Yamaha MT-01 Review – By Trevor Hedge
Marrying a huge long-stroke v-twin to an agile sporting chassis has been done before.
Harley-Davidson was probably the most successful at it sales-wise with their long running Sportster line-up. Sister company Buell also enjoyed major success with shoe-horning a Harley powerplant into a much lighter and more agile chassis than Harley’s Sportster range offered.
Normally it is always the Americans that out-size everything but in regards to big twins in an agile chassis, Yamaha took the cake with their revolutionary MT-01 in 2005.
The MT-01 first took people’s breath away when it was unveiled as a concept model at the Tokyo Motor Show at the turn of the century. Five years later the machine made it into production as a Europe only model before entering the Australian market shortly thereafter. In 2009 Yamaha Australia also presented a new slightly higher equipped MT-01 SP.
This review focuses on the regular MT-01 and our experiences with the machine across those years. Feel free to add your own opinion of the model at the end of the article, feedback from owners of the machine is of course more than welcome.
At first glance the MT-01 looks almost entirely machined from billet aluminium. Of course, the huge 1670cc engine derived from Yamaha’s Road Warrior cruiser is the most dominant feature closely followed by the long mufflers and high line of the tank. There is never any doubt that the MT-01 is a big bike.
On picking Yamaha’s MT-01 off the side-stand my first impression of the machine was one of top heaviness. That might pose a few problems for those that are very short or slight of build during parking manoeuvres but once underway those concerns quickly disappear. And despite its hefty 240kg dry weight, the MT-01 actually steers quite nicely.
I was a little concerned that the weight of the internals of the cruiser sourced 1670cc engine would really mess with the handling of the machine as I headed out of pit lane at Phillip Island but my scepticism proved unfounded.
Later I noted my surprise of this to a Yamaha representative and it turns out Yamaha were smart enough to use a much lighter crankshaft assembly than found in the Road Star Warrior cruiser that otherwise shares its basic mechanical layout with the MT-01.
There are no real major dramas with excessive engine braking and despite the cruiser origins the gearbox is reasonably cooperative and the shift throw not overly long.
The low revving nature of the engine certainly shows its cruiser roots with a redline of only 5500rpm. The torque curve is flat as a tack from idle through to around 5000rpm where it noticeably falls away. Coincidentally 4750rpm is also where maximum power arrives but that is of little consequence as short shifting and riding the torque curve is what the MT-01 experience is all about. A massive 150Nm of torque is delivered with as little as 3750rpm showing on the huge tachometer.
A beefy set of inverted forks cope well enough with the weight of the machine and are well balanced to the single shock rear end. The machine does not wallow or pitch too much even if riding with a reasonable amount of aggression. The fact that Yamaha replaced the belt drive system of the cruiser with a conventional chain drive layout almost certainly helps in this regard.
Plenty of ground clearance and large sportsbike rubber adds to the cornering potential. The MT-01 is certainly up to a spirited road ride and good enough to muster a quick enough, within reason, trackday pace if that tickles your fancy. In fact, along with riding the machine at Phillip Island, I have also clung to the back of Robbie Baird around Wanneroo Raceway during an Australian Superbike lunchtime interlude as the factory Yamaha backed racer showcased the machine to spectators.
A hefty machine demands some serious stopping power and Yamaha ensured that the original MT-01 had exactly that with dinner plate sized floating discs and YZF-R1 derived radial four-piston calipers. In 2007 the MT-01 braking hardware was upgraded with the six-piston calipers from Yamaha’s flagship YZF-R1 of the same year and the stoppers deliver excellent stopping power with good feel at the lever. The 267mm rear disc proves a great aid in tight cornering with a reasonable amount of feel through the pedal.
The riding position is quite relaxed with a slim feel between the knees and a wonderfully supportive seat that makes the cockpit a pleasant place to be. This is quite surprising really as when viewed from side-on the high angle of the slope from the seat to the tank looks far from ergonomically pleasing but funnily enough it works quite well. Only on a really long run does the locked in riding position become overly tiresome. The same can’t be said for your passenger as the pillion seat on the MT-01 makes the small perch on sportsbikes look good.
Wind buffeting is tolerable and better than many nakedbikes, which means that using the full 200km touring range of the 15 litre fuel tank does not prove too tiresome.
Thankfully Yamaha put a lot more thought into this machine than simply just banging the engine from the Warrior into a sporty nakedbike chassis and as a result the reward is a riding experience that is distinctly unique and quite enjoyable.
The list of accessories is almost endless; three different stages of engine upgrade kits, a downright beautiful Akrapovic exhaust system and even a tasteful fairing kit for those that like their muscle looking a little more retro. Definitely try and find some room in your budget for the exhaust as complete with headers it is a work of art and really does complete the MT-01 look.
Specs – Yamaha MT-01
- Engine – 1670cc, air cooled, DOHC, V-twin
- Claimed Power – 90hp (67kW) @ 4750rpm
- Claimed Torque – 150Nm @ 3750rpm
- Transmission – Five speed, chain final drive
- Seat Height – 825mm
- Dry Weight – 243kg
- Fuel Capacity – 15 Litres
- Average Consumption on test – 7.5 litres per 100km
- Range – 200km
- Warranty – Two years
- Price – $19,899
- + A better ride than most would imagine
- + Smooth running at low rpm
- + Great brakes
- + About as individual as Japanese motorcycles get
- – Engine signs off very early
- – Small fuel tank
- – Gorgeous optional Akrapovic pipes are hideously expensive
- – Not pillion friendly
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