2021 Yamaha MT-09 & MT-09SP: The Dark Side
Test by Jeff Ware Photography by iKapture
Walking around a bike and checking out the external updates, whether major or subtle, is always a good way to start a test. I like to get familiar with the new design points and try and work out where the designers are coming from. Reporting on looks isn’t something I can do, only offer my opinion, and more than once in my 20-years on the job I’ve been fooled by a bike that handles far better than it looks, or looks far better than it handles, the latter much more common.
Things didn’t go that exact way with my first 2021 MT-09SP experience. It was a rush to get out before the weather changed. I’d just gone out in the very first session and I took the big banger MT-10, hoping the inline four would help make a dry line for the next session. With only one SP and a dozen riders, there was no bike to do a walk around on anyway, so I really didn’t look at the bike much before throwing a leg over it. This test was blind!
I hopped on the MT-09SP straight after the MT-10. As soon as I jumped on, I felt like I was on a completely new model. It feels that different to the outgoing one. The tank is still wide, but overall, the MT-09SP feels taller and narrower and the ‘bars are sitting high on bar riders. So, although the steering head has been dropped 30mm, the tall bars mean you can’t tell and the position is still upright.
Firing the SP up, that familiar MT-09 triple growl is even better now from the bigger capacity CP3. Rolling off up the front straight and short-shifting via the quickshifter, I was quickly able to settle and get comfortable on the bike. Everything fits and I was ready to push by the third corner, a tight left-hander. Firing out in second gear at full throttle and accelerating hard towards the next very fast left, the extra mid-range was impressive but more so the way the bike turned while still on the throttle.
It was a tricky corner to get the outgoing SP into, you had to brake into the turn, messing up the exit. This bike fell straight on its side and held a line all the way through, then was easy to flick right then left for the ultra-quick fourth gear esses. By the time I was braking for the tighter second gear esses I knew the bike was sorted. It’s a big step forward for the MT-09SP…
The next test at 70North is the long, downhill off camber fast left that is often damp. This corner needs to be tackled with a smooth throttle and high-level feel from the front-end and edge grip of both tyres. Without those assets, it is hard to do anything but roll off and cruise through there. On the MT-09SP, I attacked the corner at full tilt, straight through the wet patches, and had it on the traction control on the exit onto the back chute. Another tick. I could not have been more impressed by the new set-up.
So, the chassis is certainly better. The first model was a blast around 70North but had to be wrestled and thrown around. It was fun, though, and I remember having an awesome time racing around with Cam Donald at the 2014 model launch. We were having a good laugh afterwards.
The next model, the SP version, was more refined and settled on track, thanks to suspension changes, but that same high front and low back feel was still there, so it too needed a lot of front grip, and braking to get it into a turn. The new model now is much more sportsbike-like in its handling.
The brakes are a big improvement as well, whether it is a pad material thing or that Brembo master-cylinder, I’m not sure but there is plenty of power and feel on offer. This was highlighted while braking from 205km/h into a wet uphill left at the end of the back straight. This area can get a bit slick and having the feel from that high-end pump really made the braking process good.
The support from the forks also stood out here, with good support and no collapsing under the pressure, while maintaining composure when the brakes are let off for a right/left blind crest into a very fast double left. This area is another good test of a chassis and suspension set-up. The old models wobbled, bucked and weaved here. The new SP is completely on rails in the exact same section.
So, I can confidently say that on track, the new SP is a ripper in the chassis department. In all of the same sections, the standard version MT-09 was almost as fast and capable, it is just that I had it on its limit in places where the higher specification suspension on the SP was not even close to calling it enough already.
The cracking CP3 is now even more engaging and exciting. It really is a powerhouse and with the electronics off, makes the MT-09 a mega wheelie machine. We can’t wait to spend some more time using the new engine when we get the bikes back for full road testing and exploring the vast electronics suit that will require a lot of testing to truly get the overall picture. Going off our time spent on the MT-09 and MT-09SP at 70North, the bikes are going to be fantastic on the road.
A feature that is exclusive to the MT-09SP is the metal finished swingarm that features a special buffed with clear coat surface that complements the new Crystal Graphite frame. The other SP-specific features include anodised black handlebars and levers, as well as clear-smoked front and rear brake fluid reservoirs.
2021 Yamaha MT-09 & MT-09SP Specifications
Price: MT-09 – $15,249.00, MT-09SP $17,299.00 (rideaway)
Warranty: Two-years unlimited km
Colours: Icon Blue, Storm Fluo, Tech Black. (Only Icon Performance for SP)
Claimed Power: 119hp (87.5kW)@10,000rpm
Claimed Torque: 93Nm@7000rpm
Kerb Weight: 189kg
Fuel capacity: 14L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, Cross plane triple, 78.0mm x 62.1mm bore x stroke, 889cc, 11.5:1 compression, three-into-one exhaust Gearbox: Six speed Clutch: Wet, multiple disc
Chassis: Aluminium Deltabox frame
Rake: 25° Trail: 108mm
Front Suspension: USD 41mm telescopic KYB fork, fully adjustable (SP features USD 41mm KYB fork, fully adjustable with high/low-speed compression damping)
Rear Suspension: KYB monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound (SP features an Öhlins monoshock, fully adjustable)
Brakes: Twin 289mm discs with radial-mount four-piston calipers, Cornering ABS(f), Single 245mm disc with single-piston caliper, Cornering ABS (r)
Wheels & Tyres: 10-spoke cast alloy wheels, 120/70 – 17 and 180/55 – 17 Bridgestone S22 tyres.
Wheelbase: 1430 mm
Seat height: 825mm
Ground clearance: 140mm
Overall width: 795mm
Overall Length: 2090mm
Overall height: 1191mm