2024 Yamaha MT-09 Review – First Ride

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

More minor changes in anticipation of the R9

Photos by Joseph Agustine.

There really wasn’t a reason to update Yamaha’s MT-09. We love the MT-09, and apparently you do too – it’s been Yamaha’s best-selling MT model for a decade. It’s so good, in fact, that the world has been clamoring for an R9 sportbike loosely based on the MT-09, and sharing a hopped-up version of the 890 three-cylinder engine, for years. While Yamaha remains tight-lipped on the R9, it’s created a diversion to get people, especially journos like us, to talk about something else, if only briefly – an updated MT-09. And so, here we are.


2024 Yamaha MT-09

Minor cosmetic, ergonomic, and electronic updates have refined one of our favorite motorcycles into an even more well-rounded machine.

Highs

  • One of the best soundtracks in motorcycling
  • A lot of bike for not a lot of money
  • Cruise control!

Sighs

  • Clutch cover sticks out a little far for those with short legs
  • TFT screen leaves some real estate on the table
  • How about a little more feel in those brakes?
A familiar outline, you’ll recognize the 2024 MT-09 if you’re familiar with the older models. But look closer and you’ll notice the differences.

What’s New

This 2024 update doesn’t move the needle much compared to the big overhaul the bike got in 2021, but you’d have to be blind not to notice the new bike has a fresh look compared to the one it replaces. You can’t miss the new twin-projector LED headlight. It’s more streamlined now, with pleasant curves and angles, and no longer has the single projector-beam headlight bulb that offended some.


Then you have a new riding position, facilitated by a new fuel tank design that’s 30mm lower and 60mm wider than before. This allows the bars to go 34.4mm lower and 1.5mm closer to the rider while also allowing 3.3° more steering sweep than before.

A lot of the changes to the MT start here, at the tank. It had to be reshaped to allow the bars to be placed in a new position.



The trailing edges of the fuel tank have been trimmed a lot – from 20mm to 5mm – and the leading edge of the seat itself has been trimmed on each side by 6mm (12mm total), to make for a narrower junction where the seat meets the tank. The actual 32.5-inch seat height hasn’t changed, but you’ll think it has by how your feet will more comfortably reach the ground. Speaking of the seat, for the first time in the 09’s history, it now has a two-piece seat instead of the one-piece it’s had since the beginning, giving a clear delineation between rider and passenger. You don’t need tools to remove either seat, making access to what’s underneath easier.


A new seat means a new subframe, and this one is also narrower to match the foam pad on top of it. This subframe also has new mounting points for the passenger pegs – they’re now underneath the subframe instead of on the side, for a clean look for the radial-mount pegs. Should you decide to remove them, the exposed bolt holes won’t be so obvious unless you look under the subframe.

The shock is the same as last year, but is mated to a new linkage, which you can hardly see at the bottom of this photo. Though out of focus, you can clearly see the new subframe, including the repositioned mounting points for the passenger pegs on the bottom of the spar instead of on the side.

So what hasn’t changed? Let’s start with the big one. The engine hasn’t changed and neither has the frame or the swingarm. But if you want to talk about a boring, not-sexy, but under-rated change, then look no further than the transmission. Inside you’ll find new gears with six drive dogs instead of five before, tightening the mechanical window in between gear engagement for smoother, cleaner shifts. The actual gear ratios themselves, however, remain the same as before. Staying with the gearbox, this, the third generation of the quickshifter system is even more refined, allowing for downshifts during slight acceleration and upshifts during small occurrences of deceleration.


Perhaps the coolest change, however, is the revised air intake. Specifically, the intake ducts have been reduced from three to two. Corresponding grated openings at the top of the tank just happen to be placed right where your head would be if you got into a tuck. The point of all this is to amplify the sweet, sweet sound of the three-cylinder intake howl when wringing the bike’s neck for all it’s got. It’s addictive. Very addictive. And you certainly don’t need to be in a tuck to enjoy it.


When an engine sounds this good, you want to listen to it all the time. Yamaha leaned into its musical side and reshaped the airbox to funnel the wonderful intake acoustics straight through to the two channels on either side of the fuel cap.

As far as hardware changes, things are minimal from here. Chassis stiffness is a little different due to the engine mounts getting thicker, while the headstock bracket that braces one side of the frame to the other gets thinner. Because the new bar position puts a little more of the rider’s weight on the front, the 41mm KYB fork spring is one rate stiffer – from 14N/mm to 15N/mm. The shock is the same as before, but the linkage accompanying it has a new ratio with a flatter curve.


Electronically, the MT-09 gets a five-inch TFT with four different themes for the display, including the “Generative” display inspired by Yamaha’s music division where the rev counter vaguely resembles the keys of a piano. You control the different functions through a redesigned switchgear. To make the different YRC ride modes easier to understand, Yamaha have ditched its previous nomenclature and gone to something more universal: Street, Sport, and Rain. Here, the IMU-assisted rider aid settings like engine mapping, traction control, slide control, lift control, etc., are pre-set for the ride mode. Two additional custom ride modes let the rider set the levels and power settings to whatever they want. No matter the ride mode, however, traction control, slide control, lift control, and a new setting called the Back Slip Regulator, can all be turned off.

The 890 engine hasn’t changed from before, but some of its supporting cast has. The latest generation of Yamaha’s quickshifter now allows greater flexibility, and the engine mount you see is a little thicker. A returning feature is the adjustable peg position, as seen by the exposed threaded holes above the footpeg bracket.

What does BSR do? Think of it as an extension of the slipper clutch. In instances where the rear wheel is decelerating quickly, the slipper clutch helps to avoid wheel hop. But if the road surface is slick, sometimes the engine back torque can cause the wheel to continue hopping more than the slipper clutch can handle. BSR then steps in by slightly opening one or more throttle bodies to reduce the back torque.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Yamaha’s updated smartphone connectivity through the Y-Connect app. You get all the usual things like notifications for calls and messages, as well as the ability to listen to music. But now, with the help of Garmin’s StreetCross app, you can get turn-by-turn navigation blasted directly to the TFT screen. Since it’s a Bluetooth-reliant app, the maps and directions will still work even if you’re riding somewhere without cell service. Since I’m not one to stay connected to my phone while I ride, I opted not to test Yamaha’s claim of improved integration.

With its updated connectivity and integration with the Garmin StreetCross app, you can get directions right on your TFT screen.

Riding Impressions

Yamaha invited us to the tech capital of the world – Cupertino, California – to sample this latest MT-09 in and around the amazing twisty roads found in this part of the world. Strangely, despite my initial reservations about the new riding position, once you actually sit on it those fears dissipate pretty quickly. I did notice the lower bars compared to before, but it didn’t bother me and I’d still consider the seating position to be on the neutral side.


Putting both feet on the ground is as easy as it gets thanks to the narrowness where the seat meets the fuel tank. If you’re a shorty and have been hesitant about the MT-09 in the past, it might be time to give the bike another look.

If, like me, you thought the lower bars would turn the MT-09 into a sportbike, let this photo clear those thoughts out of your mind.

As far as the actual ride impressions go, you can probably guess where this one is headed. Yamaha knew not to mess too much with the properties making the MT-09 such a blast to ride. As such, and with the prior knowledge of knowing we’ve always loved the MT, this latest version doesn’t disappoint. With a light pull of the clutch lever and a tap on the shifter, you’re on your way. With our test bikes initially set to the Street riding mode as we strolled past Apple headquarters on our way out of town, power delivery was smooth, if even a little muted in the first initial degrees of throttle turn. Open it up a little more and the magic rush of the Triple is felt through the seat. It doesn’t overwhelm, but at casual speeds it’s enough to let you know there’s a lot more on tap if you want it.


Remember earlier the mention of increased steering sweep? Those who commute a lot will appreciate this, as turning around or navigating through tight spaces is always made easier the more steering sweep you have. This makes the MT such a great commuter and errand runner, as the power will easily get you out of tricky situations, while the wide steering sweep and neutral handling will help you slice through traffic and turn around on a whim.

It’s hard to tell from this angle, but the clutch cover juts out quite a bit beyond the frame. If you have long legs, this likely won’t be an issue for you.

This is also one of the rare spots where one of my few complaints about the bike exposes itself. City riding and/or daily commuting involves a lot of stopping. Naturally, we have to put our foot down at a stop. For my 30-inch inseam, the natural resting angle for my right leg is in line with the outstretched clutch cover, which then puts my leg at an awkward angle. I know this sounds crazy, and if your legs are shorter or longer it may not even be an issue, but on a bike with so little to fault, this particular thing stood out to me.


Otherwise, it’s time to begin the broken record, because I’m about to sing the MT-09’s praises. Clearly, the highlight of the bike is its engine. It has just the right amount of power to keep things interesting without being too scary, and while the exhaust note is fine, the rejiggered acoustics turn the intake howl into the star of the show. Hearing the engine scream inspires you to keep the engine howling. Thankfully the quickshifter is able to keep up without a hitch. Shifts happen quickly and smoothly, even in the lower gears, which isn’t always the case on other bikes, or even on earlier generations of MT. I can’t definitively pin this on the extra gear dog on each cog, but I have to think it helps.

If I did have to pick at the 09’s armor, there is a subtle flat spot in the powerband right in the middle of the mid-range. Riding in the Street ride mode, with its softer power delivery, exacerbates this somewhat, but I’d hardly call it an annoyance. Just an observation. Yamaha’s really cleaned up the fueling compared to older generations when it comes to what is now called Sport ride mode. Now power delivery feels direct without being abrupt – at least for experienced hands used to modulating the throttle. Those with heavy wrists might be better off in Street to get a feel for the power before switching over.


Getting caught up in traffic heading out to the twisty roads is no fun, but it highlights the bike’s comfort. There’s enough room to move around on the seat, and the padding is plenty for sitting in traffic. Will it be plush enough, yet supportive enough, for a cross-country tour? The jury is still out on that one. Despite the fact we were traveling slow at times, I don’t recall anyone making any comments about engine heat. Wherever it went, Yamaha channels the hot air clear from the rider nicely. As the roads cleared and our pace picked up again, I didn’t find myself wishing for much, if any, wind protection.

The MT feels small underneath you, and as the roads start to bend, the width of the bars is just enough to leverage the chassis at your will. Handling is neutral – not too fast, not too slow – and the Bridgestone Hypersport S23 tires come up to temp quickly, providing impressive feedback right from the off. The chassis feels stable and sure-footed while leaned over, though I’d be lying if I said I could feel a difference in the chassis stiffness from the thicker engine mounts and thinner headstock brace.


What I do know is I felt comfortable pushing the MT, secure in the knowledge that I could feel what both tires were doing underneath me. The fork and shock were balanced in their damping, only showing signs of being overwhelmed when hustling through particularly bumpy stretches of road at speeds our mothers would not be happy with. Overall, as shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, the MT-09 can hustle through a canyon road with the best of them.

Negatives

Apart from the clutch cover hitting my leg at a stop and the small flat spot in the powerband, two more gripes stand out – again, both are minor. First are the brakes. The MT gets a mid-level Brembo master cylinder with an adjustable lever. As such, both clutch and brake levers have adjustability, which is always nice. However, as has been a Yamaha curse for years, the actual feel at the lever leaves some to be desired. Braking power itself is strong, and there’s no fear the bike won’t slow down, but after a certain point it doesn’t matter how hard you squeeze the lever, the feedback feels the same. It’s odd.

One of the few (if only?) motorcycle manufacturers using ADVICS calipers, we’re not sure what else to blame for Yamaha’s having wooden brakes.

Then there’s the TFT display (scroll up to take another look at the TFT display, paying attention to the extra real estate that could have been used). While I appreciate the fact it exists, and it works quite well, the actual real estate could be better utilized. Standard dummy lights flank the TFT itself, meaning there’s opportunity for an even bigger screen.


Still A Great Bike

At $10,599, I’m more than willing to forgive all my little complaints. The MT-09 is a powerhouse of a motorcycle for not a lot of money – and if you desire slightly better suspension and electronics, the SP version will be coming our way in just a few months. Since the MT’s major makeover in 2021, its performance has not been in question. With this latest update, I think it finally looks the part of a serious contender in the middleweight naked bike class. Which is good, because Ducati, Triumph, and KTM’s new 990 Duke have all made this field incredibly competitive.

Scorecard

Engine

18.5/20

Suspension

12.5/15

Transmission

9/10

Brakes

8/10

Instruments

4.5/5

Ergonomics

9/10

Appearance

9/10

Desirability

8/10

Value

9.5/10

Editors Score: 88.0%


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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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2 of 21 comments
  • Rich Rich on May 16, 2024

    The Yamaha MT-09 is a good bike in its class, probably somewhere in the top, too bad it's not better looking. Looks are subjective, but I think that the Kawasaki Z900, Ducati Monster, and the Triumph Street Triple are much better-looking bikes. Yamaha is stuck on that robotic look with their MT-series, not sure why? I will say that the MT-09 looks much better than its big brother the MT-10.

  • Paulévalence Paulévalence 2 days ago

    I'm hoping the improved screen and increased steering sweep make their way over to the XSR version. It's currently at the top of my "next bike" list

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