The MT-09 is one fun motorcycle. Here is our MT-09 Review. Test by Jeff Ware Photography by Colin Chan
The MT-09 is probably one of the most significant motorcycles launched by Yamaha in years. I can’t think of a bike that has come from Yamaha that has made as big an impact and been as original in design as the MT-09 since way back in 2009.
It’s about time, too, with the YZF-R6 over the hill and not many exciting new models from Yamaha of late, dealers all over the globe must be grinning from ear-to-ear now that they have a truly all-new machine to sell – and for $10,990 plus on roads, these fantastic little bikes should fly out the door.
The nearest rival is the Triumph Street Triple, at almost four grand more – so the Yamaha truly is a bargain. Quality, however, has not been compromised. In fact, designers were asked to investigate every single component and find the absolute best way to be cost effective without compromising quality.
The MT-09 was created by the same team of engineers that designed the big bang R1. This passionate team took on board a vast amount of market research – what Yamaha means to riders and what those riders want in a Yamaha. Yamaha means many things to riders. To me? It means two-stroke twins like my very first road bike, an RZ250FN, followed by two TZR250s and now a collection of old RDs. I have fond memories of my FZ750 and have had each generation R1 as a staff bike. I’m a huge fan of that big bang engine, too…
To others it might mean a favourite dirt or race bike… think of the bikes Yamaha have built that have cult status – the RD250s, RD LCs, RZ350, RZ500, XT500, Tenere, FZR1000, R1… and now the MT-09, an all-new style of bike that Yamaha are calling a ‘Naked Motard’. It’s al about fun and passion – the sound, feel, excitement and being one with the bike…
2016 Yamaha MT-09 – The Ride
Flicking the bike to A mode, I roll out onto the track, snick second gear and screw the throttle on. The triple responds with machine gun speed and lofts the front wheel skywards. Third. Fourth. I crest the hill on the back wheel and even manage to get around turn one kink before the front Bridgestone S20 touches down on the ultra grippy surface that graces the undulating green hills of this 22 corner paradise. I grab fifth and drive the bike through turn two and my knee skims the tarmac already – then brake hard and shift down three gears into turn three, a long right hander. The footpeg digs in and I leave a trail of sparks around the corner before accelerating towards the turn four left hand hairpin.
Hard braking, chuck the bike on its side and wheelstand out. Holy crap, I think. Is this really only a 900 triple? Next thing I’m flat on the tank in fifth gear through the kink on the middle chute at 200-something. Again, the footpeg skims the tarmac gracefully. I brake hard and then slam the bike on its right side for the double-right, then left, right, left, right through the famous Esses – the ultimate test of agility, brakes, front grip and suspension damping control. The MT-09 does it with ease aside from some rear wallowing.
The suspension is plush and road bias but doing an astounding job considering the pounding I’m giving it. Some rear wheel chatter has me at full lock sideways with IOM TT legend Cam Donald in tow, later congratulating me on the save and on my pace. The bike surprised everyone with its ability to be ridden hard and fast…
Over the back of The Farm the MT-09 comes into it’s own as I crest the hill of the back straight on one wheel. Nudging 212km/h before braking for the bottom turn, the 09 proves how hard it can accelerate, as that is the same speed I get from a supersport bike and only 30km/h less than a 1000cc superbike.
Stability while hard on the brakes is brilliant considering the suspension and chassis is not designed to be ridden so hard on track. Initial bite of the brakes is predictable and I’m finding it easy to modulate that power while braking into turns.
What is lacking, despite a big fat 109mm of trail and so lots of front rubber on the road, is front end feel. The feel is wooden and there is no feedback, however, I later ride on the Dunlops and discover that this problem is caused by the Bridgestone S20 – a common topic of conversation by the end of the day was that the Dunlops were far superior in feel and grip. In fact, I had a few huge front end folds on the S20s, while the Dunlop SportSmarts were rock solid with great feel. Later in the wet this was exaggerated even more.
Drive out of the 180-degree hairpin is so strong that the front wheel lifts or the first two gear shifts before I brake hard for the bottom section. It is here that the need for a slipper clutch is highlighted as despite some finesse with clutch release, the rear wheel is hopping and chattering badly while I brake hard for the right-hander.
Completing a lap I’m refreshed and smiling and ready to go again. Doing four or five laps at a time was not tiring at all, while on other bikes often The Farm can prove physically and mentally challenging after three laps at 9/10ths.
I end up adapting my riding to suit the MT-09 pretty quickly but it is nothing like any bike I have ridden. It’s a mash up of streetbike, sportsbike, motard and naked all in one. I can’t hang off the bike in a traditional sense but to get it turned requires just that so I end up pushing the bike down into a turn then sticking my knee out and forming a triangle with the bike inside it – Mick Doohan style I guess. It works. In the tighter sections I just motard it!
The MT-09 chassis is fantastic in the wet, the soft springs and damping giving great feedback and the initial bite of the brakes allowing for safe and controllable, predictable braking. The only gripe I have is the choppy throttle, which caused a few big rear slides. I dampened this with rear brake but even in B mode, the throttle is too choppy. I am confident this can be mapped out but an engineering friend of mine did some calculations on the inlet port velocities of the engine and feels that the inlet velocity is too high and thus that big gulp of air contributes to the throttle snatch. Only time will tell but it is certainly a small price to pay for such a stunningly good motorcycle and at just over 10 grand plus on roads you really can’t go wrong!
2016 Yamaha MT-09 Tech Talk
Featuring a bore and stroke of 78mm x 59.1mm to give a displacement of 847cc, the all-new four-stroke DOHC four-valve engine runs with a compression ratio of 11.5:1. Intake valve diameter is 31mm, while exhaust valve diameter is 25mm, and by setting the valves at a narrow angle of only 26.5 degrees, engineers have been able to keep the combustion chambers ultra-compact for quicker combustion processes and higher torque output.
Forged aluminium pistons are fitted with fracture split (FS) conrods and the 78mm diameter pistons run in direct-plated cylinders, which ensure effective heat dissipation. The MT-09 is also significant for the fact that it is the first multi-cylinder production Yamaha motorcycle to utilize an offset cylinder design.
The 120º crank delivers a regularly-spaced firing sequence at 0º, 240º and 480º, and it is these even firing intervals that ensure a linear delivery together. Compared to an in-line four-cylinder with a 180º crank, the MT-09’s 3-cylinder powerplant transmits a stronger feeling of combustion torque to the rider because its combustion torque waves and composite torque waves are virtually identical. To minimize unwanted vibration while still allowing MT-09 riders to enjoy the engine’s strong power pulses, the powerplant is equipped with a primary coupled-force counter rotating balancer.
To handle the wave of low to mid-range torque, the MT-09 runs with a relatively high primary reduction ratio of 1.708. Yamaha’s designers have also focused their efforts on space efficiency and the new transmission is very compact.
The EFI system features twelve-hole injectors designed to deliver an atomized fuel spray with a droplet size of only a few microns. These injectors are attached directly to the cylinder-head, a design that ensures the highly precise injection of fuel directly at the valve skirt to give good fuel efficiency. An added advantage of positioning the injectors directly onto the head is that it allows the use of shorter throttle-bodies, which contribute towards achieving high rpm intake efficiency.
Another feature, which is designed to enhance the engine’s strong torque characteristics, is the downdraft intake system, which utilizes three intake funnels of unequal length. The first funnel is 102.8mm long, the second is 82.8mm and the third is 122.8mm, and these different intake passage lengths create slightly different conditions in each cylinder to create complementary power and torque curves.
The MT-09 is fitted with an integrated single-piece 3-into-1 exhaust system and short muffler featuring three internal expansion chambers. To achieve a strong exhaust pulse effect, the three stainless steel exhaust pipes feature connecting tubes between pipes 1 and 2, and between pipes 2 and 3 – and the pipes are also treated with a Nanofilm coating that helps to keep the system looking factory-fresh by preventing discolouration, rust and stains.
A specially-designed oil pan enables the three exhausts to run tightly against the engine to give a deep banking angle of 51º, allowing the MT-09 rider to enjoy supersport-levels of cornering performance. The irregular shape of the pan – which tapers towards the base – also helps to reduce surface fluctuations and bubble formation in the oil during sudden machine movements, which helps ensure effective lubrication.
The Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) is derived from the YZF-R series models. This ‘fly-by-wire’ system senses every throttle action made by the rider, and the ECU instantaneously actuates the throttle valve to give an immediate engine response. Such is the speed of this chip controlled system that it gives the feeling that the MT-09’s engine is an extension of the rider’s right wrist that can be controlled at will, giving added riding confidence – particularly when instant acceleration is required.
The MT-09 chassis is a control filled aluminium die-cast unit that is split into halves and bolted together at the headstock and rear pivot point. This gives a weight saving of over 10kg when compared to regular techniques, such as with the FZ8. The swingarm is also CF aluminium die-cast, with the two sides welded together. The swingarm pivot, interestingly, is on the outside of the frame, making the frame and footpeg span narrow for better ground clearance and comfort.
The suspension on the MT-09 is basic only offering rebound adjustment on the front and only rebound and preload on the rear. The forks are 41mm inverted and held in place by a forged lower and cast upper triple-clamp. The shock is house in a horizontal position beneath the seat contributing to the bike’s centralisation of mass.
Braking is by 298mm floating stainless steel rotors and radial-mount four-piston calipers. Sintered pads are fitted standard and the rear disc is a 245mm unit with a pin-slide caliper. Wheels are 10-spoke alloy.
Styling-wise the MT-09 is a hit. Designed to fit all sizes of riders, the MT-09 has an almost motard-style seating position with a 400mm long seat and tall ‘bars with low ‘pegs. The 14L fuel tank features deep knee recesses and stylish curves. The ‘bars are tapered cast alloy and feature a new slide type starter switch that incorporates the kill switch. The LCD display includes a gear position sensor as well as tacho and speedo, the hex type mirrors are compact and the forged alloy brake and clutch levers and pedals are lightweight. The headlight features a multi-reflector design and the rest of the lights are LED.
2016 YAMAHA MT-09 Specifications
Price: $10,990 + ORC
Warranty: Two-year/unlimited kilometre
Colours: Deep Armour, Blazing Orange, Race Blue, Matte Grey
Claimed power: 84.6kw[115hp]@10,000rpm
Claimed torque: 87.5Nm [63lb-ft]@8500rpm
Claimed weight: 188kg dry
Fuel capacity: 14L
Engine: 847cc liquid-cooled inline three-cylinder four-stroke, 78 x 59.1mm bore x stroke, 31mm IN and 25mm EX valves, 11.5:1 compression
Gearbox: Six speed, constant mesh
Clutch: Wet, multiple-plate, hydraulic actuation non-slipper
Chassis: Die cast CF aluminuim two-piece, die-cast aluminium CF swingarm Wheelbase: 1440mm,
Rake: 25º, Trail: 103mm
Suspension: Front: Inverted 41mm forks, rebound adjustment, 137mm travel.
Rear: Link Monoshock, preload and rebound adjustment, 130mm travel.
Brakes: Front: Four-piston radial-mount calipers, 298mm stainless steel rotors.
Rear brake: Single-piston slide caliper, 245mm stainless steel rotor.
Wheels & Tyres: light alloy, 3.50 x 17in & 5.50 x 17in, Bridgestone S20 120/70 – 17, 180/55 – 17.
Dimensions: Seat height: 815mm, Overall Height: 1135mm Overall Length: 2075mm
Instruments: Digital multi function display