ARGUABLY motorcycling’s most popular streetfighter, the Yamaha MT-09 gets a new face and rear end and technical upgrades for the 2018 version.
Will these upgrades keep the MT-09 in front of the increasingly crowded streetfighter market? We remember the outgoing MT-09 as an edgily styled, “torquey” thumping engine with a soft edge to its character (namely, the suspension). The price and equipment level did much to propel the MT-09 to the top of the charts.
The new styling upgrades bring the MT-09 closer to its more powerful, charismatic sibling, the mighty MT-10.
The headlamps, especially, mimic the MT-10, and if an accessory mini-fairing is installed, it will keep people guessing which model they are looking at. DRLs are fitted, while the rear end gets a shave and the mudguard now shifts downwards to enclose the rear wheel.
The LCD instrument panel has been set further forward to improve the rider’s line of sight. Larger radiator winglets and side scoops enhance the MT-09’s edgy look. My favourite piece is the winglets under the headlights; MotoGP comes to the naked streetfighter? The MT-09’s ergonomics are now more compact and the (almost) straight handlebars feel closer.
The other technology-related headline changes include suspension revisions and the addition of an assist and slipper clutch plus a factory-fit quickshifter for clutchless upshifts.
The 3-cylinder 847cc engine remains as it was, quite thankfully. It is the essence of the MT-09 and defines its raucous character. The 113.5hp @ 10,000rpm and torque of 64.5 ft-lbs @ 8,500rpm never felt as good as on a 120° crankshaft triple. This is due to intelligent choice of gearing and good engine management. Ride modes are A, B and the imaginatively coined, STD. “B” is great in rain or lazy city commutes as it softens power delivery by 4hp. “A” mode demands careful throttle modulation as the bike is more aggressive under this setting. “STD” is the best mode, with instant throttle response and maximum power available to the rider.
The upright riding position and easy access to its power make you feel the 113.5hp is actually more than it is. Trying to out-drag a superbike will introduce you to the unintentional wheelie and convince you otherwise. Still, it makes the best of what it has. The 5mm taller seat (now at 820mm) and better ergonomics make the MT-09 a viable touring companion provided that you ride it at sane speed. The seat is comfortable and roomy footrests help.
That wide and upright handlebar has a revised switchgear layout. The three-stage traction control switch is on its left side and a rider mode switch on the right. Incidentally, TC is switchable although “Level 1” is the least intrusive and is a useful safety net.
I found the horn button to be further away than usual, but familiarity will no doubt help. The MT-09’s ABS equipped brakes are strong, and together with the upgraded and fully adjustable suspension, do not exhibit the earlier model’s tendency to tie itself in knots under hard braking. The forks now feature a compression damping adjuster in the left fork tube, while the rebound damping function is located in the right tube.
Handling is quick and the balanced and agile Yamaha chassis feels tauter and more composed when compared with the MT-09’s previous iteration. The older models’ soft suspension woes are banished, but there improvements can be made by fiddling with the adjusters to suit your weight or riding style. The 193kg (wet) MT-09 is no sportsbike, but it can hustle as well as one up to around 80 per cent effort.
To help you chase down sportsbikes better, an assist and slipper clutch has been added ans a quickshifter fitted as standard. The MT-09’s version only works on upshifts which is just fine on a streetfighter like this. It works better if the throttle is fairly wide open, which is where most of MT-09 owners like to be, I suppose.
The MT-09 was already a great bike, but the new version moves the goalposts further away. There is no doubt that the MT-09 will continue to be a top-seller because it offers great versatility. You can now own a weekend “sports bike” that you can use to go to work on and a commuter that could handle a B level track day. Main rivals like the MV Agusta Brutale 800, Ducati’s Monster 821 and Triumph’s Street Triple run the MT-09 close or even surpass it on performance and handling, but definitely not on price.
You can get yours in Night Fluo, Race Blu or Tech Black at RM47,388.00 including Goods and Services Tax from all Yamaha dealers nationwide.