For years, Yamaha’s high performance ‘R’ range was pretty static, and with one exception, stoically powered by inline 4 cylinder engines. There was (and is) the venerable big daddy R1. There was the howling lightweight R6, and very briefly back in the mists of time there was an inline 4 cylinder R7, too, rare in its day and an exotic unicorn bike today. Of course an honourable mention must go to the wee R3, the little inline twin that’s been a small capacity track favourite since its inception back in 2015.
Well, if you’ve been paying attention in more recent years, you’ll know that Yamaha has been busy dressing up its naked ‘MT’ range and showing off its R’s in a whole new way. There’s the tiny, single cylinder R15 that’s unlikely to cause rustlings down south if performance is your thing, and a few rungs up the ladder there’s the R7 released this year, capable, comfortable, and in essence, a sharpened-up MT-07 with a fairing. That’s entirely a good and welcome thing, and for many riders 54kW focuses attention quite nicely.
But for me, there’s something else that’s focused my attention very sharply these past couple weeks, and it’s expressed in a single sentence:
‘Yamaha specifically files trademark applications for the R9 name in Europe and Australia’
Oh hell yes.
Rumours are only rumours, but everything points to there being some substance to this one. An R9 would fill the final gap in Yamaha’s ‘R’ series, and logically, the MT-09’s venerable 889cc CP3 triple would fill the gap between the frame spars…which on the donor MT, happen to be Deltabox-style this year. Hello, that’ll do nicely. A genuinely exciting, grunty engine punching out around 87kW, wrapped in something not so different in size and weight from the R6? Where do I sign?
So, although we’re running the rumour mill flat out right now and nothing at all is confirmed, it’s simply too tempting not to keep comparing some stats:
- The current MT-09 weighs a claimed 189kg. The outgoing R6 was within a kilo or two of this number and the MT-09 is just one kilo shy of the current R7’s claimed weight.
- Although virtually equal in weight to the R7, the MT-09 pumps out a claimed 33kW more power.
- The MT-09 is already loaded with quickshifter, traction control, 6-axis IMU and colour TFT dash, all of which would logically make their way onto the rumoured R9.
- There’s quality suspension and brakes aplenty available from bikes such as big brother MT-10, cousin R1 and of course the Ohlins equipped MT-09SP. Quick! To the parts bin!
So if what we’re hoping comes to pass and Yamaha go ahead with an MT-09 based R9, what sort of bike will we have? And who’d want one? The way I see it, we’d have a ‘torque sport’ bike for the masses. Unless Triumph puts some clothes on their 765cc, 86kW Street Triple (and there’s no reason to believe that they will), there simply isn’t another manufacturer creating something as potentially accessible as the rumoured R9.
Accessible? I mean that in two ways. Yamaha’s MT-09 has long had a reputation as one of the most bargainous performance bikes available. Its very reasonable price has made it a big seller and a real rider’s favourite. Yamaha is good at this – creating solid, well spec’d bikes and offering them at crowd pleasing prices. As I write this, their R7 is being offered at just under $15K, up around $1,800 from the ‘donor’ MT-07HO. Can Yamaha offer an R9 at a comparable premium above the current MT-09? I’d like to think that they can.
If the rumoured R9 made financially accessible is a possibility, that it can be made rider accessible is a certainty. And that, for me, is what’s most exciting about this potential model. The thought of a nimble, sweet-handling motorcycle that’s as happy lazily surfing a wave of torque as it is howling up to the rev limiter. A bike for every mood and situation, road or track.
Years ago I owned a Triumph Daytona 675 and its engine was a delightful antidote to the screaming 600cc inline fours that were common at the time. There was simply so much flexibility and usability to be had, all wrapped in a superbly agile package. An MT-09 based R9 has the potential to deliver all of this, but much, much more. A package that would be a joy on relaxed road rides but a demon at the track. And a bike with a torque curve as flat as a pool table, perfect for riders who don’t have an interest in constantly chasing revs.
My first taste of the MT-09 was way back when I rode the bike courtesy of Bikebiz at an Eastern Creek track day. I’d heard all about that engine, but needed to sample it for myself. As my session started I found myself lofting a lazy second gear wheelie up the hill, out of the pit lane and onto the track. Easy, natural, no need for lengthy introductions. I’ve been a believer ever since.
Now, years later, I’m more than ready to believe the rumours that an R9 is on its way. COVID willing, I hope I’ll be at a track to try it. Yamaha, if you’re listening, make mine blue…