Copyright 2021, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
By Michel Gougis
Fast, light for its market segment, comfortable and balanced, Yamaha’s Tracer 9 GT has always been targeted for the rider who really wants a 50-50 balance of speed and comfort in his bike. This has always been a great choice for a rider who wants a motorcycle capable of performing a wide range of tasks, in style but without pretension.
For 2021, Yamaha has changed the recipe for the popular sport-tourer, adding features at the cost of a little more weight. New suspension components, new driving aids and a new cockpit make a machine even more efficient. And if it sounds boring and pedestrian, it isn’t. Not by far.
Yamaha unleashed a pack of motojournalists on the last Tracer 9 GT on Southern California back roads for the day, and after several photo stops we managed to cover exactly 166.5 miles. At that point, I had a pretty good idea of the good and the bad about this machine, and the list of good ones absolutely eclipses the list of bad ones.
This model has always been based on Yamaha’s smooth three-cylinder inline engine, and this year the Tracer gets the latest version of that powertrain. The displacement can reach 890 cm3, the emissions comply with the Euro5 standard and most of the internal components have been redesigned. The increased inertia of the crankshaft and the slightly higher first and second gears are the most important. The fuel injection system has been redesigned, as has the intake and exhaust.
An all-new aluminum frame showcases some of Yamaha’s crazy skills in controlled-fill aluminum die-casting – some sections of the frame are as thin as 1.7mm. The swingarm is longer and is now mounted inside the side members of the double frame, which increases rigidity.
Electronic upgrades abound. There is a new six-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU), which is part of a neural network that includes corner-sensitive ABS and active KYB suspension front and rear. Clutchless ascent and descent are standard. A full line of LED lighting now incorporates cornering lights that illuminate the top of a corner.
More minor changes include a new radial master cylinder for the front brakes and a dual thin-film transistor instrument panel layout. New bodywork and saddlebags are part of the upgrade.
Ride the plotter 9
A forest fire forced us to change our route, so we spent most of the time rushing down the roads behind the Angeles National Forest, through miles of scorched landscape and past at least one lama in the look puzzled. We drove a few miles of crowded city streets and a moderately congested freeway.
I took a moment to adjust the machine to my liking before starting. I set the active suspension electronically to the softer A-2 mode, set the traction control suite (it also incorporates slip control and wheel control) to setting # 1 (the least intrusive) and set the driving mode to its most aggressive setting. I remembered that Yamaha had done a remarkable job with mapping their previous Tracer models and their predecessors, and I was counting on their continued good work here. As I walked away, the clutch lever was light, and I never used it again. Clutchless shifting is a godsend in traffic.
I found the riding position comfortable as the machine came out of the factory. Remember, this model has adjustable footrests, adjustable handlebars, adjustable seat and windshield. The higher bars really don’t make the road racer-style travel in the cockpit very comfortable. The machine felt like it wanted the pilot to sit in one place and stay there.
Fortunately, once on the secondary roads, the bike responded well to the demands of the bars and to a little inclination of the upper body. The chassis allowed for quick transitions and was reasonably stable at mid-corner. The electronic suspension, set to A-1 mode for twist ends, was still consistent but really helped to minimize fork back-and-forth and shock. I admire the work KYB has done in adapting the technology to a moderately priced machine.
The new radial master cylinder offered better feel to the front brake lever, and there was plenty of stopping power for whatever this machine was likely to encounter.
Yamaha wanted this bike to develop power more deliberately than previous versions of the Triple. And I certainly noticed it. Combined with the slightly higher gearing, the bike spins slower in the lower end of the rev range. Above 6,500 RPM, however, the Triple wakes up and sings to the indicated red line of 9,500 RPM.
Little things: Cruise control is simple, efficient, and intuitive, and I’ve used it all the time. Yamaha has found a true balance between sophistication and user-friendliness when it comes to its electronic steering aids. It is very simple to switch between the choices of the traction control suite, drive modes and suspension modes. More granular settings on things like ABS mode force the rider to stop, which I really don’t mind – it’s a good idea for a rider to be at rest when facing heavy traffic. small detailed changes. Twin dashes are fully customizable and are more useful than you might think. The heated grips now offer 10 different settings, pure luxury.
Here’s my whole “bad” list: With more buttons on the left handlebars, I found it a bit more difficult to locate the turn signal switch. And while the wind deflectors on the handlebars definitely kept the breeze out of my hands, I had a little reptile brain melt every time I reached the brake lever and touched the deflector. I learned to brake with two fingers, thus avoiding the deflector and the aforementioned panic microsecond.
Yamaha has seen great success with the Tracer 9, and the new model is an even better place to spend a long day in the cockpit. The combination of speed, handling and comfort is the definition of the concept of sport touring, and the new electronics allow the bike to do more of what I wanted it to do with more comfort and confidence. I feel another trip to Seattle is coming …
The suggested retail price is $ 14,899.