It only takes ten minutes in Boise, Idaho to get the feel of the place. Every other truck and SUV here is towing a camper, the streets are littered with cyclists, the rivers are clogged with white water rafters, and you can’t throw a stone without bouncing it off a BMW GS and two bagger bikes.
It doesn’t even feel like people live here, it’s just visitors looking to get away from it all and hit the trails or the campgrounds. The weather is great and the roads are even better. It’s the perfect place to ride Yamaha’s updated Tracer 9 GT+.
Rugged vibes are a big part of the American ethos right now. The Tracer 9 GT+ is a perfect example of that. Yamaha took a sport bike, jacked it up on tall suspension, threw a big windshield, wide seat, and standard panniers on it to fit a new category.
This bike is baked with lots of adventure character, but it’s still true to its sport roots with sticky on-road tires, active suspension, and plenty of lean angle. If you want a look that’ll fit in with your adventure tourer buddies on a big cross-country ride, but prefer dragging pegs to bouncing down a goat path, this is what you buy.
Heading north out of Boise, we set our sights on Bogus Basin and the switchbacky road leading up the face of the mountain. It didn’t take long for regular city roads to give way to a brown-tinged asphalt ribbon snaking its way through the craggy north-western high-desert scrub. The bike was fine around town, but this is where it really shines. The roads start out smooth, but as the day wears on, it cracks up and gets cobbled coatings on top of re-coatings. Even in the worst of it, the Tracer 9 GT+ suspension keeps its cool.
What Is It?
FJ-09, Tracer 900, Tracer 9, Tracer 9 GT, Tracer 9 GT+. Since this motorcycle launched in 2015 it’s carried five different names, making the waters a little muddy for the average enthusiast. To cut through some of the fog, the Tracer 9 GT+ is a middleweight sport touring motorcycle based on the MT-09 chassis, sharing its buttery smooth 890cc CP3 engine. It’s a sure-footed street-only tourer with some hard-edged adventure-tourer looks and street naked roots. It’s a big bike with all the whiz-bang techno-wizardry you could ever hope for.
Seven pounds. That’s the difference between the outgoing Tracer 9 GT and the new GT+ for 2024. What difference could seven pounds possibly make in a bike? As it turns out, quite a lot. Nearly all of the upgrades to earn the Tracer 9 a new ‘plus’ moniker are electronic, including advanced radar cruise control, the best quickshifter system out there, linked emergency braking, and a beautiful new TFT screen. This is one of the most technologically advanced bikes on the market.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) uses sensors in the front of the bike to automatically match the speed of the vehicle in front of you. You set a speed that you’d like the motorcycle to follow, and you set a distance at which you’d like to follow, then the bike will keep that following distance—braking and accelerating as necessary.
I first tested adaptive cruise on a motorcycle a few years ago when Ducati debuted it on the then-new Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak. Similar Bosch-derived systems are available on various high-end BMW, Kawasaki, and KTM bikes, but the Tracer 9 GT+ marks the first time you can get this tech on a bike under $20,000.
The new Tracer 9 GT+ carries an MSRP of $16,499, making it exactly $1500 more expensive than the outgoing Tracer 9 GT. The regular GT will still be available in some markets, but only the Plus will be available from US Yamaha dealers. The tuning fork has figured out that American buyers want the highest spec version of a bike, so even if they offered the standard GT here, comparatively few would buy it. Hence only one version; you don’t even get a choice of colors.
With about 110 horsepower and a ready-to-ride weight of 492 pounds, this is among the more powerful and heavier mid-sized sport tourers. It’ll go to battle in the marketplace with other road-oriented machines like the Triumph Tiger 900 GT Pro and Ducati Multistrada V2S, though will likely see some cross shopping with KTM’s more off-roadable 890 Adventure and the smaller-and-less-powerful Honda CB500X, Suzuki V-Strom 650, and Kawasaki Versys 650.
The Tracer 9 GT+ offers significantly sportier on-road dynamics and more features than its Japanese competition and undercuts its European competition significantly on price (while also outdoing them on electronics), so it’s in a pretty interesting part of the market.
Who Is It For?
Despite the weird naming convention, frequent updates, and ballooning price tag over last year, this still might be the best bike in the segment. If only for the tremendous engine and rapid-fire quickshifter, this bike is a dream to ride. I honestly can’t think of much that has this bike beat for the money, and certainly not in this segment.
If you have always been a sport bike rider, but you’ve aged out of the narrow seats and weight-on-your-wrists riding position, you’re the right demographic for this bike. If you’re a tech-forward early adopter looking to test out ACC but don’t want to pay thirty grand to get it, you’re also the right demographic for this bike. If you’re looking for a tall riding position in a platform that works just as well around town and on the highway as it does for jamming through the curves of a glorious mountain road, here’s your machine.
In today’s market, $16,499 isn’t nothing. There are hundreds of bikes that can be had for less, but rarely do they offer the breadth of experience that the Tracer 9 GT+ can. But consider for a moment that this motorcycle carries the advanced electronics package of an average priced car.
The Riding Experience
Heading out in the early morning for a day of over 200 miles riding in the hot Idaho air, I knew from the off that it would be a good one. Within minutes I’d acquainted myself with the engine’s 10,500 rpm redline echoing off the concrete canyons of downtown Boise, and shared a handshake with the quickshifter transmission like we were old friends.
While a new rider might find the bike a bit tall and the power levels intimidating, this is a joyful and reassuring experience that never gave me pause. Nearly everything you throw at this bike, it can manage with aplomb.
There’s certainly more grip and power than even an above average rider could ever use at legal speeds, and it’s nimble enough that you’re unlikely to get into an unrecoverable situation. This is the kind of bike you upgrade to after you’ve gained some two-wheel experience and keep forever. It’s a motorcycle that you can grow into, and never get bored of.
For a tall bike of 500 pounds, it carries its weight well, presumably masking some of that heft with its KYB Actimatic Damping System, electronically adjusting compression in the fork and rebound at the front and rear. Over the pavement irregularities, the suspension is supple and compliant, but quickly rigidifies under hard braking or acceleration to keep bike and rider from pitching around. It’s yet another seamless system that keeps rider and bike moving as one cohesive unit.
What I Liked
Even riding up to over 6,000 feet above sea level, this bike always excelled, thanks in large part to its smooth and powerful 890 triple. Even with reduced oxygen levels in the air, there was enough power to wring out of that magnificent triple, and enough chassis to carry momentum through the corners. There’s enough torque down low to ride it comfortably in a higher gear and still pull up out of the corners, but if you really want to make it sing, the engine is equally happy revving above 7,000 RPM at your whim.
Speaking of making the bike sing, my god, the new Gen 3 quickshifter on this bike is utterly game changing. While most quickshifters will allow you to upshift under open throttle, and allow you to downshift under deceleration, this one is different. Yamaha’s new shifter will allow clutchless downshifts under throttle (like, say, when you’re pulling out to pass and need to kick it down a gear or two) and clutchless upshifts when the throttle is closed.
Aside from using the clutch to take off from a stop, I found myself basically never pulling the left lever again and treating the bike mostly like a foot-shifted dual clutch. Yamaha has basically managed to make the transmission shift up or down as quickly as you want it to, no matter what else you’re doing. It’s just truly incredible.
The new seven-inch TFT screen is a blessing. There are three slightly different tachometer displays to choose from, but they all do basically the same thing. All of the information you need is right in front of you, while ancillary information like ambient temperature, fuel economy, and trip meters can be toggled through with the left bar information stalk. The anti-glare coating works wonders, and I never found the screen difficult to read.
This is a good-looking motorcycle, if slightly unimaginative. The only color available is the grey bodywork you see here, though the black and gold accents liven it up a little bit. The seats also blend that color palette in with some grey and gold contrast stitching. The blunted praying mantis nose of this bike is basically industry standard in the adventure segment, so it’s hard to knock this bike for following trends, but it’s a bit overdone at this point. That said, the standard bags are well integrated, and the tank has some characterful bulge to it. Not bad.
What I Didn’t Like
I can’t really count this as a knock against the Tracer 9 GT+ specifically, but it just wasn’t built for my body. I’m fairly tall at 6’2” with a 31-ish inch inseam. This motorcycle offers two different seat heights with a quick and simple tool-free change. I rode in the lower position on the way to lunch and changed it during lunch as it left my legs slightly cramped. The slightly-behind-my-hips midset pegs made my knees a bit stiff after a couple of hours of riding.
Switching to the higher seat position definitely alleviated my knee pain, but equally increased the reach to the handlebars and shifted the pain to my shoulders and neck. To be properly comfortable for me, I would have liked a two-inch bar riser. And to a lesser degree, the seat was slightly too stiff for several hours of riding at a time.
Despite being tall like an adventure touring motorcycle, the Tracer 9 GT+ is far more sport bike than adventure bike. The adventure-oriented hand guards felt disingenuous on this bike, a bit poseur. I’m sure they’re nice for blocking the wind on a cold day, or stopping a rock from cracking your knuckles, but they just don’t look right on a bike wearing tires devoid of even a hint of knob.
It feels like I’m really reaching for things to complain about on this motorcycle, but the left bar switchgear was a little confusing at times. This is a significant improvement from the clickwheel style switches Yamaha used previously, but there are now two different toggle sticks at your left thumb.
One of them is used to activate the turn signals, while the other is used to maneuver through the giant screen’s various prompts. More than once I found myself pressing down on the wrong stick to cancel the turn signals, leaving my blinker tik-ticking away for the next mile or so until I noticed. Why doesn’t this bike have self-canceling turn signals anyway?
The only thing that I’d really count as a full demerit on this test is that I was extremely frustrated with the Tracer’s map app integration. With a giant gorgeous TFT screen in front of the rider, I was hoping the maps would be seamless and easy to read. Rather than do the right thing and integrate Apple CarPlay [Ed. note: or Android Auto], Yamaha chose to work with Garmin.
This required me to download two different apps to connect my phone to the bike and the bike to Garmin. I also needed to download a six gigabyte map from the app and pay an unfathomable $3.99 per month for the privilege. After twenty minutes of futzing with the apps to make them shake hands the right way, and the strain of running them sapping my phone battery in just over two hours, I gave up and never used it again.
Gallery: 2024 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+ First Ride Review
Building on the strengths of the Tracer 9 GT, the new GT+ is a technological leap forward for an enticing price. It’s a bargain-priced Ducati Multistrada riding experience with all the technologically advanced rider aides. The engine is every bit as magnificent to zing through its rev range as the Duc, despite being fairly significantly down on power. That a bike costing nearly half as much can even be mentioned in the same breath as the Multi, however, should be considered praise.
Yamaha has done its homework with this bike. A poll of Tracer 9 owners finds that around one third of their rides are short and fun-focused. Just over a quarter of rides taken on T9s are full-day out-and-back adventures, while only 13 percent of rides are multi-day tours. This is a great bike for every scenario, including a short 10 to 15 mile daily commute. There’s room to stretch your legs, but it’s fun to ride even when you don’t have to.
That’s a lot of words to say that if you’re shopping for a middleweight tourer, the Tracer 9 GT+ should be at the top of your list. Buying a motorcycle is often an emotionally motivated event, but if you feel like making it a logically motivated one, you’re going to be pretty likely to plonk down your money at a Yamaha dealer.