Yamaha MT-10 Review, Hyper Versatile!

Unlike its siblings the Yamaha MT-10 is the only model to have evolved using parts from an existing platform. While Yamaha stressed that it isn’t just an YZF R1 with wide bars, it did want to emphasise the crossover of high-end components from the highly acclaimed sportsbike. The frame, swingarm, suspension and headlights all come directly from the R1, as well as the core of the sportsbike’s crossplane crank, inline-four motor.

Yamaha MT-10 Review, Hyper Versatile!

To meet EURO 4 legislation and provide a more road-focused performance, many components have been changed, including the single injector throttle bodies, cylinder head, cams, pistons and valves. In a bid to reduce costs, many of the racing-focused materials used in the R1’s engine have also been swapped for more conventional materials. Titanium con rods have been recast in steel, while the remodelled crankshaft has increased in weight by some 40% (the Yamaha MT-10’s engine revs 2000 RPM slower than the R1’s, so the crank doesn’t need to be as light), and compression has reduced from 13:1 to 12:1.

Power drops from 197 BHP to a still substantial 158 BHP, with a greater focus on the torque and driveability of the Yamaha MT-10’s motor. The low-to-mid range delivery from the hyper naked is substantially stronger than the YZF R1, which is partly made possible by a new exhaust system, plus a larger air-box – 12 litres instead of 10.5 litres, which needed a new design of fuel tank. The new tank also means the rider can sit closer to the front of the bike, which with the heavier engine brings the bike’s weight bias to 51% at the front.

The bold styling is going to split opinion, as will the Night Fluo paint scheme of our test bikes. But the Yamaha MT-10 has a premium build, finished to a standard comparable with any other of its rivals. Even the exhaust looked acceptable, its bulky catalytic converter stashed away commendably, and after firing the crossplane crank motor into life, it won even more applause for the raucous noise emitted.

The bike’s controls are easy to use, with information clearly displayed on the large and well-placed LCD screen, nestled above a mini front fairing. There are three throttle maps, plus three levels of traction control and cruise control.

The MT’s 825mm saddle didn’t prove a challenge for my 5ft 9in frame – both of my feet sit firmly on the ground, owing to the machine’s narrow nature. The wide and tall bars are only a short stretch away and feel naturally positioned, as do the brake and clutch levers.

Yamaha MT-10: Plenty of Poke!

Yamaha MT-10 Review, Hyper Versatile!
Dubbed the CP4 motor, owing to its cross-plane design, the R1-derived engine has been reworked to better suit road riding with less peak power and more low-to-midrange torque. As well as new cams, a different exhaust system and cylinder head, the EURO4 compatible motor also benefits from new throttle bodies.

Clutch pulled back, first gear slotted in without any hesitation. Virtually no revs were needed to get the wheels in motion at the start of our 200-mile test route. Mountain passes, motorways and plenty of town riding awaited us once we’d negotiated a pedestrianised zone, which forced us to ride extremely slowly and highlighted the forgiving and accommodating nature of the Yamaha MT-10. It refused to get lumpy, even when the revs dropped below 2000 RPM, and surprised me with its effortless ability to pull hard and smooth from low-down.

Climbing high above the rocky terrain and entering into a slalom of fast, flowing corners, my Yamaha MT-10 was still set with the ‘Standard’ throttle map – the least aggressive position, with ‘A’ being the middle option and ‘B’ the most responsive – yet it showed no hesitation in blasting up to the 12.000 RPM rev limiter, before I plucked another gear from the slick, six-speed gearbox, the noise amplifying with revs as the deep induction sound became overwhelmed by the thunderous exhaust note.

Yamaha MT-10 Review, Hyper Versatile!
There are three different levels of traction control on the MT-10, plus the option to switch the aid off all together. Level one’s the least intrusive, while level three sees the greatest sensitivity to rear wheel slip – altering the bike’s throttle opening, ignition timing and fuelling to regain composure.

While the gearbox ratios are identical to those of the R1, the Yamaha MT-10’s rear sprocket has been increased to a 43-tooth instead of a 41 for sharper acceleration that, coupled with the shorter 1400mm wheelbase, meant the front wheel was eager to lift with every harsh opening of the throttle, unless riding with level three traction control engaged. This being the most intrusive of the options, it relentlessly intervened with the drive to the rear wheel, causing a bright orange light to flash on the dash as the sensors detected and controlled any potential slides or wheelies.

The system didn’t prove too intrusive, but life got much better at level two. Exiting corners was unmolested, and I was given a much better platform to appreciate the pure brilliance of the Yamaha MT-10’s motor.

Fantastic Feel

The Yamaha MT-10 requires minimum effort to drop into corners, and the steering at slower speeds feels equally as effortless. The taut and focused R1 frame was always going to make this bike lithe, but I didn’t expect it to feel quite so plush and planted. The fully adjustable KYB suspension needed no altering at all, constantly making the most out of the varying road surfaces. I was particularly fond of the front-end feel, which seemed glued to the ground in corners, and filled me with so much confidence.

Even on the most technical and challenging corners, I wasn’t worried about washing the front as I accelerated into the downhill turns, knowing the front wheel was being made light thanks to the tricky camber and transfer of weight to the rear of the bike. It never seemed to impact on the Yamaha’s roadholding, which would keep a constant line and tackle apexes without any qualms, yet with the traction control on level one, I was still full on the gas out of bends, which would cause the rear to squat and the front wheel to lift playfully.

Even at high speeds, road imperfections seemed to make little impact on the stable-natured Yamaha MT-10, which occasionally gave the odd shrug as the front wheel skimmed skywards, but never developed into anything even resembling a scary moment.

Yamaha MT-10 Review, Hyper Versatile!
Brakes are fine, but failed to win RealRiders over when stopping hard.

We’d been told in the model presentation to be impressed by the level of wind protection from the ‘hidden cowl’ located above the headlights. It seemed like marketing spiel at the time, but a stretch of motorway proved it was a genuine aid to rider comfort, deflecting the brunt of wind to the upper torso and helmet region. By hunching forward it was actually quite possible to stash myself out of the turbulent air and feel free of any buffeting, even at very high speeds. I also got the chance to try out the intuitively-placed cruise control, which consists of a button to arm and a two-way switch to set and alter speeds. It worked as well as any good system, disabled when touching the clutch, throttle or brakes.

For everyday riding, it would be hard to criticise the performance of the MT-10’s brakes, which never failed to haul me up in good time, but they had a very spongy and inefficient feel to them. Aside from using steel instead of aluminium pistons, they are an exact mirror of those on the Yamaha R1, so theoretically should have felt exceptional, but they failed to win me over. Another niggle was the snatch nature of throttle positions ‘A’ and ‘B’.

They certainly had a significant impact on the nature of the bike’s acceleration, making the Yamaha MT-10’s throttle response much sharper, but they also caused the ride to become much less smooth and the amount of rear wheel backlash notably increased, too. Over time, my hand could calibrate, but I preferred to stick with the bike in ‘Standard’.

Seven hours in the saddle had given me a real appreciation for the Yamaha MT-10, which had shine on virtually every level. I didn’t want the journey to end and felt as if I could have ridden the same distance again. The considerate peg position meant I had no cramp in my legs or aches in my wrists. My neck should have felt strained, but it wasn’t. This bike defies the naked stereotype and proves to be much more than just a head down, knees up un-faired rocket ship.

Could you tour on this bike? Definitely, especially if equipped with the multitude of factory accessories that include a high screen and semi-hard side bags. The versatility of the Yamaha MT-10 had proven exceptional and won over all of us who had ridden it. Night Fluo might not have been my number one choice of the three available colours – Race Blue and Tech Black being the less intense options – but if that was the price to be paid to own such a great motorcycle then so be it.

What Yamaha has achieved with the MT-10 is nothing short of exceptional, and is certain to cause a real impact in the naked bike market, making for the perfect commuter, light tourer and weekend warrior. But perhaps the best hook is its affordability.

It’s hard to believe so much bike can cost under £10k; I can’t think of another model on the market so competitively priced. For this reason, plus the pleasurable riding experience, it would be naïve not to expect MT-10 to be a sell-out motorcycle for Yamaha in 2016.

Yamaha MT-10 Specifications and Price

Engine : 4-Stroke, Inline-Four, DOHC 16-Valves, Liquid-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 79 x 50.9 mm
Capacity : 998 cc
Compression Ratio : 12.0 : 1
Induction : Fuel Injection
Transmission : 6-Speed, Chain-Drive
Power : 158 BHP @ 11.500 RPM (claimed)
Torque : 111 N.m @ 9.000 RPM (claimed)

Dimensions (LxWxH) : 2.095 x 800 x 1.110 mm
Wheelbase : 1.400 mm
Seat Height : 825 mm
Ground Clearance : 130 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity : 17 Litres
Weight : 210 kg (wet, claimed)

Frame : Alumunium Deltabox Frame
Front Suspension : 43mm KYB Upside-down Fork, Fully Adjustable
Rear Suspension : Linked Monoshock, Fully Adjustable
Front Brakes : 2 x 320mm Floating Discs, with 4-Piston Caliper, ABS
Rear Brakes : 220mm Discs, with 1-Piston Caliper, ABS
Front Tyre : 120/70 – ZR17 M/C (58W)
Rear Tyre : 190/55 – ZR17 M/C (75W)

Price : £9999

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