For many years, riders had a choice to opt for MT-09 SP instead of the stock MT-09 to enjoy the better overall performance, style, and capacity. Of course, for extra pay. However, since the latest update with significant stock MT-09 bike improvement, is it still worth paying more for a modification? I rode my 2021 MT-09 to the press conference dedicated to the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP to clearly see the difference.
Reveal of 2021 Yamaha MT 09 SP
The reveal of the updated bike implied a morning road ride with the possibility to take photographs and videos and ‘skids and wheelies’ at a closed circuit in the afternoon, as Yamaha’s PR succinctly described the plan.
Retail price of 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP
The new SP’s version retail price at launch was $11,931, while the previous one was $10,524. The price difference between the stock model and SP of the previous generation was around $935, but now it is $1,591, with the stock model being priced at $10,524.
So, what do you get for the money?
- Gold anodized, fully adjustable KYB forks
- Adjustable Öhlins rear shock – remote preload adjuster
- Cruise control
- Double-stitched seat
- SP color scheme – brushed aluminum swingarm
- Black handlebars and levers
- Custom rear sprocket
Even before the update of the range, the MT-09 had been a pretty good offer for the money among the middle-weight segment, and the SP modification was also worth the money. With the 2021 update, all of the above is still valid, with the SP version being just a bit inferior to the leader of the middle-weight class, Street Triple RS.
Currently, the PCP for MT-09 SP is $139 monthly with a deposit of $3,054, which makes the bike only $23 more expensive per month than the stock model. It seems like it’s a pretty easy decision to make, isn’t it?
Both stock and SP bikes’ updated 889 cc CP3 engine shows improved mid-range spread and more power at high speeds than previous generations. As for the new SPs chassis, it’s pretty adopted for comfortable country road rides.
The changes in the stroke length, plus 3 mm, resulting in 49 cc addition, contribute to the slight taming of the SP’s character. The bike still will throw its front wheel up in the sky when the engine is revving, although now it’s more stable and focused on forwarding motion.
With the new SP version, you’ll also get a new sound. The engineers tuned the motorbike’s inlet in that way so that three trumpets each resonate at a different RPM range using a mechanism like in a child’s block flute. And it sounds pretty amazing! Especially when you hear them sing at full speed.
Suspension, brakes, and handling
We had a quick breakfast and briefing before going on a ride. The temperature outside was below zero, making it quite an uncomfortable experience. The tires, Bridgestone S22, agreed that the weather was awful with some pretty notable slips and squeals. For the first half an hour, all we were doing was trying to warm up the tires, wagging around on the country roads adjacent to the busy track. Although it wasn’t the ride we wished for, it gave me a chance to assess how the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SPs dealt with potholes. Surprisingly, it was not as uncomfortable as you may think. The suspension of SP’s version is more sporty than the stock model. It is indeed quite high-tech equipment which makes it almost unnoticeable when you get into large potholes. The suspension quite impressively absorbs the hits and allows you to keep going smoothly.
With the rise of the air temperature, the tires finally «awaken». Now I can clearly see that the grip of S22s is much better than in the S20s the previous SP was equipped with. Yet, barreling a corner, you still can feel uneasy about losing your grip on the road.
But in medium-speed corners, it moves just well. You can feel that every part of the bike is working together, how the suspension gently tells you what’s happening below through the handlebars and the Öhlins rear shock makes sure you feel that you are gliding rather than riding. As for the brakes, KYB forks are reliably and quickly responding when you hard brake.
The new 2021 MT-09 can boast a better poise due to the completely new frame ensuring that wobbling lowers down. According to the Yamaha representatives, in the previous modification, the swingarm fixing was on the outside of the frame, but now it is pivoting within the frame where it has more points to mount. It definitely makes the chassis feel more reliable and not unforgiving, so a rider can truly fearlessly experiment with this amazing middle-weight bike.
The bike has radially mounted 4-pot Advics calipers and an adjustable Nissin master cylinder as brakes. The system is regulated by the R1M-derived 6-axis IMU and cornering ABS. Overall, the new SPs brakes are reliable and effective, although they may not seem as soft as the premium brakes of other bikes in the segment.
Equipment is another aspect where SP is notably different. The New 2021 SP model is the only version of MT-09 equipped with cruise control which is a bit peculiar for such a frisky bike. Otherwise, the bike has the same equipment as the stock MT-09 updates in 2021, including the same levels of assistance in terms of the slide, lift, and lean-sensitive traction control and, naturally, cornering ABS.
The TFT dash is also completely new for this bike. It is not the largest among the same-class bikes, but the design is quite eye-pleasing and easy to read. It displays all information you would need: riding modes, traction control settings, engine modes, and of course, the crucial lift control. To navigate the menu, you have to move the cursor on the gear icon using a thumbwheel on the right handlebar. The thumbwheel is not very comfortable – oftentimes when you wish to press it to select something, it scrolls instead. Worth noting, though, that I was riding in pretty cold weather that made me wear thick gloves, so that could be the reason.
The comfort of the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP
I believe I could assess the comfort of the new SP saddle better than anyone at the test ride since I got to the circuit on my МТ-09, then changed it for the whole day to the new SP, and then rode my bike back home for three hours. And my verdict is that it is a perfect bike for long rides in terms of comfort. The only thing that would make you stop is the 14-liter fuel tank that would ask for refuels every 210 kilometers.
The seat is wide and soft, yet not too marshmallowy, ensuring good support. And, of course, the adjustments of handlebars and footpegs play an important role in comfort. Footpegs can be moved up and down, while the handlebars can be moved forward and a bit up.
Things we like in the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP
- More complex but intuitive – improved cornering poise doesn’t take away the ardor.
- The level of tech is comparable to a sports bike and is available at a good price.
- Impressive Yamaha’s Icon Performance color scheme.
Things we didn’t like in the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP
- The thumbwheel is not very comfortably regulated when wearing thick gloves.
- The front brake lever could have a more fancy feel.
- Cruise control is available only in SP.
Our verdict on the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 SP
In our opinion, the main objectives of the MT-09 SP are to give you the pleasure of riding it, a taste of the joys of the motorcycle world, albeit not fully, and to be an affordable option for beginners and experienced riders. And after a day spent in the SP saddle, I can say that it completes them all.
Although SP doesn’t have precise poise like Triumph Street Triple RS, it still costs much less and has an outstanding charisma not many motorcycles can boast.
It is truly a win-win bike: it’s lightweight, has over 100 bhp, and a perfect chassis.
It is a frisky bike with capabilities way above its weight category. New SP still has a playful character, yet it is a more composed, manageable, and user-friendly option.
And getting back to the question put at the beginning of this review, is the new SP still worth it while the stock version is also updated? Absolutely yes! It costs just $23 more on a PCP monthly pay, and this money could be charged for the new paint job alone, not to mention other improvements. Of course, the stock MT-09 also made a huge step forward this year, but there is still a point in paying more for the perks new SP has to offer.