There’s an all-new MT-09 SP, and it’s got more power, less weight and a shed-load of extra tech. And to mark the occasion, Boothy’s got his hands on one and had a day of skids and wheelies…
It was 2013 when the first MT-09 hit the showrooms and I doubt even Yamaha had any idea how popular it was going to be. It was the first of Yam’s ‘hyper-nakeds’ of which there is now eight models. The MT range ranges from 125cc to 1000cc, and Yamaha have sold over 250,000 units since they were launched. And not only that, the CP3 (three cylinder, crossplane crank) motor, originally designed and crafted for the MT-09 has been slotted into countless other chassis’ and called things like XSR900, NIKEN and Tracer 900. So I think you’d agree that the MT-09 has been a massively important bike for Yamaha. It’s no surprise, then, that they have decided to give it a proper overhaul. And it is a proper overhaul too, with a new engine, a new frame and a new just about everything in between.
Let’s start with the engine which still has a crossplane crank and three cylinders. But that’s where the similarities end. It’s been completely redesigned and nearly all of its major internal parts are completely new, which has helped make the motor 1.7kg lighter than the old one (that’s including the new exhaust). Not only is it lighter, capacity is up by 42cc, making the new CP3 lump 889cc. Peak power is up by 4hp, at 117hp (at 10,000 rpm) and you get 93Nm of torque (at 7,000rpm).
There is a new fuelling system that gives better fuel atomisation and stops fuel sticking to the intake port walls. That helps achieve the 9% increase in fuel efficiency. There’s also a new more efficient intake and exhaust that’s lighter, louder and helps give the bike a boost of torque at low revs.
The chassis’ had a proper going over too. It features an all-new lightweight die-cast aluminium ‘Deltabox’ frame, swing arm and subframe. Overall, the chassis is 2.3kg lighter than the previous MT-09’s structure yet 50% more rigid.
And because it’s 2021 the new MT comes with a 6-axis IMU which supports lean sensitive traction control, anti-wheelie, and cornering ABS. You get three rider modes, a 3.5 inch full-colour TFT dash, LED lights and a shifter and blipper, which should keep the technophiles happy.
The KYB forks and Öhlins shock are all adjustable. You also get some saucy lightweight wheels thanks to Yamaha’s ‘spin forging’ technology; altogether the wheels are 700g lighter than the old bikes wheels, which isn’t to be sniffed at.
And all that for just over £10k. £10,202 to be exact. That’s £1,200 more than the standard MT-09 (£9,002), on which you get standard suspension, no cruise control and no brushed aluminium swingarm.
So what is it like? Well, pretty bloody good, is the answer. The last MT-09 SP wasn’t a bad bike, so they had a pretty good starting point.
The first thing I noticed was the sound difference compared to the other bike. The work they have done on the airbox and exhaust has definitely made a difference. For a bog stock road exhaust, the thing has certainly got one hell of a naughty rasp to it.
And I didn’t get far into my ride before I noticed that the noise wasn’t the only improvement. The extra 42cc, extra power (3%) and extra torque (6%) were all instantly noticeable. At first, I thought I could have possibly done with a few more revs at the top, but once I learnt to use the MT’s torque I realised I didn’t actually need them. The hearty midrange meant you didn’t have to bang the thing off its rev limiter at every opportunity.
Rather than revving the thing sky high, you were better off throwing another gear at it and letting the torque do its thing.
Because throwing another gear at it was actually a pretty sweet experience too. That lovely jubly shifter and blipper is as effective as anything this side of a race bike, whether you’re going up or down the ‘box.
In fact all the electronics worked a treat. Some might argue that the TC options and riding modes are a little basic, but if you ask me, 4 power modes and 3 TC modes are enough for a bike with 117hp. It would be nice if you could turn the ABS off if you wanted to, but the new cornering ABS function did seem to be a little less intrusive than the last one.
Yamaha told us that the frame was lighter and 50% more rigid. I’d be lying if I said I could feel any extra rigidity (perhaps you would back-to-backing both models) but it was definitely lighter feeling. Throwing it from one side of the road to the other was even more effortless than the last one. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that it was a nearly-900cc motorbike.
Despite the bike feeling a bit lighter, it still felt more manly than the last one. More substantial. Probably partly to do with the extra midrange oomph. And whilst the smooth power gave the MT-09 SP a real refined feel, you still felt like you could ride it like a twat.
And I did. After 50 or so miles on the road, Yamaha took us to a runway and let us fuck about to our hearts content. When you want it to, this bike can really deliver some attitude. I spent half an hour or so laughing my tits off, doing burnouts, wheelies, stoppies, and anything else I could think off. The SP might seem refined when you ride it sensibly, but it more than obliged when I wanted to ride it like a div.
For me, the MT-09 SP does everything it says on the tin, and it does it really well. It’s not a superbike; it doesn’t try to be. Nor is it a commuter, or a dull touring bike. But it is capable of doing pretty much anything you want it to. Especially putting a smile on your face.