Even though Yamaha’s MT-01 isn’t new (it was first released back in 2005 and has changed little since), it seems to have travelled under the radar more successfully than a US military attack drone. That’s been quite a trick for a bike that draws attention like a howling stripper at the alter. With a cool look from the factory, coupled with a wild custom scene viewed via the internet, the mighty V-twin has been near the top of my ‘must-ride’ list longer than most. With the appropriate level of enthusiasm directed at Sean Goldhawk, Yamaha’s man with all the bike keys, the beast stands still before me in the company’s Wetherill Park (NSW) warehouse.
It’s an impressively different bike from any angle, a visual assault of old tech and latest thinking. New meets old in an unusual package. A bit like getting slapped by yer dad while he’s wearing the latest Nike tracksuit…
Lovers of farm tractors (and Harleys) skip a beat as the Vee fires into life – a slow wind from the starter motor and the instantly recognizable, lazy ‘potatoes being fired from a pressurised tube’ sound fills the downpipes and exits through the twin, high-level exhausts. Even at a ticking-over standstill, this thing’s got game.
First gear selects with the less-than-delicate ‘clank’ of a forger dropping printing plates. As your arms stretch up forward to the flattish bars, you do feel this is an animal you need to let know who’s boss. Dumping the hydraulic clutch while winding on the throttle results in a violent push in the back.
Unlike the company’s equally barking V-Max, the $19,899 MT-01 doesn’t have a tendency to smoke a cold rear tyre and the resulting drive translates into thrust and victory from every set of lights. In that respect, it’s the perfect street-sleeper.
Sounding meaty but low tech at the lights, the setback riding position (I can’t remember being on a big bike that offers so much room between you knees and hands while riding) makes you look to the untrained eye like just another fashion victim out on a cruise. But the MT is so much more café racer than café run. Get the clutch and throttle in perfect synchronisation and you’ll experience a taste of spaceman training.
With the push-rod technology, the rev ceiling hovers around the 5000rpm mark, which is more family car than superbike, but this lump will meat-eat all the way from tick-over to redline. It’s a leisurely cruiser when it needs to be though, with 80km/h barely registering 2000rpm on the huge, circular tacho. After this, vibration builds in proportion with revs, though the overall feeling is of a bike that’s alive, rather than rough.
The only real casualty of all this throbbing are the mirrors. Fine when the ignition’s off, but offer what can only be best described as “a very young child’s rendition of where you’ve been,” at speed.
That aside, the MT-01 is fault-free. No, really. Sure the tank only holds enough juice for 200km at best (get a Goldwing if you want to go further), the six-pot callipers struggle slightly with the bike’s 243kg (claimed, dry) mass (buy a racebike rev-head!) and the long wheelbase, steep head angle can lead to a tip feeling when cornering (it’s not like you’re actually gonna fall off, Princess!), but that’s nothing that falls outside the parameters for a bike like this.
Realistically, there’s few other bike of this style and configuration that could hang with it on the straights or follow it through the twisties. It’s also a superbly comfortable bike (as long as you ignore the massive heatwaves from the header pipes when leg down on a hot day) and an enjoyable place to be a pillion.
Unlike most other bikes that are chasing an ever-vanishing performance horizon in an era when just tasting that world can land you in jail, the MT-01 seems to be having the modern world come back to it. On its release in 2005, traffic was lighter and speeding wasn’t so much the murderous intent that we’re told it is today. With the constant over policing and build up of car soup in most parts of modern Australia, riding the MT-01 – a bike that places a higher relevance on riding feeling rather than tech progress and outright speed – in 2013, feels laced with more freedom than dodging the fuzz every time you get a clear stretch and wind-on your R1.
So is the MT-01 the perfect bike? No. But as a bike suitable for today’s traffic conditions that offers simplicity and smiles, it’s pretty darn close.
SPECS: YAMAMA MT-01
Type: Air-cooled, four-stroke V-twin
Bore x stroke: 97mm x 113mm
Compression ratio: 8.4:1
Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection
Claimed maximum power: Not given
Claimed maximum torque: Not given
Type: Five speed
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Alu CF-die cast, double cradle
Front suspension: Telescopic fork, 120mm travel
Rear suspension: Swingarm, 117mm travel
Front brakes: 310mm discs
Rear brake: 267mm disc
Tyres: Front 120/70-17, rear 190/50-17
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Claimed dry weight: 243kg
Seat height: 825mm
Fuel capacity: 15 litres
Colours: Competition White, Silver Sand or Midnight Black
Test bike supplied by: Yamaha Motor Australia, www.yamaha-motor.com.au
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres