One of the best motorcycling families on the planet has a new patriarch — and this one talks the talk like no other
The new flagship has arrived in town! Yamaha’s MT-10 naked bike has now joined its MT stablemates on sale Down Under, boasting – as you’d expect from a YZF-R1-derived bike – a muscular stance, exhilarating performance and all the credentials to join the upper echelon of one-litre naked sports bikes.
I vividly remember when Yamaha launched the one-litre FZ1 (or Fazer in other markets) naked bike back in 2001, and I was in awe of the ability of that machine to provide a beautifully tactile and joyous riding experience and tremendous afterglow – and doing it all in the south of Spain at an insane speed only increased the feel-good factor. Yamaha also launched the FJR1300 at the same time, so it was a fun two days of hammering through the countryside.
The FZ1 remained a loyal servant for years, but when the all-new Yamaha YZF-R1 was launched in February 2015 (launch review here) the base setting for a flagship MT-based machine – to join the MT-03, MT-07, MT-07 and MT-09, as well as a couple of derivatives – had also arrived.
Some six months later, the MT-10 was unveiled, and Yamaha Motor Australia recently invited Aussie press along for a one-day jaunt through the Sunshine Coast to try it out for size.
The upshot? It’s a glorious body of work, and in terms of performance, comfort and handling Yamaha has certainly nailed the MT-10 brief.
Power is from the 998cc crossplane four-cylinder engine, and predictably has been reconfigured (via fuelling, intake, crank positioning, new light-weight forged pistons, et al) for the type of low- to medium power delivery that is the bread-and-butter for this type of class – read the BMW S 1000 R as another prime example. For a lot of riders the wide spread of torque actually makes the engine feel stronger in MT-10 mode vis-à-vis the top-end terrors of the YZF-R1. That’s a massive tick straight off the bat.
That alone is an adrenaline rush, as well as the meaty intake rush and fruity mid-ship muffler. The gearbox is also sublime – but there’s always the optional quickshifter if you want to bypass it some of the time.
Yamaha’s literature says that it’s A riding mode is the one that produces the full MT-10 rush – but it’s actually the B mode which appears to have the slightly more hair-trigger characteristics. There’s very little in it though, but if both those causes are too much then there’s always the tamer standard mode to go back to – all three switchable on the fly.
Yamaha claims about 160.4hp (118kW) at 11,500rpm, and 111Nm at 9000rpm for the MT-10 compared to 200hp (147.1kW) at 13,500rpm and 112.4Nm at 11,500rpm for the YZF-R1.
As well as the three modes, the MT-10 has three-level traction control, and assist and slipper clutch, and cruise control for gears 4-6 – which does make the $17,999 price tag a fairly spectacular one. In comparison, the S 1000 R is $19,350, and the base Triumph Speed Triple S is $17,900.
As the MT-10s were at a premium on the launch – the new bike shared bums-on-seats billing with its stablemates – it wasn’t possible to crank out a big run to get a prolonged feel for the MT-10. Engine-wise, that didn’t present an issue, as you’d have to be a hair-splitter of the highest order to identify too many issues with this powerplant — it’s performance naked material through and through. It really is a free spirit – rough and tumble but at the same time with a natural and easy disposition. I think you get the gist…
On the other hand, the chassis on the MT-10 presented more of an acquired taste, and on my first quick spin didn’t appear to be as agile and involving as the donk. However, I had just alighted from the light and extremely flickable MT0-07 – that bike is as good as Bikesales’ Steve Martin enthused about in 2015 – which probably had something to do with it.
I felt a little bit of initial reluctance to get the 210kg (wet) MT-10 turning – it just didn’t want to bite — but I eventually sorted it all out with what felt like only minor adjustments to body positioning and posture – a lot of the time these things are just as much a function of mind as matter. Wide and tapered handlebars are great for forcing the issue as well.
The MT-10 has fully adjustable KYB suspension, and the chassis has all the hallmarks of the YZF-R1 including the aluminium Deltabox frame. The wheelbase is ultra-short at 1400mm (a claimed shortest in class) to let those fast-twitch turning fibres do their work, but there’s plenty of stability, too – which is what we required riding along a sketchy portion of the proposed Sunshine Coast TT course which carried the enlightening name of Bald Knob Road. How you could race a motorcycle on that 10km stretch of tarmac is beyond me…
Other chassis highlights include the extremely potent ABS-equipped radial mount brakes, the five-spoke cast-aluminium wheels, the 17-5-litre fuel tank, and LED headlights and turning signals.
Styling, using Yamaha’s parlance, is “aggressive mass-forward”, and the front of the MT-10 certainly presents a lot of entry points for the eyes to turn to. The lines aren’t clean, but the final silhouette is way more than the sum of the parts. And whatever business is happening at the front is tempered somewhat by a more traditional, but clean, tail section.
The newly designed LCD instrumentation panel does the job, and is certainly easy to read and navigate through.
A switch on the left handlebar turns the cruise control on or off, and once it is activated the Yamaha Chip Controlled throttle gets to work. Speeds can be increased in 2km/h increments.
Yamaha’s MT range has been exceptionally conceived, and when you can welcome a new flagship like the MT-10 I can understand while Yamaha feels a just a little bit good about itself. Like an athlete in their prime, the MT-10 is bursting with energy, muscular and ready for whatever challenge comes its way – and what a wheelie machine.
Is it the “Ultimate destination for MT riders”? If you really want to be stirred and occasionally shaken, then it’s the one. However, we’ll reserve our ultimate judgment until we’ve spent a couple of more days and solid kilometres on the MT-10 in a definitive road test. Until then, the happy afterglow of that first date will linger on…
SPECS: 2016 YAMAHA MT-10
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 79.0mm x 50.9mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Engine management: Electronic fuel injection
Claimed maximum power: 160.4hp (118kW) at 11,500rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 111Nm at 9000rpm
Type: Six speed
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Wet, multiplate
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame: Aluminium Deltabox
Front suspension: KYB 43mm upside-down fork, fully adjustable, 120mm travel
Rear suspension: KYB monoshock, fully adjustable, 120mm travel
Front brakes: 320mm discs with four-piston radial calipers
Rear brake: 220mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Tyres: Front 120/70-17, rear 190/55-17
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Rake: 24 degrees
Claimed kerb weight: 210kg
Seat height: 825mm
Ground clearance: 130mm
Fuel capacity: 17 litres