Yamaha Tracer 900 GT: A stunner for two-up touring
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Yamaha Motor New Zealand has launched the Tracer 900 GT in Queenstown, with the new model improving the pedigree of the existing Tracer 900 and adding tweaks aimed at making it a far more appealing sports tourer.
The biggest changes come in the form of alterations to the chassis — with a longer swingarm, revised rear subframe and new pillion grab handles — to improve the Tracer 900 GT for two-up touring duties.
The new bike, which supersedes the base Tracer 900 model, retails for $19,999 and certainly feels like an improvement. The biggest and most immediately appreciated change comes in the form of a TFT dash unit — taken from the YZF-R1 Superbike — which offers a comprehensive and stylish display over the old LCD unit found on the Tracer 900.
Although the dash is smaller than others on the market, it is clear and easy to read at a glance. The only niggle with the system is the location of the controller for navigating the plethora of functions.
The scroll wheel — otherwise easy to use — is on the right switch block, which essentially makes it useable only while at a standstill or with cruise control set, due to the need to operate the throttle.
The other big improvement on the old Tracer 900 is in the suspension department, with fully adjustable KYB forks replacing the non-adjustable units of the standard bike, and out back the rear shock is easily altered by the remote preload adjuster on the left-hand side of the bike.
Add to this the factory panniers and the Tracer 900 GT is certainly a comprehensive sports tourer, of which Kiwis will see the appeal.
Styling wise, the Tracer 900 GT mostly retains the silhouette of the Tracer 900, with the only visual hints from afar that something is different being the beefier rear section and the addition of a GT badge on the fairings.
The DOHC inline triple-cylinder engine remains unchanged — with a peak output of 85.7kW at 10,000rpm — but the Tracer 900 GT sees additional electronics including a quickshifter for the 6-speed gearbox, heated hand grips, and updated ECU settings.
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The heated hand grips were a welcome addition at the Australasian launch, as Queenstown had seen a decent dump of snow only two days prior to our arrival. Thankfully we arrived to stunning weather and mostly ice-free roads.
Although in many districts you would shy away from riding while surrounded by snow, our route was expertly altered to suit the conditions by local motorcycle tour guides Dennis, Scott and Lachie Columb of Off Road Adventures Queenstown.
Even though the Columb family had delayed our departure to best avoid the possibility of black ice, I wasn’t going to take any chances and after thumbing the starter button I swapped the Yamaha out of its Standard engine map to the much more sedate B mode.
With our morning destination set as Glenorchy, we enjoyed the picturesque ride to the snowbound town at a brisk pace in spite of the conditions and with plenty of confidence in the bike’s electronic safety aids.
The Tracer 900 GT benefits from ABS and a 2-stage traction control system — which can also be disabled entirely — that is easily adjusted at a stop using a rocker switch on the left-hand switch block.
Starting the day off with the traction control in mode 2, which is the most intrusive, I slowly turned the sensitivity down — that is, until we rounded a corner to be completely surrounded by snow just outside of Glenorchy. Promptly turning the sensitivity back up to 2 proved a wise choice, as the roads around the town still had patches of snow and ice.
After refuelling ourselves with hot coffee, we set our sights on tackling the Crown Range Rd, where conditions should have now improved enough to traverse on the Tracers.
Even though it was the middle of the day, the higher up this truly epic stretch of Kiwiana we rode, the lower the temperature, and we encountered more snow and ice. However, the biggest challenge to the Yamaha’s so far sure-footed corner carving was the pea gravel used to grit the road.
Again, the traction control was working hard, and after descending the Crown Range into Wanaka we were finally able to disable the system entirely, hit A Mode and then really find out how close to creating the ideal Sports Tourer Yamaha has come.
With a key part of the design process to ensure the lightest possible weight, the 85.7kW produced by the triple-cylinder engine is more than enough to get up to silly speeds. It wouldn’t be surprising to see owners venturing on to the track to really push the limits of the Tracer 900 GT.
With dry roads, traction control off, and A Mode selected, the Tracer 900 GT transforms into a riotous ride. Although the extended swingarm from the previous model keeps the bike stable in corners, it can still be encouraged to lift the front wheel.
It is a balance of performance and practicality that not every Sports Tourer on the market has achieved. After a few hundred kilometres in the most varying conditions, I feel confident in saying Yamaha has another sub-$20,000 stunner on its hands.
2019 YAMAHA TRACER 900 GT
Engine: 847cc DOHC 3-cylinder
Pros: Comprehensive tech update, well balanced,
Cons: Not easy to use the TFT controls while riding