Yamaha’s MT-09 Tracer — ultimate sports tourer?

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 08 April 2015


UK Bike magazine reckons it is not just the bike of the moment but “the motorcycle of the decade” while MCN (Motorcycle News) says it’s a “leading contender for Bike of the Year”.

The magazines are talking about Yamaha’s lightweight 850cc three-cyclinder Tracer that is set to take the do-it-all sports tourer mantle off Honda’s legendary VFR 800 Interceptor.

The Tracer is a dressed up and jacked up sports touring version of Yamaha’s MT-09 naked bike.

Closeup of the Tracer's 3-pot engine

Closeup of the Tracer’s 3-pot engine

The Tracer shares engine, transmission and major chassis bits with the MT-09, mating Yamaha’s 850cc 85kW (113hp) three-cylinder engine with an aluminium diecast frame, creating one of the most lightweight sportstourers yet (210kg wet).

Yamaha describes it as the “ultimate tourer”, “as comfortable two-up touring as it is lane-splitting and solo scratching”.

The Tracer doesn’t look much like the MT-09. Up front there’s new bodywork, with a cowling holding twin headlights fitted with LED elements. The tank is new too, up 4L to 18L for touring purposes, giving it a range of roughly 300km.

At the rear of the bike is a beefed up subframe for pillion riders. Standard grab handles and a proper seat attest make this a natural for two-up riding, though preload adjustment isn’t easy.

The Tracer is tooled for touring with lots of adjustments available. Handguards are standard, and heated grips are available, along with a taller screen, a thicker seat, and a host of other accessories. A centrestand helps with loading and chain adjustment.

The panniers aren’t huge, and won’t accept a full-face helmet, but are lockable and easy to remove if not needed NZAutocar said in its recent review.

LED hedalights for those dark nights.

LED hedalights for those dark nights.

“There’s virtually litre-bike performance too; it feels effortlessly quick. You really need to be aware of speed creep. However, the radial four-pot brakes are up to the task,” its reviewer said.

“If it’s a sportstourer you’re after, this is the new benchmark for value. It goes and stops hard, handles well, and is also comfy and economical.”

“This bike is ready to take on the competition from higher cc bikes” says Oliver Grill from Yamaha’s Product Planning on the company’s website.

“Its power-to-weight ratio is great and in the mountains you can be faster even than over-1000cc bikes from our competitors.

“The low weight, combined with the powerful, explosive engine and the practicality of the bike even for traveling, gives it a unique place in the market. Anything else is much more heavy and more expensive.”

The Tracer features a 3-way adjustable traction control system. This enabled engineers to set up the bike with its sporty and responsive engine character, while still giving a feeling of confidence opening the throttle in difficult situations — slippery city streets, the typically unexpected road conditions in the mountains, even the occasional gravel road: as a versatile bike should be fit for many situations.

Dashboard gives rider all the information needed

Dashboard gives rider all the information needed

“We expect many people to step over from heavier, higher-cc bikes, without any real performance disadvantage. In real-life road conditions, the combination of low weight with enough raw power is so much more fun to ride, Grill says.

“The bike is also an excellent step up, for people from lower cc classes or from naked bikes. This way they can expand their motorcycling world with a bike that can do more.”

“We tested a lot in weekend trip conditions,” explains Oliver, “and paid a lot of attention to all the small practicalities that make your life on the road more enjoyable.”

The Tracer offers a different riding position compared to MT-09, to spend long days in the saddle. It is slightly more upright and with a lot more space for a passenger.

The seat is adjustable in 2 positions, the handlebar position can be moved 1 cm front or backwards and rotated as well to find the rider’s best fit.

The dashboard comes from the latest Super Ténéré and includes indications for gear position, outside temperature, fuel level, drive mode settings, traction control settings, accessory grip heater settings, and more.

The eager 3-cylinder engine character combines low-rpm torque with high-revving horsepower. It is smoother than a twin, while it builds narrow for a good knee grip, Grill said.

“Touring doesn’t need to be done on boring bikes. It can be super fun too,” added project manager Naoki Koik.

“In the past, allround bikes or sports-touring bikes were a compromise. They did everything well but nothing perfect. With the Tracer we built a bike with no compromise. It does everything on a very high level.”


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