2021 Yamaha MT-09
One of the most fundamental benefits of motorcycling is that it can both be simple and fun. You don’t have to pay 6 figure numbers like automobiles to have something really fast and reliable. Yamaha proved with the MT series that motorcycling can be extremely fun while still being accessible and affordable.
So even though people say you can’t have Cheap, Fast and Reliable together, 2021 Yamaha MT-09 is a perfect example that it can be done. The MT-09, previously known as FZ-09 in North America, has been on the market since 2014 and it has been a huge success for the brand. It’s not only good on paper, but a huge success in terms of sales numbers globally.
This year, Yamaha decided to refresh the MT-09, making it more competitive in the naked market. Though the body lines look very similar to the previous generation, it is not an update. First generation MT-09 was released in 2014 and it was updated in 2018 and this is a totally new gen with 90% new parts according to Yamaha.
One of the reasons why many Yamahas, especially the MT-09 sales are so well is that it offers great value for the money, instead of cutting corners to stay price competitive, they add more on the bike each year. As expected, 2021 Yamaha MT-09 has a lot of changes compared to the last year.
Of course, the biggest difference is how the bike looks, especially the headlight. Granted, Yamaha MT-09 always looked unique with the robot-looking headlights in the previous gen, but this generation took it to the next level. I personally like previous gen headlight design. Current one has more of a hate-or-love type of design that you need to see in person before you decide.
The most significant technical change is that Yamaha decided to increase the engine size, it is now 889cc instead of 847cc. It’s not only to keep up with the competition, but also due to EU5 norms they had to bump the displacement to have more horsepower. Despite having larger size, Yamaha was able to shed almost 2 kg from the engine and exhaust, which is quite impressive.
As a result, it has 3 more horsepower which means it produces 117 horsepower instead of 114. More importantly, it offers much more torque almost everywhere. It produces 69 lb-ft of torque at 7000 rpm, whereas the old engine was pumping out 64 lb-ft around 8500 rpm. The actual horsepower & torque number increase may not sound too much, but the maximum torque is available at lower rpm, meaning that the torque curve is flatter.
And that torque is what makes the bike fun, so much that for the money it is really hard to recommend any other type of bike if fun factor is your priority. Though there are more powerful bikes within the price range, MT-09 weights less than 190 kg and it makes the bike more nimble, faster and fun.
Although Yamaha has upgraded the CP3 engine, it still has the same unique triple engine character. It still runs smooth as butter, sounds even louder and better, with much better and predictable throttle response. You get 4 different riding modes and even at the most sensitive setting, it is very smooth unlike the previous generation.
Riding ergonomics are pretty good. Seating position is surprisingly relaxed, you sit upright especially for a sporty naked bike. Handlebars are easy to reach, thanks to the huge risers. Even for long rides, it does not feel uncomfortable with the stock seat. However, I wish it had more back support when you’re accelerating. Passenger accommodation is good for this segment, though still not a good place for long rides.
Suspension and handling – Aside from the looks, there are significant changes in terms of suspension tune and frame geometry. The geometry is designed for more front-end grip and it’s supposed to give you more rigidity. The suspension tuning is definitely much better than previous generation.
2021 Yamaha MT-09 comes with adjustable KYB suspension in the front, and it has decent amount of dampening without being too harsh or soft. As expected from performance oriented bike, it has inverted 41 mm telescopic fork which you can adjust the preload and rebound. Unlike the MT-09 SP, it does not have high tier suspension like Ohlins shock in the back, but it’s still adjustable and more than enough for daily riding.
With all of those technical changes, the bike is actually 4 kg lighter than previous generation, makes it the lightest 900cc naked bike in the market. Aside from the lighter engine, exhaust and frame, they also changed few things for additional weight savings. Some of them are forged wheels that are lighter than the previous generation, lighter swing arm as well as aluminum subframe instead of steel one.
On paper, all of those information sounds good, but how about the real life experience? I can easily tell that it definitely feels like a 650cc middleweight naked due to overall weight, very easy to maneuver on tight turns, and quite balanced at lower speeds. If you respect the bike and be smooth on throttle, this is not as overwhelming as you expect.
EU5 Compliant exhaust has an interesting shape and look, but it surprisingly sounds much better than the previous generation engine, it has a deeper tone and definitely louder. It’s not just the muffler change, Yamaha redesigned the whole exhaust system. Now it has much shorter exhaust header for more torque.
Brakes are not too bad, but definitely the weakest spot in terms of riding dynamics. Initial bite is weak, but as you apply more brakes, it starts to slow the bike down. Like the previous gen, it still has regular 4 piston brake calipers matched with dual 298mm discs in the front, as well as 245 mm disc in the back. The radial master cylinder is the biggest significant change for better stopping power, aftermarket brake pads with more initial bite would solve the problem.
Compared to the last gen MT-09, 2021 Yamaha MT-09 has more modern tech such as 6-axis IMU system that has lean-sensitive rider aids. It has 3-mode traction system, slide control system, wheelie control and brake control system built in to the IMU. There is also brand new 3.5 inch TFT display that has high resolution, though it has huge bezels and I think 3.5 inch is small for today’s standards.
Transmission and clutch is very user friendly, they are very predictable and shifter feeling is clear. I am quite surprised that even the base trim MT-09 comes with Quick Shifter System that works up and down. Compared to the previous gen Quick Shifter, it’s a night and day difference. Previous version could only go up, and it was not smooth at all, whereas the new one is top notch for the price range.
Yamaha MT-09 has always been one of the first options if you prioritize fun factor, but this year it is better than before. It’s as light as 650cc naked bike, has triple engine, very fast, can be good on gas, and most importantly it offers exceptional value. The formula behind the MT-09 makes it one of the best naked bikes for the last decade and with the new generation you get more tech features and it is better pretty much in every category.
Long story short, everything about the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 is good, if not outstanding. What makes it even more attractive is the price tag. 2021 Yamaha MT-09 starts at $10,799 CAD and there are three colour options, making it one of the best bang for the buck entries in the naked motorcycle market. Our tester’s Yamaha Racing Blue color is included to the price, but if you want Ice Fluo grey color it’s extra $200. For more details please visit www.yamaha-motor.ca