It Gives You Everything It’s Got And Begs You To Unleash It

Yamaha finally brought its U.S.-bound, mid-size hyper naked into line with the rest of the civilized riding world this year by renaming our FZ-09 as the MT-09. I’m sure we’ll all miss the “Fuzz,” but the “Master of Torque” is essentially the exact same bike. All the upgrades that were introduced in 2017 make the transition — traction control, ABS and improved throttle curves — along with the 115-horsepower engine that made last year’s model such a hit. When I covered the updated version, there was some question as to whether the range would live up to its potential. Well, having had around a year in which to prove itself, I’d say the 09 has acquitted itself admirably. Join me while I take a look at this ride from a fresh perspective.

Continue reading for my review of the Yamaha MT-09.

  • 2018 Yamaha MT-09
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-3
  • Displacement:
    847 cc
  • Price:
    8999
  • Price:

Design

2018 Yamaha MT-09
- image 754293
The taller, flatter seat and handlebar pullback leave plenty of room to straighten up or lean into it, and the shoulders at the top of the fuel tank provide a convenient place to hang a knee.

The twin-headlight arrangement makes for an agreeable visage with an understated housing that seems a lot more organic, and a lot less Transformerish, than the original. As minimal as it seems to the eye, it does manage to plough a hole for the rider to tuck his/her head into for low-effort cruising.

Blackout treatment starts bright and early with achromatic touches at both ends of the forks and the tripleclamps that hold them. It continues up onto the mirrors before moving aft to encompass the frame beams and asymmetrical swingarm. Ergos are pleasant; the taller, flatter seat and handlebar pullback leave plenty of room to straighten up or lean into it, and the shoulders at the top of the fuel tank provide a convenient place to hang a knee.

The seat itself rides at 32.3 inches off the ground; fine for an average-size rider, but the vertically challenged will be into tiptoe country here. Gotta say I’m lovin’ the rear end. Though it could be cleaner. I suppose you have to put the turn signals somedamnwhere and the combination hugger/plateholder does a magnificent job of tidying the rear by offering a stock alternative to the typical hangy-downy mudguard. Too bad the blinkers aren’t part of that assembly, but I guess you can’t have everything all the time.

The 2017 model saw some cosmetic improvements that proved popular with the masses, and the factory wisely left well-enough alone with a direct carryover that fans of the line will instantly recognize. When last I looked at the “09” there were still a lot of unknowns involved, but in the interim, many of the blanks have been filled in, and the general consensus is that unlike its predecessor, the new-gen 09 does indeed live up to its potential.

Chassis

2018 Yamaha MT-09
- image 754298
Flicks and reversals benefit from the light weight, but it's the steering geometry makes the MT-09 eager in the corners, yet stable enough to not be too squirrely on the straights.

The bones set the tone with a cast-aluminum frame that delivers cornering performance while keeping the weight relatively low. Flicks and reversals benefit from the 425-pound wet weight, but it’s the 25-degree rake and 4.1-inch trail that really delivers the goods to make the MT-09 eager in the corners, yet stable enough to not be too squirrely on the straights.

Wheelbase length measures out at 56.7-inches long — average for the genre — and the 5.3-inch ground clearance leaves ample room to lean into the corners for all you knee (and elbow) draggers out there. You know who you are. Also typical are the 17-inch, cast-aluminum rims that mount a 120/70 hoop up front and a 180/55 out back.

Dual, 298 mm front discs and radial-mount, four-pot calipers slow the front wheel with a 245 mm disc and single-piston anchor at the other end. All-around ABS comes as part of the standard equipment package, and that’s just the first layer of contact-patch protection Yamaha loads onto the bike; there will be more in the drivetrain.

Ride quality and cornering feel are nearly infinitely adjustable due to the updated-for-’17 suspension systems. Both ends sport adjustable spring preload and rebound-damping features. The front end adds to the delightfulness with adjustable compression as well so you can tune in for conditions and preference. I shouldn’t have to point out that you don’t usually find such flexibility at this price point, but I’ll make mention anyway just ’cause it’s a good selling point.

Suspension / Front: 41mm inverted fork, fully adjustable; 5.4-in travel
Suspension / Rear: Single shock, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.1-in travel
Brakes / Front: Dual 298mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Brakes / Rear: 245mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Tires / Front: 120/70ZR17
Tires / Rear: 180/55ZR17

Drivetrain

2018 Yamaha MT-09
- image 754301
There is plenty of power to play with, and a number of ways to control it, so you can de-tune it for a beginner or novice sportbike rider, then crank up the heat as skill level and confidence increases.

Yamaha’s “crossplane concept” powerplant serves as the beating heart of the MT-09. On paper, the 78 mm bore and 59.1 mm stroke gives this inline-triple engine a total displacement of 847 cc. Dual over-head cams time the valvetrain with four valves per cylinder to help ensure low-resistance aspiration and efficient waste-gas evacuation. An 11.5-to-1 compression ratio will put you at the premium pump, but it’s a necessary evil as it contributes heavily to the respectable 115-horsepower and 64.5 pound-feet of torque tucked away in the plant.

That’s quite a bit of power for such a light bike, and the factory provides you with a few features meant to supplement the efforts of the ABS: the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle, the D-Mode function and adjustable traction control. The ride-by-wire throttle helps reconcile the difference between demand and capability for seamless transitions while the D-Mode provides three separate profiles for different throttle responses.

A switchable traction control provides the last layer of protection with two levels of intervention and an Off setting if you want to go full-real. A slip-and-assist clutch reduces the effort at the lever with backtorque protection and another layer of safety.

What’s the bottom line here? Well, the takeaway is that there is plenty of power to play with, and a number of ways to control/nerf said power, so this is potentially at least a couple of bikes in one, since you can de-tune it for a beginner or novice sportbike rider, then crank up the heat as skill level and confidence increases.

Engine: 847cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline 3-cylinder; 12 valves
Bore x Stroke: 78.0mm x 59.1mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection with YCC-T
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed; multiplate assist and slipper clutch
Final Drive: Chain

Pricing

2018 Yamaha MT-09
- image 754296
It ain't everyday that we get to see variable power delivery, traction control, ABS and adjustable suspension all together at this price point.

Another strong point in favor of the MT-09 is price. It ain’t everyday that we get to see variable power delivery, traction control, ABS and adjustable suspension all together at this price point. Come January 2018 you can score yourself an MT-09 in Matte Raven Black, Matte Gray or Rapid Red for $8,999.

Warranty: 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
Colors: Matte Raven Black, Matte Gray, Rapid Red
Price: $8,999

Competitors

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Z900
- image 708006
2018 Yamaha MT-09
- image 754300
The total lack of electronics gives Yamaha a significant advantage in the engine department once we get past the absolute power numbers.

For the MT-09, my first thought is to look at the Z900 ABS by Kawasaki. Lookswise, the two start out with similar headlight housings leading the way, but as your eye moves towards the rear (no giggety) the differences become plain. The Z900’s flylines are much more sportbike-ish, mainly due to the rise at the pillion and the minimal size of the pad; not as passenger-friendly as the wide bench seat on the MT.

On a personal note, Kawi loses major points with the subframe-mount mudguard; what can I say, I love what a hugger can do for a rear end. Kawi makes up for it a bit with its 948 cc, four-cylinder engine that cranks out 123 horsepower and 73.1 pounds of grunt against 115/64.5 from the MT. The bad news is; the Z900 weighs in at 463.1 pounds ready to go, so that’s quite a bit more mass that it has to propel, making the power advantage a wash. Sufficient, but with no real advantage to Kawi.

In fact, the total lack of electronics gives Yamaha a significant advantage in the engine department once we get past the absolute power numbers. Kawi’s only advantage comes at the checkout, and it’s razor-thin, to be kind. At $8,799, Kawi is unlikely to sway anyone on the fence, and the advantages offered by the Tuning Fork company are well worth those couple hundred bucks.

He Said

“I never have really understood why some names will work in some areas, but not in others, especially between English-speaking markets. Plus, what changed? Seriously though, the MT-09 has proven itself in the year since its update, and it should continue to do well no matter what you call it. A rose by any other name, blahdey-blah.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “OMG, I couldn’t stop laughing. The FZ-09 was so much fun to ride after the refresh for 2017 it was just a giggle-fest with every twist of the throttle. I expect the MT-09 to be no different. Turn off traction control and put it in “A” mode and you can’t help but bring that front wheel off the ground. The bike gives you everything it’s got and begs you to unleash it. I’m not sure if I could recommend this as a beginner’s bike even with the power modes. I feel like even in the ’low-power’ mode, folks not used to riding a sportbike could get themselves into trouble with a quickness.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 847cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline 3-cylinder; 12 valves
Bore x Stroke: 78.0 mm x 59.1 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection with YCC-T
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed; multiplate assist and slipper clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Chassis:
Suspension / Front: 41mm inverted fork, fully adjustable; 5.4-in travel
Suspension / Rear: Single shock, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.1-in travel
Brakes / Front: Dual 298mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Brakes / Rear: 245mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Tires / Front: 120/70ZR17
Tires / Rear: 180/55ZR17
Dimensions & Capacities:
L x W x H: 81.7 in x 32.1 in x 44.1 in
Seat Height: 32.3 in
Wheelbase: 56.7 in
Rake (Caster Angle): 25.0°
Trail: 4.1 in
Maximum Ground Clearance: 5.3 in
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gal
Fuel Economy: 44 mpg
Wet Weight: 425 lb
Details:
Warranty: 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
Colors: Matte Raven Black, Matte Gray, Rapid Red
Price: $8,999

References

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Z900
- image 738359

See our review of the Kawasaki Z900 ABS.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: yamahamotorsports.com, kawasaki.com

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