Yamaha 2018 Yamaha Tracer 900 - new pipe and ECU edits

Yamaha 2018 Tracer 900

Our long term Tracer 900 clears its throat, and we start work on some brain surgery...

I’M STILL very much in love with the Yamaha Tracer 900. But no matter how much you like a bike, there’s nearly always areas for improvement. I’ve addressed the average stock tyres with a spanking set of Metzeler Roadtec 01s, which have transformed the performance there, and I’ve bolted on some Galfer wave brake discs and pads, which sharpened up the stoppers nicely. I’m content enough with the slightly-bouncy suspension for the most part, although if I was keeping the bike for more than a year or so, I’d be looking at a shock and some fork fettling.

New Yamaha Tracer 900 GT - Closer look | EICMA 2017

What about the motor then? Well, first step with any bike is to get a performance pipe on there. Regular readers will remember that I’ve fitted Yamaha’s own optional Akrapovic three-into-one full system, which dumps the catalyst, plus a stack of weight, and looks ‘da bomb’, as the kids are wont to say (maybe 15 years ago grandad – da kids). You’ll also remember I was struggling to get the fun-killing dB killer out of the end can – Euro4 rules mean Yamaharrr has to weld the fucker in place. Okay, it’s only a small spot weld where the locating bolt used to go, but even once I’d drilled it out, the recalcitrant triceratops-ish noise-abatement device wouldn’t budge. I ordered a cheap Chinese blind-bearing puller from the Bay, hoping that the slide-hammer setup would whisk the bugger out. But after much metal-bashing antics, I admitted defeat, for the moment.

Because I had other plans. It’s 2018 man, so a stage one tune also needs some serious electronics fettling, as well as a phat pipe. On a modern ride-by-wire bike like the Tracer, the ECU is responsible for a load of restrictions on power, as well as controlling the fuelling. Built-in speed limits, gear-related power cuts, emissions nonsense – it’s all in the bike’s brain from the factory, like some sort of inherited psychosis, holding the bike back.

But we can sort it all out, with a bit of subtle brain surgery! Now I’ve done some work before on ECU editing software, and the guys at Woolich Racing are the people to speak to. Based down in Australia, Justin and Sharon there work hard at developing the software and the hardware to let owners tweak the ECUs on their bikes. From simple stuff, like removing top speed limits or power limits in gears, through to more involved functions like turning off closed-loop fuelling modes, adding in a quickshifter circuit or stopping traction control resets, the Woolich software gives you much more control over your bike’s engine control unit than you get with a Power Commander or other piggyback fuelling computers.

On the Tracer, in the past, there’s been a lot of restrictions built-in. In the lower gears, the ride-by-wire throttle mapping never gives you 100 per cent power – the butterfly valves in the throttle bodies always stay a little bit closed, even though you’ve ripped the twistgrip round to the stop. Similarly, in the high gears, fifth and sixth, the throttle plates start to close as the revs increase, giving a soft speed limiter. I’d noticed this on my bike – as you get past three figures on the dash, the power seems to tail off. Not ideal for racing Porsches on the M40 German Autobahn, obvs. Then there’s the obvious restrictions on fuelling, ignition timing and throttle positioning for noise and exhaust emissions regs. All of this – and more – can be adjusted using the Woolich software, letting you tune the bike to what you want (you can see the Woolich 3D map displays from the software above).

My local Woolich shop is Steve Jordan Motorcycles, and they’re a top bunch of folk down there. Steve and Sarah Jordan have been racing, fixing and tuning bikes for decades, and their neat, tidy workshop is a veritable font of knowledge on getting the best out of bikes. So I booked meself in for a Woolich session last Saturday, bright and early.

I’d still not managed to hoik the dB killer out though. So first job was to persuade Steve’s top tech Rich Wild to take pity on me and help me get it shifted. His considered, methodical approach to the job was a joy to watch actually – he gradually worked out that I’d not drilled out all of the spot weld holding the baffle in place. So a few minutes with an air die grinder, and some judicious drilling cleared the last of the ring of weld. Then, some WD40 and a gentle tap out with the slide-hammer bearing puller, and the beast was released. Yay!

Next up was to fit the ECU editing wiring harness. There are some missing pins on the stock harness plugs, and these connect to ‘unused’ pins on the ECU itself. Turns out these unused pins are what lets you ‘speak’ to the little computer inside, and edit the information in its memory banks. It’s a bit of a faff – the ECU itself lives on top of the airbox, under the tank, so you need to take off all the bodywork round there to get access. Rich has is whisked off in no time though, and we get the connectors in place for the Woolich software to access the ECU.

There’s a wee problem though – this 2018 Tracer 900 ECU has a new part number, so the Woolich software isn’t totally ready to go for my bike yet. It’s probably just a minor change from 2017, but Rich doesn’t want to risk using the older settings on the new bike, just in case something goes wrong, and we end up with problems. So we put the bike back together – luckily, the harness fits fine, so we’ve saved that job for next time – and I’ll come back to the Jordans’ shop in a week or so when the new ECU files are ready to go.

I’m quite chuffed though as I ride home. Getting the baffle out of the end can was a top job – and the Tracer sounds massively better. There’s a proper deep rumble from the engine now, and if loud pipes save lives, I reckon I’m going to live forever now. I’ve kept the baffle of course – I just need to find a little nut and bolt which will slip into the drilled-out weld hole, and keep it in place. If I get really organised, I’ll pop along to see a welding mate and get him to weld a nut onto the baffle itself so I can slip it in and out more easily.

In the south-east of England? Need some work doing on your bike? Steve Jordan Motorcycles in Great Bookham, Surrey can help for sure: http://www.stevejordanmotorcycles.co.uk/

Woolich Racing is at http://www.woolichracing.co.uk/default.aspx

Check out the accessories for the Tracer 900 here: https://www.yamaha-motor.eu/gb/en/products/motorcycles/sport-touring/tracer-900/accessories/