Over three generations, Yamaha’s middleweight sport-tourer has evolved steadily, and like a shapeshifter, it has morphed between three different model names. First came the 2015 FJ-09, then the 2019 Tracer 900 GT, and now the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT.
With each iteration, the FJ/Tracer has raised its game, with better performance, wider-ranging capabilities, and more features.
Here are our top 10 highlights of the 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT:
1. That Triple!
In a world full of parallel-Twins, V-Twins and inline-Fours, an inline-Triple marches to a different drummer. It produces good low- to midrange torque as well as a top-end rush, and its sound is truly unique. The Tracer 9 GT gets the larger 890cc CP3 (Cross Plane 3-cylinder) Triple from the MT-09, which is lighter (by 3.7 pounds), more fuel efficient (by 9%), and more powerful (with 6% more peak torque).
Yamaha’s Y-CCT (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle) throttle-by-wire setup now uses an APSG (Accelerator Position Sensor Grip) for a smoother connection between the loud handle and the rear wheel. Fueling issues that plagued the FJ-09 were mostly solved on the Tracer 900 GT, and the Tracer 9 GT feels even more refined. A 15% increase in crankshaft inertia further smooths out on/off throttle transitions.
Yamaha’s D-Mode, which adjusts throttle response and power, now has four preset modes: 1 (sharpest response, full power), 2 (standard response, full power), 3 (mild response, full power), and 4 (mildest response, reduced power). Mode 1 corresponds to what would be called “sport” mode on many motorcycles, which is often overly abrupt, but not so on the Tracer 9 GT. Throttle response is immediate without being harsh.
2. Curb weight is still around 500 pounds
Traditional sport-tourers like the Yamaha FJR1300, BMW R 1250 RT, and Kawasaki Concours 14 have curb weights well over 600 pounds. Yamaha’s claimed curb weight (without the saddlebags) is 485 pounds. When we tested the 2020 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT, it made 102 horsepower at the rear wheel. With the 43cc bump in displacement, the Tracer 9 GT probably makes 105-107 horsepower at the rear wheel.
While the Tracer 9 GT lacks the top-end rush of an open-class sport-tourer, its lighter weight makes it more responsive and agile. A new controlled-fill diecast aluminum frame is lighter and has 50% more lateral rigidity, further enhancing steering response.
3. It has the seating position of an ADV but the handling of a sport-tourer
The Tracer 9 GT has an upright seating position that’s more akin to an adventure tourer than the sportier ergonomics on many sport-tourers. Being able to sit up straight with no weight on the rider’s wrists, relaxed shoulders, and ample legroom makes it enjoyable to pile on the miles, and that’s what a sport-tourer is all about. The one-hand-adjustable windscreen and handguards provide good wind protection too.
Unlike ADV bikes, the Tracer 9 GT has no off-road pretensions. It rolls on 17-inch wheels shod with excellent Bridgestone Battlax T32 GT sport-touring tires. Yamaha developed a new process called “spinforging” to make the 10-spoke aluminum wheels, which saves 1.5 pounds of unsprung weight and contributes to the Tracer 9 GT’s agile handling.
4. New semi-active suspension provides a magic-carpet ride
Semi-active suspension, where sensors on the fork, shock, and elsewhere on the bike provide input to a suspension control unit that adjusts damping in real time, has been around for a while. On the Tracer 9 GT, the KYB Actimatic Damping System (KADS) electronically adjusts compression and rebound damping in the fork and rebound damping in the rear shock, and there are two suspension modes: A-1 (sport) and A-2 (comfort). Spring preload must be adjusted manually using a tool for the fork (it’s in the toolkit) and a remote knob for the shock.
With 5.1/5.3 inches of front/rear suspension travel, the Tracer 9 GT has plenty of available stroke to absorb bumps, seams, potholes, and other pavement irregularities. By adapting to changing conditions, the KADS suspension delivers a supple, compliant ride and it quickly firms up as needed to prevent excessive chassis pitch under braking and acceleration. That keeps the tires in contact with the ground and further contributes to the Tracer 9 GT’s sure-footed handling.
5. Its R1-derived, IMU-enabled electronics are high tech
The Tracer 900 GT was equipped with throttle-by-wire, multiple modes to adjust throttle response and power, multi-mode traction control, and ABS. In addition to its new semi-active suspension, the Tracer 9 GT has a more comprehensive suite of electronic rider aids derived from the YZF-R1 sportbike. Data from a 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) informs traction control, slide control, lift control, and ABS, with intervention adapted to lean angle and other inputs. All of the electronics have multiple modes, and the only system that can’t be turned off is ABS, or Brake Control System (BC) in Yamaha’s parlance.
The IMU also provides input for new LED cornering lights, which illuminate the insides of cornering when lean angle exceeds 7 degrees.
6. It has cruise control, heated grips, and a quickshifter
These features were standard on the Tracer 900 GT, and all are appreciated. Cruise control works at speeds above 31 mph in 4th, 5th, and 6th gears, and set speed can be increased in 1-mph increments (with a short button press) or continuously (long press). In addition to upshifts, the quickshifter now provides clutchless downshifts with an auto-blipper. And the heated grips now offer 10 levels of adjustment.
The Tracer 9 GT has full LED lighting, a 12-volt outlet behind the instrument panel, and a centerstand, which helps with chain and tire maintenance as well as loading and unloading the saddlebags. At Yamaha’s claimed 49 mpg, its 5-gallon tank should yield a range of nearly 250 miles.
7. Larger saddlebags hold a full-face helmet in each side
The saddlebags on the Tracer 900 GT held 22 liters each. Larger saddlebags on the Tracer 9 GT hold 30 liters each, which is large enough for a full-face helmet. The bags can be left unlocked for convenient access, locked for security, or removed to carry them into a hotel room or to lighten the load for apex strafing. The lock barrels can be a little fiddly (which has long been an issue with Yamaha luggage), but with practice they work just fine.
Yamaha also beefed up the subframe to allow an accessory top box (39 or 50 liters) to be mounted along with the saddlebags, rather than the either/or setup on the previous model.
8. I’m seeing double
Yamaha has given the Tracer 9 GT a unique dual-panel TFT display, with each screen measuring 3.5 inches. The speedometer, tachometer, gear indicator, and other functions are on the left panel. The right panel has a grid of four smaller displays that can be customized to show the rider’s preferred info, even if the information is also shown on the left panel.
The mostly white-on-black text is crisp and clear, but some of the text is small. The TFT panels have a glossy surface that reflects sunlight and can make the screens appear too dim (brightness is not adjustable). Depending on the position of the sun, sometimes all I could see was the reflection of my riding jacket.
9. Rider and passenger comfort are improved
Yamaha upgraded the rider’s seat with higher-quality cover material and added color-matched stitching. The dual-height rider’s seat can be set at 31.9 or 32.5 inches. To suit riders of different body types or preferences, the bars and footpegs can be adjusted. Rotating the bar-riser clamps allows the handlebar to be moved up 4mm and forward 9mm, and the footpeg brackets can be moved up 14mm and back 4mm. The passenger seat is now thicker and wider, and there’s a new integrated, one-piece grab handle.
10. It costs more, but it’s worth it
The Tracer 9 GT’s many upgrades have raised the price to $14,899, which is $1,900 more than last year’s Tracer 900 GT. For those who are cross-shopping, BMW’s F 900 XR (with Select and Premium Packages but no saddlebags) is $15,045 and Kawasaki’s Versys 1000 SE LT+ costs $18,199. More expensive, yes, but still competitively priced and no important features were left off the spec sheet. And the price is the same in either color, Liquid Metal with blue wheels or Redline with black wheels.
We’ll post our full review soon, so stay tuned! Scroll down for more photos….
2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Specs
Base Price: $14,899
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse inline-Triple, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 78.0mm x 62.1mm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 59.1 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 31.9/32.5 in.
Wet Weight: 485 lbs. (claimed, does not include side cases)
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gals.