motor derived from the firm’s cross-plane R1 engine which was revealed as a sort of sculpture, in the wireframe outline of a naked bike. Now, with the newly released MT-09, Yamaha is coming good on its promise to launch a triple.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the MT-09’s engine doesn’t bear much resemblance to the R1-based P3 motor, at least in terms of its external castings. And neither does it live up to what appeared to be promises of sharing the R1’s cross-plane crankshaft. Instead it’s a ‘normal’ (for a triple) 120-degree crank – certainly not ‘flat-plane’ but neither is exactly a cross-plane, which could only work on a triple with the addition of a complex set of balancers effectively adding up to a fourth, dummy piston.

So, what have we got here? Well, the motor is 847cc, making it bigger than rivals like the Triumph Street Triple and MV Agusta B3, and it’s designed with road use firmly at the forefront – it’s intended to combine useful, attainable torque and power instead of reaching for headline-grabbing numbers. The figures are 115bhp at 10,000rpm and 64lb ft at 8500rpm.

Spec-wise, the motor is a DOHC, 12-valve design with a balancer shaft and Yamaha’s YCCT electronic throttles with three switchable engine maps for different road conditions. The bore and stroke (78mm x 59.1mm) make it typically oversquare.

The motor is bolted to a chassis made up of two cast alloy clamshells, one each side, bolted together. A cast alloy ‘banana’ swingarm at the back, with a near-horizontal shock, is allied to 41mm USD forks with preload and rebund adjustment front and rear. That spec might be lower than you’d expect, but the price is too; the price, expected to be £6799, doesn’t seem too expensive for an all-new machine in a class where most of its obvious rivals use cast-off engines. Weight is an impressive 188kg ready-to-ride.

So on paper, it’s cheaper and more powerful than the 105bhp, £6999 Street Triple. As on the Triumph, ABS will be an option – it adds 3kg to the weight, but there’s no indication on cost just yet.

The styling is likely to be divisive. There’s something slightly 1980s-retro about the near-square headlight and slightly high-looking front end – maybe a hint of FZX750 thanks to the air intakes in the sides of the tank – while the back is typical of the modern trend for skimpy seat units. The under-belly exhaust also exactly what you’d predict.

When it comes to the name, the MT-09 is a follow-on to the V-twin powered MT-01 and single-cylinder MT-03, both earlier efforts by the firm to step out of conventional classes and rivalries, but neither huge sales successes.

What do you think? Does the MT-09 float your boat as an alternative to the four-cylinder norm or does it pale as an alternative to the Street Triple?