Seriously, the Japanese manufacturer have always been known to be the underdog in the competition among bike manufacturers for supremacy in both the racing world and bike sales, rather than being a villain.
Yes, the marquee wins world titles from time to time against the competition on the racing side, and recently emerged victorious in almost all the global superbike shootouts comparison tests among 1,000cc/1,200cc bikes for the 2015 Yamaha R1/R1M after years of seeing the predecessor version getting thrashed everywhere by the competition.
Back to the MT-09, our reviewer still couldn’t find whatever dark side there is that supposedly surrounds the bike despite the tagline created by Yamaha in Japan itself. Of course, there’s an online video showing why the MT-09 was being tagged as such and was released by Yamaha for potential customers in Japan.
As with anything that is online today, if it is interesting or controversial, very soon the contents would go viral even if the manufacturer had not intended it to be that way. To recap, that promotional video basically gave the meaning behind the “Dark Side” tagline – a bike that would enable motorcyclists to release their riding skill and “bad a$$ attitude” to the fullest by experiencing the MT-09, a feat that resonates with many bikers globally.
That tagline sort of bear fruits for Yamaha as sales of the MT-09 were encouraging everywhere, prompting the manufacturer to release more MT-variants in the months ahead, such as younger siblings like the MT-07, MT-25 and MT-03 (coming soon). With the exception of the MT-07 (also a triple), the MT-25 and MT-03 are, however, feature Parallel Twin engine design.
In the weeks that followed after we had completed our review with the MT-09, we could see a cult-like preference for the bike developing among the owners, with the majority spending a fortune to fit their bikes with the latest 3rd-party accessories and discarding most of the original parts. We have come across various MT-09s where the original parts being retained by the owners are the chassis, engine and fuel tank only, with everything else being 3rd-party makes.
Part of the reasons for these bikers resorting to replacing the original parts came from “dissatisfactions” from large-sized reviewers elsewhere which focused on the “negative” aspects of riding the MT-09 with the default parts and settings.
Chief among these aspects was the softer front and rear suspension feeling, which are supplied by Kayaba (KYB) to Yamaha for the MT-09, which is a surprise, as the latter is well known for relying on Ohlins where suspension is concerned. We guess the reason Yamaha had opted for standard-specs KYB over upmarket Ohlins is to keep the price down for the MT-09, making it more attractive for bikers to own the machine.
But we can assured bikers if they fit the standard profile of being slim and approximately 5-feet 10-inch in height, the MT-09’s default original parts won’t be giving them any problems when riding it leisurely or aggressively whether on the highway or old twisty roads. If the rider is 6-feet 5-inch tall and quite a huge size to boot, then the rear KYB suspension would feel rather soft even at the hardest setting.
Negotiating the S-curves and bends in old twisty roads, the Yamaha MT-09, like all new bikes, are smooth and a breeze despite the so-called soft suspension. We were faster on the old twisties with the standard MT-09 than a number of heavily-modified sportsbikes ranging from a pair of Yamaha R1s, a CBR600RR, a Kawasaki ZX-RR, a Z800 and last but not least the Yamaha MT-07 during a weekend group ride!
We weren’t exactly faster than them on the straights against the same group of bikes but negotiating the twisty was definitely in the MT-09’s favour as its design and the higher handlebar position allowed us to have more confidence to push the bike at the corners faster than the rest. And the softer suspension settings mean the MT-09 is better positioned to absorb most of the bumps and rough tarmac than the rest, which felt the uneven segments more roughly due to their harder settings.
The MT-09 has three power modes – A, B and Standard. The bike will always starts off being in Standard mode the moment the ignition is switched ON regardless of whether it has been set to either A or B at the last ride. This, Yamaha claims, is to prevent untoward incident if the rider could not recall what mode the MT-09 was set previously when they let go of the clutch to move forward as mode A is considered as having a high torque while mode B is lower torque.
But for us, all three modes felt quite the same as we couldn’t find much difference among them except when the MT-09 was subjected to a steep, hilly ride upwards where the extra grunt of mode A helped while mode B was very lacking in that aspect. Standard is just fun for all riding conditions, though.
The MT-09 is not a heavy fuel guzzler but it may seems to do likewise, no thanks to its smaller-than-expected capacity of just 14-litre. After 11-litre have been used up, it gives the impression to be hungry on fuel because by the time the warning comes up, the MT-09 would have just done approximately 200km or less.
Yamaha MT-09 specifications:
Engine: Inline 3-cylinder, 4-stroke DOHC
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Transmission: Manual, 6-speed
Bore & Stroke: 78 x 59.1mm
Cooling System: Liquid-cooled
Maximum Horsepower: 114hp @10,000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 87.5 Nm @ 8,900 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 14-Litre
Seat Height: 815mm
Suspensions: Front – Inverted telescopic forks; swingarm link-type w/ adjustable preload (rear)
Brakes: Dual 298mm discs (front); Single 245mm disc (rear)
Wet Weight: 188 kg
Sales Price: RM43,593 w/GST
Text and images: Philip Chong