Living with a 2005 Yamaha MT-01

Grant Leonard started TWO magazine. And he is a very nice chap indeed. He had a Yamaha MT01 for a year and here's his review

July 2005

I LOVE HARLEYS. But I'm not the kind of Harley lover who would tattoo it on my arm or arse or wherever. I love them for what they are - big, noisy, rumbling, grunty V-twins. So I was far from offended by Yamaha slipping its Road Star onto the market, a blatant steel-tipped toe in a Fat Boy's goolies.

The heart of the bike was an air-cooled overhead valve 48¡ V-twin. The angle between a Harley's pots is 45¡, so there's no way they could be accused of copying. No way. Three degrees? Huge gap - difference between a driver and three wood, that. Ask Colin Montgomerie.

The Road Star's engine has now, very imaginatively, turned up in the MT-01 streetbike. The MT-01 is more our style, here in the UK. It's Yamaha's answer to the Street Rod, or Buell or Monster or Tuono, and whichever way you look at it and whatever you compare it to, it is one mighty motorcycle in its own right.

The V-twin is a long-stroke air-cooled, eight-valve, 1670cc monster. An engine of that physical size and height needs some serious engineering to contain it, especially when you have some sporting expectations. The frame is a die-cast aluminium perimeter design which mounts top-front, between the V and at the gearbox. It goes over the top of the motor making an extremely tall bike, which is a major characteristic of the MT-01, impacting on ergonomics and handling. The bike's sheer bulk could be daunting to a novice or someone of slight build. Its seat height is high, the bars are high and it's heavy.It's no surprise to say it feels tall, but it's only borderline top-heavy. At 5ft 11in I don't have a problem with it and I'd prefer this to say, a Ducati Monster, which to me feels too low.

I'm lucky to have it in my charge for the summer. It suits my needs too - I have a 10-mile commute and no intention of going anywhere near a motorway on it. It'll be great for ripping into London - high profile (literally) and noisy, with instant grunt at any rpm to dive between gaps and around the queues.

It's not a long bike - with a 1525mm wheelbase - and has fairly sporty steering geometry (25¡ rake/103mm trail). Brakes are taken from the R1 - but they're stopping half as much again in weight.

Front forks are R1-esque 43mm upside-downies which not surprisingly dive a bit too quickly - something to have a look at.

So with all this high-spec running gear and a tricky aluminium frame and swingarm, the MT-01 comes out at £9349 on the road, just £50 less than an R1. At that price, I'm expecting a lot - I'll let you know how we get on.

October 2005

THE MT-01 CONTINUES to impress. It's big, a bit tall but well-balanced and manageable. I love the engine (others don't). It's very Harley-like in feel, a bit vibey but with real poke. It only revs to 5500rpm, but there's power everywhere and it's loosening up nicely to allow the odd hooligan hoon.

I've been using the bike to commute to work on - just 10 miles, a mix of heavy traffic filtering and dual carriageway blasting. The Hampton Court Flower Show always gets me out of the car and onto the bike. What is wrong with people? Struggling through (my) rush hour to queue up to look at some flowers. Why don't they go to Sainsbury's? Loads of flowers there. And why don't they stay in bed till we've all got to work?! Mind you, if they did, I'd be back in the motor listening to Radio 4 again (no, not Gardeners' Question Time), so perhaps I owe them thanks.

My wife and I travel to work together (a constant Radio 4/Magic FM wrangle with the radio dial) so the big pillion test was scheduled for Flower Weirdos Week. I was a bit worried - the pillion pegs are cleverly styled away out of sight, simply a tickbox ticked by the acid-head who dreamt up the MT-01.

You need some distance between pillion pad and peg to make for a comfortable passenger proposition. There's about 12 inches - a Fireblade has about 18. It requires the pillion's legs to bend double, heels virtually touching buttocks. (Hey, watch it, that's my wife your thinking about.) I watched the look in her eyes as I folded them out for her outside our house. Magic FM suddenly seemed quite appealing. But we got to work, no real complaints. A longer stint might prove more challenging. And for me the bike was still manageable, weaving around the traffic, on and off the brakes.

Now it's run in, I think it's time for a a bit of tuning. Yamaha make a kit which I'm assured hoiks up the power and no doubt produces a cacophony to rival even Magic FM's playlist.

January 2006

IN NEED OF transport following his recent loss, I very kindly lent Tim the keys to my MT-01 - and he seems to have taken quite a shine to it.

He even fiddled with the suspension. On standard settings the steering was heavy, with a lot of
resistance to initial turn-in although quite nice once leant over, Tim said. Tim also said it was very low at the back and the forks were only using what felt like the top third of their stroke most of the time and barely using half their travel on the brakes.

Tim said he turned the rear preload adjuster nut up by one full turn (using the tool kit spanner) to
lift the rear, and backed off the front preload by two rings to put more weight over the front. He also increased front rebound damping by 'some' clicks but can't remember how many. He left the shock damping alone because he couldn't find it.

Tim said the steering was much better after that, with improved feel from the front end on the brakes. The only downside is a tendency for the front to tuck under a touch on very slow, tight turns, sometimes into junctions, and a lot when doing endless U-turns on a photo shoot.

Tim said much of the inherent handling issues come from the high centre of gravity caused by the very tall engine; Tim said it's why the MT-01 doesn't like turning-in and isn't so nice around town. But Tim said a high C of G is actually good to have once leant over, which is why the MT feels really quite nice in long, fast corners. I suppose the ideal would be to have a happy medium with all the weight in the middle somewhere. Oh look, I've just invented mass centralisation. "Hello? Is that Honda? I've got an idea..."

Tim said the standard Metzelers were fine. Used properly they did the job, although the lazy rounded profile of the front didn't help the lazy, rounded steering feel. Tim said they gripped okay with a bit of heat in them, which the MT generates quite quickly with all that weight and torque. New Michellin Pilot Powers have quickened the steering further, and have a much more linear feel to the rate of turn. The original rubber was changed at 4628 miles and the rear was still legal but very badly squared off. Tim said I should ride it and feel the difference for myself. I will, soon. Just you watch me.