Yamaha upgrades its midsize triple into a well-equipped and comfortable sport-touring machine.
Story by: Costa Mouzouris
There was a time when most bikes coming out of the Yamaha factory had inline four-cylinder engines or V-twins. Most of those bikes were either sport and supersport bikes or cruisers. Supersport machines, at least in the middleweight class, fell out of favour after being taken out by the double-blow of the economic crash of 2008 and hikes in insurance. As for cruisers, well, just look at Yamaha’s 2019 lineup: about the only bikes there that fit in the traditional cruiser mould are the Bolt and the decades-old V-Star 250.
It’s understandable that those categories suffered losses in sales, since they were both very focused; one produced bikes centred on racetrack performance; the other on bikes primarily built to look at – both sacrificed comfort and practicality to feed their respective niches.
Fortunately, Yamaha has turned things around, and in the last few years, the company has released a slew of new, more practical and more comfortable bikes designed to take on a broader range of riding styles and riders. You’ll find the MT series of naked bikes, from the very practical and affordable MT-07 twin to the MT-10, which features near-R1-like performance. In the middle is the MT-09, and it features a jewel of an engine – a sweet-sounding, liquid-cooled inline-triple that displaces 847 cc and produces copious amounts of torque over a broad spread of rpm. It’s this engine and chassis that underpins the all-new Tracer 900 GT.
The Tracer 900 GT is based on the Tracer 900, which originally arrived in Canada as the FJ-09 in 2015, changing names in 2018 to align with its European nomenclature. The GT also gets some inspiration from its European counterpart, taking the taut, nimble chassis and versatile engine of the Tracer 900 and adding some amenities that make it more practical for everyday use, while also improving its long-distance capability. These include upgraded suspension components, different instrumentation, saddlebags and a couple of other tour-friendly items I’ll touch upon shortly.
But first, the Tracer 900 begins with a very sporting chassis, utilizing a rigid, die-cast aluminum, twin-spar frame with near-identical rake and trail numbers to the R1, at 24 degrees and 100 mm
(24 degrees/102 mm for the R1), but with a 95 mm-longer wheelbase at 1,500 mm, for a more planted overall ride. Where the GT chassis differs from the Tracer 900 is in the suspension components; the GT adds compression damping adjustability to the Tracer’s rebound damping and preload-adjustable inverted 41 mm fork, and while the shock retains the same rebound damping and preload adjustability, the latter is altered conveniently via a remote knob located just aft of the left-hand passenger foot peg mounting bracket. The added components have increased the wet weight from the Tracer 900’s 214 kg to 227 for the GT.
Like any proper sport-tourer, the GT rolls on 17-inch wheels, onto which are mounted supersport-sized 120/70 and 180/55 Dunlop Sportmax radials. Brakes are also almost supersport spec, with a pair of radial-mount four-piston calipers squeezing 298 mm discs up front, and a single-piston caliper mated to a 245 mm disc in the rear.
The riding position is upright, with a relaxed reach to the wide handlebar and enough legroom for a six-foot-tall rider when the seat is adjusted to its higher setting, which puts it 865 mm from the ground; the lower position drops it 15 mm, and it’s easily adjustable in less than a minute by lifting the seat and relocating a bracket beneath. The handlebar can also be moved forward 10 mm by removing it and rotating the risers.
The GT replaces the Tracer 900’s LCD screen with a colour TFT screen. While the screen is large, the display itself is about as big as the display on an older iPhone 4, which is to say it’s pretty small, especially since it offers a multitude of information, some of it probably a bit too small for riders in the upper range of Yamaha’s 35-to-55-year-old target market. While it adds a high-tech flair to the GT, it’s not preferable to the larger, twin LCD displays on the Tracer 900, at least not for me.
Screen menus, which control too many functions to list here, are accessible via buttons on the left-hand switch assembly and a thumbwheel on the right switch assembly. Unfortunately, adjustment for the three levels of the standard heated grips is also accessible only through the screen, which is rather inconvenient, since it diverts your attention to the screen while riding. Accenting the heated grips are hand guards that serve more to divert the…