I managed to squeeze a (dry) morning in on the Tracer 900 and a (wet) afternoon on the GT model. In terms of distance it wasn’t quite a full 18l tankful but pretty close.
It’s my first acquaintance with Yamaha’s CP-3 motor and after wobbling through Granada’s rush hour traffic, it wasn’t hard to instantly feel the love. Creamy smooth, flexible, torquey with a great sound track it is – indeed - a thing of mechanical loveliness. The gear lever is slightly long on travel compared to what I’m used to (a rear-setted CBR600RR) but the gear selection is positive and precise and with a bit of practice and deft timing you don’t need the clutch on any upshift and some downshifts. There’s a slipper clutch, which is a bit baffling on a bike like this but it’s more bragging rights, I suppose.
With the throttle map in ‘standard’ mode it feels like the first quarter of twist-grip movement is slow-action. Blips on downshifts need to be really animated to make the engine respond as quickly as you want. Map A – direct response – improves matters massively. I’d only ever use Standard or Map B (soft) if I’d just had a heavy local anaesthetic in my right hand.
And wow, does it drive hard out of corners. It doesn’t really matter what gear you’re in. I tried pulling out of a hairpin bend in fourth gear and – safe in the knowledge that TC would step in if things got messy – I gave it full throttle at 20mph and just under 1,000rpm. The Tracer rewarded me with an unbelievably strong surge of acceleration with no glitches, no burps or farts. It was a big ask but it delivered bigly.
Such is the flexibility of this engine you soon learn to enter every corner a gear higher than you would normally. This technique makes flowing corners together a real joy.
Entering them takes a bit of getting used to due to the very softly damped and sprung Kayaba forks. There’s a whopping 137mm of front fork travel but 50mm of that is used up by the static sag which tells you quite a lot about the spring rate.
This soft spring rate makes itself known at the first sniff of front brake application, sending them into instant dive mode and creating a lot of front/aft pitch. Push it hard – harder than is sensible, to be fair – and it’ll try and sit up and run wide. A better technique is to use a lot of back brake, brake sooner and more gently and tackle corners on a trailing or opening throttle. Tracer prefers this method. I need one – a GT with more adjustability – for a week to play around with settings to see what can be achieved to try and dial this out. A day ain’t enough.
There’s 140mm of travel at the back. An 80kg rider and an 80kg passenger use up more than half this, bringing those lovely stainless downpipes to within 80mm of the ground. Probably not advisable to loft one off a humpback bridge, or try attacking a dip that’s likely to bottom everything out.
In the afternoon, for my time on the GT, it rained. This is normally seen as a bad thing but it actually showed the Tracer in its best possible light. When you’re stroking brakes rather than using them like someone else is paying for them – just like you would if your better half was on the back – the Tracer is pretty sublime in these conditions.
Using the least intrusive TC setting (1) to safely test grip levels, it’s such an easy bike to ride fast in the wet. The flexible engine delivers super-predictable drive characteristics and the throttle connection offered by map A is fantastically informative. Never have I enjoyed riding a road bike in the wet as much. Big claim, but true.
If I was the sort of person to award stars, Tracer would get a wholesome 4.5 out of 5. It’s not perfect but if you ride it in its zone it’s pretty close with lots of comfort, great weather and wind protection and, well, thatCP-3 motor.
My advice, just because it offers more adjustability and more value for money is to buy the GT. Make sure it’s in Phantom Blue and make sure it’s got an Akrapovic pipe to free up some sweet, sweet music.
2018 Yamaha Tracer 900 specifications
Engine: l/c, inline-triple, DOHC, 12v, 847cc
Bore x stroke: 78mm x 59.1mm
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Maximum power: 115bhp@10,000 rpm
Maximum torque: 64.5 ft lbs@8,500 rpm
Fuel system: Y-CCT ride-by-wire fuel injection
Transmission: wet slipper clutch, six-speed gearbox, chain final drive
Frame: steel tube diamond
Front suspension: Kayaba USD forks
Rear suspension: Kayaba monoshock
Brakes: dual 298mm discs, four-piston calipers (front), single 245mm disc (rear)
Wheels/tyres: cast aluminium, 120/70 17 (front), 180/55 17 (rear)
Rake/Trail: 24 degrees/100mm
Seat height: 850mm
Wet weight: 214kg (full tank)
Fuel tank capacity: 18 litres (3.96 gal)