I’m not sure why Superbike agreed to let me go to Mallorca for three days to ride the revised for 2017 Yamaha MT-09, but I’m glad they did. My first ever bike launch as a journalist and for me, a chance to ride something that’s sole focus isn’t to go as fast as it possibly can round and round in circles. As a 23 year-old male the two selling points of a bike outside of going fast on a circuit is firstly, does it do big wheelies? And secondly, does it make me more attractive to females? Approximately 100-metres from my starting position at the hotel the first question was answered with a big fat yes. At which point I’ve clearly become more attractive to females, because what female doesn’t prefer a man with a big wheelie?
Hyper naked bikes represent 43.5% of Yamaha sales across Europe now. With more than 110,000 units sold since 2013 it’s a huge market for them and something they really can’t afford to get wrong. We were welcomed with a new promotional video, which showed a small smattering of the new hyper naked bike and a more liberal pasting of hyper naked Japanese ladies posing as schoolgirls in a strip club. I’m not quite sure what relevance that poses to the new MT-09 but it turns out their MT slogan ‘The dark side of Japan’ wasn’t some hideous mid 80’s sex scandal as the video may have suggested, but instead a pretty sweet motorbike that ticks every kind of Japanese rule breaking box you can think of.
Yamaha have kept their CP3 engine in the MT-09 for 2017 and rightly so. It’s got a good power range with 87.5 NM of torque @ 8500RPM and 115HP @10,000RPM (84.6KW). Its EU4 compliant with three stages of traction control and three different riding modes. The TCS is split into three settings, 2 – which is designed for street riding, 1 – for sport riding and off, which if pulling massive wheelies is what you’re into is the one for you. Having raced using highly refined traction control all year, this road ready system felt a bit like someone had just disconnected a plug cap at points in level 2, but it was more than good enough to save any embarrassing and painful cold tyre high sides. We’re not trying to break land speed records here so it gets a thumbs up from me.
The bike has been upgraded with a quick shifter for 2017, admittedly at anything below 40mph it is a little clunky at times but hardly worth mentioning and at any speed above that it works great. The throttle response is slightly aggressive in the A mode for pottering about town, but the STD and B mode are both really smooth at lower RPM so in my mind it’s nothing to worry about. Annoyingly there is a permanent green light in the dash to let you know that your quick shifter is switched on. I can already envisage people everywhere losing all their hard earned street cred as they step off and let the clutch out thinking they are in neutral cause they’ve seen it on the dash, only to find their MT judder away into a heap next to them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Yamaha have a created a new clutch setup on the MT-09, there’s a 20% reduction in lever effort and it does feel pretty light, which turned out to be quite important when we found ourselves constantly changing gear riding up and down mountain passes across Mallorca. The slipper clutch itself is pretty impressive, I did everything I could to make the bike step out on me on the brakes and there wasn’t the slightest bit of movement at any point during the day. The only back end movement I saw all day was in my pants during wheelie number 10,479 when a goat ran out in front of me.
The mountains did really test all aspects of the bike, the geometry remains the same, as does the seat height at 820mm. It handled everything we threw at it during the day superbly. We found ourselves on a lot of hill side roads that were wet and moss covered, there were journalists of all riding levels on the test and apart from a few very small slides here and there, nobody crashed which says a lot about the bike. The front end inspires confidence and makes for a safe and enjoyable ride. The front suspension is now fully adjustable with compression, rebound and preload, giving you the chance to play around with your bike to find the perfect setup. Only being 10 stone dripping wet it probably would have been a more comfortable 200km had it been tweaked to be slightly softer for me. My arse was numb for the last 10 miles so I think the comfort seat would also be a sensible accessory to look at in the official parts catalogue.
I didn’t at any point during the day find myself in any trouble (with the boundaries of the road, or the police for that matter, mum) and I think it was largely down the MT-09 having a decent set of brakes. They’ve got a good initial bite and they give you good stopping power when you need it most. I didn’t feel the ABS activate at the front, but I did on numerous occasions when using the rear brake.
The MT-09 has some new aesthetic modifications, which have largely been taken from the aggressive styling of its bigger brother – the MT-10. Bigger tank mounted scoops, under headlight scoops and some lightweight radiator side fins all of which add to the dynamic look of the bike. I wasn’t totally sold on the new twin LED headlight when the bike was parked up however it looks better when it’s switched on and nobody will be able to see it when you’re pulling a 12 o’clock wheelie outside the pub anyway.
There’s a new license plate holder which looks like it’s been stolen from a Ducati Diavel, I don’t particularly like them on the Diavel and I don’t like them on the MT-09 either. Fear not, as other license plate holders are available from Yamaha’s vast accessory range that totals more than 50 official items. Pimp my bike has never been easier with their ‘My garage’ app which lets you add on as many accessories as you feel you need, each of which can then be ordered through your local dealer.
The bikes will be available to buy from the first week of January 2017, there is a price increase for next year but with Brexit looming, the pound dropping nearly 15% in value and all of the additional extras that come with the new model its a really aggressive pricing tactic from Yamaha and as one of the first to reveal their prices for next year it will be interesting to see how other manufacturers react to this news. That’s enough adult chat for now. Back to skids and wheelies.
It would be wrong of me to write this article without mentioning getting the front wheel in the air. As bikes go this is pretty much the ultimate bike for doing wheelies. My Granny is now well into her 80’s and given a pack of Tramadol and a warm summer’s day I’m pretty sure I could get her to wheelie it. Plenty of torque to snatch it up wherever you feel like it, a good rear brake to stop you going arse over tit in front of your mates and a quick shifter to make going through the gears easier when it is up. What more could you want?
It comes in a choice of three different colours – Night Fluo, Race Blue, and Tech black. I’ve never been a fan of the Night Fluo scheme, it just looks like someone gave it a thick coat of primer and forgot to paint on top of it if you ask me. Unless you’re into hanging around street corners at the weekend or your first name is Valentino I’m not sure the yellow wheels should be your first choice either. Everything’s painted fluo colours these days, so call me old fashioned but I see the Race Blue and Tech Black as much better looking options.
The best thing about this bike for me is that it has the ability to make anyone look cool. As I said earlier in the article I was here to lose my bike launch virginity and I wasn’t aware there was such a wide range of bike riders out there. Journos from all walks of life appeared, it varied from me being the youngest there, to gentleman nearly old enough to be my granddad who was more interested in the revised reflector position for 2017. The weirdest part was no matter how uncool I thought some people looked off the bike, (in my opinion anyway, I’ve worn hats back to front and bleached my hair yellow at times so I’m not really in a qualified position here) nobody looked out of place sat on one of these, everybody looked good riding the MT-09. Be it plodding around town, doing burnouts or stand up wheelies, somehow Yamaha have created a bike that no matter how small, tall, young or old you are this bike is for you.
As I’m travelling home today I’m feeling something that I’ve never felt before. All my life I’ve raced bikes that I could never dream of affording and therefore the thought of ever buying them has never been something I’ve ever had to consider. Or on the flip side of that I’ve bought used bikes that were less than £2000 for messing about in fields on. But this is genuinely the first time in my life where I’ve looked at a bike and had a long hard think about whether I could put off fledging the nest for a bit longer and instead buying myself an expensive toy. It’s been a landmark trip for me, my first bike launch, my first bike review and the first time I’ve properly grinned on a bike built entirely for road use. Could this be my first new bike purchase? Who knows, if nothing else I’ll be smiling all the way into the New Year. Click here to see the full spec on the MT-09 and to find your nearest dealer.
Words: Taylor Mackenzie