Long Term Review: 2019 Yamaha MT-09

After 18 months and 3,500 miles, here's the good, the bad and the ugly.

Back in January 2020 I sold my Tracer 900 for a 2019 Yamaha MT-09. After 18 months of ownership and over 3,500 miles, its about time I dive into my likes and dislikes on my personal street bike.

The purchasing decision

Like I mentioned above, I owned a 2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 that I decided to ditch for the MT. Prior to purchasing the Tracer, I owned a 2015 FZ-07. I loved the size of the bike but I became addicted to the sound and grunt of the CP3 engine. Every time I heard one I knew I needed to own something with that motor.

I went for the Tracer 900 because of its practicality. It made sense as a commuter as I could carry my lunch and a change of clothes in the side cases. I loved the high center of gravity and cornering ability, but after just a few months I grew tired of the 463lb curb weight. I really started to miss the small, almost toy-like characteristics of my old FZ-07. So out went the Tracer 900, and in to the garage came a 2019 Yamaha MT-09 in Team Yamaha Blue.

The best street bike (in my eyes)

I felt right at home on my new MT-09 almost immediately. I still use this as my main commuter in the summer. It works just fine (I just have to ride with a backpack). But the first time I took it out into the twisties, I knew this bike was a keeper.

The power comes on so effortlessly but at the same time, the bike is easy to tame. I’ve never itched for more power when riding the MT-09. It’s also not picky at all: the bike has such a good torque curve and often doesn’t care what gear you’re in. I ride the mountains with friends a lot, and there’s a reason that there are four MT-09s in my group of riding buddies. They’re just that good on the road. They’re light and easy to manage, affordable, comfortable, and just flat out fun. I’ve never been so confident that I’m going to keep a bike for a very long time as I am with the MT-09.

2021 Yamaha MT-09

Comparison to new MT-09

Recently I had the opportunity to ride the all-new 2021 MT-09 (the standard version, not the SP). The 2021 is the third generation of this very popular naked sportbike. It’s the first time the bike has seen substantial changes since its initial debut in 2014. The new model gets a new higher displacement motor, a new chassis, a 6-axis IMU, lots of new tech, and an upgraded suspension, among other things.

I absolutely loved the new version of the bike. It felt much more planted and it actually wanted to corner. My MT-09 is much happier doing wheelies than leaning into turns. While it was very tempting, I decided not to upgrade to the 2021 model (partially because I’m saving up for a new track bike). But I also figured that everything I dislike about my MT-09 is easily fixable (and probably for less cash than it would take for me to swap bikes).

Modifications

I started modifying my 2019 Yamaha MT-09 as soon as I got it back to my garage. The first thing I did was knock off that hideous rear tire hugging fender that came stock on my bike. Instead I added a TST Industries Fender Eliminator Kit and a Custom LED Blaster-X taillight. (I absolutely love the Blaster-X and recommend it to everyone if its available for your bike. Not only is it super bright, but it triple flashes when you get on the brakes, making sure to alert vehicles behind you. That created a hyperflash in my turn signals, so I added some super bright Rizoma Legerra led signals to the front end. A TST Industries flasher relay fixed the hyperflash for good. Stock levers were replaced with CRG RC2 adjustable levers.

I added a MRA Racing windscreen to the front (mainly because I like the look, but it does keep some of the wind off of my chest, and I can get into a nice pocket of clean air in a full tuck). For crash protection I went with a set of GB Racing engine covers, and Woodcraft frame and axle siders. Also on my mod list is a set of TechSpec XLine Tank Pads, which haven’t faired too well. They’re wearing quickly but they provide an insane amount of leg grip. I’ll definitely replace them when they fully wear out.

To liven up the sound I added a full-titanium Akrapovic exhaust, and immediately pulled the baffle out. It’s a screamer now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The sound the CP3 produces was one of my main draws to this bike. It’s not tuned yet, but still runs well. I get a little bit of popping and backfire, but a tune from Vcyclenut should fix that. I just need to make time to pull my ECU and mail it out! As far as tires go, I’m still on the stock front at 3,500 miles. I replaced the stock rear at about 2,000 for a Michelin Road 5 tire. I end up getting caught in the rain a lot, and the Road 5 gives me lots of confidence riding on wet roads without sacrificing much else.

The bad

Suspension. It’s not great. In 2017 Yamaha added adjustable front forks to the MT-09. But even after dialing in the suspension for my weight and riding style, it’s still not fantastic. The front end never feels extremely well planted around corners. The back end likes to step out every once in a while. At some point I’d like to upgrade the suspension components, but that will cost me well over $2,000. At that price, I don’t mind living with sub-par suspension for a little while longer. I’m hoping to upgrade the suspension before the 2022 riding season.

The headlight. It’s worse than not great (it’s really terrible). I avoid riding at night as much as possible because of my headlight. It spreads a little tiny box of light on the road right in front of you. Anything further than 30 yards out on poorly lit road is pretty much impossible to see. Yamaha fixed this on the 2021 model, but on my 2019 Yamaha MT-09, its just something I’ve learned to live with. I could swap out the headlight unit for something more functional, but I love the angry-eyed look of the stock headlight, so I’m keeping it for now.

Final thoughts

My 2019 MT-09 had an MSRP of $8,699. Unfortunately we saw a slight price increase for the 2021 model to $8,999, but even at that price, I think the MT-09 is a great value, which is why I bought one. It’s a heck of a lot of bike for the money. Mine has given me zero issues in 18 months of ownership (just routine maintenance according to the service manual).

I’ve been extremely happy with my decision to get rid of the Tracer 900. Like I already said, this bike isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Whether I’m launching off of stop lights, playing around in a parking lot, out in the canyons, or just commuting, the MT-09 never fails to put a smile on my face. If you haven’t ridden any of Yamaha’s bikes with the CP3, I urge you to ride one. You’ll want to buy one immediately and you’ll be thanking me for a while (or for you married folks, maybe screaming at me for making you buy another bike).