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Yamaha MT09 2021


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On its launch in 2013 the Yamaha MT09 was praised for its superb engine and criticised for its jerky fuelling, cheap suspension and odd riding position. Over the years, Yamaha have worked to address those issues and the culmination is the 2021 model. The all-new Euro 5 engine gains 42cc, a heavier crankshaft and taller gearing in 1st and 2nd gears. Yamaha claim 117bhp at 10,000rpm. The 2021 frame, swing arm and wheels are all new and claim higher rigidity, less mass and an all up weight of 189kg wet. The forks are adjustable for preload, compression and rebound. The rear shock adjustable for preload and rebound only.


The MT09 comes with a host of modern rider aids including a quick-shifter/auto-blipper, cornering ABS, lean-sensitive traction control, slide control and ‘Anti-Lift’ to keep the front wheel down under hard acceleration. All of which can be individually adjusted to set your preferred level of intervention. Of course, there are menus within menus to fine tune it all but basic set-up consists of two: Driving Mode (throttle response) and Traction Control Mode.


Driving Mode has 4 levels: 1, 2 & 3 all allow maximum engine power, with throttle response from wild to mild, and level 4 is a reduced power/soft response rain mode. TCM is similar with 3 levels and “Off”. Level 2 is the default mode on both and that's where I left the settings on my test ride.


Pulling away the MT09 was instantly familiar and easy to get on with. It feels very light with a nice smooth engine, light clutch and no sign of any fuelling issues. At 6'1” the riding position is spot on for me. Gone is the weird moto-cross feel of the previous model, gone also is the teeny-tiny switchgear so now I can actually use the indicators without hitting the horn. And the TFT display is clear and uncluttered.


However as per previous models, the gearbox is still a bit clunky and around town the taller ratios make themselves felt: This bike really doesn't want to pull 2nd gear below 25mph. There were also a couple of times that the quick-shifter caught me out, although I quickly learned to just let it do it's thing, and the auto-blipper on the downshifts is great fun. And if you don't like the quick-shifter, you can turn it off. The suspension feels like the previous model XSR, an improvement over earlier MT09s but still too harsh. And the surprisingly restricted steering lock is very noticeable in town.


Suspension aside, the MT09 is quite happy to pootle along at touring speeds but it's meant to be a performance bike so how's it stack up? Well, for all the hyperbole about the triple character it mostly feels and performs like an inline four. And while it's undoubtedly quick, it didn't feel as fast as the claimed power and weight might suggest, which I think is down to the ultra linear power delivery: It never lacks oomph and it never feels slow but neither is there any point where it suddenly goes ballistic. I read somewhere that the MT09 can do 0-100mph in under 6 seconds, and I don't doubt that, but there's no real drama to it.


At speed the firm suspension comes into its own, the bike feels planted and the hinged-in-the-middle feel of the earlier versions has been eradicated. I can't say that I noticed the brakes, the bike stopped where and when I wanted and I can't ask more than that.


If this reads like I'm damning with faint praise then it sums up how I feel about this bike: I've ridden all previous incarnations of the MT09 and the 2021 is undoubtedly the best yet. Gone are the fuelling glitches, odd riding position and wayward handling. But the gearbox is still clunky, the suspension still crude and, like many current Yamahas, the MT09 exudes an indefinable feeling of cheapness. Which is a shame because on paper it's pretty much my ideal bike, and I could certainly live with it, but somehow it just doesn't make me want it.

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I know loads of people love their MT09s, and rightly so, but when I rode the 2019 model I had the same response as you. Interesting that you had this on the 2021 model, though, which is supposed to be a real step up from the previous one.

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That engine is a peach but as you say quality not quite there and the gearbox is clunky. I get the impression  yamaha want to come in at a better price than the competition but it has a cost. Loved my tracer but having a Honda  now I appreciate the extra attention to detail 

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14 hours ago, bonio said:

I know loads of people love their MT09s, and rightly so, but when I rode the 2019 model I had the same response as you. Interesting that you had this on the 2021 model, though, which is supposed to be a real step up from the previous one.

I wouldn't say that it was a big step up. I'm told that they've lowered the headstock and given it the suspension from the XSR900. So in terms of ride and ergos it now feels much more like the previous model XSR (no bad thing, in my view). And, gearing aside, it doesn't feel much different engine wise.

Edited by DJP
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