YAMAHA MT-09 SP (2021 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Handling finally sorted
  • As exciting as a super naked
  • Lots of SP-ness for the money

At a glance

Power: 117 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.5 in / 825 mm)
Weight: Medium (419 lbs / 190 kg)

Prices

New £10,202
Used £10,000

Overall rating

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

The exciting and affordable Yamaha MT-09 has undoubtedly been one of the firm's greatest success stories over recent years. It’s positively flown out of dealerships since 2013, but it never handled as well as it could have - even the fancy ’18 SP version.

But the Japanese company have cured its ills for 2021 with a new engine, electronics and crucially, a more road-friendly chassis. The new MT-09 SP takes those improvements a step further with higher-spec suspension, as well as fancy paint, a more luxurious seat and for the first time, cruise control.

Not only is the MT-09 SP now more refined than before and even cheekier it carves through corners like it should’ve all along, thanks to a lower front end that places more weight over the front wheel. In SP trim, not only do you get a more sophisticated ride, it’s also a lot of exciting naked bike for relatively little money. It still feels like a tall, shimmying supermoto at speed, but it’s always controlled and has impeccable low speed manners when you just want to take it easy. It’s a class act.

The 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP just loves to wheelie!

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine

An issue with the original MT-09 was its reluctance to hold a line, especially in low grip conditions. It was too high at the front and its forks too gummy, so unless you forced it hard into a corner to put weight over the front wheel, it didn’t want to dig in.

Now the MT-09 and SP have the same lighter, stiffer new frame with a lower headstock that cures its handling woes at a stroke. It goes exactly where you point it and the SP’s fully adjustable KYB forks and Öhlins rear shock add an extra layer of plushness and control.

The 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP has better handling than ever before

A crisp-handling, grippy 190kg naked powered a shouty 117bhp three-cylinder engine is about as fun as it gets on the road, especially now the new MT-09 SP handles so well. It’s just as capable and exciting as a big bhp super naked, but for a fraction of the price. You could argue it’s even better - it’s always more involving revving a smaller engine than running around at tickover on a bigger one.

Compared with Triumph’s Street Triple RS and KTM 890 Duke R it’s flightier and more supermoto-like, making it more playful, but it can also be calm and relaxed for normal riding.  

Engine

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

The 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP's engine feels alive with horsepower and torque

Like the standard MT-09, the SP uses the same inline three-cylinder engine, heavily modified for lightness and more sparkle. Capacity grows from 847cc to 889cc, power climbs from 113bhp@10,000rpm to 117bhp@10,000rpm and torque is up from 64lb-ft@8500rpm to 67lb-ft@7000rpm.

The outgoing motor was never lacking but now it’s even more alive with a wider spread of power and more grunt to whip the front wheel up in third gear off the clutch. Fuelling is on the prickly side of smooth, but never a distraction and the Yamaha sounds so angry at full throttle you’d swear it slipped through Euro5 while no one was looking.

Reliability & build quality

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

2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP should prove pretty good when it comes to reliability

MT-09s aren’t just affordable and enjoyable to own, they’ve proved to be durable and trouble-free over the years, too. The engine, chassis and electronics have evolved for the 2021 version, but the changes are modest and shouldn’t affect reliability.

Value vs rivals

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

From the way it’s finished to its giant-killing performance the MT-09 SP is great value and it slips in a few hundred quid cheaper than its main rivals: the KTM 890 Duke R and Triumph Street Triple RS but is around £500 more than the Aprilia Tuono 660.

How will the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP fare against its rivals? Watch this space to find out...

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

A new ride-by-wire system and six-axis IMU facilitates a full set of rider aids, shared by the standard MT-09 and SP. The Yamaha has traction, slide and wheelie control (which you can turn off for max naughtiness), cornering ABS and a very sweet quickshifter and autoblipper.

Both MTs also have a new 3.5in colour multi-function TFT dash, which may sound small but is perfectly readable and suits the Yamaha’s minimalist style. Unlike the base model, the new SP also comes with cruise control, which on an exposed naked, really helps reduce right wrist ache at constant windy motorway speeds.

The TFT screen on the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP

New bodywork and LEDs are the same as the standard model’s, as are its adjustable footpegs and handlebars. Like the ‘18 MT-09 SP this new version is finished black, blue and silver, like an R1M superbike and has a double-stitched seat and clear lacquered ali swingarm.

The lacquered aluminium swingarm on the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP

Brake fluid reservoirs are dark-smoked and the brake levers, bars, rear sprocket and slippery DLC fork stanchions are all black. It may not cost a whole heap more than the base model, but it’s so nicely finished you feel like you’re getting something special for the money and a Yamaha worthy of its SP badge.

The 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP with the optional Urban Pack

You'll also be able to add extra practicality and personalisation through the vast suite of optional extras Yamaha are offering. Available add-ons include an Akrapovic exhaust, luggage and a selection of packs: Sport, Weekend and Urban (pictured above).

Akrapovic exhaust for 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP 

Specs

Engine size 889cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 12v, inline triple
Frame type Aluminium twin spar
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 825mm
Bike weight 190kg
Front suspension KYB 41mm USD forks, fully adjustable
Rear suspension Öhlins single shock, fully adjustable
Front brake 2 x 298mm discs with four piston radial calipers. Cornering ABS
Rear brake 245mm disc with single piston caliper. Cornering ABS
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 57 mpg
Annual road tax £96
Annual service cost -
New price £10,202
Used price £10,000
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 117 bhp
Max torque 67 ft-lb
Top speed 145 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 175 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2018: SP version released five years after original MT-09 was launched. Fully adjustable KYB forks (with a softer springs), Öhlins shock and R1M-inspired colours.  

Other versions

  • Base model MT-09. Identical to SP with lower spec suspension, no cruise control and more modest paint finishes.

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

Read the latest report

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