Dear MOby,

Thank God I’m in the enviable position of having a wife that gave me the OK to get whatever bike I want, after selling off all my old ones about seven years ago. So, here’s my parameters: After test riding a ton of stuff, I’ve decided I want a (bigger) naked bike, and in first place is the 2022 Yamaha MT-10. Pity its looks, but it’s got the goods otherwise.

I plan to modestly mod it (some cleanup to its looks, pipe/air filter/ecu, etc, and wouldn’t mind some links/recommendations on that if ya got any?), and I plan to get back into track days – nothing crazy, but I want something that will “keep up” as my skills show up again. Without going crazy on the mods, will this bike do the trick? Street performance is first and foremost, track ability a distant second, but still important.

Thanks!

Max


Dear Max,

We still love us some pure sportbikes at MO and always will, but the main reason for those hunched-over ergonomics and full fairings is lower lap times via aerodynamics. It’s obvious enough that it barely needs stating, but the less frontal area on a thing hurtling through the atmosphere, the easier it is for that thing to go faster. Shape shifting is the latest must-have in MotoGP, actually lowering the bike on its suspension to reduce drag on the straights. If you’re hurtling for money and fame or to outrun a surface-to-air missile, reducing drag is critical. If you’re hurtling for fun (and true, passing people on the track is brainstem-stimulation of the highest order), your ultimate lap time is less important than stringing apexes together as quickly and smoothly as you can.

And quit picking on its looks! The MT-10 looks fantastic from the comfy saddle.

Matter of fact, I rode a full-fairinged GSX-R600 around Chuckwalla the other day, followed by a KTM Duke 890 naked bike. I semi-assumed the Duke was going to feel like a sailboat after the hunkered-down Suzuki, but it really didn’t feel that way at all in my snug Spidi leathers and Arai Corsair helmet – just a bit taller. And in the corners, which Chuckwalla mostly is, the Duke’s more upright ergos make it just as easy to aim as the laser-beam GSX-R. Out of an excess of modesty, I never keep lap times (sarcasm), but the point is both bikes were absolutely effective, and the naked Duke didn’t feel the least bit out of place on the track. When you’re out there for fun (wait, I was on official MO business), aerodynamics just don’t seem to be as important as great suspension and a willing engine – and modern electronics aren’t a bad backup: The Suzuki had none, which added to the confidence level on the low-down torquier KTM.

Why suffer?

The new MT-10 of your dreams has engine, suspension, and electronics in spades, including the latest in lean-sensitive ABS and TC trickled down from the R1; yours truly had the very good fortune to review it here, where I gave it an excellent 94.25 rating. The new MT isn’t the most powerful big naked out there (we compared most of the others here last year); in fact at around 140 rear-wheel horsepower in stock form, it might be the weakest of the current bunch. But that’s still plenty; it’s hard to get the throttle open all the way on any of these for more than a second or two, even on a racetrack (other than a dragstrip). The V4 Streetfighter that won that shootout made 177 hp at 12,500 rpm; I doubt I ever wound it past 8000 rpm on the street, and it was already threatening to enter low orbit. There are great cases to be made for all the big naked bikes.

Street performance is first and foremost you say? I’ll quote myself from the 2022 MT-10 review then, where I called the MT-10 Yamaha’s best streetbike:

The only way you can argue the R1 is Yamaha’s best streetbike is if you’ve never ridden one: It’s the poster child for sportbike abuse… the MT-10 takes everything that’s good about the R1 and puts it in a package you can ride all day. If they called it a sport tourer I wouldn’t even argue. Not only are the ergos spot on for a huge swath of normal-sized humans, the suspension is somehow a notch above every other streetgoing Yamaha.  

Ask the gorill man who owns one

Who did we bump into at that Chuckwalla track day but the proprietor of Mickey Cohen Motorsports, Mickey Cohen, on his personal MT-10. For a man who’s spent his life building potent roadracing motorcycles (and loud high-po Harleys), the first thing I admired about Mickey’s personal MT-10 was how quiet it was. That’s the result of keeping the stock muffler in place while replacing the midpipe with a Leo Vince S-bend midpipe. With that Leo Vince pipe and a little bit of dyno tuning (on his in-house dyno) using a Power Commander 6, Mickey says his bike makes 167 horsepower at the tire, and 75 lb-ft of torque. The torque graph is more like a plateau than a curve, straight from 3 to 11,000 rpm, says Mickey. 

When you’re not at the track, it’s simple enough to do the right thing and stick the Yamaha’s stock midpipe, with catalyzer, back in place and still have more than enough power for street riding.

Normally, MC is on the cutting edge with the latest and greatest powersports equipment, boats, Mustangs, etc… but when he thought about trading this last-gen MT in for a new GSX-R1000, he didn’t think long before he decided naaaaaaaaaaah. Not only can he ride the wheels off the MT, he does it comfortably. Or that’s how it looked when he wheelied past my Aprilia RS660 out of the last corner. For a bit more ground clearance and increased traction, Mickey’s bike also uses a lengthened Ohlins shock at the rear, lengthened fork tubes, and a Dynojet quickshifter. 

The main thing the new 2022 MT-10 has going for it over the previous one is the latest in traction control and lean-sensitive brakes from the R1 (along with better suspension and lots of other detail upgrades). If you can find one to buy, I’m of the distinct opinion those electronics are worth every penny, especially if you’re just getting back into riding after a seven-year sabbatical. (If you can’t find an MT, and if street performance is “first and foremost” like you said, you need to also test ride a Kawasaki Z H2, because it has a supercharger.) Good luck!


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