Yamaha 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP UK road test and video review

2021 MT-09 SP Visordown review

For 2021 the two bike Yamaha MT-09 range has gone through its biggest update to date – is the MT-09 SP still the one you really want?

Details
Manufacturer:
Yamaha
Category:
Naked
Price:
£ 10202
Overall
Not rated
It’s a plucky upstart of a bike, punching well above its weight in a category that can all to often takes itself far too seriously

FOR years now the MT-09 SP has offered riders the chance to pay a little bit more, for a massive improvement in performance, style, and ability. But as the stock MT-09 has improved so much this year, is the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP variant still the one to get?

New 2021 Yamaha MT 09 SP revealed

New 2021 Yamaha MT 09 SP revealed | New Yamaha MT-09 2021 Specs | Visordown.com

To find out, I took our brand new 2021 MT-09 long term press bike, and pointed its futuristic nose towards deepest East Suffolk, as I headed to the UK press riding launch of the new 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP.

The day was mapped out as a road ride in the morning with photography and video opportunities, and an afternoon spent doing ‘skids and wheelies’ (Yamaha PR person’s words, not mine) at the disused USAF base, Bentwaters Park.

2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP price

Compared to the previous generation SP, the 2021 is a slightly more expensive proposition, coming in at £10,202, compared to the previous machine which was £8,999 at its launch – or around £800 more than the base model MT-09. Now though, the SP comes in at £1,361 more than the base model which is now £8,999.

Here’s what you are getting for your money.

  • Gold anodised fully adjustable KYB forks
  • Adjustable Öhlins rear shock – remote pre-load adjuster
  • Cruise control
  • Double-stitched seat
  • SP colour scheme – brushed aluminium swingarm
  • Black handlebars and levers
  • Bespoke rear sprocket

The MT-09 has always been the good value hooligan of the middleweight naked segment, and the SP variant the equally good value step up in terms of tech and performance. That’s still the case for 2021, with the SP just sliding under the top-spec Street Triple RS it is aiming for.

A PCP example from Yamaha puts the MT-09 SP at £119 p/m based on a £2,612 deposit. That makes the blinging looking SP just £20 per month more than the stock MT-09.

Seems like a no-brainer already then, doesn’t it!?

Engine

Like the base model MT-09, the SP’s newly revised 889cc CP3 engine boasts a better mid-range spread and more top-end power than the previous generation bikes. In the chassis of the new SP, it really does feel like everything you’ll ever need for back road scratching.

The longer stroke configuration, 3mm longer adding 49cc overall, has tamed some of the SP’s hooligan character, although it hasn’t totally neutered it. It’ll still hurl its lightweight Spin Forged front wheel at the sky when provoked, but when trying to make genuine progress the bike feels more inclined to focus on forward motion!

Another area of note with the new SP is the way it sounds. For 2021, Yamaha’s engineers have borrowed some learning from the other products in the tuning fork brand’s catalogue – instruments. What they’ve done is manage to tune the inlet of the bike so that each of the three, different length trumpets resonate at a different RPM range. It’s a fairly similar principle to a child’s recorder, and I have to say it sounds bloody lovely.

It’s good when you are on the bike, helped by the now nipple-ended exhausts bouncing the sound off the road’s surface, but it’s even better when you hear one of these things fly by at full chat.

Suspension, brakes, and handling

After a quick morning briefing and a breakfast batch on the forecourt of MotoTechniks in Stowmarket, we head off for what can only be described as a road ride in sub-zero conditions. Pulling off the roundabout and onto the busy A14, the Bridgestone S22 hoops are slithering and squealing with displeasure at being called into action in such weather. Nervous tyres noted, the first half an hour or so is spent just mooching down the dual carriageways as we all try and keep warm.

This does though give me the chance to check out how the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP handles a pothole or two, and it’s not as jarring as you might imagine. Yes, the SP’s suspension setup is sportier than the stock bike, but it’s classy high-spec equipment. Even hitting large potholes at 50mph and over, the suspension just soaks up the knocks and carries on.

As the air temperature starts to creep up, we make it to the first photo stop of the day, and with a good few miles of twisties behind us, the tyres are awake and ready for action. The S22s are a big improvement over the S20s of the previous SP. The grip is better than before, although you still get a vague feeling at the front that puts the fear of a washout dead centre in your mind. Not what you need when barrelling through a corner.

Nervy moments aside, tipping the SP into a medium-speed corner is still a rewarding thing to do. The suspension seems like its whispering up through the handlebars, letting you know what’s going on below. The KYB forks have a reassuring amount of dive under hard braking, while the superb Öhlins rear shock just seems to glide through turns and transitions.

Part of the improved poise of the new 2021 MT-09 is thanks to the all-new frame of the bike, and its ability to reduce some of the bum-clenching flex of before. As Yamaha UK’s PR supremo pointed out, the previous generation MT-09 clamped the swingarm on the outside of the frame. The result was a neat and tucked-in profile, but a wobbly mess when you really got going. The 2021 is nothing of the sort. The swingarm now pivots within the frame, creating a stronger area for the swingarm to mount to. Now the chassis feels solid but not unforgiving, allowing more riders to exploit the limits of this awesome little bike.

Brakes on the MT-09 are radially mounted 4-pot Advics calipers and an adjustable Nissin master cylinder. The whole system is governed by the bike’s trick, R1M-derived 6-axis IMU, and its cornering ABS function. The brakes on the SP are supremely powerful and very effective, although they lack the premium feel you get from some other bikes in the segment.

Equipment

The second area where the SP gaps the base MT-09 is in its level of equipment. It gets the same levels of assistance in terms of slide control, lift control, lean-sensitive traction control, and of course, cornering ABS, but it is also the only MT-09 model that comes equipped with cruise control. It’s a bit of a weird proposition to create the most focussed and capable MT-09 to date, and then bless it with a tool designed to make motorway riding easier.

Another new element of the bike is the TFT dash that relays all the information you’ll ever need and more. It’s not the largest TFT on two-wheels, although it is nicely designed and easy to read. Within the TFT are the various riding modes, traction control settings, engine modes, and of course the all-important lift control. Moving through the menus requires to you focus the cursor on a small cog icon on the dash using a thumbwheel on the righthand handlebar. I found the thumbwheel a little tricky to use, and on a number of times would scroll up or down when I was wanting to push the thumbwheel in to select something. Admittedly, the cold conditions of the day had forced me into wearing my thick winter gloves – never ideal for trying out switchgear.

2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP Comfort

Having spent three hours getting to the launch on my MT-09 long-termer, then a full day out and about on the SP, followed by another three hour trek home again – I’m fairly certain I’ve just spent longer in the saddle of the new 2021 model than anyone this side of the Yamaha test riders! And its good news for fans of long days in the saddle, as it’s only the bike’s 14-litre fuel tank that be pulling you over every 130-miles. The comfort is actually spot on.

The seat is wide and supportive, with a nice plush feeling without being a total marshmallow. There is also a level of adjustability built-in to the MT-09 and SP. The handlebars and footpegs can both be moved, with footpegs moving up and down and the bars shifting forwards and up a little to accommodate bigger riders.

What we like about the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP:

  • Sophisticated but still visceral – cornering poise is not at the expense of fun
  • Sports bike levels of tech wrapped in a lightweight and good value package
  • Yamaha’s Icon Performance colour scheme has never looked better

What we didn’t like:

  • The thumbwheel is tricky to use in thick gloves
  • Front brake lever-feel is not as premium as it could be
  • Cruise control only available this and not the base MT-09 – I’m jealous!

2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP verdict

The MT-09 SP is a model that basically has to tick three very important boxes: it absolutely must make you smile, and do a little bit of everything, and provide an accessible platform for newer and more experienced riders alike. And it’s three ticks on the SP’s report card, as after a morning of on-road riding and an afternoon of playing about on a runway I was exhausted, exhilarated, and impressed by the little SP.

It might not have the scalpel-like poise and composure of bikes like the Triumph Street Triple RS, but it comes in a handful of cash less than the Triumph does, and has so much charisma, there’s little on two-wheels that can match it on that front.

You have that magic recipe for motorcycling nirvana of a sub-200kg bike, with over 100bhp, and an excellent chassis. Then you throw some R1M-derived electronics for good measure. It really is a win-win.

It’s a plucky upstart of a bike, punching well above its weight in a category that can all too often take itself far too seriously. With the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP, you still get that playful nature of the previous machine, just in a more composed, manageable, and user-friendly package.

And looping back to my original point around the SP still being the bike you actually want… Yes, of course it is! It’s £20 a month more on a PCP,  that’s worth it for the styling updates and paint job alone. Yes, the base MT-09 has come on leaps and bounds this year, but the SP is still a step above. And it is still the bike I’d be stumping up for if I had to choose one.

For more information, head to: www.Yamaha-motor.eu

Picture: Double Red Photographic

2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP specs

ENGINE

Type

 Inline-3

Bore x stroke

 78.0 x 62.1mm

Displacement

 899cc

Compression ratio

 11.5:1

Valvetrain

 DOHC, 4vpc

Transmission

 6-speed

Clutch

Wet multi-plate disc; assist and slip

Final drive

 Chain

CHASSIS

Frame

Controlled-fill die-cast aluminium w/ subframe

Front suspension; travel

Fully adjustable inverted KYB 41mm inverted fork; 5.1 inches

Rear suspension; travel

Linkage-free, fully adjustable horizontal Öhlins shock; 4.8 inches

Tires

Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22

Front tire

120/70 x 17

Rear tire

180/55 x 17

Front brakes

298mm discs w/ 4-piston calipers

Rear brake

245mm disc w/ single-piston caliper

ABS

Cornering – 6-axis IMU

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

Wheelbase

 1430mm

Rake

 25.0 degrees

Trail

 4.3 inches

Seat height

 825mm

Fuel capacity

 14l

Estimated fuel consumption

 49 mpg

Curb weight

 190kg