MCN Fleet: Every day's a school day on the Tracer 9GT

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There’s something about bikes that brings people together and friendships can form over a mutual appreciation of all things two wheeled.

I first met Nigel in 2006, a former traffic cop turned advanced trainer, when I was a relative newbie to riding and he took me out for a session on my Kawasaki ER-6N. His method of training was new, at the time, he had his bike rigged with cameras and videoed my ride, to use as a teaching tool. Fast forward fifteen years and here we are at the same McDonalds in Melton Mowbray for a morning to brush up my skills on the Yamaha Tracer 9GT.

I’ve already ridden over 2500 miles on the Yamaha and feel at home but know that there’s always areas that need work. We strike out on an undulating route that takes us towards Market Harborough, I love this kind of road, with fast sweepers and plenty of visibility, I soon forget that Nigel is hot on my heels. One thing I love about the Tracer is the upright riding position and with every mile it is more comfortable, I’ve fitted Yamaha’s aftermarket comfort seat and it’s taken a lot of miles to break it in, but I’m finally getting there.

Half an hour into our ride, Nigel pulls me over, he’s noticed there’s one area I need to work on, it’s always the same area and I should know by now! I never pick my head up enough and get too focussed on the road directly in front of me, rather than looking further ahead. I think I look far enough into the distance but as Nigel, in his every patient and calm tones, chats with me, I realise I could see so much more. He classes it as dipped beam and main beam for your eyes, use the main beam out on open roads to see as far ahead as you can, learning as much about the road as possible. Then in the towns, use dipped beam and keep your vision more focussed to hazards that are closer to you.

More long-term tests

We strike out on the next leg of the ride and I adopt this approach, it’s stuff I already know and should be doing, just taught in a slightly different manner. With my head up and eyes look further ahead, it does make the ride seem less rushed and I’m more prepared for every bend.

Over lunch we review what I’ve learnt and I promise, till the next time, to keep my eyes firmly on the road ahead and not the road directly in front of me!

A bit about Nigel

Nigel Bowers runs Advanced Motorcycle Training (https://www.facebook.com/AdvancedMotorcycleTraining/) and specialises in 1-2-1 training for all skill levels. His courses start from £250 per day and for this, you’ll get expert tuition and video footage of your ride.

Yamaha Tracer 9GT previous updates:

 


 

Update five: Totting up 3000 miles on the Tracer

Published: 01.09.2021

It’s been a fun-filled few weeks, with trips to the coast, jaunts to racetracks and a weekly commute to the office. Miles are racking up on the Yamaha Tracer 9GT and with every ride I learn something new.

I’ve also taken the time to dust off my tool kit to make a few minor alterations, some have made an improvement to my riding comfort – but one, disappointingly, hasn’t.

Panniers - Hit

Totally redesigned from the previous model – and what an improvement. With a 22-litre capacity each side, the Yamaha Tracer 900GT 2018 version were peculiarly shaped and not great for anything more than clothing. These updated cases will each hold 30-litres, in real terms, each will swallow a full-faced helmet. They’re easy to attach and lock to the bike plus the colour-matched panels look neat.

Panniers are a decent size on the Tracer 9GT

Fully loaded, they don’t impact on the bike’s handling and width wise, fit through gaps easily, they’re no wider than the bars, so provided there’s space for the bars, the rest of the bike will follow through.

Tank Bag - Hit

It’s not easy to get a tank bag for the Tracer 9GT, the tank has plastic shrouds, which makes it impossible to fit a magnetic bag. German luggage specialist, SW Motech, make a Yamaha branded bag, which fits to a bracket that can be easily attached to the fuel cap. It’s a case of removing the existing bolts from the fuel cap and bolting the bracket in place. The bag’s spacious, big enough for overnight essentials and two external pockets are ideal for phone, wallet or keys. It’s showerproof and comes with a rain cover for downpours. At £143 for the bag and £56.50 for the bracket it’s not cheap – but it’s top quality.

More long-term tests

 

Cruise Control - Jury is Out

I’m not a massive fan of cruise control. Being a control freak, I hate the thought anything taking charge of my ride. That said, it comes into its own when riding on long stretches of motorway or through roadworks where average speed cameras are ever present. Easy to set, with a click of the button on the left-hand switch gear, the speed can be set and then adjusted by the +/- buttons. When I want to take back control, it’s either a click of the cruise control switch, pull on the clutch or a dab of the brakes.

Screen - Hit

One common complaint that unites Tracer owners is the noise and buffeting from the screen, and it’s no better on this 2021 version than it was on the 2018 model. Within days of taking ownership, I fitted an MRA flip screen (£115.96 from www.bikehps.com). It’s a quick switch from the original screen and once in place, can be adjusted for the perfect position. The main benefit is the adjustable spoiler, which can be moved to disturb the air flow over my head and after a few test runs, I’ve found the best setting. There’s still a bit of noise but the buffeting has stopped, which makes for a much more comfortable ride.

Comfort Seat - Miss

With the standard seat fitted, it’s not the most comfortable of rides, not awful but after a couple of hours in the saddle my backside feels a little tender.

Is it a bum deal on the seat?

I thought I’d give the comfort seat a try, at £306 for both the rider and pillion seats, it’s not cheap. It’s reasonably easy to make the switch, a case of removing the pillion seat, which gives access to a lever that releases the rider’s seat. With padded inserts and extra sculpting, it looks stylish but it’s more style over substance, and sadly not worth the money.

Engine - Hit

I’m a fan of twins, with low revs and high gears, and over the last couple of years I’ve ridden a BMW F900XR and the lumpy Ducati Diavel as long-term test bikes. To jump back on to a triple cylinder machine, I’ve had to recalibrate my brain to open the throttle, as I click up the ’box. As I hold the gears longer and take my time going up the ’box, what a revelation! It makes for an enjoyable ride, the 890cc engine’s responsive and if I hit 6000 revs there’s a slight vibration through the seat and pegs, initially a little annoying but I now feel it adds character.

Yamaha Tracer 9GT previous updates:

 

 


 

Update four: Is the Yamaha Tracer 9GT a cut above?

Published: 13.08.2021

There’s a dark cloud in the distance and I can smell rain in the air, I’ve just whizzed by Grantham, homeward bound, and there’s only fourteen miles till I’ll pull into my garage. Bug splats on my visor are replaced by rain drops and the deluge begins. I didn’t pack waterproofs and, even if I had, I’m so close to home I’d not stop.

There’s little protection offered on the Yamaha Tracer 9GT, within minutes my bingo wings and shins are soaked through, my jacket and jeans have been perfect for my trip but not in this downpour.

I’m on the last leg of a quick mini-break, I’ve been invited to take part in this year’s Barbers Ride, in it’s fifth year, it’s a charity ride, with a twist.

A bunch of biker barbers got together in 2017 and decided to combine their love of two wheels with barbering. They’ve toured the UK, riding some epic roads during the day and stopping each night at a local barbers, for a fun-filled evening. While fund-raising for the Make a Wish Foundation and, before this year’s event, they’d raised in excess of £66,000.

I’m warmly welcomed by the group in Yarm, on the penultimate evening of their trip, they’d been on the road for five days and there’s a buzz in the air.

Led by the eccentric organiser, Ritchie, from Captain Fawcett, purveyors of gentleman’s grooming supplies, the near thirty strong group is made up of an eclectic mix of bikes and riders, and not everyone’s a barber.

There’s mainly Harley-Davidson’s or cruiser style machines, so my Yamaha Tracer 9GT does stand out a little and causes interest amongst the gang.

It’s an early get up, we’ve got a 200-mile ride ahead from Yarm through to Leeds, the route’s indirect, to take in some of the best roads through Yorkshire. It doesn’t take long to fall into formation riding and speed is kept to an even pace.

Photo call for all the Barbers Ride Gang

I’ve not explored this part of the world before and with my upright riding position, and the steady pace, it makes for a pleasurable ride.

With Justin Hayzelden (MCN’s roving reporter) acting as lead rider, the group has a second rider drop off system, at junctions the second rider marks the direction of travel and it works well.

I take my turn at the entrance to Oliver’s Mount, and as I wait for the tail end Charlie to come into view, I watch the stream of bikes whizz by. Oliver’s Mount Cafe stands high above the seaside town of Scarborough and the pit-stop gives me chance to chat to the gang, they’re a great bunch of guys and girls.

Our next leg takes us over the Yorkshire Moors, they are breathtaking and as we turn off the major roads on to single track lanes, speed slows. Switchback bends, on 10% hills are a challenge and I rely on the rear brake. It’s well positioned, and my size seven foot finds it with ease. It’s hard going but fun and after an hour or so, the entire group’s ready for the lunch stop in Helmsley.

It’s a pretty town but has an officious parking warden, who insists all bikes buy a ticket, which seems ridiculous. You don’t have to include your registration on the ticket but when you stick it to your bike, what’s to stop someone else nicking it? Seems such a shame, as it’s nestled in the heart of the moors and well-served with cafes and pubs, but I’ll not return.

Parking tickets needed

Our afternoon is slightly disorganised, we have a breakdown, a puncture and a couple of guys get split from the group but we manage to reform at Squire’s Cafe for a brew. I’ve fitted the comfort seat and this is my first big ride with it. For £306 it’s a costly upgrade and I’m not sure it’s worth the investment. My sit bones ache and I’m ready for a brew.

There’s a few miles of the ride left and one final fuel stop for the gang. I’ve ridden 197 miles and this is my only fuel stop of the ride.

Drew on a Harley-Davidson Sportster is filling up his peanut sized tank, it takes the princely sum of £5.50 worth of fuel and is his third and final stop of the day for him. It takes slightly longer for me to fill my tank, it swallows slightly over 12-litres, which in real terms means I’ve done and astounding 72mpg.

I’ve had a fantastic day’s ride and it’s been a pleasure to be part of this unique event but it’s time for me to take my leave and head home, while the gang are in the centre of Leeds for a final night of frivolity. It’s a spirited ride home and as I fuel up, at my local petrol station, I’ve dropped over 12 MPG on the final hundred mile leg….oops!!!

Yamaha Tracer 9GT previous updates:


Update three: Dashing good looks

Published: 22.2.2021

Yamaha Tracer 9 GT dash

Marmite, it’s renowned for being one of those things you either love it or hate it. This is exactly what I’ve found with the dual-screen dash of my Yamaha Tracer 9GT.

Unlike rival bikes such as the BMW F900XR and the previous Yamaha Tracer 900GT, both of which I’ve owned as long termers, Yamaha have shied away from a single screen TFT and opted for this quirky two screen set up.

It’s a futuristic, symmetrical style and has white font on a black background, which I’ve found easy to read on both day and night-time rides. That said, I’ve not had a ride in blazing sunlight as yet, so can’t comment on reflections.

Yamaha Tracer 9 GT dash

There’s a lot of information on the left hand screen, your speed, rev counter, fuel gauge, time, modes and much more. The right screen has four boxes that can be altered to show odometer, trip, fuel gauge, fuel economy, cruise control speed, trip time, air or bike temperature. Most of this information can also be seen on the left screen, albeit in much smaller font.

There’s one piece of info both screens lack though, tank range. I’m surprised this important detail is missing. On my last fuel stop, the reserve light flashed with 220 miles ridden. It’s an 18-litre tank and took 14.78 litres to fill, so with my basic maths, that gives me around ⅔ of a gallon, so 35 miles-ish. I don’t mind doing maths on the move but it would be easier to have this info to hand.

More long-term tests

I decided to court the opinion of our #ride5000miles Facebook group and it’s divided.

Anthony Southwood and Daniel Clarke are both in favour, as Anthony comments: "I really like it. Modern dashboards are normally all a bit samey." And Daniel pipes in: "I like them and think two screens is a good idea, with primary info on one screen and supporting info on the other."

Those in the negative camp include a very strong opinion from Phil Rosson, who’s owned four previous Tracers. He simply says: "It’s the ugliest dash ever created."

Martin Buck agrees with my thoughts on the tank range but does sit a little on the fence with his overall view. "I like the ability to display so much information and I’d have the tank range somewhere on the right. But it looks...weird."

So, like I say it’s definitely the Marmite of bike dashes. For me, I don’t dislike the looks but I would declutter the left and add that little tank range detail.

Yamaha Tracer 9GT previous updates:


Update two: A gentle 1006.5-mile weekend ride.

Published: 24.06.21

Alison arrives in Scotland

I’m a spontaneous person and the last few months, like the rest of the country, I’ve had my wings clipped. But as lockdown eases, a Bank Holiday beckons and a brand-new Yamaha Tracer 9GT sits in the garage, resistance is futile. Friday night a plan forms, and here I am, at 6am on Sunday, bleary eyed and waving goodbye to my cat.

0 miles

I’m only away for the night, so the panniers are a little overkill but I want to get used to them and I do a quick test to prove Yamaha’s claim – they will hold a full-faced lid.

104 miles

An hour into my journey and the heated grips are welcome, the forecast promised glorious sunshine but I’m shrouded in mist and a cool 8°C shows on the dash. The dial to operate the grips is fiddly, I scroll through to highlight the heated grip icon. Ten settings to choose from, I opt for the mid-way point, they take a few seconds to heat up and my fingers warm through.

Alison arrives in Scotland

More long-term tests

222 miles

Welcome to Scotland! I cross the border and pull into Gretna Green for a cuppa, it’s 19° and sunny. Motorways make for fast progress but at faster speeds the same problem as the old model is evident, the screen is loud – not unbearable but noisy. I’ll investigate but suspect a flip from MRA will help.

498.5 miles

I head out towards the Isle of Skye, I notice fuel is extortionate, it’s almost £1.60 a litre, 30p more per litre than I’d paid for my last tank in Fort William.

With flowing bends, the A87 is fantastic, it’s a shame I’m starting to tire, the surroundings are stunning and I’m sure would be more enjoyable if I’d not been on the road for the last ten hours. Tiredness is soon forgotten as I round the final bend and see the fabulous Eilean Donan Castle come into view.

The views in Scotland are impressive

616 miles

Breakfast at the Green Welly, it’s 9am and a totally different experience to my lunch stop yesterday. Sunday afternoon and bikes were parked everywhere, this morning just me and a couple of others are enjoying a bowl of porridge. It’s a great stop off point, in the small village of Tyndrum, on the edge of Rannoch Moor and vast mountains of Glencoe.

723 miles

There are four riding modes and two suspension settings. I opt to stick in D-Mode 2, which claims to have a moderate engine response and I find it suits my riding. My route’s mainly motorways and major roads, I’ve stuck with SUS-Mode A2, the comfort setting, and I’m finding that the ride’s smooth and for today I’ll not test the sportier settings.

782 miles

Bank Holiday traffic is torture, I’ve left the M6 to join the A66, it’s a dull road, made worse by miles of stationary traffic. My mirrors stand tall and like a cat’s whiskers, if they get through a gap, the rest of the bike follows.

The bike is fully luggage laden for the trip

902 miles

It’s time for a final fuel up, for me and the bike. Wetherby services aren’t the most salubrious surroundings but I don’t care, M&S Iced Spiced Buns beckon and it’s a relief to be off the bike for half an hour. I’m hot and bothered after the big miles and want to get home.

1006.5 miles

I’ve cracked it, I’d challenged myself to ride 1000 miles in a weekend, I picked a destination I’d never been to, ridden some stunning roads and had a great, albeit too short, time away.

What have I learnt? That I’m not as bike fit as I used to be, lockdown lard has helped cushion my backside, but I ache all over. Would I consider running the London Marathon (which I did in 2014) without even doing the Couch to 5K training? No – so what do I expect?

I’ll have to reserve judgement for now on whether my aches are caused by the Yamaha, or more my own fault for not being bike fit before 'going large'.


Cornwall beckons for a week with the Yamaha Tracer 9GT

Published: 28.04.2021

A side view of the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT

I’m itching to get my hands on the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT. I ran the original in 2018 and can’t wait to see how this updated version compares. Cornwall beckons for a week in the summer and, if rules allow, a blast to France for a glass of rosé.

The rider Ali Silcox, Office Manager, 51, 5ft 10in. 16 years of year-round riding. Alison.silcox@motorcyclenews.com

Bike specs 890cc | 117bhp | 220kg | 810-825mm seat height

Read the latest stories causing a buzz this week in MCN Fleet…

Alison Silcox

By Alison Silcox

Office Manager and centre of the MCN universe.