Right, in these situations I find it’s often best to start at the beginning with some form of introduction. This is the new Yamaha Tracer 900 and Tracer GT. The former is an update of the now three year-old (but market leading) Tracer and the latter is a sort of trade-up position with lots of extra bolt-on goodies, on the basis that it’s much better for Yamaha to offer and benefit from the sale of these extras than the aftermarket industry.
First the ugly subject of cash: The new Tracer costs £9,249 and the GT model £10,649. As a point of interest, the hard panniers that come standard with the GT cost £800 so that £1,400 price difference isn’t too extreme when you bear in mind the other goodies festooned on the GT.
Most customers are unlikely to be interested in the cash price. Cash purchase is a rare beast favoured by lucky windfall or money-laundering types, with an ever-increasing number of people opting for a PCP or finance package. PCP is seen as a useful hook for existing Tracer owners who might be nearing the end of their existing PCP deal and fancy trading up to the fancier GT. There’s also a whole raft of other Yamaha bolt-on parts, like a full Akrapovic 'zorst system. These bolt-on extras can also be bolted into the PCP deal and the original parts kept by the owner. Or by a new owner found through a popular auction site.
So that’s the dirty subject of money firmly parked. What’s new about both these bikes?
Starting with Tracer 900, it appears that customer research has been massively simplified by the t'interweb. Rather than holding focus groups or conducting expensive mail-outs all you have to do now is lurk around in owner’s forums and follow the right Twitter feeds to discover what existing owners do and don’t like about their rides. Rider and pillion comfort is top of the forum thread chat so that’s the first thing Yamaha has addressed with Tracer Mk2. A longer, wider sub-frame allows for a – yes, you guessed it – a longer, lower dual-density-foam, two height-position seat. This results in a 5mm higher seat height but the flatter profile (particularly the pillion seat) provides a much more buttock-cossetting experience.
Cossetted buttocks are happy buttocks. Everybody knows that.
Pillion footrests are treated to 30mm longer hangers, placing the footrests lower to create more space. For the rider, there’s a new, 100mm narrower handlebar (better for filtering) plus there's the chance to adjust the height of these according to taste with bolt-on riser options. I think this is the first time the word ‘riser’ has been used outside of Back Street Heroes magazine.
A 60mm longer swingarm fills the visual gap created by that longer seat subframe, and revised shock settings cater for this change in wheelbase geometry. New wider, bigger grab rails offer more pillion security and somewhere really handy to bungee things to when you’re sailing single-handed.
Up front there’s a revised fairing screen shape (and the option of buying a bigger one) with a nifty one-hand height adjustment. Mirror stalks obviously got forum members all frothy because the new ones have 30mm longer stalks for a better, less elbowy view behind.
Both models get a centre-stand and ABS as standard. Both models also get a pretty handy three-stage (high, low and no assistance at all) traction control system and a soft, aggressive and standard throttle response map. Traction can only be shut off completely when the bike's completely stationary. Throttle and traction can be altered on the move though, as long as the throttle is shut. Cruise, traction and throttle mapping is controlled on the left hand switchgear. A thumb wheel on the right hand bar scrolls through the dash info.
Shuffling off in the direction of the GT, things start reading like a parts catalogue bragging list. Heated grips, adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping front ‘n’ back, cruise control, 22-litre, colour matched hard panniers, a quick-shifter and a colour TFT screen.
I’m not sure about a TFT screen for the ‘certain age’ group likely to be swayed by the appeals of a Tracer. I watched people of a ‘certain age’ popping their reading glasses on to decipher the tiny icons, used to scroll your way through rider modes, traction settings, heated grip level and cruise control commands. It’s pretty tricky popping your bins on when you’re white-knuckle filtering. At least speed and gear position info is in a huge, shit-eyesight-friendly font. I predict this topic being a subject of much gnashing on an obscure and rubbish forum somewhere, soon.
The GT is available in three paint hues, a sort of Audi-esque Nimbus grey, a Model T-Ford Midnight black and a really cool GT-only flat blue, called Phantom Blue. Gold anodized Kayaba forks mark out the GT model, as the standard Tracer gets a less-blingy black coating.
NEXT - RIDING, VERDICT, SPECS ->