News: 2021 Yamaha MT-09 Gets A Styling Overhaul And Moto GP Tech

Yamaha MT-09 gets a makeover: new style, bigger engine, new tech!

2021 Yamaha MT-09
(Photos: Yamaha)

2021 Yamaha MT-09 gets overhauled: New style, headlight, Euro5 engine, suspension, frame, swingarm, and rider assistance tech.

There’s some exciting news in the naked sport bike world. Yamaha just gave the extremely popular MT-09 its first major overhaul since its introduction in 2014. The 2021 Yamaha MT-09 receives a new Euro5 compliant engine, a new lightweight frame and swingarm, improved rider assistance tech, and an all new look. Being a 2019 Yamaha MT-09 owner myself, I definitely have some questions about the bike.

Questionable styling

This 2021 MT-09 has an all new look for the first time since the bike’s introduction. Sure, the MT-09 got a facelift in 2017, but the changes were minor and most of the bodywork remained unchanged. This year Yamaha gave the MT-09 lots of new parts, which gives it a similar, but noticeably different look. The tank and fake front intake vents (still fake) have been redesigned which helps distinguish the new MT-09 from the 2020 model.

A new rear fender has been fitted to the 2021 model. The new fender goes back to the traditional style of license plate mount and fender, as opposed to the futuristic looking tire hugger found on last year’s bike. The biggest change in styling is apparent when looking at the machine head on. There’s a new single beam headlight with vertical LED running lights surrounding it. I’m not a huge fan of the redesigned front end, but I’m hopeful that the headlight performance is better. The headlight beam on my 2019 MT-09 is so bad that I refuse to ride it at night.

There’s also a new 3.5″ color TFT dash which is nice to see. Yamaha is catching up with the competition (the Kawasaki Z900 and Triumph Street Triple already got the TFT dash treatment). I do wish the dash was a little bit bigger, however. There’s just too much plastic bezel around that screen!

A bump in displacement

Since 2014, the MT-09 has used Yamaha’s 847cc inline 3-cylinder. For 2021, the MT-09 sees a jump in displacement to what should be a pretty similar feeling 890cc inline 3. The new motor was designed to meet stricter Euro5 emissions regulations, while still providing the same feeling when it comes to power and torque. Yamaha says that all the fundamental parts of the engine, from the pistons and connecting rods, to the crankshaft, camshafts and crankcase have all been redesigned with a reduction in weight. This provides a +4 increase in horsepower over last year’s MT-09, with the bike jumping from 114 to 118 hp.

New chassis

A new aluminum frame and swingarm has also been fitted to this new bike. The new frame is lighter than the old version while also being more rigid. The new swingarm uses a welded box design (similar to Yamaha’s R6), and is 250g lighter than the old swingarm. All of this leads to a bike that is 8lbs lighter than last year, weighing in at 417 lbs.

Suspension upgrades! (I hope)

The new MT-09 also gets an upgraded suspension. The first generation MT-09 had really awful suspension, and many said the bike rode like a pogo stick. In 2017 Yamaha introduced fully adjustable front forks to help sort out that issue. The MT-09 is a budget friendly sport bike, and the area Yamaha definitely skimped on to keep the price low has always been the suspension. Even on my 2019 with the “better” suspension, I find the suspension very soft and unpredictable (even after setting preload for my weight and adjusting rebound and compression). The 2021 model gets a revised KYB front fork and rear shock, which I hope offers a noticeable improvement. The suspension on the old bike is probably suitable for most riders, but for track use and aggressive riding in the twisties, it just wasn’t sporty enough for my taste. Let’s hope that’s changed.

Tech (and lots of it!)

This is the area where the new MT-09 really starts to remind me how old the outgoing MT-09 really is. The outgoing model gained some tech features in 2017 (traction control and ABS) but they were pretty basic systems. The new MT-09 features a new 6-axis IMU which is very similar to the IMU found in the R1. This new unit is 50% smaller and 40% lighter than that R1 unit. This new IMU allows for much more advanced rider assistance technologies, including cornering traction control and ABS, slide control, and wheel lift control.

  • Traction control: now takes lean angle into account when adjusting power to rear wheel. New “M” mode allows for fine tune control.
  • Cornering ABS: now independently modulates front and rear brake pressure while banked in a corner. Cornering ABS can be switched on/off, regular ABS is always on)
  • Slide control: adjusts power to rear wheel during a slide so the rider can focus on riding
  • Front wheel lift control: Adjusts engine output during hard acceleration to keep reduce front wheel lift

I’m always a sucker for technology. Seeing MotoGP tech trickle down to a bike that costs under $10,000 is very exciting to me. I’ll never complain about more safety tech on a street bike, and I applaud Yamaha for allowing most of this stuff to be turned off, giving the rider complete control of these settings.

Changes keep coming

There’s a few other minor changes: the optional quick shifter now supports auto blipping on downshifts. The outgoing model only supported clutch-less upshifting). The throttle is now operated by an accelerator position sensor rather than cables (although the ride by wire system is largely unchanged). There’s a new muffler with symmetrical exhaust ports, and a new intake which has been tuned specifically to provide a good engine note. The MT-09 has always been a great sounding bike, which is one of the main reasons I bought one. I’ll have to fire this new MT-09 up in person to hear if there are any noticeable differences.

2021 Yamaha MT-09

Will I buy it?

Will I be trading in my 2019 towards a 2021 model? As of right now, probably not. The one problem I have with my bike is the suspension. It would cost me somewhere around $2000 to convert my current MT-09 to a full Ohlins suspension. Thats probably about the same cost as getting onto a new 2021 MT-09, and I doubt the new KYB suspension will be on the same level as Ohlins components. Unless the new KYB suspension blows my mind when I ride it, I think I’ll stick with my 2019 model. If Yamaha brings the MT-09 SP to the states however (the European only model that comes from the factory with Ohlins suspension), I’ll be at the dealership the next day.

The new MT-09 will be available in 3 colors starting in January 2021. There is a small increase in price from $8,999 to $9,399. You can check out all the details on the TFLbike YouTube Channel.