Yamaha have made a significant change to the now Euro 5-compliant MT-10 with new technology and rider aids, an increase in power and torque, plus dramatic styling. The R1-derived MT-10 has never looked so tempting
Story: Adam Child ‘Chad’
Photography: Ant Productions
While attending the media briefing before riding the new MT-10, two points become apparent. One, the MT range, from MT-125 to MT-10, has been a huge success for Yamaha, with nearly 50 per cent of all sales coming from MTs. In fact, with 4,20,000 MTs produced since 2013, it is easy to wonder what they sold before the MT brand was formulated? Second, I am getting old, because I remember riding the first ever MT, the 2005 MT-01, when it was launched in Cape Town as the original “Master of Torque”. And it only seems like yesterday…
Back in 2016, Yamaha introduced the pinnacle of the MT empire, the MT-10, and later the premium MT-10 SP. Essentially transforming a crossplane R1 into a torque-rich sports naked bike was an obvious move and you must question why it took Yamaha so long. It was an instant success: fun, muscular, easy to ride, and full of character other Japanese “hyper nakeds” seemed to lack. It was reasonably priced too.
But in recent years it has started to show its age, especially in terms of technology and rider aids. The MT-10 was always on the thirsty side, too, and by modern standards the brakes were lacking. It was time for an update, which is why for 2022 Yamaha have introduced a new MT-10.
We travelled to Valencia in Spain to put the all-new MT-10 through its paces.
Essentially, Yamaha have listened to criticism from customers and the press, looked at what the competition is doing, and simply improved the areas which needed updating. Everything else remains as it was. Yamaha admitted they could have produced a 200-hp MT-10 to compete with bikes such as the Ducati Streetfighter and MV Brutale, but this was not their target. They wanted to keep the crossplane CP4 engine manageable, with tweaks to the power, torque, and the much-criticised fuel efficiency. They also wanted to add to the class-leading character of the distinctive motor, whilst maintaining the bike’s relative affordability.
Peak power has increased to 166 hp at 11,500 rpm, which is 5.5 hp up from the old bike. Torque is up slightly, too, from 111 Nm to 112 Nm at the same 9,000 rpm and Yamaha claim the engine is 15 per cent more efficient than before, with a quoted 14.7 km/l. This has been achieved through new fuelling: the throttle is no longer directly linked, there is a new intake and airbox configuration, and a new exhaust — some of which has been changed for Euro 5 compliance.
The R1-derived aluminium Deltabox chassis remains unchanged; a good move as it is fundamentally faultless and not too dissimilar to the one that was so successful in World Superbike last year. Yamaha have tweaked the fully adjustable KYB suspension settings and the rear shock’s length has increased by three millimetres and there is three-mm more spring pre-load.
Stopping power, which was a weakness of the old bike, has been improved with a Brembo radial master cylinder and we now have the latest S22 Bridgestone rubber fitted too. The now “old” Yamaha MT-10 lacks the sophisticated rider aids of the competition but that has been resolved with the implementation of a six-axis IMU, which means all rider aids are lean-sensitive. Slide control, traction control, corning ABS, front wheel lift control, and changeable engine brake strategies (as found on the R1) are all present and correct and linked to the IMU. An up-and-down quickshifter comes as standard, along with cruise control, a speed limiter, and four riding modes. As you would expect, these can be tailored to match the rider and the conditions and, yes, the anti-wheelie can be deactivated. All this is clearly shown via a new 4.2 full-colour dash.
The design team has put in the overtime, too, as there is a completely new headlight, a slimmer subframe, a new rear light section with a high-end finish, and a fresh “Cyan Storm” colour scheme. Check out, too, the neat little MT logo on the red strip on the rear wheel.
I will raise my head above the parapet and declare that, in the flesh, I like the new look, especially in Cyan Storm. However, when I mentioned this to an Italian journalist, he nearly choked on his expresso. But while the styling may split opinions, the MT’s new soundtrack will not. The CP4 has always had a distinctive, charismatic bark and Yamaha have added to this appeal with a new intake and exhaust system, plus new acoustic sound grills in the tank designed to direct the intake noise to the rider. Before embarking on our 220-kilometre-long test ride, I could not help a few blips of the fly-by-wire throttle — it really does sound good, arguably better than ever.
The first part out our journey was in city traffic, not a perfect environment for a naked R1, but opting for the softer fuelling maps made 166 hp more manageable than you might predict. In Mode -D, it is as threatening as an angry kitten. Above 2,000 rpm and 20 km/h, the quick-shifter is smooth, too, and the only downside at low speeds, especially for 5’ 7” me, is the seat height which has increased slightly due to the longer shock length. It is more of a reach to the ground for, up 10 mm to 835 mm, and the seat also feels a smidgeon firmer.
As we left Valencia behind, I hit my first stumbling block. My MT was in low power mode-D and running full rider aids and, on the move, I could not change between modes. I could change the power, then reduce or turn off the rider aids, but I could not simply flick form mode D to, say, the full power mode B. At the last set of lights before leaving town, I quickly flicked into mode-B, which is much more like it. Now the real MT-10 was unleashed and suddenly we were at the real party, the one where the TV had already exited via a window and the Rolls Royce was about to join the revellers in the swimming pool.
We have discussed the new looks, much improved rider aids, and the tweaked chassis, but the MT-10’s ace card is the bit Yamaha have left virtually untouched: the motor. Yes, there is a little more torque and power, but, to be honest, it was not needed. 166 hp is more than enough on a naked bike and the Yamaha delivers torque by the bucket load, like a huge, free-revving V-twin.
It is incredible and I absolutely love it. You do not need to chase the revs, instead you dance around in the mid-range between 4,000 rpm and 8,000 rpm feeling invincible. Traction and drive are class-defining and wholly addictive and, as mentioned, the MT will lift the front at will in the first three gears. Add a distinctive bark and a slick up-and-down quick-shifter and you are not far from the perfect sporty engine, one utterly suited to the naked market where the last thing you actually need is 200 hp.
Back to the electronics for a moment. There is a noticeable step between riding modes and, for me, mode-B is the optimum setting. Mode-A is not as radical as it once was, but for me it is still a little sharp for the road and I spent 85 per cent of the day in mode-B. C and D are more suited to town or slippery conditions, especially for inexperienced riders.
We must mention the much-improved rider aids and, as it is an MT-10 and, perhaps, the easiest bike in the market to wheelie. While the introduction of a six-axis IMU has made the electronics lean-sensitive, they do not hinder the fun. For example, you can switch off the lift-control but leave the slide and traction control active, meaning that in slippery conditions you can still wheelie but retain the safety net of slide and traction control. Alternatively, you could just reduce the lift control to its minimum setting, which still allows the front wheel to lift but does so depending on the speed of the lift, gear, road speed, and throttle position… It is an impressive system.
The rider aids are also smoother than before, as is the re-introduction of power after the initial intervention. We had perfect riding conditions in Spain, but with the rider aids reduced it was still possible to slide the rear a fraction on the dusty Spanish roads. Feeling the intervention was a welcome addition and by no means hindered the MT-10’s legendary fun.
Cornering ABS is now standard and, like the rider aids, is faultless on the road. Yamaha have upped their game and added a Brembo master cylinder, but while braided lines will appear on the SP model be to released later this year, they still do not come as standard on the MT-10 and the four-piston Yamaha callipers remain the same — no Brembo items here. Stopping power has increased, the brakes are sharper, but towards the limit they felt a little wooden. There was not that one-to-one connection you get with the very latest Brembo stoppers fitted to the high-end bikes in this class.
It is a similar story with the suspension. Yamaha have raised the rear ride height and compensated with minor changes to the front. For 90 per cent of the ride there are no issues and the new Bridgestone S22 rubber is a big improvement. The ride is excellent on the motorway and the MT-10 soaks up imperfections around town with ease. In the mountains, around the countless twists and turns, I had the confidence to lay the MT-10 on its side on unknown roads — it is one of those bikes that instil confidence and always feel easy to ride at pace. For a bike weighing 212 kilograms, it turns into corners with precision and balance and the rider aids and mechanical grip allow you to dial in that incredible torque earlier and earlier.
When you flick between turns or make a direction change at high speed, the MT-10 is not as lively or responsive as, say, BMW’S 194-kg S1000R, but that extra bulk does give a reassuring feel and stability. Interestingly, the wheelbase is now a fraction longer due to the smaller rear sprocket (introduced to reduce the lively feel of the engine and give a lower rpm when touring) but it is still shorter than the MT-09.
It was in that last 20 per cent of the forks’ stroke, the last bit when you are really pushing, that I wanted a little more front-end feedback — and possibly a slightly softer front end, which usually transmits greater feedback to the rider, would have helped. I suspect Yamaha have raised the rear end a fraction to quicken the steering but were then forced to increase the front shim stack to compensate for the weight transfer — some lighter riders may want a softer fork set-up.
Yamaha have changed the exhaust and airbox and added new acoustic sound grills above the tank but tank capacity remains at 17 litres. Without riding the old bike back-to-back with the new model, it is hard to judge how much they have improved the bikes sound — but it does sound good for a Euro-5 bike and fuel efficiency appears to have improved. Yamaha quote 14.7 km/l. I managed 13.2 km/l after a “spirited ride”.
Yamaha have not gone in search of more power or wasted time improving parts that did not need fixing — instead, they have focused on the weak points and made significant gains. The rider aids are a big step up from the old bike’s and have not diminished the fun. The brakes are stronger and now have lean-sensitive ABS in support, while the CP4 crossplane engine is a claimed 15 per cent more fuel-efficient, sounds even better, and has even more accessible torque. If you rate a bike on smiles and how it makes you feel, then you must score the MT-10 very highly. Compared to the competition, it is very competitively priced, cheaper than its European equivalents, and on a par with Honda’s CB1000R, which cannot match the Yamaha’s performance or attitude.
I love the new colours and the MT exudes a quality feel, despite its relatively small TFT dash. Suspension can be tailored to match the ride and I would want a little more feel, but it really is hard to fault. There is little doubt the new MT-10 should continue to be a success for Yamaha.