apologies to Ripley,
that's probably the most appropriate title I could come up
with. Because Yamaha in particular but Japanese bike companies
in general have been known to to produce fantastic looking,
ludicrously specced concept bikes which have then been somewhat
underwhelming when and if they've appeared in production.
Like the Yamaha Bulldog, for example - a fine bike but hardly
the fire breathing animal we expected from the concept bike.
So the MT-01 was awaited
with both bated breath and healthy scepticism by journalists
and riders alike. The paper spec was amazing, and Yamaha had
promised that the concept would be diluted as little as possible
when it hit the streets. We, of course, took that with a hearty
pinch of salt.
When I got
into the office after picking the MT-01 up from Yamaha
I made a couple of notes and e-mailed them to some colleagues.
Here they are, unabridged and unedited:
- The bike
has a slightly disturbing tendency
to make the rider produce bizarre whooping noises while
going for the most dubious overtaking opportunities available
in the certain knowledge that, regardless of the gear
the machine is in, it will make the gap with time to spare.
- It sounds disturbingly like a large, powerful outboard
motor, spitting farting and burbling on the over-run.
At low speed the sound pressure, even with earplugs in,
is slightly uncomfortable as you crack the throttle open
and your ears pop from the sudden vacuum.
- It’s huge. Until you get on it, when it shrinks.
- It has the comfiest seat ever made. And that’s
- It has fantastic brakes.
- It handles like a sportsbike and doesn’t weave
around high speed sweepers even with the throttle pinned
to the stop. Though the back does start to slide.
- Small children point and stare when you coast by, and
start crying if you accelerate. If you roll off the throttle
they get blown over by the back-blast.
- Cats and other small mammals explode if they enter the
exclusion zone around the exhaust area.
- I think I rather like it…
believe it or not, Yamaha did exactly what they promised
(or threatened, depending on your viewpoint) to do. They unleashed
1700cc of grunt - a more powerful Warrior engine of all things
- on the world in a fairly small, aggressively set up outrageously
styled rocket. They gave it radial brakes, exhausts that look
like rocket launchers and a riding position that means your
bum will last far longer than your shoulders, neck or driving
licence. They gave it a headlight that could be considered
to be aesthetically challenged but which works magnificently.
They gave it big clear mirrors, a horn that's as loud as the
engine but looks like something off a moped and attitude that
gets you pulled everywhere. I got stopped twice in a 200 mile
ride, and on neither occasion was I speeding, monowheeling
or riding like a loon. But the MT-01 makes you look as though
you're going to be the type of person who will do all of those
things, and more, at every opportunity.
But on to the bike itself. The MT-01 is completely
dominated by the engine. Both visually and structurally. And
the riding experience is the same. The 1670cc vee twin is
simply astonishing to look at and to use. It's enormous, of
course, but manages to keep most of the necessary external
stuff as small and compact as possible. So the air filter
doesn't get in the way, the injection is tucked up inside
the vee and things like the alternator and starter are all
out of the way. Unlike the exhaust. Which, as befits something
needing to get rid of something over 5 gallons (that's Imperial
gallons, mind) of hot gas every second at tickover
is absolutely immense.
the bike is something of a cross between a Fazer and something
by H.R.Geiger, the serpentine writhings of the exhaust emerging
in a faintly sinister way before disappearing again to exit
in the two massive silencers either side of the seat. The
tank is conventional enough, though, and keeps a distinct
family resemblance. Instrumentation is unlikely to tax even
the most dedicated technophobe, consisting as it does of a
large and clear analogue tacho sweeping around a circular
dial with a digital speedo in the bottom quarter. The digital
section also houses a clock and trip meters. The whole thing
is very pleasingly backlit with an unusual soft white light.
The rolling chassis is surprisingly conventional.
Predictably massive fully adjustable upside down forks at
the front are mated to an enormous extruded alloy frame with
one of the biggest braced swingarms I've ever seen. A slight
departure from convention sees the rear shock laid flat under
the back of the gearbox instead of above the rear cylinder
but the logic of heat dispersal and sheer height makes this
positioning sensible. Adjusters are easy to reach too, though
I would imagine they would soon get covered in road filth.
One unusual thing about the frame is the colour. Black frames
are de rigueur this year, of course, but the MT-01 has a particularly
attractive metallic blue frame that goes very nicely with
the silver bodywork. The wheels are the same moonstone-like
blue, and look great for it.
Enough on the static things. Talk is cheap
- shut up and ride. It'll be no surprise to know that the
engine makes its presence felt very clearly, even at tickover,
massive pulses of raw power juddering the frame and rider.
The effect isn't unpleasant or even disturbing, but it's very
much there and you're very aware of it. The clutch is light
and sensitive and the gearbox, though expectedly clunky, is
slick enough. Pulling away is fuss free, as you'd expect with
a grillion pounds of torque, and the weight of the bike vanishes
instantly, leaving something with very neutral geometry and
nice wide bars giving stacks of leverage. Once moving properly
the bike, though heavy, changes direction easily and responds
happily to pressure through the pegs. It's rock stable though
you can feel the rear tyre squirming and protesting under
the monstrous torque. As the pace ups a number of things become
obvious. The MT-01 is extremely well sorted generally, the
brakes are brilliant and five gears are about three more than
it actually needs. Indeed, pulling away quickly is a little
frustrating as by the time the clutch is fully home it's time
to change up again, certainly in first and second, so longer
gearing may well be a Good Thing. Open roads are a breeze,
with the bike capable of cruising effortlessly at whatever
speed your neck muscles are comfortable with. Overtakes, when
they arise, are dispatched with no more effort than brushing
a fly from your cheek. Whatever the gear, a brief handful
will see your target demolished and spat out behind you in
no time at all. Motorways and the like, though mechanically
easy, are no place for a bike styled and designed like this.
Aside from the fact that not enough people will see you -
that's important - the total lack of protection means that
the experience will be rather less enjoyable than it should
be. So stay on the A roads instead.
In town the MT-01 acquits itself well. It's
narrow enough to filter through traffic without too much trouble,
quick enough to demolish anything else off the lights should
that be an issue and big/brash enough to get noticed. Indeed,
getting noticed was something that happened a lot. In 200
miles I had the opportunity to speak with Kent's finest not
once but twice. The first, driving a traffic car, felt that
my clothing and the attitude of the machine suggested I may
be the type who would use the performance available to me
and so warranted a safety talk. Yes, I am quoting him verbatim.
The second, on a bike, simply wanted to know what the Hell
it was and what it was like. Which is cool. You'll need to
get used to being the centre of attention anyway, as the massive
air pulses coming out (and getting sucked in) mean that inevitably
people will look over and chat at the lights as well...
more time and some suspension tweaking, the only real fly
in the ointment may well have been eradicated as well, but
as it is I found the MT-01 to have a particularly nasty habit
of tucking under at the front. This manifested itself on two
roundabouts, both quite tight and both entered rather more
aggressively than might have been prudent. On both occasions
the bike was turning well and holding a tight line but starting
to drift. Given a bit more steering input the front folded
without warning and it was a combination of dumb luck and
plenty of space that allowed me to pick the MT-01 up and avoid
a nasty mess. As I said, I'm pretty sure that the tendency
to tuck could be tuned out and, in fairness, I was pushing
harder than is really appropriate on the road.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the MT-01. Even
after a couple of little moments I remained confident in the
handling and brakes. Performance is as astonishing as you'd
expect from an engine like that and there's loads more available
with kits ranging from the mild (slightly freer exhaust and
ECU) to the wild (cams, exhaust, clutch, ECU etc) offering
power hikes of over 30% and enough torque to bumpstart an
aircraft carrier. The bike is exceptionally comfortable, looks
a million dollars and sounds, even with the standard pipes,
like nothing on this earth.
Apparently there's going to be a one model
race series devoted to the MT-01. I'd really like to see that
but would recommend you take earplugs with you.
In short, Yamaha's MT-01 is everything I
hoped it would be. It is brash, stupidly over engined, fast
and has ferocious acceleration. It generally handles well,
it's comfortable and looks great. It's also one of the most
expensive bikes Yamaha make at nearly £10,000.
It's almost certainly worth every penny.