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2023 YAMAHA TRACER GT PLUS – “SHOW ME ON THE DOLLY WHERE THOSE PANNIERS HURT YOU…”

It now comes with added sorcery.

IMAGES BY MATT McINTYRE

Dear MT-09 hooligans,

Uncle Yamaha has something new for you to get your unhinged on with.

You can see the panniers from space.

Yes, I can see the panniers. They come off. I will tell you that over and over, because I know how jarring to your sensibilities they are.

So just relax, and let me walk the non-MT-09 world through the new Tracer GT Plus.

It is exceedingly clever.

We all know Yamaha has made a glorious fist of the in-line triple engine. It’s MT-09 and XSR900 range are class-leading motorcycles in terms of power and handling, and in both cases you’re getting quite a lot of bang for your buck. You cannot ride an MT-09 and not be astonished at the filthy gobs of hilarity-inducing torque it feeds the back tyre. Which is, obviously, the whole point of Yamaha’s Master of Torque range.

 

With 93Nm of torque and 117 horsies, the MT-09 is quite the universal bike. You can scratch on them, commute on them, and tour on them. This is precisely what makes them such a sales success. Sure, they may not be the most aesthetically ravishing girls, but they do have a certain tech-mech vibe about them which speaks to younger riders.

Fear no Armco, the sorcery is there.

The early models sported suspension which sometimes became a little overwhelmed by the ferocity with which the bikes could be ridden by red-eyed and purposeful men, but that has certainly been addressed in the new Tracer Nine GT Plus – which is Yamaha’s Gran Turismo version of the MT-09.

 

But Yamaha has addressed far more than the suspension – which is electronic on the GT Plus. It has actually contrived to create a bike with a very high level of electronic sophistication.

 

What’s that you say? You don’t care? You want two-strokes to come back, you can out-brake ABS, and your throttle-control is such you regard any electronic rider aids to be some kind of cop-out?

It’s not real suede, thank god. But it is rather more comfy than it once was.

I’m thinking you have your dunce hat on pretty snugly.

 

The reasoned response to your inane derangement is simple.

 

You cannot out-brake ABS, and anything that helps me ride faster and cheat death with a greater abandon, I’m good with it. You don’t like it? Cool. Go buy something from the 90s.

 

The GT Plus is so utterly 2023.

Yamaha knows all there is to know about sweet-handling bikes.

Check this sorcery out…

You know about Adaptive Cruise Control, right? The Tracer has that and it’s jazzed up with a new Millimetre Wave Radar system. Just like a fighter jet. But unlike a fighter jet, the Tracer also boasts a radar-assisted Unified Brake System.

 

And yes, we are now well into the realm of “WTF is that even?”

 

I have tried to break it down so that even my monkey-brain can understand, and you can find my explanation at the end of this.

 

What I want to tell you about is just how much better the Tracer GT Plus is at being a crazed long-distance hooligan weapon, camouflaged with what have to be the ugliest panniers ever to grace a motorcycle. Sure they come off, and they are certainly capacious – and you can compound the visual struggle by adding a top-box if you’re wired in that deeply wrong way. The panniers are deeper than they are longer, if you know what I mean, and that jars the eye.

The sacred toggle – and everything is backlit so you can see it at night.

The rest of the bike is not unhandsome, and in the right light and the correct angle, can look a bit evil. I’m thinking the two-tone paint-job is trying to mitigate that, but I’m not sure why.

 

If this matters to you, I get it. If it doesn’t, then hang onto your underpants, because this is the full MT-09 experience backed with glorious electronic suspension and fighter jet sorcery.

 

Truth be told, that MT-09 experience feels altogether upgraded with the Tracer GT Plus – the quickshifter is the latest incarnation of its type, the seat is better (both for the rider and pillion), the new seven-inch TFT screen hooks up to your phone via the standard MyRide app (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cable) – and you can use the Garmin Motorise app to turn the screen into a navigational television – which is cheaper than buying a GPS.

Here it is shooting its radar at the world. That screen is pretty good, too.

The whole control system runs off a toggle switch on the left switchblock – an elegant solution to increasingly more complex switchblocks – and all the buttons are back-lit, which is great.

 

If you feel a little overwhelmed by all this, don’t be. I found it all rather intuitive, and I’m a caveman.

 

And all it really does is enhance what is already a ferociously able and satisfying bike to ride.

 

I think it falls a little short of being the supreme and epically comfy mile-eater the FJR was, but then it will out-handle, out-brake, and out-hooligan that big girl with absolute ease.

Even the road signs point to the panniers.

It looks a little quirky with its munted panniers, but very few bikes do luggage in a sexy way, and like I said, they do come off with ease.

 

At its heart, it remains the weapon it was always designed to be. That triple engine is one of the best engines ever put into any bike, and this is the heart and soul of the entire MT-09 range. The fact that Yamaha has chosen to develop it into a touring bike, made it handle better, brake better, and added a very impressive suite of electronic sorcery to it, makes it far more than the sum of its parts.

On low-beam Yamaha always only ever runs one light. No idea why that is so.

I spent a most fulfilling three weeks with the GT Plus. I did not get to do any big trips on it, but I did manage several 700km days and an abundance of back-road swervery in the company of like-minded miscreants.

 

They would look at me with concern, over the top of their litre sportsbikes, when we’d stop after a particularly…erm, bracing section of road.

Let’s just hope the cops never get these things.

“Goes alright that thing,” one of them would venture.

 

“Are you surprised?” I would ask.

“Well…yeah,” the reply came. “The panniers had me fooled…but then when I’m chasing you, I just hear that screaming engine and the quickshifter…and, well, those bloody panniers are a bit hard to catch.”

 

“Best you buy the first round and tell me more about how hurt your manhood is then…”

This is where it lives…

WHAT IS THIS RADAR SORCERY ALL ABOUT?

Firstly, there’s the now-familiar following distance thing on the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). You decide how close you want to get to the car in front before the system intervenes. You have four choices. It is gear-dependent (naturally), and will deactivate if you use the clutch or shut the throttle.

WHAT IS THIS RADAR SORCERY ALL ABOUT?

Firstly, there’s the now-familiar following distance thing on the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). You decide how close you want to get to the car in front before the system intervenes. You have four choices. It is not quite gear-dependent like the old one was, but will still deactivate if you use the clutch or shut the throttle. But you can now select it in any gear if you’ve met the correct speed criteria. So selecting 40 in second gear is handy in school zones.

But there’s more cleverness. The system knows when you’re using the blinker, figures you’re overtaking, and accelerates more smoothly to the pre-set speed. And it’s all linked to the suspension and brakes.

We are not done yet.

There is a Unified Brake System (UBS) here. It offers Cornering ABS, and it regulates and balances out your ham-fisted braking efforts, even adding front brake if it thinks you’re not slowing down enough just using the back brake. And it’s pretty seamless in that regard. I don’t tend to just use my back brake, but I tried it out a few times and it just…well, blended into the whole paradigm.

This is its Brake Control (BC) system. When it’s on, and if it thinks, thanks to the radar, you’re about to munt yourself into a car that’s stopped in front of you, and you’re not hard enough on the brakes, it will apply more brakes.

And it is also all linked to the electronic suspension and the bike’s IMU.

This is as clever as it gets at the moment.

And just so you know, the system doesn’t work at very low speeds or very high speeds, and is in stasis when there is no acceleration or deceleration happening.

HOW MUCH? $27,599

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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