2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT
Like the SUVs in automotive world, Touring motorcycles are getting more popular especially in the last decade. If you look at customer needs and trends, people expect to get more out of their vehicles as the prices keep increasing. Unlike 1990s, motorcycles are not popular just for the looks, or racing from one Coffee shop to another. Motorcyclists expect their bikes to do everything good, while still being reasonably priced.
This is why Sports Touring bikes such as the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT is important than ever. People expect to get more versatility out of their vehicles, and this is Tracer 9’s strongest selling point. Yamaha decided the rename the good old Tracer 900 GT, “revaluated” the 900 and now it’s called the Tracer 9 GT. We know that model naming can sometimes be confusing with Yamaha, but this time I think they did the right move by keeping the name simple.
Quick history time: Yamaha first announced the touring version of MT-09 with the name called MT-09 Tracer globally. In North America, they called it FJ-09 Tracer and it was first released in 2014. Fortunately, Yamaha decided to bring the global name to North America with the second generation, they started to call it Tracer 900 from 2018 to 2020. Third (current) generation Tracer 9 is finally here, let’s see how it feels compared to the previous generation.
Let’s start with the looks, and as a Tracer 900 GT owner, I think new Tracer 9 GT looks better than the old one. They completely redesigned the bike, but it still carries Yamaha design language. Now instead of 2, you get 4 headlights, 2 of them are just for Daytime Running Lights as well as cornering lights, whereas the others are for low beams and high beams. You get decent amount of wind protection thanks to the additional fairings in the front.
Yamaha also redesigned the original windscreen and now it is much taller. It was terrible with the previous gen Tracer 900 GT as it causes wind buffeting, making it worse than having no windscreen at all. It is still not perfect especially for taller riders, but definitely an upgrade. You can use same key to remove side bags, and it is quite simple to remove or install them.
Aside from the windshield and indicators, Yamaha took note of what most journalists criticized and relocated the ignition switch with the new gen. Tracer 900 GT had the ignition switch in a worst place possible where you have to shove your hand all the way down in between the handlebar and TFT screen, which you usually end up touching and eventually scratching the screen. Tracer 9 GT’s key switch is located in between the gas tank and handlebar.
Although the bike is completely new, there are still common parts that are used in the old generation and that’s mostly where you touch the most. You still have the traditional menu wheel on the right side of the handlebar, as well as old cruise control button layout and same button that you used to use for drive mode, now you can also adjust your suspension settings. Mirrors are exactly the same and they still work fine.
One of the most significant changes is the new screens. Yes, there are two 3.5 inch TFT screens that is customizable. You get the same 3.5 inch TFT screen but just one with MT-09. You still see the most essential information on the left screen, but you can choose many different things to see on the right screen.
I understand the functionality perspective of having two screens, that you can see more things without navigating through the menu, but it just doesn’t look as good as having one big screen. Considering all European Touring machines come with huge screens with very thin bezels, I think Tracer 9 GT would have looked more upscale with something like 7 inch single TFT screen.
Aside from the new TFT screen, the ergonomics have changed a lot. I had a chance to ride the Tracer 9 and 900 back to back, and they feel different. Tracer 9 GT feels more comfort oriented with the seat with more like bowl shaped, and the seat is wider than the 900 GT. It is also the same for passenger seat, both are good for long trips, but the Tracer 9 gives wider seating area.
You still get upright seating position, but with the new gen it is even more upright, and wider handlebar makes it feel like it is more comfort/touring oriented. Speaking of comfort, they changed the footpegs, now it has rubber parts for smoother ride. You can also ride on standing position easier with the new frame geometry and footpeg design.
I was surprised to see that Tracer 9 GT side bags are completely different than the previous version. It is shorter but wider than the 900 GT side bags. You can maybe fit a very small helmet, but still you should get a top case for bigger items. I like the look of Tracer 900 GT’s side bags more, as they look better and it comes with bike’s color. Either way, it’s a huge convenience to have cargo accommodation in a motorcycle, and they come standard with the Tracer 9 GT.
Like the new MT-09, Tracer 9 GT also gets the updated CP3 engine that produces 117 hp and 69 lb-ft of torque, which is also compliant with the latest EU5 emissions. The displacement is now 889cc instead of 847cc and it means it has more torque all around the rev range, and peak torque comes much earlier than the Tracer 900 GT. It has a very punchy torque curve anywhere after 4000 rpm all the way up to redline.
The new CP3 engine is a gem in the motorcycling world, it actually finds the middle ground in between parallel twin and 4 cylinder, it has tons of midrange torque, but at the same time it is very rev happy at higher rpms. It is one of the best sounding engines available in the market. Despite having stricter emission norms, it consumes a little bit more than the previous engine, my average was 5.6L / 100 km whereas old Tracer averages around 5.2L / 100 km.
Yamaha also updated the exhaust design, now it sounds much better than the previous one, though I think older exhaust design looks better. It’s not just a muffler change, now header runners are much shorter for more torque. Like the MT-09, it comes with an updated Quick Shifter with up and down feature and it is much better than the previous version, which is only up.
Like the new MT-09, Tracer 9 also comes with modern tech, such as the new 6-axis IMU system. Tracer 900’s only had basic Traction Control system that cuts power if there is a slip. The new IMU system monitors acceleration, braking, lean angle, ride mode etc. for additional rider safety while still being smooth, most of the time you don’t even feel it cuts power without looking the dashboard.
Probably the most significant change for 2021 is the new suspension setup. 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT comes with KYB Semi-Active Suspension system that adjusts front and rear, which is controlled by 6-axis IMU and ECU system. There are only two different modes unfortunately, but even with the firm settings it is not punishing but still keeps the bike planted on the road.
So far we mentioned about the good things, but there are some missed opportunities. We already mentioned that Yamaha could have used bigger single TFT screen instead, but what’s really missing is that the Bluetooth connection. Most Touring bikes at this price range already have this feature that you can see who is calling, or choose your music. Some motorcycle brands even offer specific app for their bikes, and some already implemented Apple CarPlay.
Previous generation Yamaha Tracer 900 GT offered exceptional value and balance, as it was one of the few bikes that combined sporty riding characteristics with Touring features, but there were a lot of rough edges. It feels like it was initially engineered as MT-09 with sport bike characteristics and then converted to a touring bike with the combination of decent components, some half-baked tech with a lot of engineering afterthoughts.
It’s not the case with the new Tracer 9 GT. This time Yamaha took its time to create a proper Touring machine while still keeping the fun factor. Both may have triple engine and may feel similar, but the new generation is a much better engineered bike overall. Yamaha smoothened all the rough edges with the latest Tracer 9 GT, made it more touring focused bike.
That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, I think the front brakes are still the weakest spot of the whole bike. It was also not good with the Tracer 900 GT. The only change is that Yamaha updated the brake master cylinder, which changed the braking feeling but it would not add additional stopping power.
Both bikes have weak initial bite, the new one just feels a little bit better, but nothing spectacular as you really have to pull the lever to have decent amount of stopping power. At the end of the day, they are the same with MT-09, and even with the lighter MT-09, brakes are okay, but with the additional weight of the Tracer 9, it just could have been better for this price range.
2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT may seem like a quick refresh to keep the bike up-to-date, as it looks similar to the old version, but it is much more than that. It’s a completely different bike that they just used same solid formula, but much more refined in every imaginable way. Major components like engine and frame are all updated. It is still a great bike for long trips or commuting, but it can also be a weekend warrior that you can take it to track.
Overall, the bike feels much more upscale with more tech, and ultimately became a better Touring machine. In the mean time, it still carries the MT-09 core, the fun factor that makes it a unicorn in this segment. It’s a great Sports Touring machine that can do-it-all. 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT is priced at $16,999. For more details – please visit www.yamaha-motor.ca