In the shimmering sunlight of Cape Town it’s that paintjob that strikes you first, clearly redolent of the firm’s range-topping superbike; blue wheels, silver and blue paint and flashes of gold from the Öhlins Electronic Racing Suspension all make for an attractive and aggressive stance.
The entire MT range has been a huge success story for Yamaha since the range was launched, with the MT-09, in 2013. Yamaha’s Hyper Naked MT-10 followed in 2016, and has not only been a sale success story, but was voted MCN’s Naked (Unlimited) Bike of the Year 2016: ‘the first sharp toothed super-naked to leave Japan for some time’. And now Yamaha have gone one step further and raised their game yet again with the new MT-10SP.
The ingredients are simple; take all the excellent qualities of the award-winning MT-10 and add the clever semi-active Öhlins Electronic Racing Suspension from the R1M, plus full-colour TFT clocks like the R1M, and top it all off with a paintjob that looks just like the – you guessed it – R1M. And hey-presto, you’ve got an MT-10SP.
Look closer and the new full colour TFT dash is both more informative and easier on the eye, and gives the SP a high-quality feel. The switchgear is now R1M-like to work with the new dash, which means you get the small mode wheel on the right bar, too. It looks striking, and is distinctive from the standard model, but I was hoping for a little more bling on the SP – maybe a dash of carbon?
Yamaha have left the Ten’s R1-derived cross-plane engine alone, meaning its identical to the standard model’s, delivering the same smooth 160bhp and 81.87ftlb torque. It didn’t need changing; it’s a gem; one of the finest engines on the market. The crossplane motor makes so much sense on the road, it’s so usable, and it’s backed up by a lovely soundtrack.
The rider aids are also identical to the standard MT-10, this means conventional ABS and traction control – there isn’t slide control or cornering ABS. But, while the traction control might be considered ‘basic’, but it’s excellent in use, and developed using information that’s filtered down from Yamaha’s MotoGP. The TC can be changed on the move, and deactivated at a standstill. But I’m unsure why you’d ever want to switch the TCS off as it’s not intrusive in any way – you can even pull effortless wheelies with the TC still engaged. While we are talking wheelies, they may be immature and illegal but the MT-10 is one of the best wheelie bikes on the market, it feels s natural on one wheel as it does on two.
The big difference between the MT-10 and SP is obviously the suspension. It’s now controlled by Öhlins’ semi-active system, which enables you to change the suspension on the move (compression and rebound only) while the suspension constantly reacts to road imperfections as you glide imperiously over them. There are two semi-active modes, A1 and A2, plus three manual modes. In the manual modes the suspension isn’t ‘active’ but you can change the settings electronically. Semi-active A1 is the sportier of the two options.
On the roads around Cape Town I spent 90% of the time in the softer A2 suspension mode. The A2 mode copes with the bumps better, and is a little plusher, but still sporty. The A1 mode is noticeably firmer – and that meant that on the bumpy South African roads I found it a little harsh, and too jarring for my personal taste. However, as soon as the road turned race track smooth I was quickly back into the A1 sporty mode, all done on the fly, and revelling in the control.
You don’t have to stick with the saved semi-active suspension settings; you can personalise the settings according to how you ride, and the roads you frequent. For example you can soften the sporty A1 suspension settings if you primarily ride on the road, or go the other way and only use the A1 settings for trackdays. Or you can change the A2 semi active settings to create your own soft comfort set up for the motorway or city commuting.
The semi-active suspension is impressive, you can feel the difference between the SP and the standard MT, it’s always working overtime, reducing fork dive or rear squat, dependant on your pre-set mode and inputs. Stability is excellent, especially on the brakes, and despite the semi-active suspension always adapting, there’s still feeling from both ends which is sometimes an issue with semi-active systems. It increases confidence, especially on roads which are constantly changing in surface and quality. My only slight niggle is the standard S20 Bridgestone tyres. They are perfectly adequate but on the pricier, sporty R1M inspired SP model I was expecting something a little more serious, possibly even track-focused.
You can also personalise the power and traction modes. For example, in mode B you can have the power set to 2 (PWR) traction set to 2 (TCS) and the suspension set at A2 – the road setting. Then in mode A you can have a quicker throttle response PWR set to 1, less traction TCS set to 1 and firmer sportier suspension A1. Or alternatively simply use Yamaha default settings.
The only problem with the new SP is the standard MT-10. It’s already a versatile and easy to ride bike, capable of commuting all week then either turns into a wheelie-addicted track hack at the weekend, or maybe an oddly capable tourer. The SP adds way more scope and range to the standard MT-10, but the stumbling block is – it’s not like the MT-10 was a one trick pony to start with.
The semi-active suspension gives you more scope, makes the MT easier to personalise and set up for your way of riding on the type of roads you ride. The colour TFT clocks, new switchgear and R1M like colours give a feeling of sophistication and quality; the colours and styling also get the thumbs-up. The award-winning MT-10 is an excellent bike, and now Yamaha have moved the game forward, improved the dominant MT-10 further which must feel like a kick in the teeth for the competition. But Yamaha’s biggest competition is their own standard MT-10, its £2600 cheaper and almost equally brilliant.
Yamaha MT-10SP Tech Specs
Engine: 998cc (79x50.9mm) liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-stroke.
Power (claimed) 160bhp @11,500rpm
Torque (claimed) 81.87ftlb @ 9000rpm
Weight 190kg (dry)
Tank capacity 17l
Frame: Aluminium Deltabox
Seat Height: 825mm
Suspension front 48mm Öhlins Electronic Racing Suspension semi-active fork, rear single Öhlins ERS semi active shock.
Brakes 2 x 320mm discs with four-piston radial caliper. 220mm rear disc with two piston caliper
Colours: Blue and Silver
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