J R R Tolkien said, “Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.” A regular on our favourite Lap of Mutha on one motorcycle or another, I didn’t pay much heed to Tolkien’s brand of wisdom. Having been up and down that road a zillion times I didn’t think there was much more to learn. This was my backyard, my ’hood if you like. One that I enjoyed at every possible opportunity, on different bikes if possible. It’s that classic case of taking something you know very well for granted.
Yet, this Teacher’s Day, the Lap of Mutha conspired with a certain Japanese middleweight naked bike to teach me a brand new lesson. Or perhaps it was a refresher of a lesson learnt earlier. Coming out of what all bikers in these parts call Busty Corner – a medium speed near hairpin-esque right-hander – I was committed to getting the best exit within the limits of safety. Half my bum out, knee out and upper body pushing down on the front end. Looking as deep as I could into the corner, I gently nudged the right handlebar and down she went. As soon as I had her upright, my right wrist dished out the cane and whoa! I was staring at the sky. Startled yet exhilarated at the same time, I rolled off the gas and got her back down only to realise that the speedo was handing out three digits. And that was only third, there were three more gears to go. Although I had been riding the bike for the better part of the morning, that moment of breathless excitement was my real introduction to the mad Yamaha MT-09.
The MT-09 traces its lineage back to the days when Yamaha suddenly woke up to the idea of shoving a powerful engine into a naked bike and then uprating things like suspension and braking with top spec supersport stuff. The result was the bike that sits in dad’s garage. The one I look at wistfully for I don’t yet have the green signal to ride it. The result was the MT-01. Propelled (not powered) by a mammoth 1670cc liquid-cooled V-twin the MT-01 was never everybody’s cup of tea, coffee or what have you.
Well, now that we know each other, I can tell you neither is the MT-09. Although, frankly I didn’t know its looney nature when I drooled all over the Yamaha pavilion while the company bosses were handing over a key to one John Abraham, gratis. I wonder why people who have all the money in the world to buy this 11-lakh rupee bike get it for free and people like me have to wait for a year and a half just to get a ride on one. A bike that is essentially a model that has been in existence since 2014! So you can kiss any hopes you had of seeing the new MT-09 that Yamaha debuted at the EICMA 2016 goodbye.
Back to the MT-09, this particular generation of the MT-09 is not as appealing to look at as its other middleweight naked rivals. It does not have the Triumph Street Triple’s charm nor does it have the Kawasaki Z900’s fierce persona. One could, and few passers-by did, mistake it for the baby FZ-25 at signals and you have to convince them that this is a genuine 800cc motorcycle by revving the engine. The chiselled tank, the LED headlights, the wide handlebars and the rims do look strikingly similar for we have seen them in posters and on the pages of international magazine of the years gone by.
Its diamond type chassis holds up an 847cc in-line three-cylinder fuel injected liquid-cooled motor. The motor is as free revving as a hippie at Woodstock and that is precisely what gives this bike its ballistic nature. Its 87.5Nm of peak torque at 8500 revs and 113.4bhp at 10,000rpm propels it on dual axes – forward and upward. And that six-speed gearbox has close-knit ratios which allow you to go mental in no time.
You do get ride-by-wire and with it three rider modes. The sad part is that the bike we rode had not been tuned properly and fuelling was very notchy, especially when in the max ‘A’ mode or the intermediate ‘Standard’ riding mode. The kinks are ironed out in the commute-friendly ‘B’ setting, although I would not want to be in that mode all the time. The throttle position sensor does not have linearity and is just like a switch operating in two poles. This causes several hairy moments, which could be catastrophic if one is not too careful.
At this point, I would like to point out that the single unit seat is no good either. I was constantly sliding over on to the rear pillion seat and then back again. This might cause a rift with your lady love if you like riding two up since her rear end will be kissing black top in no time. To its credit, the riding posture is pretty good and suited me well enough.
There are two levels of traction control and if you are feeling particularly suicidal, you might even want to switch it off completely. I felt that keeping the bike in TC1 allowed you to stay on the positive side of the razor’s edge rather than slitting your throat by killing off the traction control. The TC2 is extremely intrusive. I would suggest opting for it only when the rain gods decide to deliver their blessings and not anytime else. The TC1 and B mode worked pleasantly in the city and you could venture to change into Standard out on the highway. The exhaust note is quite simple for a triple and gets whiny at higher revs.
When you do get the hang of the wheelies (you will have to, there is no choice), the front end is a bit of a let-down. As you begin to land, the stock rebound settings on the 43mm USDs would inadvertently push the front wheel again in an upward direction. You could tinker with it and soften it up but it would compromise the cornering stability. The rear could do with some stiffening as it was a bit on the softer side in the stock condition. An odd setup if you ask.
I have no qualms in the retardation department though. The monoblocs up front offer good bite on the dual 298mm rotors. I was trying to get the tail out as much as I could by stamping on the single-piston calliper that attaches itself on the 245mm disc but to little avail. ABS isn’t switchable.
Although I do not have sliding in my repertoire, I do know how to upset the rear wheel for a few photos. The fault however was not mine in this case. The Bridgestone Battlax compound was super sticky and did not let go at any singular point in time. The grip levels were astounding and you could have a blast around the canyons happily. However, I do not know how long they will last on our roads and new sets are frightfully expensive in India.
So, is this MT-09 a worthy follow-up to the MT-01? Sadly, no. This is a motorcycle for the serious enthusiast. But if you want to seek purchase this manic machine you have missed your deadline and will now need to scour the pre-owned motorcycle since Yamaha has already launched the new generation of this motorcycle (click here to read the launch report) at Rs 10.88 lakh, ex-showroom. Nonetheless, if you’re a thrill seeker then a good pre-owned one will not be a bad decision on the whole.