Yamaha MT-09 vs Suzuki GSR750 review

Date 11.6.2015

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  • Motorcycle Trader

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Yamaha MT-09 vs Suzuki GSR750

The idea of pitting Australia’s best-selling naked bike against what might seem like an also-ran from yesteryear didn’t come from Motorcycle Trader’s brainstrust but from the bikes’ creators. This got us thinking: is there more to this match-up than there appears? Perhaps Yamaha and Suzuki hatched a plan over saké and Sapporo to see us slugging each other in the ring. The enemy of my enemy is my friend after all.

“There’s bound to be tension between Groff and Harris. They’re the classic old bull, young bull, much like these bikes. I bet a good bottle Groff goes down in the third.” “You’re on!”

So without further ado, we bring you Yamaha MT-09 vs Suzuki GSR750. Is there more to these grudge matches than meets the eye? Time to find out. Let’s get ready to rumble!

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THE WEIGH IN

On paper and at the pre-match press conference the Suzuki simply doesn’t seem to stand a chance – the Yamaha is lighter, more muscular and far more modern. That’s a killer combo in the first round.

The ringside banter is backed up by a difference of almost 20kg (210kg vs 191kg wet at weigh-in) and the work rate of the GSR’s 750cc inline four is eclipsed by the MT-09’s 850cc triple. In fairness though, the GSR comes from an era in which it rivalled the conceptually similar Yamaha FZ8N (still on sale) and Kawasaki Z750/800.

But instead of throwing its veteran FZ8N in the ring, Yamaha clearly wanted to demonstrate the virtues of its modern, middleweight naked, and Suzuki believes it has a tried-and-true contender to keep the new kid honest. It just might, too, given its substantial $1700 price cut for 2015 models, now from $10,790 (plus on-road costs), or $1000 less than the Yamaha.

The fight’s timing also coincides with Yamaha addressing the MT-09’s main criticisms: ABS brakes are now available (adding 3kg) and the bike’s initial throttle response is less jerky courtesy of new ECU mapping. For better or worse, the GSR offers none of these. If you want traction control and other techno treats then you’ll have to look to the European marques or go up a weight division to the supernaked class.

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IN THE RING

The GSR has been with us since 2011 and its creamy 750cc heart since 2005, when it formed the basis for the previous-generation GSX-R750. For 2015 Suzuki must’ve taken The Rolling Stones a tad too literal, seeing red and painting it black. In any case, it looks much tougher than its white, grey and black predecessor and its gold anodised forks add contrasting presence.

Initial ride impressions are what you’d expect from a Japanese inline-four: well mannered, predictable and linear acceleration, an athletic top-end and, above all, few surprises, like making out with an old flame at a school reunion. Nothing wrong with it, just a case of been there, done that. Likewise its conventional ergonomics and cushy seat, which make it comfortable to carve corners and munch more miles than the Yamaha. It’s also a bit more pillion friendly than the cramped MT-09.

Then you swap steeds for the MT-09. The first return blow comes when you’re exposed to the Yamaha’s compact dimensions. It’s significantly narrower. In its standover and thigh-to-thigh balance, or mass centralisation, it’s much lighter and lower. Its overhead shape mimics the form of an hourglass in the guise of a narrow, sculpted tank and inverted heart-shaped seat.

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The ergonomics put you in an attacking position with a comfortably forward-bias and your knees close together. It inspires confidence, encourages you to ride harder and it all works better in the urban jungle. The trade-off, however, is more frequent fuel stops thanks to a smaller, 14-litre tank compared with the GSR’s comfortably leg-splaying 17.5-litre shape. The seat feels like a plank after a longer ride, and will have you wishing you forked out $378 for the comfort seat.

Both have a friendly 815mm seat height allowing just about anybody to touch the ground with both feet.

It’s obvious the MT-09 was designed from the outset to be a rawkus naked bike, not a rework of an existing model. It also has fewer afterthoughts other than the usual ADR compliance stuff. Its boomerang-shape swingarm and neat underslung, slash-cut exhaust system, for example, were purposefully penned to be a talking point, unlike the GSR’s, which were born to be covered by the full fairing of the GSX-R donor sibling. The Suzuki’s cannon-like muffler, meanwhile, is as contemporary as bumbags and snap pants. On the bright side, Suzuki has better concealed much of this baggage with its range-topping GSX-S1000 naked bike, due later this year.

It only takes one ride to see why the MT-09 has become Australia’s favourite naked bike – it’s a fast, friendly and characterful urban weapon for the novice and expert alike, and a helluva lotta fun for $11,799 (plus on-road costs or $11,299 without ABS).

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It’s no secret Yamaha had Triumph’s highly acclaimed 675 Street Triple in its crosshairs during development and intended to outgun its British rival from as many angles as possible. That it did, but where the Street Triple loses ground in engine outputs and price, it more than makes up for in harmonious cohesion – its initial throttle response is less snappy and its roadholding less fidgety.

The GSR750’s extra 19kg and firmer, better-sorted suspension similarly translate to a greater sense of rock-solid stability, particularly over high-speed and mid-corner bumps. Tyre sizes and wheelbases are almost identical, however, with a mere 10mm in the Suzuki’s favour at 1450mm.

The MT-09 is nonetheless one of those bikes that would be transformed with a good suspension tune because it errs on plush at the rear and a tad frenetic up front.

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ROUND 2

The benefits of a back-to-back comparison allow you to revisit initial impressions and immediately show up differences. In this case, a newfound appreciation for the GSR’s sewing machine-like engine characteristics that allow you to smoothly and rapidly wind it up in precise increments – all the way to 10,000rpm where its 78kW (105hp) peak power is produced. Maximum torque is likewise created in the upper reaches, in this case 80Nm at 9000rpm. It means there isn’t the same neck-snapping throttle response you get with the MT-09 when you crack the throttle. But deceiving it is, with plenty of punch from the get-go and a tall first gear ideal for the city commute. A glance at the analogue/digital dash legibly shows this.

The MT-09’s full digital screen might be sharper, more modern and fashionably placed off-centre, but the GSR’s large tachometer and digital readout for everything else – including speed and gear position – are well suited to the track and the real world.

Then we get back onto the MT-09. There’s no escaping that intoxicatingly instant surge, no matter where you are in the rev range or which gear you’re in – it’s as flexible as it is linear.

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The 847cc DOHC triple is Yamaha’s first multi-cylinder production bike to feature an offset cylinder design, with a 120-degree crank. The real-world benefit is an engine that provides a linear and super-strong torque delivery thanks to near-identical combustion and composite torque waves.

The resulting numbers are 85Nm at 8500rpm and peak power of 86kW (115hp) arriving at 10,000rpm with an 11,500rpm rev limiter. And the sweet spot? Everywhere, while the well-spaced ratios of the new six-speeder allow it to relax on the open road.

The bike’s fly-by-wire throttle offers three power modes to flick between to suit the mood and road conditions including the default ‘Standard’ mode for everyday riding as well as ‘A’ and ‘B’ modes, which deliver the full beans and reduced power for wet weather, respectively.

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This is the second MT-09 we’ve sampled since last year. The first, an early model non-ABS version, suffered from a snatchy throttle that didn’t take well to slow-speed manoeuvres in all but the conservative ‘B’ mode without clutch input. It was also fitted with an Akropovic titanium exhaust system ($1497) that was painfully loud and droning. And just like that, for this 2015 model, poof. These faults have vanished, including the droning Akro pipe, which now emits the right snarling bark.

Groff and Spannerman still attest to some jerkiness but they’ve recently been riding Yamaha’s learner-friendly MT-07 that comes with a smooth and conventional cable-operated throttle, and the long-legged MT-09 Tracer, which is a thoroughly reworked touring version of this bike.

Yamaha informed its dealer network last year that MT-09 customers could opt to change their software to deliver softer initial power. This was done using Yamaha’s diagnostic tool (commonly associated with Yamaha’s giant-killing WR250 and 450 enduro models) and was a service offered free of charge, according to Yamaha Motor Australia communication manager Sean Goldhawk.

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“It is also a one-way operation,” he said. “You can’t get the instant power hit back after you’ve tweaked it. The 2015 model comes with this softer initial power delivery as standard, and is now available in either ABS or non-ABS.”

CHAMPION OF THE WORLD

It’s encouraging to see a sense of urgency and enthusiasm among bike manufacturers in bringing new and exciting models to market. As buyers, we’ve never been so spoilt for choice. It’s also good to see the likes of Yamaha rapidly responding to criticism of the MT-09 by making a good bike great.

As a business case – and much like our young and old boxers – Yamaha has far more riding on the young MT-09 than Suzuki has with the old and faithful GSR750. The MT-09 has a lot more to prove and its future is bright. It’s an all-new bike with an all-new engine that required all-new tooling to produce, hence the need to grow the MT-09 family to help amortise the bike’s development costs. The MT-09 Tracer is the first derivative cab off the rank.

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Suzuki, on the other hand, paid the house off long ago and its kids have all grown up so its stakes in the GSR750 are relatively low. Yes, it’s had its heyday, but it’s still very much relevant and competitive, particularly with its recent price drop. Only a fool would underestimate the GSR750.

So is there an undisputed champion of the world? As for the bikes, well, that’s up to you. Both are champions in their own right but not without their handicaps. Nevermind old bull, young bull. They’re raging bulls.

Yamaha MT-09 

THUMBS UP
– Performance
– Value
– Agility
– Character in spades

THUMBS DOWN
-Smallish tank
– Seat uncomfortable for longer distances

Suzuki GSR750

THUMBS UP
– Old-school charm
– Performance
– Suspension

THUMBS DOWN
– Lacks modernity


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