Photos by: Joe Augustin
Heaping praise upon Yamaha’s naked bikes has become all too easy lately. Yes, the MT-07 did get dethroned in last year’s Middleweight Naked comparison, but not by much – and it took brand-new motorcycles from Aprilia and Triumph to do it. When it came time for the 900cc(ish) Nakeds last August, the newly revamped MT-09 surprised a couple people by taking the cake against KTM Duke 890 and five other very nice and mostly more expensive motorcycles. Sadly, when it was time for the Open Class Nakeds shootout last November, the MT-10 got left out. We thought it was too old, and couldn’t win. Plus, we knew the 2022 Yamaha MT-10 was on its way. Possibly to save the day.
Battle Royale: 7-Way Heavyweight Naked Bike Shootout
Plugging a Euro 5-compliant CP4 with all the latest electronic goodies into a comfortable, affordable, R1 chassis… someday we may look back and say, this was Yamaha’s finest hour.
Editor Score: 94.25%
|+ Highs||– Sighs|
Now that they’ve dragged the MT-10 kicking and screaming into Euro 5 compliance, rather than reinventing the wheel, Yamaha applied much of the MT-09 treatment to the King of its Masters of Torque familia, including its dark energy design language.
Unlike the lesser MTs which get their own graceful vacuum-formed aluminum frames, the MT-10 shares its skeleton with the YZF-R1, but now you can see it better thanks to a rethink of the bodywork and a removal of a couple of modesty panels. This being the same frame Yamaha uses to contest the WSBK title, it’s quite the feat of engineering, tuned for high longitudinal rigidity as well as torsional and lateral flex.
Atop it, there’s a new gas tank cover, containing a new airbox like the MT-09 one, with three different-length intake ducts “tuned to resonate harmoniously at varying engine speeds to create a unique intake roar.” You can appreciate that, because new “Acoustic Amplifier Grilles” at the front corners of the tank are directed right at your noggin, where they marinate your eardrums in that distinctly syncopated CP4 intake honk/whistle that gives these bikes so much of their character.
At the exhaust end, some like their big-Twin thump, some prefer a three-cylinder howl – but the MT-10’s crossplane-cranked 998cc Four sounds like a pair of quietly rumbly 90-degree twins joined at the hip, because that’s basically what it is. Go ahead and thank a bureaucrat for forcing Yamaha to find new ways to make its point sonically without a loud exhaust.
Now that we’re fully r-b-w (complete with Accelerator Position Sensor Grip – APSG – which employs a spring, slider and gear mechanism to produce a natural throttle feel), Yamaha also added the now-obligatory six-axis IMU which brings with it the latest in R1 rider aids and four ride modes.
Shut up and ride
Some mornings you can just tell you’re in for an extraordinary motorcycle ride, and this one, setting out from the hotel parking lot in downtown Asheville, North Carolina (next to Thomas Wolfe’s old house) felt like one. Yamaha’s people had laid out about a 155-mile course mostly through snaking two-lane backroads and along the Blue Ridge Parkway, on a Thursday that got hot later, but in the morning was chilly for the fashion conscious. Un-fashion conscious, I staved off rain for the group by wearing my new Aerostich suit, which was perfect for all of it. (The group that split from mine at the end of the day, got drenched.)
Good to ride the King
We like the MT-07, MT-09, and new XSR900 fine, but all the manufacturers seem to keep things in reserve for their flagship machines. The finishes and level of detail on the MT-10 in the parking lot are nearly what you’d expect from MV Agusta, without the flashiness. The broad seat’s not quite suede but something like it, all the other contact points on the bike are perfect, with just the right chunkiness between the ankles to remind you this one’s the King of Torque, and the paint and graphics on the Cyan model are impeccable (even though some of the decals aren’t clear coated).
We left the MT out of last year’s Heavyweight Nakeds Shootout because it hadn’t been updated in a while, and because the 136-ish rear-wheel horsepower it put down in 2017 seemed underwhelming compared to the new Ducati Streetfighter V4 (177 hp @ 12,500 rpm) and KTM Super Duke (159 hp @ 9700 rpm). But we all know 136 still feels like plenty on the road, especially when it’s meted out so perfectly and progressively. With these bikes, torque’s the thing really. On the street, power just isn’t the limiting factor for these motorcycles for any but the most insane riders.
They say the seat, at 32.9 inches, is 10mm higher than before, but narrower through the thighs, so I didn’t notice: My 30-inch legs had no problem finding the floor. The lean forward to the handlebar is just enough to inform you that you may experience startling acceleration and should maintain a good grip at all times. Once you’re out of town, the oncoming air at the cruising speeds the bike likes usually nicely offset the lean forward if you’re 5’8″ like me.
Through towns and traffic where there’s no lane filtering (gee I wonder why you don’t see more motorcycles here?), the MT’s perfectly content to pussycat along even if you aren’t, with a light clutch and tall first gear letting you riff on the exhaust/intake horn with the throttle. Even before the fluid’s warm, the suspension nicely absorbs what look like n asty bumps in the road, and the new seat’s also stuffed with firmer foam and hummingbird feathers.
Though Yamaha says the 10 weighs 467 pounds wet (50 lbs more than MT-09), its wheelbase is an inch shorter, and with the wide, nice ergonomics, and standard up-and-down quickshifter, it’s easy to squirrel around city streets.
I guess they can stand not lane-splitting because you usually get out of town in places like Asheville pretty quick, and once you’ve done that, you can begin to appreciate what this one’s all about, which is quite simply being the best streetbike Yamaha can produce. The only way you can argue the R1 is Yamaha’s best streetbike is if you’ve never ridden one: It’s the poster child for sportbike abuse.
Nay, the MT-10 takes everything that’s good about the R1 and puts it in a package you can ride all day. If they called it a sport tourer I wouldn’t even argue. Not only are the ergos spot on for a huge swath of normal-sized humans, the suspension is somehow a notch above every other streetgoing Yamaha.
It’d be interesting to go to KYB someday and try to get to the bottom of the fork tube and shock pecking order, but somehow the fully adjustable 43mm fork tubes and linkage-mounted damper out back endow this MT with a supple, small- and big-bump-absorbent ride that also has no problem dealing with the awesome amounts of accel, decel, and everything in between that the MT can generate. It makes the really good, also-adjustable stuff on the MT-09 feel a little second rate, and come to think of it, just about every other KYB-suspended bike I can remember riding.
Green tunnels of love
The Smoky Mountains around Asheville are laced with deserted curvy roads overhung with a big green tree canopy, underneath which are plenty of damp shady places from abundant precipitation. The MT and its Bridgestone S22 tires are unfazed by nearly all of it. It steers slightly heavier than the playful MT-09 because it is heavier, but also really quickly thanks to its shorter R1 wheelbase. All the time, it’s feeding back an unflappable feeling of superior solidity and stability. Again, the KYB suspension sucks up the small chop and the big hits: On the smooth parts of the road, the MT is a low-flying WW2 fighter plane.
Second, third, and fourth gears are more than enough, and it’s easy enough to access them thanks to the standard quickshifter. On my own, I’d have been treading very carefully through those damp places and taking in the scenery. Group dynamics in place, however – with Pikes Peak champ and Isle of Man TT racer Rennie Scaysbrook and a couple other fast riders just ahead (in pursuit of Yamaha’s newest tester Tokarski) – the pace somehow heated up.
In the tightest sections, that taller new first gear makes all kinds of sense, reminiscent of the old Honda RC30’s tall first. Every time I tried to gauge exactly how tall it is, I nearly ran into the back of somebody, but it’s good for around 75 mph or so. That means you’re right at the beginning of the MT’s real powerband – 6000 rpm-ish – at around 40 mph. Again, the quickshifter makes the 1-2 and 2-1 shift seamless, but you barely need second gear on some of these roads.
Engine braking is one of the many adjustments now on offer, and turning it up to max (I remember there being only two settings) means just rolling the gas off and on unravels those snaking roads in a hugely exhilarating manner; this was the stupid-funnest motorcycle ride I’ve been on in years. Now we’ve got Slide Control along with lean-sensitive, R1-style traction control, so why not grab a huge slice of 998cc crossplane crankshaft while heeled way over in first gear on cool damp pavement? Outtamyway Fabio!
Throttle setting A is most direct, B softens the blow a bit, but power delivery is smooth in any of the power settings. I like A when trying to keep up with the Joneses, B for normal riding.
There’s a new Brembo radial master cylinder juicing the dual 320mm discs, with the sublime touchy-feeliness you’d expect. I believe this is the first time I’ve actually “tested” lean-sensitive front brakes: At first I thought I’d locked up the front brake at deep lean in one of those damp shady corners, as it felt like a quick little front-end slide. Upon reflection, I realize it was the ABS releasing pressure and saving my bacon; had I really lost the front at that slow a speed, I would’ve been testing my new Aerostich suit. I crossed the double yellow the first time it happened in a tight right and was ashamed only because there were witnesses and, praise Jesus, no oncoming pickup trucks. After the first incident, it’s like the system was teaching me in real time where the front Bridgestone’s threshold was, which you could then nibble right up to safely. We live in a genius motorcycle world.
I couldn’t hang with the lead pack after a while, but a few more of us had a ding-dong battle for fourth. Not battle, but very brisk ride, to even include a couple of unplanned yet graceful corner-exit wheelies. No need to panic as long as your Wheel Lift Control is on.
That’s right. The new IMU controls your adjustable front wheel lift by regulating engine power. Where the previous MT’s primitive traction control only compared wheel speeds, the new one adds lean angle to the equation, and in addition to that there’s Slide Control, which also throws out the lifeline when it senses someone is drifting away. All of it adds up to a bike you can ride way better than you know how to ride, and it’s all easily adjustable on the new 4.2-inch TFT display, which is perfectly adequate without looking like a rolling Best Buy billboard.
Later in the bar…
Comparing notes, nobody had anything negative to say about the new MT. Yes, it is way down on raw horsepower to bikes like the 177-hp V4 Streetfighter, which won MO’s Open Naked comparison last November. But the Ducati is almost twice the money. I picked the Kawasaki Z H2 as my favorite naked, but it’s substantially heavier than the MT, and no way can hang with it in the tight stuff. KTM Super Duke R? OK, yeah, but it’s not as comforting and everyday livable as the Yamaha, and it’s at least $5k more.
For the person of many motorcycles and deep bank account, the Ducati, the KTM, and the Z H2 could all pencil out; for the more practical maniac looking to park one do-it-all sporty naked motorcycle in the cave, the MT-10 is almost in a class of one. Almost, because Suzuki’s latest GSX-S1000 is right there, too – but you’ll have to step up to the GT if you want cruise control – and then you’re no longer looking at a naked bike. Also, there’s something about the Yamaha’s syncopated crossplane soundtrack that makes it seem like an exotic Eurobike, somehow more alluring with its cyan wheels, when it’s in fact a super-reliable Japanese one.
But practical with it
Even before Joe Biden jacked up the price of gas, we complained about the MT being a thirsty bastard. And it still is, but that taller final drive gearing and the Euro 5 retune, says Yamaha, has boosted its average all the way from 30 to 36 mpg. Riding curvy roads all day, many miles of them in first gear, the computer was saying 33 average at the end of our 155-mile day. Still deplorable, but not too far from typical for this class of motorcycle, and the 4.5-gallon tank should give acceptable range.
It was a helluva ride and earlyish in the afternoon, when Tokarski asked if we’d rather double back on some of those crazy roads or head back to town the easy way, we’d all had enough: For me, it had been an aerobic workout on those backroads, and the temperature and humidity had crept up by mid-afternoon. Then, of course, was when we hit the logjam on the freeway getting back into town, and unable to lane-split, followed Tokarski as he navigated a byzantine but accurate alternate route back to the hotel. Not lane-sharing really is ridiculous, and the bike’s temp gauge climbed to 220 more than once as the cooling fan kicked on stuck in various lines of cars. Even so, I didn’t feel much heat coming off the engine in my Aerostich, though I was definitely warm in there. On a V4 Streetfighter, I think you’d have to find a place to park and wait for rush hour to end or risk a core meltdown.
That’s what I love about the MT-10. It’s not the fastest or the flashiest but it’s fast and flashy enough, without being gaudy – and the noises it makes are right up there with the Italian V-fours. It packs more performance than most of us will ever need in an electronic-aided package that will keep you from hurting yourself if you occasionally ride like an idiot. And you could ride it to work every day if you felt like it, as well as to Mayberry RFD to visit Aunt Bea on the weekend – then take Miss Crump for a ride when you got there. Among the available accessories are 39 and 50-liter top cases.
And that’s all for $13,999, which badly undercuts all the open nakeds from last year’s big shootout. If you insist on spending more, there’s an MT-10 SP for $16,899, with 2nd-gen Ohlins electronic suspension. But for me, the KYB stuff on the base bike is so dialed, and since it comes with cruise control (unlike the base MT-09), I don’t know that you need to spend the extra money. As for me, I could be very happy with this MT-10 for a very long time. It’s almost enough to make me forgive Yamaha for the cruel YZF-R1. Vive le Fabio!
|2022 Yamaha MT-10 Specifications|
|Engine Type||998 cc liquid-cooled inline-Four, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, 270-degree crank|
|Bore and Stroke||79.0 x 50.9 mm|
|Horsepower||163.6 hp @ 11,500 rpm (claimed crankshaft, Yamaha UK)|
|Torque||82.6 lb-ft @ 9000 rpm (claimed crankshaft, Yamaha UK)|
|Transmission||6-speed, up/down quickshifter, slip-assist clutch|
|Front Suspension||43mm inverted KYB fork; adjustable compression damping, rebound damping, and spring preload; 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Linkage-mounted KYB shock; adjustable high- and low-speed compression damping, rebound damping, and spring preload; 4.7 in. travel|
|Front Brake||Dual 320mm disc, radial-mounted four-piston calipers, lean-sensitive ABS|
|Rear Brake||220mm disc, lean-sensitive ABS|
|Front Tire||120/70-ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22|
|Rear Tire||190/55-ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22|
|Rake/Trail||24 deg/4.0 in|
|Seat Height||32.9 in.|
|Curb Weight||467 lbs. (claimed)|
|Fuel Capacity||4.5 gal.|
|Colors||Cyan Storm, Matte Raven Black|
|Warranty||1 year limited warranty|
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