Bike review: Yamaha MT-09

YAMAHA has struggled to get the mix quite right for its aggressively-styled MT series of bikes. They’ve just not ticked the boxes they needed to.This is a bit of a problem for Yamaha, and for the last couple of years the company has been looking for that balance between a motorcycle that slots into the current economic climate and one that excels in real-world use.

At £6,799, the price isnt bad for a bike that looks this cool.
At £6,799, the price isnt bad for a bike that looks this cool.
At £6,799, the price isnt bad for a bike that looks this cool.

Anything that’s not entirely necessary has been removed or omitted from the MT-09. It’s minimalist mechanical mobility. Fairing? Overrated. Pillion grab rail? A little strap over the seat will do. Headlight surround? You should be happy there’s even a headlight on it. It’s quirky, a little out of the ordinary and that’s not always a bad thing. Perfection is unnatural.

This bike strives for asymmetry; the stylish LCD dash is positioned just a fraction to the right, just like the optional striping on the tank. Even the engine is unusual. It doesn’t imitate the “big-bang” R1 but neither is it a 
carbon copy of Triumph’s organic three-cylinder. It’s something completely different.

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With a nudge of the gear pedal and a touch of gas, the MT-09 pulls away, albeit with a little lag in the throttle response, as your hands rest on the wide, mountain-bike styled handlebars. Shorter riders will find comfort in the relatively low 815mm saddle, and although those ’bars may be a stretch for some, it has more leg room than a bike like the Fazer 8.

At £6,799, the price isn’t bad for a bike that looks this cool and has enough punch to stick it on the back wheel, even in reduced-torque engine map B. But it’s your job to keep the rear wheel in check as the price tag doesn’t include traction control. This is proper motorcycling.

A quick press of the mode button switches the mapping from B to A, and MT turns up the heat. Before you know it, the digital rev counter is reading 11,500rpm and you’re in danger of seriously offending the law.

Yamaha claims the MT-09 can lean through turns as far as their R6 Supersports bike, and no matter how hard you try to prove them wrong, the silent, untouched footpegs prove that it really does handle. It sounds and feels like it means business and the 113bhp and 64.5lb ft injects you with more self-confidence than a beautiful stranger’s smile.

The radial brakes are progressive and communicate well while they slow you down, but the suspension could be better. In its standard trim, the MT-09 sways giddily and, with its softly damped front forks, you need to trail the brakes into the corners to feel like you’re in control. Crank up the preload at the back and rebound damping at the front, and the ride is instantly improved. Where the 188kg bike wobbled over bumps before, it now feels taut and easier to manage.

At (legal) motorway speeds it’s pretty comfortable too. It gets a little ragged towards triple figures, but with your arms splayed out, turning you into a human sail, you’ve got to expect that sort of thing. Keep it on the right side of the law and all’s well.

The MT-09 isn’t a completely refined ride even with the suspension jiggery-pokery. More rebound on the front end and preload at the rear largely sorts the suspension out, but it’s perfectly acceptable for the price bracket.

If your commute involves a lengthy highway stint, a fly screen would be welcome to keep the blast away from your head and shoulders. If you want a proper track day tool or a bike for more road focused adventures, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. But if you’re in the market for a functional, naked, relatively inexpensive triple, Yamaha’s MT-09 is well worth considering.


PRICE £6,799 on the road

ENGINE 847cc three cylinder

POWER 113bhp @ 10,000rpm

TORQUE 64.5lb ft @ 8,000rpm

TRANSMISSION Six speed manual