The Tracer moves into the big leagues this year, with significant changes that up the game of Yamaha’s mid-size sport-tourer. The two most important upgrades are the new semi-active suspension and the larger-displacement triple. After some long rides on the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT, there’s even more to talk about, so let’s get at it.
- The IMU-supported semi-active KYB suspension is the star performer of the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT. When you are out sport-touring, you’re likely to come upon all sorts of different and unexpected situations on the road. Semi-active suspension is loaded for bear as it takes on roads, from smooth to rough, without the rider giving the suspension’s action a second thought. The implementation of the technology on the new Tracer 9 GT is outstanding.
- Although semi-active, the suspension is not quite fully automatic or adjustable. Spring preload at both ends is manual adjusted—flathead screwdriver for the fork, hand knob for the shock—so there’s no automatic ride-height leveling. The cantilevered shock adjusts for rebound damping only. Also, you can’t dive in deep to personalize the suspension. There are only two settings—sporty A-1 and touring A-2.
- While the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT’s ECU gives you just two options for suspension damping adjustment, that’s enough. The sport-oriented A-1 has light damping to start, and it firms up as the suspension moves through its stroke. In the touring A-2 mode, the damping stays lighter than the previous Tracer suspension.
- The action of the suspension presets ended up providing some surprises. Intuitively, the sport setting will be best for fast riding, and the touring setting is ideal for casual sightseeing. While the touring setting is great for tooling around, it also acquitted itself impressively under the siege of aggressive riding. While the damping is lighter in A-2, it’s also constantly being adjusted for optimum performance. As it works out, A-2 keeps the Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T32 tires—specially tuned for the GT—glued to the ground, even when the California roads show their bureaucratic neglect. The A-1 setting has its place on roads you know will be smooth, and you want a more precise feel. However, on bumpy and rough roads, A-2 shines while A-1’s firmness makes it more difficult to get settled.
- The handling of the Tracer is heavily influenced by the suspension. It’s not quite a different motorcycle with the different suspension settings, but the impact is undeniable. The Tracer feels like a sportbike in the A-1 mode, albeit one that’s relatively hefty and rangy. In the A-2 mode, it is an easy-going sporting motorcycle that still offers a good feel for the road. In both cases, the chassis responds predictably, making the rider comfortable going fast or at a relaxed touring pace.
- There is also a new frame on the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT. Still a twin-spar aluminum configuration, the frame is lighter this year, with a 50 percent increase in lateral rigidity. The headstock has been lowered, and the motor is five degrees closer to vertical. The swingarm is more rigid in design, and a new mounting position further increases rigidity. Designed for touring, the GT gets a swingarm 2.4 inches longer than the MT-09. The new 1.5-pound lighter wheels are spin-forged aluminum units with beefier axles for increased stability. Without the ability to compare the Tracer 9 back-to-back with its predecessor, all I can do is assure you that the chassis—frame, suspension, and wheels—is outstanding.
- Yamaha gave the Tracer 9 GT the new MT-09 motor, and that means more power thanks to a 3mm stroke lengthening via a new crankshaft. Displacement is increased by 43cc to 890cc. With it came more crankshaft inertia and shorter connecting rods on the bottom end. On top, we find a new cylinder head, camshafts, and intake system. New throttle bodies have the fuel injectors integrated, and the injectors shoot directly into the intake valve heads. Velocity is increased due to a 15 percent decrease in the intake port volume. At the other end of the combustion process, there’s a new exhaust. We liked all the changes on the MT-09, though they play out a bit differently on the heavier Tracer 9 GT.
- There are four power settings for the ride-by-wire DOHC triple, and they change the character of the Tracer 9 GT’s motor. Called D-Modes, there are four to choose from. Like other Japanese manufacturers, Yamaha prefers numbered settings, rather than names such as Rock or Veloce. The four modes run from the most aggressive “1” setting, to the rain-ready “4” setting. Moving through the power modes is easy. A left index finger trigger switch moves the selection through the D-mode, traction control, and suspension modes. A larger rocker switch then comes into play, allowing you to cycle through the levels of each selected mode—simple and intuitive.
- D-mode 1 is aggressive, stopping just short of snatchy. There’s no doubt about D-mode 1 when you’re in it. The triple’s throttle response is ramped up, and the ride becomes more demanding. While it’s not brutal in D-mode, your attention is required. Without a doubt, D-mode 1 is the way to get sporting on this sport-tourer under ideal circumstances. It dovetails perfectly with the suspension modes. If you have a familiar, smoothly paved road where you can stretch the GT’s legs, D-mode 1 and suspension mode A-1 can pay dividends in increased acceleration and corner speed if you’re in that mood.
- For standard sport-touring, where you want spirited performance on unpredictable roads, D-mode 2 matched to suspension mode A-2 is the way to go. D-mode 2 takes the edge off as you crack open the throttle—power is the same, with the throttle response tamped down. Once up to speed, the D-mode 2 seems to hang with D-mode 1. The D-mode 2’s calling card is a smooth transition as you go on-throttle and get into the meat of the powerband. Keep in mind that the 9’s motor likes to rev, and it doesn’t have an abundance of roll-on acceleration at low rpm. Performance is as aggressive as you desire—keep the revs up, and the GT is flying.
- D-modes 3 and 4 are predictably less entertaining, though functional. D-mode 3 drops the low-end and midrange power down, while retaining the same top-end thrust. You have to really enjoy a slow throttle response to pick D-mode 3, as D-mode 2 is manageable enough for most Tracer riders, even in town. Still, D-mode 3 is there for the most persnickety rider who likes soft power. D-mode 4 is what you want in the rain or if you find yourself on a gravel road, as throttle response and power output are padded way down.
- The motor’s performance is assisted by a fully functional quickshift system. Yamaha lagged in the quickshift department for a while, lacking downshifting capability. It’s there now, and it works above 2200 rpm and 12 mph. As with most quickshifter systems, it works best the harder you’re riding—at full throttle, you barely notice the upshifts.
- Deep in the menu, you will find the ability to develop a customized setting and the ability to defeat most of the rider aids. Setting up a personalized mode is great, though I would prefer the capability to save two or three custom configurations for various conditions. You have to be at a stop to set this up, which is a good thing, given the interface. As you dig in, you can adjust or turn-off traction control, wheelie control, and slide control. However, ABS is always on, and it has two settings—standard and cornering-aware. Also, with wheelie control defeated, skilled riders can perform impressive wheelies on the GT.
- For my sport-touring riding style, I’m happy with increased traction, slide, and lift (wheelie) control, as well as cornering-aware ABS on the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT. None of them are particularly intrusive, except lift control. I don’t want tickets, and I appreciate the IMU-fed computer looking out for traction issues. Fortunately, for those who like the freedom, all it takes is scrolling through some menus.
- A new dual-dash layout makes it easy to monitor the motorcycle’s various systems on sharp 3.5-inch TFT screens. The left dash looks like you’d expect, with readouts for engine speed, velocity, fuel level, gear position, and mode selections. On the right, there are four tiles on the screen. You decide what you want in them from several choices, using a scrolling thumb dial that pushes in to select—the thumb dial also comes into play on the left TFT, including triggering the grip warmers. I select the tripmeter, ambient temperature, engine temperature, and fuel consumption rate. What I would like to see, and it is conspicuous by its absence, is a range readout for the five-gallon tank—an essential piece of information on a touring-friendly motorcycle.
- As lovely as the TFT screens are, they can be challenging to read in some circumstances. There’s a glossy plastic cover over the screens that reflect the sunlight far too efficiently. Also, the angle of the screens needs to be adjustable. I’m not tall, and the screens are aimed at my chest. I look down on them, rather than at them perpendicularly.
- Protecting the TFT and the rider is an effective fairing with a 10-position adjustable windscreen. The range of adjustment on the windscreen is nearly two inches, and it makes a difference. There are a gratuitous ten positions to choose from, though the design makes it difficult to fine-tune the position. There’s a hand-operated release lever, and then you can move the screen. It’s doable while riding, if you’re confident and dexterous, though it’s hard to pick a specific position between the extremes. Really, if the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT can have semi-active suspension, it can have a powered windscreen adjustment. A taller windscreen is optional.
- Handguards are standard on the GT, and you’d better like them because they aren’t removable. Well, actually, you can pull the right one off. The left one has the mount for the front brake fluid reservoir integrated in the design, so the handguard mount cannot be removed. Oddly, Yamaha’s WR off-road bikes that bash through bushes don’t have handguards, yet the street-only Tracer does. The guards are a bit of a legacy to when the original FJ-09 had some slight ADV aspirations. The new Tracer 9 GT is considered to be a street-only motorcycle.
- The oddly styled side cases are excellent. They each hold a generous 30 liters and have a narrow profile—perfect for extended sport touring. Notably, the cases are easy to mount and remove. Yamaha has a damper in the mounting system to keep the fully loaded cases from negatively impacting handling. It’s hard to say how much difference it makes, as the damping can’t be defeated. For the longest-distance travelers, there are two top-case options from Yamaha Parts & Accessories.
- Given that riders come in a wide range of sizes, Yamaha allows for considerable personalization of the ergonomics. The seat height has two positions, 0.6 inches apart. The footpegs also have two stations, with one position a half-inch up and 0.15 inches back of the other—sporting riders take note. Following suit, there are two positions for the handlebar—from standard, you can move the grips up 0.15 inches and a third-of-an-inch forward, which will appeal to taller riders. Be careful with the bar adjustments, as it can cause the handguards to argue with the tank and TFT display. At 5′ 10″ with a 30.5-inch inseam, the standard ergonomics are fine for me. The 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT is a comfortable motorcycle with an all-day seat that is upgraded this year. The passenger seat is thicker and wider, but we haven’t gone two-up yet.
- Riders after dark will appreciate the LED lighting. I took it out for some late-night riding, and the high beams blaze nicely. Interestingly, what looks like auxiliary lower lights are actually the primary headlights. What you would expect to be headlights is a combo of eye-shaped position lights and cornering lights.
- Cruise control is essential for touring, and the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT has a great system. It’s easy to set via left handlebar switchgear, and you can click up the speed in either 1 mph increments or just ramp it up as you like. You have to be going at least 31 mph and in 4th gear or higher for the cruise control to operate—not an issue.
- The 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT is a standout motorcycle in a niche market. Non-ADV sport-tourers are few and far between. Direct competition for the Tracer consists of the BMW F 900 XR (more expensive with bags and semi-active suspension, twin-cylinder motor), Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX (less expensive, larger inline-4, no semi-active suspension), the Ducati SuperSport 950 (similar price with bags, no semi-active suspension), and the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce Lusso (much more expensive and smaller motor)—so the Tracer is a niche within a niche. Fortunately, the Tracer holds its own as a versatile sport-touring motorcycle that can be an upright sportbike in about a minute with the bags removed. There is quite a bit of fun and functionality built into the $14,899 package.
- Helmet: HJC i70 Karon
- Communications: Cardo Packtalk Bold
- Jacket + pants: The Trek by Tourmaster
- Back protection: Sas-Tec SC-1
- Gloves: Tourmaster Trailbreak
- Boots: Tourmaster Solution WP
2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Specs
- Type: Inline-3
- Displacement: 890cc
- Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 62.1mm
- Compression ratio: 11.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Wet multi-plate disc; assist and slipper
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Controlled-fill die-cast aluminum w/ subframe
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable, semi-active KYB 41mm inverted fork; 5.1 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Semi-active rebound-damping and spring-preload horizontal KYB shock; 5.4 inches
- Tires: Dunlop Sportmax GPR-100
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 298mm discs w/ 4-piston Nissin calipers
- Rear brake: 245mm disc w/ single-piston Nissin caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 59.1 inches
- Rake: 25.0 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Seat height: 31.9 or 32.5 inches
- Fuel capacity: 5.0 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 49 mpg
- Curb weight: 485 pounds (sans side cases)
- Colors: Redline; Liquid Metal
2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Price: $14,899 MSRP