Yamaha’s hugely successful MT (Max Torque) range was spawned 11 years ago with the release of the humungous MT-01 – the 1670cc V twin that looked like it was designed to be ridden by the steroid set from Venice Beach. But then the whole MT evolution started to gain more sense, in a street-wise kind of way.
Next came the MT-03, a 660cc single using a powerplant plucked from the Tenere. With the dark shadow of the Global Financial Crisis hanging over the world’s automotive and motorcycle industries, most manufacturers pulled in their horns and embarked on a holding pattern to see them through, but not Yamaha. While others were dog paddling, Yamaha’s engineers were hard at work on an all-new MT range that has reaped dividends beyond even their wildest dreams.
The ground-breaking MT-09 triple, launched in 2014, set the scene for a series of similarly-inspired models that adhered to the mantra of light weight, few frills, plenty of torque, nimble handling and above all, value for money. Soon after came the 654cc MT-07 twin, aimed directly at the Learner-approved segment, which was subsequently punched out to 689cc in HO (High Output) form. The 321cc twin cylinder MT-03 captured more of the LAMS market, so there was really only one segment left to invade – the top end.
Enter the MT-10, created from the DNA of the long-running and highly successful R1, using the 998cc cross-plane crank engine and aluminium Deltabox chassis. Inside the engine however, much has changed. New lighter forged pistons, smaller inlet valves, re-profiled camshafts and other tweaks result in a power output of 118kW at 11,500rpm, with 111Nm of torque and 9,000 rpm. What Yamaha call YCC-T (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle) provides the rider with a choice of three engine running modes, whereby the engine character can be instantly altered by electronic adjustment of throttle opening, ignition timing and fuel injection volume. There’s also 3-mode traction control, which can be switched off if required, an A&S (Assist & Slipper) clutch that gives very light lever action, plus the ability of the clutch to slip on the overrun to provide better control. Chassis-wise, the standard R1 frame has been fitted with a shorter swinging arm to produce a compact 1400mm wheelbase. Up front are KYB upside down cartridge forks that are fully adjustable, while the rear uses a KYB shock on a bottom-link Monocross set up which is also completely adjustable.
A day of play
Yamaha chose the Queensland Sunshine Coast for the media launch of the MT-10, and thoughtfully brought along the complete MT range for us hacks to re-familiarise ourselves with. Throughout the course of a long day, I rode the lot, from the MT-03 up, but there was intense competition among the journos to grab one of the five MT-10s on offer. Some of the roads we covered actually comprised the mooted Sunshine Coast TT course, and if ever a motorcycle was in its element, it is here. Apart from a slightly firm seat, the riding position of the MT-10 was just about perfect for me. Like the rest of the MT range, there is precious little in front of the handlebars apart from the instrument, which is easily read and contains an encyclopaedia of information as to the various modes and all sorts of other news. The superlight clutch and gearbox (which has an optional quick-shift available) are a delightful combination, and there’s even cruise control for 4th, 5th and 6th gear. I didn’t go near this function; it was too much fun playing tunes on the gearbox and revelling in that glorious engine. Wow, what an engine. The uneven firing and balance of the cross-plane crank produces a most unique sensation – surging torque and what feels like an almost flat power curve.
In the most aggressive of the three engine modes, the acceleration will just about pull your gloves off, but even in the standard mode, there’s plenty of mumbo, delivered in a way that forces you back into the seat (which has a little stopper to prevent you sliding right off the back) in the nicest way. The handling is as close to faultless as I imagine you can get, and this has much to do with the careful attention to weight distribution and the handlebar, seat, footrest relationship. Brakes? Superb. Big 4-piston jobs on 320 front rotors with not just immense stopping power, but wonderful progression and feel.
In terms of aesthetics, the MT-10 further extends the MT range credo of aggressive, minimal angular looks. There are three colour options; Tech Black, Race Blu, and a very pleasant combination of grey bodywork with fluro yellow wheels. One accessory worth fitting would be a radiator guard; one of the test bikes suffered a stone through the cooling department with the resultant coating of the rear tyre in hot liquid.
The MT range would now appear to be complete, but then again, Yamaha could well have another card up its sleeve. And at $17,999, the MT-10 will find plenty of buyers.
Off-the-shelf – Yamaha MT-10
Engine: 998cc DOHC 4 cylinder, 4 vales per cylinder, liquid cooled. Wet sump.
Bore x stroke: 79.0mm x 50.9mm
Comp. ratio: 12.0:1
Power: 118.0kW at 11,500 rpm
Torque: 111.0 Nm at 9,000 rpm
Fuel system: EFI, consumption 8 litres/100 km
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive.
Frame: Aluminium Deltabox
Front: 43mm KYB forks 120mm travel
Rear: KYB Monoshock 120mm travel
Front: Front: 2 x 320mm discs
Rear: Single 220mm disc.
Front: 120/70 ZR17
Rear: 190/55 ZR17
Seat height: 825mm
Weight: 210kg w/full fuel & oil.
Warranty: 24 months unlimited km parts and labour.
Price: $17,999 + ORC
Test bike: Yamaha Motor Australia.