This is the eagerly-awaited MT-10 – Yamaha’s take on a naked R1, and the first Japanese supernaked to offer any serious competition to the Europeans in years.
However, this bike is far more than just an R1 with the plastics removed and straight bars fitted, it’s a fully reworked bike, one that’s been built for the roads.
There are no two ways about it, this bike’s looks are going to polarise opinion. Edgy, angular and very plasticky. At the NEC show last November, when the bike made its UK debut, it was its styling that sparked lively debate – that and the gaffer-taped indicators at the rear – and you’ll either love or hate the ‘Transformer’ aesthetics.
But look beyond the bike’s questionable lines and you’ll discover a machine that is defined by its engine. In this case the R1’s 998cc, 200bhp inline four powerplant has been reworked and features a new cylinder design, new pistons and a new combustion chamber. Essentially detuned to make 160bhp, a figure more appropriate for an unfaired machine, the redline now sits at 12,000rpm instead of the R1’s 14,000rpm, and the net result is a better spread of torque in the middle of the rev range which is more accessible to the rider more of the time.
The MT10 retains the R1’s aluminium Deltabox main frame, swingarm and fully-adjustable KYB front and rear suspension, but it feels a lot smaller than its faired sibling. It looks tiny and compact, much smaller than the already tiny R1, and even when sat on the bike it belies its 210kg wet weight.
But small can be beautiful, and the MT10 proves this is true with every blip of the throttle. It doesn’t have the edgy, rorty boom of the R1, but the rumble from the cross-plane crank engine is still pleasant enough, though it has a rougher, coarser tone.
First gear is still tall – 70mph – but the rear sprocket now has 43 teeth instead of the 41 as found on the R1, and that makes this a far more usable tool on real roads. Power delivery is silky smooth, and while it lacks the rapid acceleration low down of its rivals, that works in the bike’s favour as this lack of arm-snapping allows you to exploit its potential higher up in the range. Keep the throttle open and you’ll see the white light flash of the gear shift indicator at 10,000rpm, a useful addition to the full-colour dash.
This real-world performance is backed up by a suite of rider aids including traction control, cruise control and three riding modes – A, B and Standard. The reality here is that there is little difference between the modes, apart from the initial response in the first degrees of the throttle twist, and B mode, the most aggressive, is probably the one that most riders will use, and it’s a delight – punchy and responsive, giving the bike a more dynamic, edgier ride.
This is a bike which enjoys being hustled through the corners, those wide bars making countersteering fingertip easy, encouraging the bike into the turn with the lightest of pressure. It’s stable, predicable and accurate too, allowing to carve corners with pinpoint accuracy.
And thanks to the riding position, this is a bike you’ll enjoy for mile after mile. The riding position itself feels natural and comfortable, with the bars falling easily to hand and the pegs sitting directly below the seats. It’s a position which reminds me of a naked Ducati – you’re very much over the front wheel, and as well as making you feel really connected with every movement the bike makes, this natural crouch also allows you to better exploit the bike’s acceleration. There’s no wrist ache, no knee ache, and the small plastic cowl actually does a good job of keeping the worst of the wind at bay.
This cowl is worthy of praise, as naked bikes normally result in a lot of buffeting and neck strain. Not so here. And it’s this well-designed, well-crafted feature which turns the MT10 into a bike you could ride all weekend. And it still works, even when speeds rise, and by tucking into a racing crouch as you would on a sportsbike you’ll lower the noise considerably.
The more time I spend with the bike, the more I begin to notice the less obvious things, like the slipper-clutch which is effective at keeping the bike settled on downshifts by reducing back-torque, the beautiful colour dash, and the brakes, which are powerful without being ferocious. The only thing it’s really missing is a quickshifter, which is a noticeable omission.
This is a great all-rounder. It’s fun, agile and entertaining and it will wheelie for England. This is the machine that finally sees the Japanese create a bike to threaten the European stranglehold on this sector of the market – it’s definitely on a par with the BMW S1000R, if lacking the sheer performance of the Aprilia Tuono V4. Try one…