The MT-09 SP has a fully adjustable 46mm monotube Öhlins shock (also available as an official accessory for the standard MT-09), featuring a handy remote preload adjuster. You can easily reach it on the move, if you fancy a twiddle when you’re riding along.
Its classy yellow spring is actually softer than the standard MT-09’s (95N/mm versus 99.96N/mm). It gives the SP a plusher overall ride and a big improvement in stability and damping control. No longer does the Yamaha do its best impression of an 80s FZR600 with a knackered shock, when you’re hard on the throttle.
Up front 41mm KYB forks are now fully adjustable (including high and low speed damping) and have progressive springs: 6.86N/mm for the first 75mm of travel and 9.32N/mm for the rest of the stroke. The soft bit is for comfort and helping the tyre find grip and the hard bit for support under heavy braking.
Why no Öhlins up front? Well, it would push the price into MT-10 territory…
The new front end is an improvement over the standard MT-09 set-up and works best when you can load the forks up hard on dry, grippy roads, but they don’t match the plush feel of the Ohlins rear. The MT-09 SP lacks the velvety ride of even the standard MT-10 and doesn’t have the balance of the (admittedly bouncy) MT-07.
Sitting low at the back and high at the front, the SP’s bars kick in your hands over bumps under hard acceleration and the front end lacks still feel in less than perfect conditions. Through slippery corners the MT is reluctant to turn and you feel you’re a breath away from losing the front.
There’s no question the SP is crying out for the latest generation sports rubber (its standard Bridgestone S20s came out in 2012 – tyres have moved on hugely since then) and with the extra grip, stability and rider confidence they would give, the Yamaha would really shine.
But when conditions are right, an MT-09 has never been able to cover ground faster, or been more fun. Wide bars and a commanding riding position will help you make mincemeat of sportsbikes through spiralling switchbacks and while the throttle still has a kick to it when you first crack it open, the quickshift-assisted gearbox is notchy and the brakes a little wooden (but effective), it doesn’t spoil your fun.
No changes to the 847cc three-cylinder motor for the SP version. Like its MT-07 and MT-10 brothers and sisters the SP has a pathological appetite for name-your-distance wheelies, while singing its (slightly muted) gravelly three-cylinder tune from its underslung pipe. Accelerating from a closed throttle has been smoothed-out over the years, but it can still be on the jerky side around town and in slow corners.
The SP is really nicely screwed together with a flawlessly finished R1M-style paintjob, blue wheels and classy details like the Nanofilm-coated down pipes to stop discolouration.
Like all the MT range you get a lot of bang for your buck with the SP and priced to compete with the Triumph Street Triple R.
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As well as the new fully adjustable Ohlins shock and KYB forks, like the standard MT-09 you get three riding modes, ABS, a three-stage traction control system, white on black digital clocks, quickshifter and an ‘Assist and Slip’ clutch.