Yamaha tracer firing on all cylinders

YAMAHA’S naked MT range has been a huge success for the firm. The MT-03 is an entry-level single-cylinder, the MT-07 a (best-selling) parallel-twin, and the MT-09 is a beefier triple-cylinder and the perfect platform for a touring version; the Tracer.

2015 Yamaha MT-09 Tracer
2015 Yamaha MT-09 Tracer

Yamaha has done more than just add a half-fairing, a tall screen and a new suffix to the MT-09. The 115bhp, 64.5lb/ft engine remains untouched, but the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle-system (YCC-T) has been tweaked to give the Tracer’s three riding modes a more touring-focused power delivery. ‘A’ feels the most immediate and sporty, ‘B’ is softer and ‘Standard’ is... err... standard. To switch, just close the throttle, press the ‘Mode’ button and select your mapping. Job done.

More changes give the Tracer added comfort and practicality. The rear subframe is longer and stronger than the ‘base’ model, so you can stick the bike on the standard centre stand, mount the optional side cases and stuff them to the gills.

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Yamaha have been kind enough to think about your pillion too. Rather than have them exposed to the elements by perching them on a pinhead, the small step up to the rear seat means the passenger is well protected by the rider. And if you don’t fancy being bear-hugged for the entire trip, handy grab rails flank the rear end.

Where the MT-09’s saddle is fixed at 815mm, the Tracer’s is thicker, wider and adjustable from 845 to a lofty 860mm. You don’t need to dig a tool kit out to alter the height; it’s really very easy to change as long as someone has explained it (in detail) beforehand. Remove the rider’s seat, look for an ambiguous piece of black rubber that’s wedged neatly in the frame and take it out. Stick your finger in the gap and wiggle it until you feel the release latch for the seat adjuster. You can thank me later.

With the higher and 45mm wider handlebars, the riding position is more upright and relaxed. There is ample legroom so you can take advantage of the Tracer’s 18-litre tank (four litres bigger than the MT-09) and run it dry before you need to stretch your limbs.

The fairing itself is sharply styled and quite minimal The windscreen is manually adjustable (by 30mm) in three stages via two knobs that are just a bit too fiddly to use on the move. Once you’ve found your ideal heights of both the seat and the windscreen, the Tracer’s weather protection is more than adequate. The hand-guards keep the chill off your knuckles reasonably well and long motorway distances won’t leave you feeling like you’ve just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

Like the former heavyweight-boxing champion, the original MT-09’s triple cylinders have a fairly aggressive character. The Tracer’s throttle response can still feel a bit snatchy, especially in the ‘A’ mode at slow speeds and low revs. In general though, the power delivery is tamer, with a gentle build of versatile, flexible power from the lower revs right through to around 6,500rpm, where it bows out with a final 

Traction control helps keep both wheels in line. If you prefer to let the back end step out once in a while you can switch it off, unlike the ABS, which is permanently activated.

The Tracer’s handling takes some getting used to. The chassis isn’t particularly stiff so there can be quite a lot of movement if the surface is uneven or you’re ragging it like a sports bike. Super-light steering comes at a price. The suspension is adjustable for rebound and preload both front and rear. It’s quite a basic set up, with adjustability on only one fork leg, but increasing the rear’s rebound damping close to maximum balances the suspension, reduces the chopping and perhaps most importantly, improves rider confidence.

A fully pimped Tracer is just a mouse click away thanks to the wide range of Yamaha accessories. Soft side bags start from £158, a tank bag is £116 and there’s even a lower seat available from a gnat’s eyeball under £200.

Of course this means that the MT-09 Tracer’s £8,149 price tag is actually just a starting point. That said, Triumph’s Tiger 800 XR has ‘just’ 95bhp and 58lb/ft and it already costs more at £8,499. For £8,999, Suzuki’s 75lb/ft V-Strom 1000 has more torque but 14bhp less power. It looks like the MT-09 Tracer is seriously competitive in more ways than one.