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And these are very high indeed...


One of the few times I’m ever in front of Aaron.

This is probably the most interesting and valid bike comparison I’ve ever done. And I don’t even like doing bike comparos because they’re utterly pointless in many ways. But Yamaha’s flagship naked up against Yamaha’s world-beating and legendary R1? It’s an in-house pissing contest of the finest kind. Two of the hairiest-balled bitch-slappers ever made, right there.


And it all began like this…

“If the cops come, just bugger off. I’ll distract them.”

“Geezer gave me two bikes,” Aaron said when he pulled up in front of my house with a trailer full of what the Chinese call Double Happiness.


“Question not the way of the Geez,” I intoned.


“Which one do you want?” Aaron asked.

It really is a brutal-looking beast. The bike, I mean.

“I want them both, but I will essay the MT first because I am old and grizzled and positively grim with meanness. The MT-10SP tends to soothe me.”

There is no finer blue on earth.

“How does it do that?” Aaron asked.


“It terrifies the shitting Jesus out of me while simultaneously exalting me like the finest cocaine-laced adrenaline.”

Let’s just idle around here, shall we? My neck is killing me.

“And the R1 doesn’t do that to you?”


“No,” I shrugged. “The R1 does other things to me.”

His neck is different to mine…

So let us first regard the numbers. And we need to do that because while the bikes are essentially identical in many ways, they are also very different in more fundamental ways.


The MT-10SP makes 112Nm at 9000rpm and produces 163 horses at 9000rpm. It weighs 214kg wet. The R1 makes 113Nm at 11,500rpm and produces 197 horses at 13,500rpm. And it weighs 201kg wet.

That collector box does it no favours, but it is a disposable item.

I don’t care about these numbers, but you can see what’s going on here, right? It’s the same cross-plane-cranked engine, but one has been tuned for liquifying your shit on the racetrack, and the other is dedicated to liquifying it on the road. The Family Values of massive torque, scads of power, the most unique-sounding in-line four on earth, and Yamaha quality, are otherwise identical.

If a motorcycle was a clenched and mailed fist…

The SP has semi-active Gen 2 Öhlins suspension and the base R1 does not, but the M version does – and so a more direct comparison would be between the M and SP, but it really isn’t all about the suspension. It’s obvious the semi-active Öhlins bouncers are more devoutly luscious. But there ain’t all that much wrong with the standard R1’s suspension. And I’m not Valentino Rossi, right? I’m certainly in no position to push that either suspension out of its comfort zone – and neither are you, if you’re honest.


Aaron is a bit of a dab hand at going faster than me, and because he’s the size of a greyhound, his experience is different to mine. Because I’m not comfortable, I struggle on the R1. Because Aaron is comfortable, he doesn’t.


“Effortless is the word I think of when describing the way this thing handles,” he informed me. “And that’s despite the stock suspension. It steers with a confidence-inspiring accuracy, again effortless, when on the change of direction flicking from side to side.”

I love its evil, evil face.

“Yeah, I noticed that following you,” I said. And note that while I could follow Aaron when I was on the MT, I struggled to keep him in sight when we swapped bikes and I was on the R1.


“The front-end is the best I have ever ridden on to date, no question,” he then added.

But this is another level of evil altogether.

He’s probably right. But I feel that way about the MT-10SP.


Clearly, the MT-10 is meant for sinning carnally and with profound malice upon the roads – and it makes a superb commuter, weekend scratcher, trackday weapon, and indeed, tourer. It does it all.

Mode A – so Aaron was riding it – but there are several permutations and you can tailor the engine maps to your needs.


Same dash, as you’d expect, but Mode B, so this is me riding it.

The R1? Well, that’s meant to slay racetracks. Everything about it says: “Giz racetrack, bitch.” And it’s serious. Its entire focus is on the track. Yes, of course you can commute and tour on it – because you can get a Ventura rack for anything these days – and if I was in my 20s or 30s, then that’s what I would be doing. Hell, I spent a year touring and commuting on a MV Agusta F4 in my late 40s, and the R1 is a lounge chair by comparison.

I have no idea why Yamaha only gives us one light at low-beam. I want both.

But I ain’t 40 no more. The R1 is cruel to me. Actually, that’s probably not fair to the R1 to say that. It’s more like I am no longer able get the most out of it because I am no longer physically disposed to its brutal eat-my-shit racer’s crouch.


Aaron, on the other hand, is very much disposed to it. He loves it. He was gushing so much when we went for a blat, I was gonna hit him with a lump of wood to settle him.


“What’s wrong with you?” he asked as I bitched and moaned and walked around in circles. “The ergos are exactly what one would expect on an R1, a full racer’s crouch. Comfort? That’s for couches. I don’t know why comfort is even bought into the equation. What did you expect from a sports bike designed for sin and evil? The riding position is completely acceptable, the R1 was designed for a purpose, and you ride it as such.”

Love the ergos.

“Can you knife-fight?” I asked.


“No,” he said.


“Then fuck off over there.”


But he’s right. You don’t buy an R1 and then moan about how uncomfortable it is. Racing bikes are not about comfort. They are about racing.


But the tune on that R1 engine is something else. There is nothing like it. It is, literally, born to howl and growl.

Aaron loves these ergos. Bastard.

“It’s insanely glorious on the road, “Aaron blubbed at me. “The way it delvers its power is something other manufacturers should replicate. There are no hills or hollows in the power-curve. It’s strong from the bottom of the rev-range to the top-end of the tacho…no delays…no waiting until 9000 for it to come into its own…”


I agree with him, but I told him to shut-up anyway. For me, the evil blue bastard flings itself at whatever horizon you point it at and you just have to remember to breathe.


I was all about the MT. Just quietly, I have always been all about the MT – and not just this King Daddy. I love the entire range. But the King Daddy is the King Daddy, after all. And the Öhlins-equipped MT-10SP sits right on top of that big, evil mountain of torque-gushing, naked monsters a man of my size and vintage can ride with ease and…well, aplomb.


Aaron liked it too, as if I gave much of a shit.

Once again, it was a bit damp when we were shooting.

“It’s hard not to like it,” he told me.


“No shit.”


“It’s got that whole power and torque thing going on that the R1 has, but that riding position and suspension…it’s not here to fuck spiders, is it?”


“No, it certainly is not,” I grinned.

Where the monsters live.

“There’s no sacrifice in the handling, is there?”


“For me there’s not, and I far prefer the MT to the R1, but that’s a Seniors Moment thing.”


“That suspension is amazing.”


“Öhlins. Gen 2 Öhlins,” I shrugged. “Your first time on it?”


He nodded. I understood.

Yes, the yellow glory is worth the extra bucks.

So what else do you need to know about these two literal diamonds? The ride modes have been tweaked from what I can tell. A (for Animal) and B (for Beast) has been smoothed, seemingly, on both bikes. I left them both in B because A is really and properly feral and best for smooth racetracks. Bumpy roads and light-switch throttle responses are rarely a happy pairing. C is Rain Mode, and I don’t care about that.

Probably not the optimum line through here.

Both bikes are superbly engineered and built. Yamaha does that. It plays second fiddle to no-one in that regard. It’s why they last forever, I guess.


I’d have the MT-10SP over the R1. Obviously. Aaron is a different animal.

Oh, to be 20 years younger and 20kg lighter…

“My heart belongs with the hardcore sports bikes, and therefore the R1,” he told me over a beer at the Bulga pub.


“I need an explanation,” I said.


“I have no logical reason for this, I just love the R1. But I can’t get past the suspension and comfort MT10-SP offers. If logic plays a part in the decision, and you do most of your riding on the road, well, you’ll struggle to do better than the MT10-SP.”

“So, I’m right!”


“No, you’re not.”


“Am too so.”


In the end, what both bikes offer is a gleeful middle finger to the steady decline of the public’s former adoration of high-performance superbikes. That used to be a thing. It was canon.


But people no longer seem to crave monsters like this – despite the fact they are as easy to ride casually as they are to ride with malicious intent.


It’s somehow no longer socially acceptable to laud performance bikes. I don’t get it. Aaron doesn’t get it.


These bikes are the pinnacle of the manufacturer’s craft – and both the R1 and the MT-10SP are Yamaha’s gleaming spear-point. They demonstrate what the factory is capable of at the pointy end.


And it’s truly quite amazing.


 All the tech info, colours, prices, and info is at this link.


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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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