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Yamaha Builds A Better Triumph - 2021 MT-09 Review

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Triple-cylinder naked bikes are one of the most entertaining streetbike categories. Featuring a slim cockpit with gobs of front wheel lifting torque, sweet-sounding motorcycles like Yamaha’s MT-09 (Masters of Torque) make everyday a joyride. This year, the Tuning Fork marque adds sport to the equation with its 2021 MT-09 ($9,399). The I3 Yammie adopts the current (2015–2021) YZF-R1 electronics package along with a sharper powertrain and chassis that boosts its attitude.

We throw a leg over Yamaha’s more sporty 2021 MT-09 ($9,399).

We throw a leg over Yamaha’s more sporty 2021 MT-09 ($9,399). (Joseph Agustin/)
Editor’s note: Have a look at the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 First Look Preview to get up to speed on the technical improvements. The MT-09 competes with the following models, which we have recently tested: 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS MC Commute Review, 2020 Suzuki GSX-S750 MC Commute Review, 2020 KTM 890 Duke R Review MC Commute, and 2020 BMW F 900 R MC Commute Review.

With added polish and sport attitude, the third-generation 2021 MT-09 is a significant upgrade versus the previous iteration.

With added polish and sport attitude, the third-generation 2021 MT-09 is a significant upgrade versus the previous iteration. (Joseph Agustin/)
Perched at the controls, the MT-09 has a slim seating position with a well-proportioned cockpit. The seat height is neither too low, nor too high, and the handlebar bend is neutral and modern feeling. Our only gripe is that it could be a tad wider. Adjustable footpegs allow for added cornering clearance for hardcore lean-angle enthusiasts. The brake lever and pedal also offer position adjustment.

The ‘21 MT-09 impresses with its versatility. It’s agile and comfy around town, yet delivers pleasing sport appeal when ridden on curvy roads.

The ‘21 MT-09 impresses with its versatility. It’s agile and comfy around town, yet delivers pleasing sport appeal when ridden on curvy roads. (Joseph Agustin/)
As usual the highlight of the MT-09 is its friendly and playful CP3 engine that grows to 890cc via added piston stroke. This nets an even broader spread of torque, paired with a refined and still exceptionally pleasing engine and exhaust note. Real ram-air intake enhances engine sound during acceleration, but isn’t quite as mean sounding as Team Green or Suzuki’s plus-sized middleweights.

Yamaha’s YZF-R1-sourced multi-wheel control interface is easy to use but could offer improved tactile function when pressed.

Yamaha’s YZF-R1-sourced multi-wheel control interface is easy to use but could offer improved tactile function when pressed. (Joseph Agustin/)
There is plenty of punch at any rpm and the powertrain is smoother in terms of vibration and power application as compared to other modern triples. The throttle response specifically is greatly improved courtesy of the ’20 R1′s Accelerator Position Sensor Grip. Rider’s choose from four combined engine and throttle mode maps (Mode 1 gives the sharpest engine response and Mode 4 offers reduced engine snap). Overall we preferred the powerband in the most aggressive setting.

A more rigid chassis along with Bridgestone’s fantastic Battlax S22 rubber make fast-paced riding escapades a blast.

A more rigid chassis along with Bridgestone’s fantastic Battlax S22 rubber make fast-paced riding escapades a blast. (Joseph Agustin /)
The electronics also incorporate IMU-powered traction and power-slide control. It functions by moderating engine torque based on vehicle position (in relation to the pavement) and rider control input. Adjustable level ABS, with cornering function (more aggressive, BC 2 ABS setting) are also standard, as is two-level adjustable wheelie control (Yamaha calls it “lift control”). The electronics perform as advertised and benefit from more advanced programming than other electronic packages in this segment.

The MT-09 benefits from full LED lighting.

The MT-09 benefits from full LED lighting. (Joseph Agustin/)
We’re big fans of the MT-09’s ergonomics package and adjustable height footpegs allow for added cornering clearance.

We’re big fans of the MT-09’s ergonomics package and adjustable height footpegs allow for added cornering clearance. (Joseph Agustin/)
The electronics are monitored via a modest-sized 3.5-inch color display. The screen offers sharp fonts and easy menu navigation but it could be larger. The multi-wheel control interface on the handlebar is easy to use but could have better tactile feel. An electronic quickshifter allows for clutch-less full-throttle upshifts through the six-speed gearbox. It also functions during downshifts but the programming could be faster and more responsive. Still, it’s a nice feature, especially at its price point.

The 2021 MT-09 is powered by a 43cc larger CP3 engine that now displaces 890cc.

The 2021 MT-09 is powered by a 43cc larger CP3 engine that now displaces 890cc. (Joseph Agustin/)
With a fully fueled curb weight of 417-pounds, the MT-09 is light and easy to ride around town.

With a fully fueled curb weight of 417-pounds, the MT-09 is light and easy to ride around town. (Joseph Agustin/)
With a 417-pound curb weight (8 pounds lighter than the 2017–2020 model) the MT-09 remains agile in motion and is well-suited to both urban and country road environments. Leaned over through turns the chassis has a more planted and sportbike-like feel. Yet it retains friendly manners over bumps and rough pavement. The suspension incorporates full spring preload and damping adjustment so you can tweak handling. The MT-09 comes with Bridgestone’s grippy and versatile Battlax S22 rubber, another nice touch.

A 3.5-inch color TFT display keeps tabs on vehicle settings. We wish it was larger.

A 3.5-inch color TFT display keeps tabs on vehicle settings. We wish it was larger. (Joseph Agustin/)
Pound for pound, you’ll be hard pressed to ride a more capable naked bike than the ’21 MT-09. It retains its signature comfort and everyday versatility, but adds a significant degree of sport aptitude. Factor in its finely tuned powertrain and electronics package and the MT-09 presents significant bang for the buck. We know which bike we’d purchase if we were looking for a new middleweight-plus-sized naked bike…

Yamaha’s updated CP3 engine is mesmerizing. It offers gobs of immediate torque with a pleasing engine note. It’s also smooth and devoid of unwanted vibration.

Yamaha’s updated CP3 engine is mesmerizing. It offers gobs of immediate torque with a pleasing engine note. It’s also smooth and devoid of unwanted vibration. (Joseph Agustin/)
Gear Box

Helmet: Arai Signet-X

Jacket: Alpinestars Hyper Drystar

Pant: Alpinestars Copper V2

Gloves: Alpinestars T-SP W Drystar

Boots: Alpinestars CR-X Drystar

The Tuning Fork brand offers incredible performance and value in the naked bike segment with its 2021 MT-09.

The Tuning Fork brand offers incredible performance and value in the naked bike segment with its 2021 MT-09. (Joseph Agustin/)
2021 Yamaha MT-09 Technical Specifications And Price

Price:$9,399
Engine:890cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled, inline-three; 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x Stroke:78.0 x 62.1mm
Compression Ratio:11.5:1
Fuel Delivery:Fuel injection w/ YCC-T
Clutch:Wet, multiplate assist and slipper clutch w/ Quick Shift System
Transmission/Final Drive:6-speed/chain
Frame:Die-cast aluminum Deltabox frame
Front Suspension:41mm KYB inverted fork, spring preload, compression, and rebound damping adjustable, 5.1 in. travel
Rear Suspension:KYB shock, spring preload and rebound damping adjustable, 4.8 in. travel
Front Brakes:NIssin master cylinder, 298mm discs w/ ABS
Rear Brake:245mm disc w/ ABS
Wheels, Front/Rear:Spin-forged, 10-spoke aluminum
Tires, Front/Rear:Bridgestone Battlax S22; 120/70-17 / 180/55-17
Rake/Trail:25.0°/4.3 in.
Wheelbase:56.3 in.
Seat Height:32.5 in.
Fuel Capacity:3.7 gal.
Claimed Wet Weight:417 lb.
Warranty:1-year limited factory warranty
Available:January 2021
Contact:yamahamotorsports.com
 
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