Filled with dread, I threw a leg over Yamaha’s fourth iteration of the MT-09 in San Jose, California. There are always some nerves that come with taking a fresh press bike out for a rip, but that’s not what was fuelling my thoughts. 

My mind was swimming in a mishmash of conflicting outcomes. I worried that, due to the latest sports-inspired design changes, the new MT-09 had left behind its hooligan ways while simultaneously failing to make up enough ground on its direct rivals known for their sharpness. I wanted that character to still be there because I’d never got to try and see what the fuss was about myself. 

But my real fear, the one that’d been on my mind since I received the invite to this launch, was that Yamaha did exactly what it set out to—refine the machine to make it more fun, accessible, and capable on faster roads—but keep that antisocial nature. Because if that were the case, I’d be forced to consider replacing my current middleweight naked, and I’m not cash-rich right now.  

After testing it, I’ve concluded that if there’s one particular type of riding you do, be it on track or touring, you can find a motorcycle that’ll suit you better. But every road we rode, I wanted to ride again. Every time I downshifted, I’d short shift at the next possible opportunity just so I could repeat the process all over again. This is a contender for a one-bike garage for those who do more than one type of riding. Wherever you go, you’ll have smiles on tap, and this isn’t an overstatement.

I had a pain in my jaw for two days thanks to the MT’s rowdy grin-inducing nature, not from me breaking in a new Alpinestars Supertech R10 helmet.


Enter the Cockpit

The MT-09 is loaded with electronic goodies and a new, larger TFT dash for 2024, which even includes satellite navigation when linked to your phone via Yamaha’s app. But the bulk of the bike’s electronic systems are controlled via a joystick and a few buttons on the left-hand switchgear.

There’s an intimidating number of toggles, switches, and buttons almost spilling over the bar—something that wouldn’t look out of place on the Millennium Falcon—but much to my surprise, it was all incredibly intuitive and easy to use.


It took a few minutes of playing around with the system before setting off, and I was good for the day. That started things off on the right note, which was especially important because it was nippy, and I knew we still had to do a fair bit of urban riding before the twisties—something I rarely look forward to on a bike that’s more than 800cc.

And though it’s not cool or sexy, I was immediately in disbelief at how easy the MT-09 was around the city. The low-speed manners Yamaha has put on this thing are incredible, and once I got a whiff that it was so stable and giving in these situations, I started to play with it. How smooth could I be? How tightly could I make a turn into the pack? How slow could I go in full lock while still retaining complete confidence? These games were made even more enjoyable by the new increased 31-degree steering lock.

This is the first bike that ever made me feel like U-turns were fun. And I think that sums up the ethos of the MT-09. It can make even the most mundane situations giggle-worthy, and that’s before we get started on the not-so-mundane.


Before long, 2-mph maneuvers became 32-mph turns, and while the speed and lean angle of the bike changed, its agility never did. Yamaha reduced the seat width by 6mm on each side, which combined with the bike’s low center of gravity, gave me incredible confidence when moving around the machine. 

The easiest way for me to explain how it feels at low speeds is to imagine a top-heavy adventure bike. In every way that you grimace at the thought of maneuvering that ADV at low to medium speeds, the MT-09 feels the opposite. It begs to be flicked and held at whatever angle you want with the throttle. When it’s time to pick it up, all it takes is a bit of rider input and a twist of the wrist.

But this feeling of agility at relatively low speeds can sometimes make for a nervous, sketchy bike on high-speed roads with sweeping bends. 

Under the Skin

As the group began our ascent toward the redwoods, 32 mph turns quickly shot up to allegedly faster mph sweepers, and my questions were answered. Yamaha’s engineers had played a blinder, starting with a new geometry that places the rider further forward on the lowered handlebars while keeping their legs slightly higher and further back with a new peg placement. The designers also increased the surface area on the sides of the gas tanks, creating an even larger anchor point for your leg as you lean off the bike at speed. 

The changes instantly place more weight over the front wheel wrapped in Bridgestone’s Battlax Hypersport S23, which provides decent feedback. But there’s far more happening beneath the skin than a change of geometry.

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The latest MT has a stiffer chassis, stiffer front suspension, and a new rear suspension setup that decreases the bike’s pitch at the initial compression stage of the spring. I can’t compare this setup to the previous bike, as I haven’t ridden it, but I can say that it's unquestionably sharp and refined.

It wasn’t until I started hustling the MT and began trail braking deeper into the corners that something clicked. Yes, Yamaha made the front suspension stiffer, but it compresses and unloads at what feels like a near 1:1 ratio with the brake lever. And while the stiffer 41mm KYB front forks play a part, the feel provided by the axial-mounted Brembo master cylinder is just as important. I can’t understate how special it is to get such a precise brake feel on a bike coming in at $10,599.


Torque to Me

Torque is but a number. But it's how the engine delivers and chassis transmits it to the rider that gives the impression of torque, and in this regard, Yamaha has worked some kind of Dark Side of Japan magic. It has built a motorcycle with an insane torque output that doesn’t put it out insanely. And that’s a good thing.

Violent, aggressive, bicep-tearing torque delivery is cool to experience until you start worrying about the bike riding you instead of you riding it. And then, when you get tired, which you will, you lose the enthusiasm to play with it. The MT-09 has all the torque you could ask for but delivers it in such a way that it’s eternally playful and completely unintimidating for an experienced rider. It encourages you to be silly and reassures you that it’s not trying to catch you sleeping.

Yamaha hasn’t released the official output specs for the US version of the MT-09, but if the European numbers are anything to go by, it has nearly 70 lb-ft of torque and is just shy of 120 horsepower. But it’s polished—not boring—just a ridiculously refined riot. And that’s what made me want to pull the string time and time again. Even when the front wheel lifts, which it will, it does so with the softness of a labrador's nibble.


People love talking about whether a motorcycle feels like it has a “direct connection” between the throttle and rear wheel, and in first gear, the MT-09 feels like it surpasses this concept. The bike rotates around the twist of its throttle. Wind it on and the front wheel lifts, let it down a fraction, and the front wheel follows. And although you could live happily in the midrange, there’s a rewarding rush that releases the last of your endorphins lurking at the top of the rev range and an addictive gurgle as you bang in the next gear before hitting redline. 

In case it’s not clear, this bike has not shed its hooligan skin. And that’s in no small way due to the engineers who came together and said, “Right, after we figure out how to lay down a mountain of usable torque through this tiny wheelbase, let’s see if we can make the rider giggle at literally all times.”

The third-generation quickshifter is so fun and crisp that you wind up changing gears back and forth just to play with the engine notes. This system enables you to shift up while decelerating but, more importantly, shift down while accelerating. I hit an on-ramp in sixth gear, and by the time I was up to speed, I was in second, giggling like a child.


As for noise, the MT-09 lets out a supercharger-like whine via the redesigned intake ducts on the gas tank at low RPMs. When you open it up, you’re met with a howl from the dual underslung exhausts and burbles as you let off and downshift—you usually need to pay extra for an exhaust that’s such a delight for the ears.

But, unfortunately, this bike isn’t without fault.

Second Guessing

Yamaha shot itself in the foot by making the connection between the throttle and rear tire so good because it highlighted the one time it’s not—second gear. Between around 4,000 and 8,000 RPM in second gear, there's a small but perceptible disconnect between your right hand and the engine. In this part of the rev range, in this gear, the response, torque, and acceleration are muted enough that I started bypassing second to get into the meat again. 

The problem, I think, is second gear is likely where the MT-09 was noise tested to ensure it meets EPA regulations. This means the solution should be simple: get a tune. Bear in mind that both the problem and solution are purely based on speculation. But if this is the case, it’s not a huge issue, as most owners of this bike are likely to get a pipe and thus a tune—you don’t see many used models with stock pipes. But, of course, this will void your warranty. 

The only other niggle I had was my tush got a bit sore after the 120-mile trip. But, again, it’s not a huge problem, as Yamaha offers a comfort seat.


Bottom line: The bike has two issues, one of which mightn't be a problem for people who don't spend all day in the saddle, and both are probably easy fixes.

Pure, Adulterated Fun

Yes, you read that right. The MT-09 is such perfectly adulterated fun that it feels unadulterated. The engineers have rigged this bike with a suite of electronics that make you feel like you’re ruling the road, reliant on skill alone.

Wheelie when you want to wheelie, stoppie when you want to stoppie—you’re the king. But behind it all is an adjustable lift (read “wheelie”) control system, ensuring you won’t loop out, and adjustable traction control that lets you stoppie, but won’t let you lock up the front.


Between the linear Earth-turning torque, flickable physique from 2-72 mph, and engine notes that had me overworking the third-generation quickshifter to try to play music by flicking through CP3’s tracks, I became addicted to this grin-inducing machine. 

Give me one, Yamaha. Please?

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