Words by Brando Rosales
In a simple ceremony last January, Yamaha Motor Philippines launched the ‘Dark Side of Japan’, the two newest 900cc motorcycles from their lineup at the Motora Azul 1955 Café: the 2017 MT-09 and the MT-09 Tracer. Being ‘biased’ towards the taller and more upright riding position of adventure bikes, we set our sights on the new Tracer and up we went to the Cordilleras!
A few years back, Yamaha launched its concept ‘CP3’ engine – Crossplane Three Cylinder engine with some features similar to that of Yamaha M1 race engine. I really didn’t understand the 100 or so pages of its technicalities, but, in essence, it is MotoGP technology packed in a smaller and lighter 3-cylinder engine. That same engine now powers the MT-09 street bike and the Tracer. With a few tweaks to suit the Tracer’s touring prowess, it cranks up 115 bhp at 10,000 RPM and 64.5 lb-ft of torque at 8,500 rpm. I would agree to what others say that this powerplant is the best of both an inline 4 and a V-twin engine has to offer – torque rich and power from mid to high rev range.
Yamaha did a great job on keeping the electronic gizmos simple for the Tracer. First, the TCT or the Traction Control, which by default is turned on and can be switched off with one push of a button at the panel. A few slips on the twisty roads of Halsema HWY and Bessang Pass proved it useful. I also find the TCT default settings right for my riding style as it wasn’t too sensitive and I had time to play along with some minor rear wheel spins. Second, the Tracer has three ride modes that can be selected even on the fly: A, STD for Standard, and B. “B” is the rain mode and only churns out 95bhp with lots of room at the throttle. Ride mode “A” tosses all of the 115 bhp with a crisp throttle response and, you guessed it right – wheelie friendly. The “STD” plays in between the two modes and will default back at every switch of the key. Lastly, the ABS that is standard in all MT-09 models. All these gizmos can be controlled and monitored through simple switches at the handlebar and multi-function display panel inspired from the Super Tenere. This display also shows the ambient temperature, real-time fuel consumption, trip meters A and B and many more.
STYLING AND HANDLING
The first thing that you will notice on the Tracer is its styling. From the headlamps to brush guards, the fuel tank down to the tail, it’s all designed for speed. The dual LED headlamps are adjustable to rider preference without any need for tools. The windscreen is also adjustable with three selections to choose from but not on the fly. The Tracer also boasts a lightweight and compact diamond CF die cast aluminum frame that helps in the bike’s responsive handling. Keeping the 17-inch alloy wheels on the ground are the 41mm upside-down forks with 137mm of travel and rear progressive link mono shock absorber with 130mm of travel. Riding 300 kilometers from Baguio to Sagada and to Tagudin, we had more than enough winding roads to prove the handling superiority of the Tracer versus other bikes in its class. The Tracer is simply a hairpin carver despite its semi-adventure bike characteristics.
FUEL ECONOMY RANGE AND STOPPING POWER
On the open tollways, where I got excited to test the bike’s top end, we got down to 16 kilometers per liter (km/L) while charging uphill on Kennon Road to Baguio City to Sagada, and then down to Tagudin Ilocos Sur we managed to get 18.5 km/L. On flat tarmac and ‘touring mode’, we got a reasonable 20 km/L which translates to a 360-kilometer range from one top-up to the next. For braking, the front has twin 298mm rotors with 4-pot calipers while a 245mm disc takes care of the rear. As we tackled some uneven downhill gravel roads, the ABS certainly gave enough grip that other systems would not.
I never would have thought that another sport-adventure bike would topple the BMW S1000 XR from the top of my list. With my 5’6 height, I believe the MT-09 Tracer is just right for me most Filipino riders in general. The Tracer’s 210 kg wet weight (full tank and oiled) combined with 115 ponies has the best power-to-weight ratio in its class. The Tracer’s comfortable pillion seat also earned a thumbs-up from my wife who rode with me throughout. Yamaha also put an ingenious solution to adjusting the seat height with the use of plastic and grommets underneath the seat that position it high or low and that saves the trouble of purchasing a lowering kit should one be needed. Although the Tracer is not a full-blown adventure bike, our journey to the Cordilleras proved that it could tackle some unforgiving roads that would give bigger and heavier adventure bikes a hard time. Of course, just add some adventure touring blings like engine guards, knobbies, crash guards etc. and off you go to the badlands. But remember, this is still a road bike – just on stilts.
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, inline 3 cylinder, dohc
MAX. POWER: 115 bhp @ 10,000 rpm
MAX. TORQUE: 64.5 lb-ft @ 8,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed constant mesh
SEAT HEIGHT: Adjustable to 845/ 860 mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 18 liters including 2.6 liters reserve
WET WEIGHT: 210 kg
TOP SPEED: over 220 kph
PRICE: PhP 589,000
+: Powerful and lightweight
-: Not much