Taking the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT (2021) for a tour of Wales

2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT

It’s the perfect way to authentically review a sports tourer, Visordown took the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT for a tour of Wales, staying overnight at the Nick Sanders Expedition Centre. Come along for the ride.

WHAT’S the best way to immerse yourself in a motorcycle? Spend over 300 miles riding on some of the best roads in the UK? I think so. We were invited to spend 2 days atop the new 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT, a perfect excuse to enjoy a selection of real-world authentic riding on all manner of roads - forget the sunnies, we’re off to Wales.

Considered the crowning glory of the sports touring segment for Yamaha, the Tracer series has long been renowned in the two-wheeled world as a versatile do-it-all machine. The Tracer 9 is built around the torque-heavy CP3 motor we all know and love, although for 2021 the latest iteration is perhaps a touch more sensible, stable, and better set up for long days in the saddle. Perfect!

New Yamaha TRACER 9 GT Review 2021 | All You Need To Know About The New Tracer 9 GT | Visordown

A tiny bit of background for you, just so we’re all on the same page. ‘Born’ in 2015, the Tracer range has sold over 63,000 units to date and garnered a 44% market share of the ‘upper mid-sized versatile’ segment. A certainly specific segment, but nonetheless one of the most important & recognised motorcycles in Europe. 

Radically updated for 2021, we’ll cover the stand-out aspects that came upon this particular mini-tour. If you’d like a deep-dive into the specifics you can have a look at the full Visordown launch review.

Day 1

Tamworth Yamaha to Lake Vyrnwy - the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT tour begins

All great stories have to start somewhere, ours starts at one of the premier Yamaha dealers in the country that just so happens to have enjoyed a recent refurbishment: Tamworth Yamaha. With a spectacular collection of historic bikes on the second floor (including a boxed up 1-of-500 OW-02 R7), it’s really one to visit.

In any case, awaiting the arrival of a group of plucky journos were a regimented squadron of Tracer 9 GTs, poised and ready to go. It’s a striking motorcycle in person, quite long at 2175mm with a longer swingarm than the previous generation despite keeping the same 1500mm wheelbase - thanks to the CP3 motor being rotated up in the frame.

Our designated steed for the next 2 days was presented, and we had the option of loading up the 30L damped floating-stay panniers with our kit or pile the support vehicles with luggage. Eager to test out the capabilities of the new pannier damping tech, I divided half of my gear and split the weight between the two 30L side cases. 

Rucksack, a few essential overnight items, and a bacon roll, if you were wondering.

With intentions of sinking some miles early to get to the fun roads (no disrespect Tamworth), we departed heading west towards mid-Wales on the A5. Instantly apparent was the supremely well balanced & stable ride, and seeing as we’re temporarily ‘commuting’ it was a good chance to fiddle with the modes & settings, get to grips with the mile-munching tool at hand, and see the first face of the versatile machine. Cruise control absolutely came in handy here.

Our morning ride comes to a close as we enter Wales, identified mainly by the roads starting to speak a different language. After a few obligatory riding photos, we fill up at a quaint village petrol station - who did the filling-up part for us, novel for me! 

Our route then continued down the road to the immense Lake Vyrnwy Dam, which is well worth a visit with some spectacular roads thrown in for good measure - a running theme in this tour. There is also a lovely little cafe round the corner as well!

Lake Vyrnwy Dam, north to Bala, down to the ‘mountain’ - Unleashing the sports in the new sports tourer

We set off North towards Bala, winding around undulating hills and valleys, riding past sheep grazing and not much else, the weather was holding up and the Tracer was feeling fresh as ever.

Those single track roads towards Rhos-y-Gwaliau ran through forested areas with sunlight scattering through the trees, opening on to vast expanses of practically untouched valleys. It was beautiful - and we’ve only just really begun our journey.

At the twist of a throttle, the 889cc CP3 motor was beginning to really sing beneath me. Longer 1st and 2nd gear, 3mm longer stroke and 42cc up, the entire unit has been revised - it’s lighter and higher performing than before, yet more stable & smooth with power all over the rev range in practically any gear. It just simply produces more torque (93Nm @ 7000rpm) and power (117bhp @ 10,000rpm) where you need it. 

Setting off, I made sure to click into the sporty modes, flicking the KYB semi-active suspension into A-1, D mode 1, TCS 1 - basically transforming the Tracer 9 GT into a sharper and more aggressive machine, without delving too far into M mode. Perfect for riding along the single track roads and unleashing the ‘sports’ characteristics.

At this point, the mechanical orchestra began really showing a collective character. Suspension, brakes, engine - it was all coming together to provide a superb ride. Despite the large dimensions, you could really attack the road - if you wanted to - handling all of the varying terrain, road surfaces and changing pace with ease. 

Hooking back down from Bala, we turn towards Llanuwchllyn, towards another photo stop atop a mountain just south of Cynllwyd Uchaf. What a view.

This is what real-world touring is all about. It’s not all about a pristine race track, it doesn’t need to be that, genuine riding isn’t like that - it’s like this. When it all comes together, it can be breathtaking.

Mountain-top to the Mach Loop - Tracers lighting up the roads

As we stopped atop the mountain, I had a chance to briefly speak to the master technician at the event who kindly adjusted my seat to the higher position (810mm to 825mm) to try it out - a 30-second job if you know what you’re doing. I ended up preferring it lower, it gave me a bit more cover behind the screen. A bit.

We also spoke about KYB semi-active suspension, which he mentioned is doing its job if you don’t notice it. Something clicked in my mind, as I definitely had felt it there, but couldn’t at any moment pinpoint a time it wasn’t at the right setting… Huh, he was right. Who’d have thought it!

Continuing the jaw-dropping travels, we head along some faster A-roads towards the Mach Loop, quite literally defined as an ‘epic valley series used for jet training’. No jets in the sky that afternoon, but the locals could be fooled with Tracers flying about. 

It’s worth noting that I’d forgotten the panniers were even there at this point. No, they hadn’t fallen off somewhere in Tamworth. I put it down to them causing such little fuss with the damping soaking up any movement. It was a bit of a relief to see them still in situ - bacon roll still present for later!

Down to Machynlleth, final stop: Nick Sanders Exhibition Centre - what a day's ride.

Setting back off towards Corris and then Machynlleth, we began aiming for the Nick Sanders Expedition Centre. Looking up towards the sky is a reminder we’re in Wales - dark clouds approach and with it, the rain, but a chance to see the cornering LED lights in action. 

It wasn’t that dark, to be honest, but it was a comforting feeling to know the route would be fully illuminated the whole way along the twisting roads. Plus (in my best Tom Jones impression), ‘Baby it’s cold outside'. 10-step heated grips whacked on to 10, and my mitts are thoroughly toasty. Extended wings, grippy Bridgestone Battlax T32 tyres, rain and varying conditions posed no threat - although I harboured a hint of jealousy for those riding with the comfort-pack heated seat and a larger screen. 

It was said earlier in the day that if you can get up the track to Nick Sanders place in one go then you can have a beer. If I hadn’t already been feeling good after a long day of riding, that was the fuel I needed to get up there.

Nick Sanders Expedition Centre - Great journeys of the world

Now, the Nick Sanders Expedition Centre is more than deserving of its own section here. 

Greeted with the warmest of welcomes, Nick Sanders and Caroline with their lovely border collies ushered us in and opened the beer fridge. Blissful. 

Despite never being there before, I genuinely felt like an old friend stumbling past on a fortuitous expedition out west. At the heart of the settlement is the phrase ‘Great journeys of the world’ emboldened for all to see is. An apt characterisation for how us journos were feeling with yurts, themed rooms and unique places to rest our heads.

Now, Nick has done his fair share of riding (and then some) and has a good few tales to tell - and over his 22 or so years in the area, has picked up a fantastic knowledge of the locale. It’s no exaggeration that every item in sight has a story behind it, and Nick will be more than happy to divulge. 

I was in a yurt for the night, a lovely glamping-styled tent with a firewood stove & double bed. It was fantastic, waterfall in the background, fire stoked. After an incredible meal, beers and wine, I can assure you the aforementioned bacon roll that had accompanied me on the journey eventually found a home. And it was well worth the wait.

It’s a real gem of a place. If you’re after a one-of-a-kind stay, you need to get over there. There’s a festival being planned for the first week of July (roughly) which is sounding top, absolutely consider heading out there - here's the website for more info.

Day 2

Early rise for the adventurers - let’s go to the Dyfi gin distillery, led by Nick Sanders

Day 2 begins, the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT pack is awoken, and intrepid adventurers are away. But not before having a world-famous Caroline breakfast. Some say Nick travelled the world to spread the word. 

Somehow it was decided in the evening that there was a world-class distillery nearby, and worth heading to - our first stop was decided.

Seemingly searching for the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, Nick led us out on a brilliant route through the hills & valleys - dodging cows, sheep, & darting between dung - a true test of control if I’ve ever seen one. At this point, it’s becoming clear the Tracer 9 GT has cemented its place in my mind as a versatile machine. Commuter, tourer, sports bike, off-road adventurer (it was a bit gravelly in parts, so sort of), it can do it all.

It’s not often you can say you’ve been led on a guided tour by Nick Sanders in any case. 

A fighter jet even flew overhead to join us for a part of the trip - unbelievable stuff. I like to think it was all arranged, but was perhaps more luck than anything!

The Dyfi gin distillery isn’t really accepting visitors at this stage, but the owner pokes his head out to have a quick chat - lovely place!

Dyfi distillery to Penmaenpool Bridge - getting comfy in the Tracer saddle

Off we go again, sights set on Penmaenpool Bridge, waving to happy locals as we pass - oh what’s occurin’! 

At this point it’s worth mentioning there was a couple on the tour riding two-up for the most part, and in their words, it was quite possibly the most comfortable setup they’ve ever encountered. Pillion seat is comfy, pegs are low and extended, good grab rails, nice top box to lean back into & panniers acting as leg supports.

Speaking of, I felt like I was carrying a pillion myself at this stage. As far as I was concerned, the semi-active suspension was fully active. Yes, I enjoyed my evening of food, cheese, and a couple of Welsh beers.

But really it was just such a lovely morning ride, I felt it would be rude not to check out the ‘comfort’ modes on the bike… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Penmaepool bridge to Llangelynin coastal road - finding some true gems of Wales

It truly was the land of song, departing the lovely quaint toll bridge we continue west under the promise of lovely twisty coastal roads with exhausts roaring along.

You could have told me we were in Tenerife, this coastal road was breathtaking. The Tracer 9 GT was predictable, throttle control instant, brakes sharp and spinforged wheels providing exceptionally light handling, it was almost too light at times, hard to believe it’s 230kg wet.

With blue water glistening, the seldom-seen sun emerging from behind the clouds, I realised that the fuel gauge had never shown anything other than full and 18 litres - despite covering at least 100 miles since the last fill-up. Either a magical press-bike or just a feature that was switched off for our ride.

Llangelynin to Aberdyfi beach - blue skies!

Surely this isn’t Wales? Well, it is. Of course it is. The roads still say Araf!

But from someone who’s never been to Wales without constant rain, it was a real treat. Speaking of visuals, I was riding the Tracer 9 GT in Icon Performance, with the Redline and Tech Kamo also in the pack. 

Making it all easier on the ride was the 6-axis IMU, solenoids adjusting damping on the fly, up-down quickshifter for the 6-speed gearbox, all of the previously mentioned touring essentials (yep, heated grips). It all comes together to assemble a well-equipped tourer, you can do the sports riding if you want, you can take it all easy if you prefer. 

In harmony, the Tracer 9 GT and I were enjoying the roads. We pulled into the beach town for a coffee before taking the final stretch of our tour.

From the Welsh beaches to Tamworth - not a sentence I thought I’d ever say.

Setting off on the twisty roads, stopping for fuel, and back on the A roads towards Tamworth for a leg-stretching 110 miles. Quite literally too, as all riders begin feeling the 300 miles in heavy legs. Our Welsh tour was coming to an end, and the Tracer 9 GT was transforming back into a distance-commuter. 

Despite the screen being adjustable (and with one hand) in all honesty it didn’t seem to really deflect blusters away a whole lot. Tucking in solves it, but that’s not quite comfortable for long rides. 

Getting on the M54 meant a bit less interesting riding, but we sink the miles to get back to Tamworth Yamaha, with the cruise control giving a chance to delve a bit deeper into the twin TFT dash - MPG when sitting at motorway speeds (75ish) indicating around 50-60mpg.

Two 3.5” displays combine in ‘fighter jet style’ to create a unique ‘old-man-from-Up’ display. It’s clear, you get what you need out of it, and operating it is straightforward. Perhaps a bit fiddly at times with the scroll wheel, and your eyes darting between two screens searching for information harks back to older Yamaha displays, but it works.

We arrive, park up, get off, say our goodbyes. What an incredible couple of days.

Conclusions - We found the Tracer way of life.

Being given the chance to explore Wales has opened my eyes to touring in the UK. Not that I was ever opposed to it, but the sheer abundance and variety of great roads on our doorstep is incredible. 

Yamaha is on to a winner with this Tracer 9 GT, I’d say. It’s incredibly versatile, a spot-on machine for commuting Monday to Friday, then sinking weekend miles to get to Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, and really enjoying the roads the whole way. Just a matter of giving them a go, really. 

You now know of a good few places in Wales around the Nick Sanders area to sink your teeth into… If you do happen to head on over to the Nick Sanders residence, say hello from us here at Visordown, and most importantly, enjoy.

If you fancy a bit of the Tracer 9 GT, have a look on the Yamaha site for more info. It’s priced at a reasonable £12,202 cash for an adept tourer. Or, in PCP-lingo, a £3,113 deposit with 4k miles a year will land you a £129 monthly payment for 36 months (with optional final fee of £5,985).

When priced against the standard Tracer 9, you’re paying an extra £2,000 total, or £20 a month. A value option considering the GT extras.

The route we travelled is pretty much mapped out above, but if you’d like any further tips or directions, get in contact with us on the Visordown social media channels! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.