2017 Yamaha MT-10SP Review

Powerful, agile and stylistically unique

Words by Boris Mihailovic – Images by Nick Edards and Yamaha

2017 Yamaha MT-10SP
The 2017 Yamaha MT-10SP

It’s virtually impossible to fault Yamaha’s flagship naked. The MT-10 is a superb motorcycle. It’s powerful, agile, and stylistically unique. When I rode one last year, it made me a little crazy.

“So what would really happen if I didn’t give it back?” I thought. “Yamaha is a big company. This is just one motorcycle. Would Yamaha even miss it? What if I change my phone number?” And so on and so forth.

Yamaha's standard MT-10 ticks all the boxes... so what about the MT-10SP?
Yamaha’s standard MT-10 ticks all the boxes… so what about the MT-10SP?

I liked the MT-10 very much, as you can guess. It inspired and delighted me. I gelled with it on a base level, and I came to appreciate its brutal, bug-eyed, tech-mech appearance. I found myself longing for the robot apocalypse…and then I gave it back and things returned to what passes for normal for me these days.

At its base, this MT-10 is an ergonomically sensible motorcycle propelled by the uniquely fiendish insanity of Yamaha’s re-tuned and crossplane-cranked R1 engine. So it doesn’t even sound like any other in-line four as it pastes your face with hell-speed.

Styling straight out of the robo-apocalypse
Styling straight out of the robot apocalypse

They all shriek. This one grumbles. It makes a sound like icebergs calving or mountains rubbing their pinnacles together. And it pulls everything closer sooner as such a thing is expected to do. But I don’t care about the MT-10 anymore.

I have taken my pants off for the MT-10SP. And that SP can only stand for Special Porridge. For this porridge is seriously special, thanks to the addition of Öhlins ERS. So if SP stands for Special Porridge, Öhlins ERS should stand for Extremely Resplendent Superiority.

Yamaha MT-10 SP
Yamaha MT-10 SP

But it doesn’t, as odd as that may sound. Öhlins ERS stands for Electronic Racing Suspension. And that is what it is, and that is what it does. And I don’t think anyone does it better. For my money, there’s maybe two manufacturers who do electronic suspension really well.

The MT-10SP showcases the Öhlins ERS or Electronic Racing Suspension
The MT-10SP showcases the Öhlins ERS or Electronic Racing Suspension

Yamaha is one of them, and its partnership with Öhlins is simply sensational – it’s a Bogie and Bacall thing, for sure. And it lifts the SP above its rivals and sets it square against king-beasts like the new KTM Super Duke R, which overpowers the MT-10 a little in the engine department, but not in any way any normal human being would even notice.

In fact, the two bikes are simultaneously similar and poles apart. One is a twin, one is a four, after all. The Yamaha feels physically bigger, steers a breath slower, and is quintessentially Japanese in how it goes about its business.

Yamaha MT-10 SP
Yamaha MT-10 SP

But the philosophy behind their respective creation is the same, the electronic taming of a wickedly aggressive and potent motorcycle in a way that is unnoticeable by the rider, but for which he is, by the Throne of Almighty God, grateful for in the extreme. And I do so like that in a motorcycle.

The SP takes the MT-10 to that next level of delight
The SP takes the MT-10 to that next level of delight

So while the base MT-10 is a hoot to ride, the Special Porridge version takes you to that next level of delight. It is the most technologically advanced suspension on any street-based Yamaha, and yes, we have now moved into YZF-R1M territory. O happy day.

The SP also provides you with a TFT dash, which you don’t get on the base model, and which once again echoes the R1M’s equipment. And of course, it is a special colour (Silver Blu Carbon – and yes, that is how it’s being spelled), and comes with blue wheels, a black front guard, and gold forks.

Yamaha MT-10 SP
Yamaha MT-10 SP

The field-hands will instantly know you’re not astride just any old MT10. What does all this exclusivity cost? The standard MT-10 is $18,499. The Special Porridge is $21,499 – a difference of $3000.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. No issue. I wouldn’t even think twice about it. I can always go and rob another servo if I have to. The suspension alone is worth that to me. There is of course nothing much wrong with the bouncers on the base model. But come on, this is Öhlins, people.

The MT-10SP comes at a $3000 premium but for the Öhlins alone is worth it...
The MT-10SP comes at a $3000 premium but for the Öhlins alone is worth it…

Electronic Racing Öhlins, no less, and adjustable 16 million ways as well as in seven different dimensions. For $3000? Take my bloody money. Where you will most notice what you’ve paid for is, of course, on the road…..

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.