YAMAHA MT-09 SP (2018 - on) Review

At a glance

Power: 113 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.3 in / 820 mm)
Weight: Medium (426 lbs / 193 kg)

Prices

New £8,999
Used £7,600 - £8,500

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

For less than a grand more than the standard machine and cracking PCP deals available, the SP should always be the MT-09 to go for. It finally gets the suspension it’s deserved all along, letting you unlock even more potential from the Yamaha’s superb engine and chassis. But with its still-vague front end we reckon they should’ve gone for Öhlins at the front to match the rear and fitted stickier tyres. Then it would be the full SP.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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. 

Engine

Next up: Reliability
5 out of 5 (5/5)

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. 

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
5 out of 5 (5/5)

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.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

Yamaha MT-09 SP vs nearest rivals

KTM 890 Duke R vs Triumph Street Triple RS vs Yamaha MT-09 SP

We took the Yamaha around the MCN 250 test route with two of its closest rivals, the Triumph Street Triple RS and the KTM 890 Duke R.

Triumph’s Street Triple RS is the go-to middleweight naked sportster, and it’s easy to see why: you get the performance to embarrass bigger bikes, a glistening spec and more handling than us normal folk can ever use. It’s very focused, though – if you loved the cheeky 675cc original this feels like a flat-barred R6.

Yamaha’s MT-09 SP doesn’t have the same outright handling or rush, but counters this with greater usability than the Triumph. It’s perhaps the best pure road bike here for ‘normal’ riding, and cheapest too.

But it’s KTM’s new 890 Duke R that wins. Punchy, light, easy to ride and oh-so-agile, the beefed-up twin is the trackday-ready tool you’ll genuinely want to ride every day.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

Specs

Engine size 847cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 12v, inline triple
Frame type Cast ali diamond
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 820mm
Bike weight 193kg
Front suspension 41mm KYB forks fully adjustable
Rear suspension Single rear Ohlins fully adjustable
Front brake 2 x 298mm discs with four-piston radial caliper. ABS
Rear brake 265mm single disc with single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost -
New price £8,999
Used price £7,600 - £8,500
Insurance group 14 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year

Top speed & performance

Max power 113 bhp
Max torque 65 ft-lb
Top speed 145 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

2013: MT-09 introduced at the back end of the year. Yamaha’s first production triple since the early 80s XS850, powered by a 113bhp 847cc three-cylinder engine, wrapped in a cast aluminium frame. Sensibly priced, it became an instant hit in showrooms, but budget suspension and a snatchy throttle spoiled what could have been a game-changer and a rival for the mighty Triumph Street Triple.

2014: Fuel map updates

2016: Three-stage traction control added

2017: Major revamp. An MT-10-aping insect face, LED headlights, quickshifter, ‘Assist and Slip’ clutch, redesigned tail unit with LED rear lights, swingarm-mounted number plate hanger and a 5mm taller seat.

Where the original MT-09 had its damping (rebound only) squished and constricted in its left fork leg and just a spring in the right, the 2017 MT-07 had compression and rebound damping spread between its pair of forks, smoothing-out their action. 

MCN Long term test reports

MCN Fleet: A riding year with a Yamaha MT-09 SP

MCN Fleet: A riding year with a Yamaha MT-09 SP

Over the last six months our Yamaha MT-09SP test bike has been subjected to everything from 900-mile days, to commuting to fast-group trackdays. We wanted to leave you with our final thought on the SP and so here is we’ve found out… Best ride The A9 out of Inverness, fast, flowing and magical. The d

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