REVIEWED: 2021 Yamaha MT-09

REVIEWED: 2021 Yamaha MT-09

We set out on this review with one simple question in mind: is the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 the best bang-for-buck motorcycle available on the market today?

The third generation of this wildly popular Yamaha model, the all-new MT-09 boasts a wide range of upgrades across the board for 2021 model. It’s lighter, more powerful and more technologically advanced, but does it still retain that classic MT-09 character?

After recently checking out the 2021 Yamaha MT-07, we thought it was time to throw a leg over the all new MT-09 as we continue our review of Yamaha’s masters of torque.

Overview

From the first moment I sat astride the 2021 Yamaha MT-09, it felt instantly familiar. Like catching up with an old friend, time does little to diminish the connection with this bike.

But that old friend has had some work done, with the new generation MT-09 being rebuilt from the ground up. There’s a new 889cc CP3 engine, delivering more capacity, power and torque. A new fuel delivery system, ride-by-wire throttle and intake and exhaust systems combine to deliver better performance, lower weight and enhanced acceleration.

As a result of these changes, and an all-new die-cast aluminium chassis and a longer and lighter swingarm, the new MT-09 feels just as fun as the previous generation but in a more refined way. Think skids and wheelies dressed in your Sunday best.

Performance

Powered by an all new 889cc crossplane triple cylinder engine, the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 is whippet quick. Power is up by 3 kW to 87.5 kW at 10,000 RPM and so is torque, with a noticeable 7% increase to 93 Nm at 7,000 RPM. That torque is also now available lower in the rev range, providing more usable acceleration in real-world riding conditions.

Throttle response is good, thanks to the new ride-by-wire set-up, which steals tech from the latest generation YZF-R1, with little throttle latency. The quick shifter is also excellent both up and down. Sure, it’s not BMW S 1000 R levels of excellence, but up and down shifts are clean and quick without a false-neutral in sight.

The new 6-axis IMU and its accompanying rider-aides work seamlessly, with lean sensitive traction control and slide control, as well as a front wheel lift control system and brake control system, all doing their best to keep the bike sticky-side down with minimal intervention. There are 3 rider modes selectable from the 3.5-inch colour TFT, with each adjusting the rider aids from no skids and wheelies (mode 2), to heaps of skids and wheelies (manual).

Ride

The new die-cast aluminium chassis and high-rigidity swingarm have shaved an impressive 2.3 kg off the outgoing MT-09. With lower weight and better stability, combined with fully adjustable KYB USD forks, the cornering performance of the MT-09 is delightful. Unlike the MT-07, which can feel a little flighty (especially in the front-end), the MT-09 feels planted and eager to please.

Yamaha seems to have worked hard, striking that delicate balance of delivering an MT-09 that still feels like the bike we remember – bonkers and easy to full in love with – whilst also radically improving its ability to keep the front wheel down, and the rear tyre pushing forward.

As soon as I rolled away on the new MT-09, it felt like I’d been riding it for years. The seat is firm but comfortable, the reach to the bars and pegs perfectly suited to commuting and spirited riding, the suspension balanced.

Braking is good, but not great, with the radially-mounted 4-piston calipers on the dual 298 mm discs up front and single piston caliper on a 245 mm disc in the rear one of the MT-09’s few drawbacks. And since we’re talking drawbacks, we should also mention the turning circle, which is wildly impractical.

Styling

For 2021 the MT-09 has also undergone some major style changes. There’s a new front headlight assembly that houses the single central bifunctional projector LED headlight, a new 3.5 inch colour TFT screen, and — most noticeably — a new ‘minimalist coverless design’ where the headlight assembly and front fender are the only pieces of body work on the nudist-loving chassis.

The tank has also been redesigned and looks smashing with its front vents and sculpted muscular appearance. Also providing some function alongside its form, I found my knees perfectly hugged the tank, aiding rider comfort and performance.

The new 3.5 inch colour TFT screen is sound but the layout could use some work. Don’t get me wrong, all the information is clearly legible, the layout just doesn’t work for me. The switchgear and functionality adjustments are also a little fiddly and not all that intuitive, yet given how much fun this bike is to ride, who really cares about functionality?

For 2021 the MT-09 is available in 3 colourways. For the Yamaha faithful there’s Icon Blue, as well as Storm Fluo and Tech Black.

The competition

Pros
  • The best bang for buck available?
  • Such a fun motorcycle to ride
  • New chassis and swingarm provides much improved handling
Cons
  • Dash and controls are a little fiddly
  • Brakes could be better
  • Turning circle is wildly impractical
In summary

For me, the major takeaway from the new 2021 Yamaha MT-09 is this: it’s faster, lighter, more stable and features more advanced rider aids.

Sure, some stuff is going to annoy you. The switchgear feels a little cheap, and the controls and dash functionality aren’t the most intuitive. But really, at $15,249 ride-away for a bike this good, who cares?

On paper, the MT-09 is not as well specced as the Triumph Street Triple R or 890 Duke R, but it’s more powerful than the Triumph and nearly $3,000 cheaper than both. Perhaps its closest rival then is Kawasaki’s Z900, at least on price and specifications, but I’m not sure I’d overlook the MT-09 in favour of the Z900.

In the end, we’re spoiled for choice really. The hypernaked market just gets better and better, and the third generation of the MT-09 might just be one of the front runners. In my opinion, it’s certainly the best bang for buck available in the market.


Gallery

2021 Yamaha MT-09 Specifications:

Engine
TypeCP3 inline 3-cylinder 4-valve DOHC liquid-cooled EU5 engine
Displacement889 cc
Bore & Stroke78.0 x 62.1
Compression11.5:1
Maximum power117 hp (87.5 kW) at 10,000 RPM
Maximum torque93 Nm at 7,000 RPM
Final driveChain
Ignition systemTCI
ClutchWet
GearboxConstant mesh 6-speed
Fuel supplyFuel injection
Chassis & Suspension
FrameDiamond frame, die-cast aluminium deltabox
Front suspension41 mm USD KYB forks with 130 mm of travel, fully adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspensionSwingarm (link suspension) KYB rear shock with 122 mm travel, preload and rebound adjustable
Brakes & Tyres
Front wheelSpin Forged 17-inch 10-spoke wheels with a 120/70-17 Bridgestone Battlax S22 front tyre
Rear wheelSpin Forged 17-inch 10-spoke wheels with a 180/70-17 Bridgestone Battlax S22 rear tyre
Front brakesRadial front master cylinder, 4-piston calipers, 298 mm dual front discs
Rear brakesSingle piston caliper on a 245 mm single front disc
Dimensions
Length2,090 mm
Width795 mm
Height1,190 mm
Seat height825 mm
Wheelbase1,430 mm
Rake25º
Trail109.2 mm
Kerb weight189 kg (wet)
Fuel capacity14 L
Features
  • Full LED lighting with Y-shape brand signature icon front and rear
  • Full colour 3.5-inch TFT instruments with remote handlebar switch
  • Quick Shifter with up and downshift functions
  • 6-axis IMU
  • Lean-sensitive rider aids: TCS, SCS and LIFt with three intervention modes ABS and Brake Control system (BC)
  • Available in Storm Fluo, Icon Blue and Tech Black colourways
  • Priced at $15,249 (ride away)

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