Review: Yamaha Tracer 900

In 2013 Yamaha released the MT-09 (then called FZ-09 in North America). A brutal naked with a widely praised three-cylinder engine, although comfort and versatility aren’t its strenghts. Which sparked an idea: in 2015 the Japanese manufacturer revealed the MT-09 Tracer (then called FJ-09 in North America): a sporty motorcycle with clear touring features and the same MT-09 engine. Since this year it’s called Tracer 900 but otherwise the bike remains unchanged.

So how do you transform a naked into a sports tourer? Yamaha did the trick with a few additions and changes. A more upright sitting position, some fairing, a bigger tank, an adjustable windscreen, wider handlebars, a higher, adjustable seat, a centerstand, a 12V socket and handguards. Only cruise control and heated grips are missing, even though the latter’s on the option list.

But before we go into detail, first let’s have an overall look. The Tracer 900 appears a lot less aggressive than the MT-09 but it does have personality. Okay, maybe a bit of a “Transformers” personality but other than that there’s hardly anything to complain about. The finishing is good, with a nice looking, powerful LED headlight.

Touring additions

Let’s go a little deeper into the touring additions. The seat is quite spacious and offers two heights (check the video to learn how to change the seat height). It’s pretty firm so your butt might start complaining after an hour’s ride. The optional comfort seat could counter those complaints.

In contrast to your butt, your legs can easily cope with longer rides: they’re not forced into a too sharp angle. The seating position is straight and relaxed, with the windshield leading most of the wind away from your torso. You can adjust that windshield in height but not while riding.

There are integrated sidecase mounts which come in handy and handguards that are massive. The design team clearly didn’t use the form follows function principle here.

All these additions and adjustments lead to a surprisingly comfortable bike with an entry price of $10,699. Long trips are easy to digest, although the triple’s character is especially fit for playful rides. The engine pushes you constantly to act like a hooligan. Not easy to resist. The Tracer 900 clearly is close kin to the MT-09, which the suspension affirms: rather hard and sporty.

Typically triple

With 115 hp and 87.5 Nm the 847 cc three-cylinder CrossPlane 3 engine doesn’t have the most impressive numbers out there but that doesn’t withhold this Yamaha from delivering lots of fun.

The typical triple character is mainly responsible for that. It’s torquey from deep down, when the torque peaks at 8,500 rpm there’s a sweet push and it keeps showing lots of muscle all the way up to 11,500 rpm, where the limiter puts an end to the fun. Its strong acceleration is something to be aware of. Try to keep an eye on the speedometer if you decide to accelerate full throttle within city limits. You’ll fly past the 60 mph marker in no time.

Also keep in mind that if you really ride on the edge, the Tracer gets an unstable front end which sometimes causes unpleasant surprises and frightening moments. In most cases however, the handling of the Yamaha is a-okay. Its steering behaviour is neutral, it enters corners easily and steadily keeps the line. And thanks to the wide torque range you can combine cornering fun with lazy shifting. The brakes offer sufficient bite and can be dosed perfectly.

At certain constant speeds you’ll notice that the engine doesn’t run perfectly smooth and there are quite some vibrations in the seat and the footpegs. The test bike had only 2000 km on the odometer, which maybe explains this.

The sound is also typically triple. A buzz that transforms to a slightly addictive howl when you near the limiter. Still, the Tracer’s soundtrack could use some more personality. Akrapovic to the rescue?

Little bombshell

Despite the rather modest figures the Tracer 900 feels like a little bombshell. So it isn’t a bad thing that ABS, traction control, 3 riding modes and slipper clutch belong to the standard equipment. The traction control has two settings and you can switch it off. Which you shouldn’t do when it’s wet because the Tracer has enough power for rear wheelspins in no time at almost any time.

The riding modes are called A, B and STD. A stands for Aggressive, B for Bad weather, STD for Standard. They only affect the throttle response which in case of the B mode comes very late. The A mode is very direct. No time for subtleties, the throttle even gets a bit too on-off. STD fits nicely in between A and B, and is probably the most useful riding mode.

Conclusion

If you don’t like the looks of the Yamaha Tracer 900 than maybe you should avoid a testride. Because the chances are pretty high that it will convert you. You’ll experience the Tracer’s two biggest talents: the amazing engine and its all-round nature. The triple will wake the butterflies in your stomach while your body and mind will adore the Tracer’s comfort and usability. It does excellent whether on sporty journeys or long trips. Although the engine will probably encourage you to go on racy rides. So forget about the looks, you need to watch the road when you ride.

Photography: Foto PK

Pros

+ Amazing engine
+ Comfort and usability
+ Good standard equipment

Cons

– Instability when riding on the edge
– Looks that might not convince
– Peaceful rides are quite a challenge

Tech specs

Engine

Engine type: 847cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline 3-cylinder; 12 valves
Bore x Stroke: 78.0mm x 59.1mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection with YCC-T
Ignition: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed; multiplate assist and slipper clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain

Chassis

Suspension / Front: 41mm fork, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.4-in travel
Suspension / Rear: Single shock, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.6-in travel
Brakes / Front: Dual 298mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Brakes / Rear: 245mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Tires / Front: 120/70ZR17
Tires / Rear: 180/55ZR17

Dimensions

L x W x H: 85.0 in x 33.5 in x 54.1 in – 56.3 in
Seat Height: 33.5 in or 34.1 in
Wheelbase: 59.1 in
Rake (Caster Angle): 24.0°
Trail: 3.9 in
Maximum Ground Clearance: 5.3 in
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gal
Wet Weight: 472 lb

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