Much like its sportier counterpart, the Tracer 9 GT has received a makeover for 2021. Zane took one for a quick spin to check out the changes... Words & Photos: Zane Dobie.
When I first rode the 2021 Yamaha MT-09, the first thing I thought about was how excited I was to check out the revised Tracer 9 GT. Jumping on the revised model did not disappoint at all, it has maximum comfort combined with plenty of technology.
There was something about the way that Yamaha set-up the new MT-09 which made it instantly enjoyable to ride. The engine, suspension and technology were all an absolute joy to use but after riding for 10+ hours in the rain on bumpy roads, the MT-09 had me dreaming of the more relaxed and comfortable set-up of the Tracer.
Check out Zane’s 2021 MT-09 Road Test here…
Despite Yamaha using the MT-09 as a base for the Tracer, the similarities between the two are small when you look closer at the setup, the frame and engine are the same but the swingarm has been made 60mm longer, extending the wheelbase to 1500mm. While the engine is no different in terms of output between the two models, the new three-cylinder went through huge development when it was first dropped into the MT-09 and far out! What a power house!
When the Tracer was dropped off at my house it was instant excitement as I haven’t jumped on a bike in month due to not being able to pick them up (COVID-19 lockdown) but it was disappointing to realise that my LGA consists of dismal 60km/h residential speed limits and the only local twisties are littered with cyclists riding three abreast. No stress though, as the Tracer is perfect for cruising along.
Obviously, it hasn’t been knighted with its “Grand Touring” title for no reason, Yamaha have decked it out with some lovely suspension. KYB have made their semi-active suspension especially for the Tracer, adjusted electronically through the TFT interface supported by an Actimatic Damper System. Riding on a cloud is an understatement, this is some seriously good suspension.
The MT-09 was already impressive enough when it came to the perfect balance between performance and comfort, while the balance is lopsided more to the comfort on the Tracer, the KYB setup is mind-blowing. The horrid roads of the NSW South Coast were no match for the semi-active suspension as it glided over all of the potholes the road would throw at it, whether it was in a straight line or heading up some slow winding roads.
Jumping on the bike was always a super strange sensation as you always account for the front-end to compress as you put weight on it, but the KYB forks are pretty much locked when the bike is turned off. Even when I pushed all of my weight on the front-end, it only slightly budged. A sign of the technology manufacturers are throwing around in today’s times.
The electronic adjustment means you have two options that can be set from the switch on the handlebars, A-1 and A-2. A-1 is the supposed “sporty mode” which slightly stiffens up the preload, its not a night and day difference in ride quality on the bumps and rough roads but it’s a noticeable change in the way the active suspension behaves whilst leaning the bike through the turns. Given that I couldn’t go my usual testing route, jumping from Jamberoo to Macquarie Pass and then finishing up with a Nasho Park run I didn’t really get to experience the Sporty suspension mode to its max.
The A-2 mode is where I spent most of my time, doing lap after lap of coastal cruises to highway runs, seeing how the Tracer held up to general daily duties, once again there is absolutely nothing bad I can say about this mode. Obviously, the damping is softer and the bike doesn’t feel as planted through turns but it still has sporty aspects to it. The cornering stability felt great and the bike just soaked up harsh front brake scenarios.
The rear suspension set-up works in conjunction with the front to constantly adjust the dampening to suit the road conditions. It also has a remote preload adjuster, which is much easier to change setting on in comparison to other models which often only have a single adjustment made by messing with the collars on the shock. The rear suspension has been revised from last years model with all new setting and linkage, it’s seriously plush when gliding down the road.
When I threw a leg over the 2021 MT-09 early this year, the engine was one of the highlights for me. The Tracer shares the same three-cylinder powerplant that received a complete overhaul, has an exhaust note to die for. Much like the MT, the stock muffler allows the engine to be that perfect sound level with pops and crackles as you flick through the gears via the quickshifter.
Power levels are easily manageable too, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to flip out from underneath you and twisting the throttle lifts the front wheel up in a relatively smooth fashion. However, if you’re not looking to access all of the 87.5kW then you can easily flick through the four engine modes to find one that best suits the conditions, I had it in Mode 1 for most of the time of course!
The gearing matches perfectly with the torque levels of 93Nm@7000rpm, meaning the Tracer isn’t clunky to ride and cruises along at 110km/h without revving its head off. The quickshifter lives up to its title, it goes through the gears like a machine-gun! Yamaha have ensured that both up and down are supported, the rear showed no sign of chatter or lock-up when shifting down too far thanks to the slipper clutch set-up.
The clutch action left a bit to be desired though, it had been a few years since I’ve stalled a bike on take off but I somehow managed to even after riding it a few times. You have to give it a decent rev when releasing the clutch which is easy enough to get used to after a few rides but it was definitely a different feeling to the recent bikes I’ve been riding.
Continuing the differences between the MT and the Tracer is the split screen TFT dash. Apart from making me feel like I was sitting in the cockpit of a sci-fi fighter plane, it was much easier to use in comparison to the MT-09 with plenty more info on display. Setting up the TCS and suspension modes at the flick of a button and didn’t need a trip to the owner’s manual to figure anything out. Sat-Nav and Bluetooth connectivity do seem to be the norm across premium models in 2021 from other manufacturers, unfortunately the Tracer has neither.
Considering I spent most of my time cruising around for daily duties on the Tracer 9, I had the assists packages set to level two across the board and only messed around with the settings when it came time to hit some corners. Mode 2 seemed to have a great balance between safety and fun factors. I didn’t lose traction at all when it came to winding the power on through damp roads but the traction control make noticeable cuts to the power at all during my time spend with the Tracer. The LIF system also seemed to allow for some degree of one wheel action without the bike feeling like it was going to over-rotate or aggressively cut the power.
Adding to the list of easy to use electronics is the cruise control system, I had the chance to use it for a short amount of time sitting on speeds between 60-110km/h and it’s a great system, it ties in well with the whole theme of the bike. You’ll have to be in fourth gear or higher and over 50km/h to use it but it stayed pretty close to the set speed limit at all times and was easy enough to cancel with just a grab of the brakes or clutch.
The 2021 model has been equipped with two 298mm discs and four piston calipers at the front and a 245mm single piston caliper at the rear. While they are adequate for the set-up, they’re not a stand out feature on the bike. What is a stand out feature is the cornering ABS which completely transforms the way you think about braking into corners. Applying the brakes while leaning over has been a big no-no ever since the invention of the bicycle but Yamaha’s system handles it with ease!
The Tracer 9 GT comes standard with two side panniers, I’ll admit that I don’t test a lot of bikes with panniers on and they’re not my cup of tea to place on my own bike but the placement of them on the bike got on my nerves. I can’t count the amount of times I threw my leg over and caught the pannier with my boot, to make matters worse they’re in a matte finish so I couldn’t exactly polish out any scratches I’ll inevitability leave behind as I lift my leg over like I’m attempting a roundhouse kick.
The panniers themselves have a decent amount of space, I couldn’t fit every style of helmet in the side box but I got a full-faced Shoei helmet to fit and the door shut, they’re a slightly obtuse shape though so I can see issues with fitting a large laptop or other rectangular Items in them.
Throughout most of my time riding the Tracer, I had the panniers off the bike because I wasn’t going anywhere that needed any sort of luggage taken with me. Clicking panniers off was seamless and easy, I don’t think they had been removed prior to me riding the bike as they were tough to get off at first but after removing them a few times, it was simple!
The Tracer 9 GT comes with a centre and side stand. The centre stand is one of those things you either learn early on or you just never bother with it, I’ve always been one to chuck bikes on their centre stand as I simply just believe it looks better when it parked up.
Finally the styling, the MT-09 was hit or miss depending on your preferences but the Tracer 9 GT surely has to be a hit with most people! Comparing it to the previous model (which looks very dated by 2021 standards) is like night and day. The aggressive front end has been equipped with LED cornering lights that adjust on the fly when riding, allowing the road to be seen at all times. The rest of the bike does look fairly similar to last year’s model with the major update being the angry front. There were a few small extras I didn’t even notice, like an easy adjustment for the windshield and a DC charging port.
First impressions of the 2021 Tracer 9 GT were almost all good, there plenty of technology to carry you into the next generation or revolution of motorcycle gadgets besides the dated software on the TFT screen. In Australia, only the GT model will be on sale but the semi-active suspension would be worth it if you live in a country that sells both the standard and GT model. At $23,299, it sits fairly comfortably in the middle of the sport touring segment price range. I highly recommend you take one for a spin if you are in the market for a daily rider!
The Crossplane three engine retains the concept of the old model: In line triple with forged pistons, offset cylinders and fracture split rods. All designed to handle high stress running. But the Yamaha engineers have changed virtually every component within it to enhance performance, efficiency and character. The crankshaft was redesigned to increase the inertial mass by 15%.
By redesigning and repositioning the fuel injectors, Yamaha reduced the camshaft overlap and working angle. This lets them produce a cleaner burn in the cylinder that allows removal of the secondary air injection system, for less complexity and weight. Almost every component had been touched and despite the bigger cc, total weight of the engine has been reduced by 1.7kg
Yamaha and KYB have jointly developed the Tracer 9 GT’s electronically-controlled semi-active suspension system that provides riding comfort combined with a precise feel from the road. Officially known as the KYB Actimatic Damper System (KADS), KYB say that this highly advanced suspension generates a much wider range of damping force than conventional suspension, and is able to respond instantly to varying riding conditions in order to achieve optimum handling performance.
This use of this semi-active suspension system has been made possible by the bike’s new IMU which works together with the ECU as well as the Hydraulic Unit (HU) and Suspension Control Unit (SCU) to calculate the optimum suspension settings for any given riding situation: fast or slow, wet or dry, smooth or bumpy, solo or two-up. The advantage of the solenoid system is that it is able to make extremely fast adjustments to damping settings. By constantly analysing and computing the 6-axis data, the IMU can signal the ECU to adjust damping settings in order to maintain chassis stability at all speeds, by doing so the KADS supplements the rider’s skills to ensure a comfortable yet sporty ride.
Another important improvement for 2021 is the repositioning of the new engine, which is now mounted in a more upright angle of 52.3º, compared to 47.5º on the previous model. These changes have been claimed to improve the overall balance of the lightweight CF die-cast chassis to give a higher degree of surface feedback from the front end, as well as a greater feeling of front end traction in corners.
The Tracer 9 GT is equipped with a completely redesigned lightweight aluminium swingarm that pivots inside the frame’s outer structure in contrast to the previous model’s external pivot points. Although externally similar in appearance to the design used on the 2021 MT-09, the Tracer 9 GT swingarm is actually 60mm longer, giving a 1500mm wheelbase – the same as the previous Tracer 900.
The 2021 features a new 6-axis IMU for lean sensitive rider aids which is lighter and more compact than the R1 system. In this system, riders get Cornering Traction Control System [TCS], Slide Control System [SCS], Lift Control System [LIF] and Cornering ABS (BC). All of this is controlled through Bosch’s 9.1MP based system which allows the ride to set their profile to suit their style.
The Tracer 9 GT is also equipped with a 2-Mode Brake Control (BC) system that provides added chassis stability during emergency braking situations. Data from the IMU is constantly analysed, and when excessive lever pressure is applied to the front or rear brake by the rider, the pressure is automatically modulated by the BC system. You can select either of two modes: BC1 is the standard ABS-active mode which prevents wheel lock-up during emergency braking in an upright, straight-line situation. When set to BC2, the system offers an even higher level of intervention by controlling brake pressure when the IMU senses that the chassis is likely to become unsettled.
An intuitive interface allows quick changes to the rider aids and throttle modes with the switches on the left had switch cluster while riding, while the key system information can be programmed through the scroll wheel on the right hand switch cluster when stopped, separately the active and passive functionality. Cruise control is also easily set on the left hand side of the handlebars.
Yamaha have also applied some aesthetic changes to the 2021 model. Yamaha say very careful consideration was given to the layout and shape of the three-bag luggage system, and the overall look of the side cases and top case is designed to complement the bike’s sporty and dynamic character. Along with this is new front fairing and a fuel tank cover to create a more dynamic look, with twin eye LED headlights and LED lighting throughout, it matches the Yamaha family look.
Equipped with an intelligent cornering light system that is programmed to light up the road ahead when the IMU senses that the machine is leaning at more than 7º and its speed is at least 5 km/h. A key feature of this LED cornering light design is that the IMU’s high speed calculations and processing power enable the system to increase the brightness of the cornering lights as the banking angle increases, which Yamaha say gives the rider a clear field of vision when riding at night.
2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Specifications
Price: $23,299 (rideaway)
Warranty: Two-years unlimited km
Colours: Icon Performance, Tech Kamo
Claimed Power: 87.5kW@10,000rpm
Claimed Torque: 93Nm@7000rpm
Kerb Weight: 220kg
Fuel capacity: 19L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, Cross plane triple, 78.0mm x 62.1mm bore x stroke, 889cc, 11.5:1 compression, three-into-one exhaust Gearbox: Six speed Clutch: Wet, multiple disc
Chassis: Aluminium Deltabox frame
Rake: 25° Trail: 108mm
Front Suspension: KYB telescopic fork, Electronically controlled, KYB Actimatic Damper System (KADS), 130mm of travel.
Rear Suspension: Swingarm (link suspension), 137mm travel
Brakes: Twin 298mm discs with four-piston radial-mount calipers, cornering ABS(f), Single 245mm disc with single-piston caliper, cornering ABS (r)
Wheels & Tyres: 10-spoke cast alloy wheels, 120/70 – 17 and 180/55 – 17 Bridgestone Battlax T32 tyres.
Seat height: 810-825mm
Ground clearance: 135mm
Overall width: 885mm
Overall Length: 2175mm
Overall height: 1430/1470mm
Instruments: Full-colour Split TFT dash
The Verdict | Quick Test: 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT