2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP | First Ride Review

ChampSchool Special

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP
The Yamaha MT-09 SP is the perfect bike for track days and canyon rides, but it’ll turn heads in town too. (Photos by Aaron Crane)

In January of this year, EIC Greg Drevenstedt asked me what was on my list of “riding resolutions” for 2023. I had heard about the Yamaha Champions Riding School from content we had published, and even though I have no false pretenses about my future as a professional racer, I told him I would love to attend one of the YCRS classes – even better on a bike like the Yamaha MT-09 SP.

The reason for the latter is that I knew my normal cruiser was clearly not going to be the optimal bike for the two-day ChampSchool class I would attend at the end of January at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Since the program has “Yamaha” in the name, we opted for one of their bikes.

Related: A Cruiser Guy Goes to Yamaha ChampSchool 

Yamaha MT-09 SP: Take a Ride on the Dark Side

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP

The Yamaha MT-09 naked bike was introduced in 2014 and was a crowd pleaser from the jump. In 2021, the bike received a major overhaul, and the up-spec MT-09 SP was introduced. Displacement on the MT-09’s CP3 inline-Triple was bumped from 847cc to 890cc, and claimed output increased to 117 hp and 69 lb-ft of torque. Yamaha also updated the throttle-by-wire and slip/assist clutch and added a quickshifter.

Related: 2021 Yamaha MT-09 | First Ride Review

A 6-axis IMU derived from the YZF-R1 manages the bike’s traction control, slide control, and front-wheel lift control systems. The IMU was designed to be smaller and lighter, and along with other weight-shaving measures, including spin-forged aluminum wheels and an aluminum swingarm, the MT-09 comes in at a trim 417 lb, with the up-spec SP at 419 lb. Both bikes also have two levels of ABS intervention and four D-Mode engine maps that regulate engine response and output.

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP
Weighing in at just 419 lb, it’s easy to get the MT-09 SP from Point A around the corners to Point B.


To create the MT-09 SP, which retails for $11,499 (a $1,700 premium over the standard MT-09), Yamaha added high- and low-speed compression adjustability and sportier damping to the KYB 41mm inverted fork and swapped the KYB rear shock for a premium Öhlins unit that is fully adjustable and includes a remote preload adjuster. The SP also has standard cruise control and styling inspired by the YZF-R1M.

Southern California to Southern Utah

I picked up the MT-09 SP from Cypress, California, the weekend before ChampSchool. The first thing I noticed when I fired up the bike was the sound. It’s not the low rumble I’m used to from my V-Twin, but it emits a nice throaty bellow from the symmetrical muffler with dual outlets mounted under the bike. The pleasing tones continue into the mid- and upper-range thanks to the three variable-length intake ducts that also came along with the 2021 upgrade.

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP
The MT-09 SP has the same engine as the MT-09 but boasts an Öhlins rear shock with a remote preload adjuster.

With the suspension and other settings dialed in, I set off for the 450-mile ride back to my home in southern Utah. On the unfamiliar California highway system, I was glad to be on the MT-09 SP. Its throttle-by-wire provides smooth, crisp response. Even in D-Mode 2 (moderate engine response), overtaking was a breeze when I needed to, and when a quick stop was required, the radial-mounted Nissin master cylinder, 4-piston calipers, and dual 298mm floating discs up front worked in concert nicely.

My mid-January ride started in beautiful weather, but right around San Bernadino, I hit a 20-mph headwind that stuck around for almost the entire 200 miles to Las Vegas. Enter cruise control.

I’ve never ridden a bike with cruise control – and I was okay with that fact. It seemed like there was something inherently unnatural about cruise control on a motorcycle, and on a bike like the MT-09 SP, it felt akin to taking your hands off the steering wheel of a rocket (and yes, I’m aware it’s actually called a “reaction wheel,” but you get the idea). However, with those kinds of winds on the naked bike, I felt more like I was just fighting to hold on as opposed to controlling the motorcycle, and cruise control became my new best friend.

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP
An upright seating position makes long miles easier.

However, I think the cruise control could use some improvement. Once it’s turned on and engaged, cruise control can be disengaged by applying the brakes, throttle, or clutch, but the on/off, set, and resume buttons are a stretch from the left grip, and they’re small. With my winter gloves on, when I had disengaged the cruise control and then attempted to reach my thumb across to hit resume, several times I inadvertently ended up hitting the on/off button by mistake, which resulted in deceleration when I didn’t want to slow down. Then I had to start the process over, turning it back on and re-setting my speed. The placement and size (or style) of the cruise control buttons could be made more user-friendly.

Related: 2023 Yamaha MT-10 | Tour Test Review

To the Track…and Beyond!

One place I certainly wasn’t using the cruise control was at the Las Vegas Speedway, and this is where the MT-09 SP really shined.

Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool Yamaha MT-09 SP
Taking a breather between track sessions at ChampSchool with the Yamaha MT-09 SP. Is it obvious that I’m not used to track leathers?

The quickshifter was a thing of beauty for getting up to speed (at the behest of my instructor to practice blipping the engine on downshifts, I didn’t use the quickshifter there, but it was smooth when I tried it elsewhere). The quickshifter has up/down arrows that light up on the 3.5-inch color TFT display when it’s possible to use the feature in each gear, which is handy. However, despite the manual’s recommended speeds for shifting, I found the transition from 1st to 2nd kind of clunky at the recommended 12 mph. It was definitely smoother if I accelerated a little more before using the quickshifter.

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP
The 3.5-inch color TFT display shows everything you’d expect, as well as quickshifter up/down indicators.

The MT-09 SP combines traction control, slide control, and wheelie control into four TCS settings: 1 (minimal intervention), 2 (moderate intervention), Manual (settings can be customized), and Off. At the track, at my instructor’s recommendation, I had TCS mode set at level 2, which is moderate intervention across the board. There was one particular turn where I felt the rear end slip out a little on multiple passes, but the traction control did its job with subtle intervention.

For someone who had never been on a track, I felt surprisingly comfortable on the MT-09 SP – several instructors said, “Oh yeah, that’s a good one.” I was able to trust in its abilities while practicing the finer details of track riding. And when it came to riding the MT-09 SP in a favorite canyon closer to my home, all the thought-out details that went into the 2021 upgrade – from the lighter curb weight, stiffer chassis, and throttle-by-wire to the up-spec suspension of the SP – worked together for some nice carving, as well as quick evasive maneuvering around a couple corners where heavy precipitation had loosened some rocks from the roadside cliffs and dropped them in my unsuspecting path.

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP
The 2021 upgrades to the MT-09, combined with the up-spec features of the MT-09 SP, add up to a tidy package full of good times.

As I mentioned in my report on the YCRS ChampSchool, I’ve always been more of a cruiser guy than a sportbike guy, but after more than 1,300 miles on the 2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP, including track, interstate, around town, and canyon riding, I’d gladly take more rides on the dark side.

Read all of Rider‘s Yamaha coverage here.

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP

2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP Specs

  • Base Price: $11,499
  • Website: YamahaMotorSports.com
  • Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
  • Engine Type: Liquid-cooled transverse inline-Triple, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl. 
  • Displacement: 890cc
  • Bore x Stroke: 78.0 x 62.1mm
  • Horsepower: 117 hp @ 10,000 rpm (factory claim)
  • Torque: 69 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm (factory claim)
  • Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch 
  • Final Drive: O-ring chain
  • Wheelbase: 56.3 in.
  • Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.3 in.
  • Seat Height: 32.5 in.
  • Wet Weight: 419 lb
  • Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gal.
  • Fuel Consumption: 48.3 mpg


  1. The only readable drawback…178 miles max range? Everything else AND 419lbs!! MT07 less of everything at 406lbs?? Till I read about the MT 09 SP and all that comes in this package, I was looking at the 07…no longer. It’s worth the extra money for everything that comes with the 09 SP ~~ for only 13 extra pounds??!! I’ll figure a work around to help with gas mileage.

  2. How is the rear seat for two up riding? Doesn’t look confortable. Looking for a bike for two up riding. Don’t need but 60 to 80 hp. with saddle bags and a tour box.

    • We ride two up quite a bit. I’m 5’9” and about 250. She’s 5’3” and slender. She’s also more comfortable with something
      G behind her so I installed a luggage rack and top case with a cushion. It’s comfortable enough for our uses- although with the stock seat her knees would get uncomfortable after an hour. The comfort seat raises the passenger section a bit and that has helped. I think we’d both need a stretch every hour or two but other than that it’s actually quite a lot of fun riding it together. Except the first time I put her on it and, with d-mode 2, gave it a bit too much throttle in second gear and the front wheel lifted a bit. Once it settled back down I got a much deserved punch in the arm.

    • In 60 to 80 HP there is an alternative option of Triumph Trident 660, the Tiger 660 sport tourer, with two comfortable seat rider/passenger.

  3. The Yamaha MT-09 SP looks like an exciting ride! The upgraded suspension and electronics sound like they make a huge difference in the handling of the bike. And the quick shifter is a great addition for those looking for an even more thrilling ride. I can’t wait to try it out myself!

  4. Just picked up a 2023 MT09 SP, coming off of a 2018 MT07. Bike feels very familiar, and relatively comfortable for longer rides. The suspension is incredible (Compared to the MT07), and plenty of get up and go. The only 2 complaints I have, which is more knit picking than anything, is the fuel gauge, and the clutch. The fuel gauge gives you 1 large line, and 3 smaller ones. It feels like you can go for a while before is disappears, but the 3 smaller ones go very fast. And I know I can get adjustable levers, but the stock clutch release point is almost at the very end. And having small Kenny Pickett hands (Sorry Steelers fans), makes it a bit awkward to get moving. Other than that, really loving it.

    • Just bought my 2023 mt-09 base) and I came from a 2017 fz-09(mt) and I AGREE. THE BIJE FERLS EXTRENELY COMFORTABLE although I said the same thing to myself about the clutch. The release point is too close up for me I have big hands. They should’ve threw some adjustable levers for sure but other than that Yamaha always does this backwards thing with their modes. Instead of 3/4 being the highest it’s the opposite. The. Lower the number the higher the mode can be very confusing for beginners coming from other brand bikes. But overall I’m still in the breaking point so I rarely open her up over 80-85 ( I’m under 200 miles) and she stays in d-mode 2 now. I went from 3 and next I will be going to 1. My way of breaking her in. Did the 3 heat cycles from the dealer recommended and the factory and for the tires that come with it (Bridgestone battlemax s22’s) they hold up well for a “ softer tire”. The new tft screen is impressive as my last gen fz/mt was a little screen ( digital W/push buttons) did the job but the color lcd and R1 electronics to with it make this bike a solid Daily/Hyper -Naked bike. Btw if your riding 2up my fiancé is 5’8 and she sits comfortably with no complaints until maybe about 1 and a half to 2 hours after road time her knees get a little cramped. I also recommend along with other things purchasing a windscreen/visor. (Puig-looks great) because these bikes tend to feel like their breaking away from you under high speeds and without a little deflection high speeds can get risky and dangerous. I love the fz/mt line ups because their such a ruthless rowdy rebellious bike. TEAMYAMAHA🤙🏼🫶🏼

  5. I have a 2022 model year MT09 that has been reflashed as per recall. I have found that if you are riding anywhere close to legal you will get at least 50 mpg. In trip mode on unfamiliar roads I gotten 60 mpg. At this time I plan for 180 miles on a tank. I am personally ready to get off and stretch with a cold drink. A restroom usually also needed by then. I have intentionally ran the bike till it stopped twice and got 207 and 219 miles.


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