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Wed, 30 May 2018

Is Yamaha’s Tracer 900GT the ultimate jack of all trades?

Expectation doesn’t always deliver, so just what is the true potential of Yamaha’s new Tracer 900GT? James spent the weekend with our demo bike to find out...

In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Yamaha’s Tracer 900GT. I found myself asking if it was going to be anywhere near as fun as the MT-09 on which the motorcycle is based. Or, have the practical additions to the Tracer killed off its naughty side in place of a more, erm, sensible approach to mid-corner apexes. I had to find out for myself, so sneakily borrowed the demonstrator machine from the Bridge showroom while nobody was watching so I could find out…

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

The Tracer 900 has already proven itself to be a hugely capable bike, matching everyday usability with a fun motor and chassis that inspires confidence and a grin-factor by the bucket load. I was therefore really curious to see exactly what the GT variant would offer as an alternative.

The GT builds on the winning formula of the original Tracer, adding a number of considered accessories that make the bike ready to conquer continental trips in comfort and with ease. It’s definitely a bike that has been designed to be that little easier to live with.

Dressed to impress

As I stood next to the bike, the first thing that struck me was just how impressive the bike feels. It has the same grand presence as an Adventure bike, but obviously with the road-focussed bias. Sitting on the machine allows for a good view over the traffic ahead and the large, adjustable screen provides plenty of protection from the elements (and those pesky flies).

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

It feels tall too, with an 850mm seat height, but despite this, I’m still able to flat-foot the bike pretty easily when I’m sat on it. At 5’ 10”, I found the bike to be deceptively tall, but very manageable. Personally, I really like this as I’ve always think there’s a great benefit in being able to see over cars when riding behind them. For those who might be a little more vertically challenged though, there is a lowering kit available that will make it more accessible.

It’s all well and good babbling on about the GT’s finer details though, unless it rides well on the roads and in real situations, then it doesn’t mean squat.

Thanks for listening, Yamaha

Thankfully, the bike does this and more. The revised suspension immediately puts to rest any previous questions over earlier MT-09 based machines. The forks and shock are both fully adjustable and allow the rider to fine-tune the bike, with the shock preload being easily changed thanks to a side-mounted adjuster – perfect for those who are looking to travel with a pillion and/or lots of luggage.

The suspension was always a problem area of the MT-09-based models of old, and the new adjustability makes a world of difference to the new bike. Yamaha have obviously been listening carefully to their customers, which is great to see.

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

Another area that proves this is with the ECU map. Renown for being snatchy, the old map had been updated to give a much smoother power delivery, and also make the bike much more manageable when sat at a higher RPM.

I rode along the A3214, heading towards Bideford for the bike show. It’s a road that I know well and really enjoy, so my expectations for the Tracer 900GT were high. Thankfully, the GT pleases, feeling responsive and agile as it carved through the Devonshire hillside – despite its luggage-laden weight being upwards of 225kg.

Combining the excellent chassis with the brilliant 847cc triple that powers it makes for an engaging ride that didn’t leave me feeling disappointed, or aching after a long stint in the saddle.

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

What you really get…

It would be pretty easy to think of these rather significant updates being the end of the story, but it’s in fact just the beginning. Yamaha have seemingly thrown most of their accessories catalogue at the GT to make it a machine that you could pick up tomorrow and set straight off on a massive trip.

The most notable of these accessories is of course the hard luggage, which offers a handy 44-litres of additional storage. It meant that I was able to travel without the necessary addition of a bulky rucksack while I had it. The panniers use the same key as the ignition key and are also very easy to remove and attach.

Alongside the panniers, the GT also comes with a centre stand, handguards and programmable heated grips that feel like they could melt your hands on the highest setting, making winter riding a far less disconcerting prospect.

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

Though not necessarily an update over the standard Tracer, I was also very impressed with the LED headlights. Riding at night through country backroads has been something that has always made any weakness with the spread of light glaringly (or not so) obvious. The headlights on the Tracer though are among the very best I’ve ridden with, and make navigating twisty roads after hours a much more enjoyable, and safer, affair.

The electronics package is also impressive, with three selectable engine modes and traction control settings. There’s also cruise control, which definitely made the dual-carriageway slog to my home in Dartmouth a lot nicer. It was also good to help nurse the bike to a petrol station after the fuel reserve flickered at me after 160 miles of throttle-happy B-road fun.

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

Impressively, the Tracer 900GT also comes with a slipper clutch and quickshifter, making a smooth and simple affair of changing up when kicking up through the gearbox. It’s very easy to get used to the clutchless, full throttle upshifting offered by the quickshifter too, and I often find myself trying to upshift in the same way when I return to machines without them fitted. It definitely makes changing gear it more a lot simpler.

So, just what is it?

The Tracer 900GT was a lot of fun, and more importantly, proves that motorcycles can be both practical and grin-inducing at the same time. It’s going to appeal to those who want just one bike that will comfortably do a bit of everything, and do it well. Those who want a machine to ride every day, possibly do one or two big trips each year, and still be bags of fun when having some twisty B-road blasts on a sunny Sunday afternoon need look no further.

There were only two minor areas with which I had any kind of disagreement with, the first were the tyres. The Tracer 900GT comes shod with Dunlop Sportsmax D222 as standard. They’re not a bad tyre at all, and are also durable. That said, I’ve never really got on too well with Dunlop tyres and would look at changing the tyres with something like Michelin’s Pilot Road 5s or similar, however, this is my own personal preference and how the tyres feel will depend on how you ride.

Secondly, I don’t personally like the fuel gauge; it only starts reducing after you’ve dropped at lower than half of the tanks 18 litre capacity. It’s not a real big deal though, and to most it won’t make any difference at all, it’s just what I prefer.

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

I have to be honest though, what I’m most impressed with is the price. And, while on paper the £10,649 may seem like quite a lot, what you get for the money is nothing short of offering incredible value. There’s not another comparable motorcycle in this price bracket that even comes close to the specification of the GT as standard, and it really makes this motorcycle very hard to fault in my eyes.

The hard fact about the Tracer 900GT though is the fact that you’ll grin like a Cheshire cat whenever you ride it, despite the weather, season or journey. Cold or hot, rain or shine, commuting or charging; the GT will be everything you could ever need and so much more.

Yamaha Tracer 900GT