When Yamaha showed its outrageous MT-01 last year, the MCUSA staff couldn't wait to test one of the Warrior-engined naked bikes. Well, it turned out that we could wait, as Yamaha Motor Corp. USA declined to import it to America, citing a small market for this style of bike. Still, the muscular streetfighter intrigued us, so we asked our Euro correspondent Ian Kerr to take one out for a thrashing and to report on his findings. -Ed.
It would be difficult not to notice the 1,670cc air-cooled V-Twin that powers the MT-01.
Way back in the mists of time and another century, Yamaha unveiled a concept bike at the Tokyo show. That cobby machine was a concept bike called the MT-01. Those that saw it in the flesh were very impressed, as were those that poured over the pictures in the world's motorcycle magazines.
Yamaha took the positive feedback and two years later delivered the BT1100 Bulldog in Europe, a bike supposed to be as good as that concept machine. Despite some serious hype, the buying public were not that impressed, and although some people fell in love with it, the sales figures showed it was not universally loved or liked.
Time therefore to accept that perhaps that original bike should come out of the concept file and head to the sales brochure printers. However, when production costs are added into the profit and loss accounts system, you have to compromise and perhaps make use of existing parts. I only mention the latter because the general feedback from both the informed motorcycle community and those outside it was that the test machine looked like a collection of spare parts!
Now as always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the MT-01 certainly looks better from the right-hand side where the striking V-Twin motor is showed off to its best advantage and the bike looks a little more integrated. While the left-hand side with its oil tank on the side of the engine looks like a collection of bits added on for functional and aesthetic purposes!
We have wanted to ride the MT-01 ever since we first layed eyes on it, but to no avail. Lucky for us we have our man in Europe who was able to get his hands on one.
But, when you start analyzing this bike that was built for "more mature experienced riders that wanted something with some soul," you begin to see where the parts came from and realize it is really a bit of a parts bin special!
Take the engine for instance, a long-stroke 1,670cc air-cooled OHV powerplant and the biggest V-Twin ever built by Yamaha. It is based on the proven 48-degree V-Twin unit that is featured on the extremely successful US-market model, the Road Star Warrior.
Yamaha claims that although it is outwardly similar in appearance to the cruiser powerplant, the MT-01 engine has been considerably re-worked. (One of the main development goals for the MT-01 engine designers was to create a powerplant with maximum intake and exhaust efficiency in order to achieve remarkably high levels of low- to mid-range torque.)
The MT-01's bore and stroke dimensions are 97 x 113mm, and the four-valve cylinder heads feature a pentroof design and twin spark plugs. Cylinder walls are ceramic-composite plated for reduced frictional losses and enhanced heat dissipation, and this massive V-Twin runs with durable forged pistons and a compression ratio of 8.36:1.
One of the most significant features on the MT-01 engine is the adoption of a new lightweight crankshaft assembly, which uses a new flywheel with less mass. The lighter crank makes for instant pick-up and rapid acceleration, and completely transforms the performance characteristics of this massive V-Twin engine.
The engine is fed by a 40mm downdraft-type twin-bore throttle body which is mounted laterally so that it fits into the narrow space between the 48-degree Vee of the air-cooled cylinders. This system ensures instant throttle response and strong standing start and roll-on acceleration. A new 7-liter downdraft-type air cleaner box featuring a variable air intake valve system has been developed for the MT-01, and this large-capacity unit gives reduced air-flow resistance, which ensures an efficient intake system.
At the other end of the process, we see Yamaha's EXUP exhaust system moving to a new home. It has in the past been confined to four-cylinder supersport machines, but now this torque-boosting system is used for the first time on a twin-cylinder bike. But due to the exhaust forces and pressures involved on the MT-01 engine being greater, a much stronger valve has been developed to cope with them. This compact system features the variable valve positioned where the two exhausts merge into one, and this constantly adjusts the internal diameter of the exhaust to match engine rpm.
Part sportbike, part cruiser, part naked muclebike... the MT-01 is a new breed altogether.
Yamaha claims that a great deal of effort has been made to ensure the MT-01's throbbing exhaust note and massive power pulses would not be diluted by noise and emissions regulations. Therefore, the catalytic converter features a 'hot tube' positioned immediately after the EXUP valve, while the honeycomb-type catalytic converter is placed at the beginning of the titanium up-mufflers. By positioning the components in this way, the massive power pulses and the deep, powerful exhaust note are maintained and the exhaust gases still clear Euro2 emissions standards.
The system ends in dual titanium mufflers which are made a focal part of the overall styling along with the big-bore exhausts with their large radius curves on the right of the engine. (The silencers are equipped with a forced-cooling fan that ensures efficient heat dissipation to help keep the rider and passenger cool in traffic.)
A five-speed gearbox with relatively high gear ratios for a relaxed feel is driven through a newly designed compact clutch assembly. Final drive to the rear wheel is via a heavy-duty chain running along the right side of the swingarm, unlike the Road Star Warrior's engine which features a transfer unit connected to a belt drive running along the left side. Eliminating the bulky transfer unit has allowed the chassis designers to develop a short wheelbase chassis with a relatively long swingarm for neutral handling characteristics.
Moving onto the chassis itself, this was newly designed to ensure that the engine took the main attention when the bike was viewed from the side. Yamaha's chassis development team therefore had to create a minimalist structure that would also give good handling characteristics. They achieved this by using the very latest controlled-fill die-casting technology, an exclusive process patented by Yamaha and first used on the YZF-R6.
It offers many advantages over conventional technology and has opened up new possibilities in frame design, allowing the creation of lightweight, extremely strong structures with an idealised rigidity balance along with a high-quality finish. In this case the CF die-cast aluminium frame is made up of just two cast parts (left and right) that are bolted together at the head pipe assembly and at the swingarm pivot. Bolted to the main frame is a two-part cast and moulded aluminium downtube, and the whole main frame structure is totally weld-free.
The largest V-Twin ever built by Yamaha is bolted to the MT-01 frame via an eight point rigid-mount system.
The engine is then bolted to this using an eight point rigid-mount system, making it a fully-stressed member. This has helped the designers keep overall frame dimensions to an absolute minimum by making the lower area of the engine as compact as possible. This has allowed the use of a long cast aluminium swingarm, while at the same time retaining a relatively short wheelbase of only 1,525mm (60.0-inches).The combination of a short wheelbase together with a 25-degree caster angle, 103mm trail, a 47/53% front/rear weight distribution work together to give the MT-01 a neutral and stable ride whilst being relatively responsive to rider input.
At the front, the bike is supported by fully-adjustable R1-derived upside-down front fork. The 43mm unit is fully adjustable for preload, as well as rebound and compression damping, and offers 120mm of travel. The rear shock is mounted almost horizontally beneath the rear of the engine to help improve the mass centralisation and give a lower center of gravity. Like the front suspension, the rear shock is adjustable for preload and rebound and compression damping.
The bike rolls along on stylish new four-spoke cast alloy wheels which weigh approximately the same as the traditional three-spoke design. These are shod with a 120/70-17 front radial tyre and an extra wide 190/50-17 rear radial tyre for better of traction.
As befits a machine of this size and status, it is equipped with high-specification YZF-R1 type brakes. Dual 320mm floating front discs are slowed by one-piece 4-piston radial-mounted callipers backed up at the rear by a single 267mm disc. (The radial mounting system was originally designed for sports machines and it helps minimize calliper distortion under heavy braking to give enhanced braking action and accurate rider feedback.)
Moving onto the overall design, the 15-liter fuel tank is long and low, fitting in neatly with the curves of the bike when viewed from the side. When viewed from the front, it has a very distinctive look thanks to the multi-reflector headlight unit. This actually consists of two lights of different diameters which project a wide, powerful low and high beam. At the back it is a similar story with an LED taillight sitting between the massive twin titanium up-mufflers. This features a series of unequally spaced LEDs that accentuate the bike's unique look.
Like many machines these days, the MT-01 is supported by plenty of accessories from Yamaha. They are divided between performance components and lifestyle items such as clothing, sunglasses, watches etc. Performance bits consist of fly screens, air intake scoops and styling accessories. Also included are a single seat kit and carbon heat shields that work in conjunction with the exhausts that are available from the tuning kits and which have been developed in collaboration with Akrapovic. In total, Yamaha offers three levels of tuning kits of which the first level is street-legal and the other two levels are for track-use only.
But, if from that you think that you are going to get a tire-shredding beast that will outperform sports bikes in the traffic-light GP, you would be wrong. This is no V-Max replacement, despite what you may have read elsewhere!
It is, however, a whole new breed of machine that has popped up as a halfway house between a sports bike and cruiser, with the looks of a naked musclebike. It must be said that it is lots of fun, but it is not one of the world's most practical of mounts, despite its excellent roll-on acceleration traits.
A clue to its character can be gained once sitting astride the relatively low machine. The simple round-faced combined tacho and speedo with its warning lights inset shows its minimalist nature. With a redline set at just 5,500 rpm it is certainly not a bike that is going to thrive on revs.
Fire it up and you get the lazy thump of a big V so beloved by the Harley brigade, along with a relatively sporty exhaust note. However, selecting the first of five gears and feeling the ultra-smooth engagement and take-up has the senses somewhat confused - very un-American!
You soon realize that you might just as well go straight to the top and forget about the rest of the gears; and were it not for the high gearing making it impossible to hold 30 mph in top, you would have a superb almost automatic bike. However, once above 40 mph this can be done and the ride enjoyed, unless you want to make serious progress or find a set of bends you wish to attack with some gusto.
No, you did not misread things. This 240-kg (529-lb) monster does what Yamaha claims on the box: it handles. Okay, it can't really take on a sportbike, but it will show a clean pair of silencers to a badly ridden one, and providing you keep your riding style smooth it will not dig in or ground out. Keep the rev counter between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm and the bike will keep up a pretty respectable pace, and the vibes coming up from the motor will not intrude into your comfort zone whilst you wipe the smug looks off some riders.
The positions of the handlebars, seat and footrests give a natural, slightly forward-leaning riding position that distributes your weight fairly evenly through each point of contact with the bike. This relatively relaxed seating position, combined with the very slim fuel tank, allows you to keep going as long as there is gas in the tank, normally around the 125-mile mark.
It may not be able to take down a well-ridden sportbike, but on the road the MT-01 can handle pretty much anything you through at it.
Certainly, comfort is not an issue, nor is it much an issue for a pillion. Despite the small pad at the rear and the high footpegs, I did not get too much of an ear bending and no first aid was needed for burns from the rocket launchers that double as silencers! The only problem is carrying anything when two-up, as throw-over bags would melt on the silencers; if you have the carbon extras of our test machine, tank bags are a no go either!
Even adding weight failed to phase the braking system that was able to cope with whatever I threw at it under normal riding, likewise the suspension system. On standard settings it did all I wanted and it seemed pointless trying to adjust everything just to fine-tune it to the 'enth degree, which may have dialed out the general comfort of the bike.
What I did do, however, was to have the bike tested on a dyno to see just what the engine was kicking out in the way of torque. With 112 lb-ft at 3,800 rpm showing on the graph with a hot engine (and 88.8 bhp), it confirmed that my riding impressions were correct and Yamaha had achieved their goal of building a real-world rideable bike.
This is definitely a machine that can put a smile on your face on less populated roads. Likewise, it is not too uncomfortable at speed on the freeway and it is nimble enough to be a reasonable commuter that happily deals with traffic, providing you do not sit in it for too long when heat becomes an issue.
Where the MT-01 falls down is that it does not really know what it wants to be. It is not a V-Max straight-line tire shredder, it is not a Buell and it is not a Bandit. It is in a class of one, which could be a big plus point as well as a negative. Sadly despite all the hype about soul, it - like most Japanese V-Twins - misses the point a little.
The MT-01's hybrid nature may be what attracts so much attention and interest, but that combined with a high price tag may also be its main weakness in that it doesn't really know for sure what it wants to be.
But this bike's biggest downfall is its price tag in England. A bike that retails for 9,495 pounds (US$17,000, though it would be priced closer to $14,000 if sold in America) will probably put a lot of riders off from throwing a leg over one for a test ride. Which to my mind, after spending two weeks with it, is a shame; many might miss out on a fun bike that may suit their riding and lifestyle to a T.
One Yamaha dealer told me he sells one after every published test; his only problem is getting them on it in the first place!
Type: 4-stroke, V-Twin engine, air-cooled, OHV, 4 valves per cylinder
Displacement: 1,670 cc
Bore & stroke: 97 x 113mm
Compression Ratio: 8.36:1
Max. claimed power: 66.3 kW (90 HP) @ 4,750 rpm
Max. claimed torque: 150.1 Nm (15.3 kg-m) @ 3,750 rpm
Lubrication: Dry sump
Fuel supply: Fuel injection
Clutch type: Wet, multiple-disc
Transmission: Constant mesh, 5-speed
Final Drive: Chain
Frame: Aluminium, CF die-cast
Front wheel travel: 120 mm
Rear wheel travel: 117 mm
Caster angle: 25°
Trail: 103 m
Front brake: Dual floating discs, 320 mm
Rear brake: Single floating disc, 267 mm
Front tyre: 120/70 ZR17M/C (58W)
Rear tyre: 190/50 ZR17M/C (73W)
Overall length: 2,185 mm
Overall width: 790 mm
Overall height: 1,160 mm
Seat height: 825 mm
Wheelbase: 1,525 mm
Min. ground clearance: 140 mm
Dry weight: 240 kg
Fuel tank capacity (reserve): 15 liters (3 litres)
Oil capacity: 5 liters
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