Long term update: Starry-eyed over Tracer

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It was 1.30am and still not completely dark, but the sky was clear enough to see a satellite tracking silently across the sky, followed a few moments later by a streak of light from a shooting star. It was perfect.

My eyes full of stars, I headed to my tent to get some sleep. After riding the Tracer from Northamptonshire to the Galloway Forest in Scotland earlier the same (but now previous) day, I was in need of some kip, but I’d achieved my goal of viewing the heavens away from city light pollution, and had a belting day of riding to get there.

I’m sure expert star-gazers will point out that July is far from the best time of year to be doing this sort of thing, but I certainly won’t be camping in Scotland in January. Galloway Forest is the only area of the UK that’s officially recognised by the Dark Skies Association for star-gazing, and at the darkest times of the year there are millions of stars visible.

Before starting my journey I kitted the Tracer out with Yamaha’s accessory pannier mounts and the matching soft cases. At £210 for the mounting kit and £242 for the cases, the price is similar to aftermarket versions and the way they mount is very neat and easily operated.

On each side of the seat unit are two plastic mounts that bolt permanently to the bike. To mount the panniers you click the mounting rails into place, lock a twisting button in position and they are done. The soft panniers then click and lock into place with four mounts to each bag. The storage isn’t as spacious as metal adventure-style panniers, and the thick material of the waterproof liner bags further restricts the amount you can fit in.

I took lightweight dry bags for my clothes instead because I was able to squeeze out the air and get them in more easily, and still have room for camping extras like a mini-cooker, kettle, cup and a tiny fold-up chair. On the back of the bike I stashed my tent, sleeping bag, rollmat and a load of other bits and pieces in a Kappa WA405F rollbag (£46.27).

This was my first long-distance trip on the Tracer and my fears over seat comfort weren’t realised. Either I’ve become accustomed to the hard seat or my backside has changed shape to suit it. The standard screen, even on the highest setting, does generate a lot of buffeting. I was considering Yamaha’s touring screen, at least, I was until I clapped eyes on it! It’s hideous and looks like a transparent snow shovel. There was no way I was spoiling the Tracer’s appearance with that.

Long trips always reveal things to love and hate on bikes but the Tracer has again proved itself swift, comfortable, and bags of fun. And it will do 200 miles to a tank at 50mpg. The new Bridgestone T30 Evo tyres (£220 mail order before fitting) have transformed the handling compared to the standard Dunlops. Even fully loaded, the Tracer remained agile and made covering nearly 800 miles in two days fun and exciting.

Annoyances are small: there’s a bit of whining from either the chain or the engine but I can’t yet pin down the source. The dash has too much glare in sunlight, the forks need work to make them plush, and the shock has run out of preload adjustment. But that’s not bad considering the bike costs £8149.

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Andy Downes

By Andy Downes

Former MCN Senior Reporter