Ian Kerr rides the 1700cc MT01
Way back in the mists of time and another century, Yamaha unveiled a concept bike at the Tokyo show. That small cobby machine was a concept bike called the MT 01. Those who saw it in the flesh were impressed, as were those who poured over the pictures in the world's motorcycle magazines.
Yamaha took the positive feedback and two years later we got the BT1100 Bulldog, a bike supposed to be as good as that concept machine. Despite some serious hype, the buying public were not impressed and although some people fell in love with it, the sales figures showed it was not universally loved or liked.
Time therefore to accept that perhaps that original bike should come out of the concept file and head to the sales brochure printers. As always though, when production costs are added into the profit and loss accounts system you have to compromise and perhaps make use of existing parts.
I only mention the latter because the general feedback from both the informed motorcycle community and those outside it was that the test machine looked like a collection of spare parts!
Now as always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it certainly looks better from the right hand side where the striking V-twin motor is showed off to its best advantage and the bike looks a little more integrated. While the left hand side with its oil tank on the side looks like a collection of bits added on for functional and aesthetic purposes!
But, when you start analysing this bike that was built for 'more mature experienced riders that wanted something with some soul', you begin to see where the parts came from and realise it is really a bit of a parts bin special!
Take the engine for instance, a long stroke 1,670cc air-cooled OHV powerplant and the biggest V-twin ever built by Yamaha. It is based on the proven 48-degree V-twin unit that is featured on the extremely successful US market model, the Road Star Warrior.
Yamaha claim that although it is outwardly similar in appearance to the cruiser powerplant, the MT-01engine has been considerably re-worked. (One of the main development goals for the MT-01engine designers was to create a powerplant with maximum intake and exhaust efficiency in order to achieve remarkably high levels of low to mid -range torque.)
The MT-01's bore and stroke dimensions are 97 x 113mm, and the four-valve cylinder heads feature twin spark plugs and a pent roof design.
Cylinder walls are ceramic composite plated for reduced frictional losses and enhanced heat dissipation, and this massive V-twin runs with durable forged pistons and a compression ratio of 8.36:1.
One of the most significant features on the MT-01 engine is the adoption of a new lightweight crankshaft assembly, which uses a new flywheel with less mass. The new lightweight crank makes for instant pick up and rapid acceleration, and completely transforms the performance characteristic's of this massive V-twin engine.
The engine is fed by a 40mm diameter downdraft-type twin bore throttle body with electronic fuel injection system, which is mounted laterally so that it fits into the narrow space between the 48 degree V of the air-cooled cylinders. This system should ensure instant throttle response and strong standing start and roll-on acceleration.
A new 7-litre downdraft-type air cleaner box featuring a variable air intake valve system has been developed for the MT-01, and this large-capacity unit gives reduced air-flow resistance, which ensures an efficient intake system.
At the other end of the process, we see Yamaha's EXUP system moving to a new home. It has in the past been confined to four-cylinder supersport machines, but now this torque-boosting system is used for the first time on a twin cylinder bike. But, due to the exhaust forces and pressures involved on the MT-01 engine being greater, a much stronger valve has been developed to cope with them.
This compact system features the variable valve positioned where the two exhausts merge into one and this then constantly adjusts the internal diameter of the exhaust to match engine rpm. The EXUP's electronic mapping has now been designed to enhance the performance characteristics of the big V-twin engine.
Yamaha claim that a great deal of effort has been made to ensure that the MT-01's throbbing exhaust note and massive power pulses would not be diluted by noise and emissions regulations.
Therefore, the catalytic converter features a 'hot tube' positioned immediately after the EXUP valve, while the honeycomb type catalytic converter is placed at the beginning of the titanium up-mufflers.
By positioning the components in this way, the massive power pulses and the deep, powerful exhaust note are maintained and the exhaust gases still clear EU2 emissions standards. The system ends in dual titanium mufflers which are made a focal part of the overall styling along with the big-bore exhausts with their large radius curves on the right of the engine. (The silencers are equipped with a forced-cooling fan that ensures efficient heat dissipation to help keep the rider and passenger cool in traffic.)
A five-speed gearbox with relatively high gear ratios for a relaxed feel is driven through a newly designed compact clutch assembly. Final drive to the rear wheel is via a heavy-duty chain running along the right side of the swing arm, unlike the Road Star Warrior's engine which features a transfer unit connected to a belt drive running along the left side. By eliminating the bulky transfer unit, it has allowed the chassis designers to develop a short wheelbase chassis with a relatively long swing arm for neutral handling characteristics.
Moving onto the chassis itself, this was newly designed to ensure that the engine took the main attention when the bike was viewed from the side.
Yamaha's chassis development team therefore had to create a minimalist structure that would also give good handling characteristics. They achieved this by using the very latest 'CF Aluminium Die-casting Technology', an exclusive casting technology actually patented by Yamaha themselves and first used on the YZF-R6.
It offers many advantages over conventional technology and has opened up new possibilities in frame design, and allows the creation of lightweight, extremely strong structures with an idealised rigidity balance along with a high quality finish.
In this case the CF die-cast aluminium frame is made up of just two cast parts (left and right) that are bolted together at the head pipe assembly and at the swing arm pivot. Bolted to the main frame is a two-part cast and moulded aluminium down tube and the whole main frame structure is totally weld-free.
The engine is then bolted to this using an eight point rigid-mount system, making it a fully-stressed member. This has helped the designers keep overall frame dimensions to an absolute minimum by making the lower area of the engine as compact as possible.
As a result it has allowed the use of a long cast aluminium swing arm, while at the same time retaining a relatively short wheelbase of only 1,525mm.The combination of a short wheelbase together with a 25 degree caster angle, 103mm trail, a 47%/53% front/rear weight distribution and a long swing arm work together to give the MT-01 a designed neutral and stable ride whilst being relatively responsive to rider input.
At the front the bike is supported by fully-adjustable R1-derived upside down front forks. The 43mm units are fully adjustable for pre-load, as well as rebound and compression damping and offer 120mm of travel.
At the back the rear shock is mounted almost horizontally beneath the rear of the engine to help improve the mass centralisation and give a lower centre of gravity. Like the front suspension, the rear shock is fully adjustable for preload, as well as rebound and compression damping.
The bike rolls along on stylish new four-spoke cast alloy wheels which weigh approximately the same as the traditional three-spoke design. These are shod with a 120/70-17 front radial tyre and an extra wide 190/50-17 rear radial tyre for better of traction.
As befits a machine of this size and status, it is equipped with high-specification YZF-R1 type brakes. Dual 320mm floating front discs are slowed by one-piece 4-piston radial-mounted callipers backed up at the rear by a single 267mm disc. (The radial mounting system was originally designed for sports machines and it helps minimise caliper distortion under heavy braking to give enhanced braking action and accurate rider feedback.)
Moving onto the overall design, the 15-litre fuel tank is long and low fitting in neatly with the curves of the bike when viewed from the side. When looked at from the front, it has a very distinctive look thanks to the multi-reflector headlight unit.
This actually consists of two lights of different diameters which project a wide, powerful low and high beam. At the back it is a similar story with an LED tail light sitting between the massive twin titanium up-mufflers. This features a series on unequally-spaced LED's that accentuate the bike's unique look.
Despite this and the reasonable standard specification, like many machines these days it already comes with a whole host of extras on offer from the manufacturer. They are divided between performance and lifestyle items such as clothing, sunglasses, watches etc.
Performance consists of fly screens, air intake scoops and styling accessories. Also included are a single seat kit and carbon heat shields that work in conjunction with the exhausts, that are available from the tuning kits and which have been developed in collaboration with Akrapovic. In total, Yamaha offer three levels of tuning kits of which the first level is street-legal and the other two levels are for track-use only.
But, if from that you think that you are going to get a tyre shredding beast that will out perform sports bike in the traffic light GP you would be wrong. This is no V-Max replacement either despite what you may have read elsewhere!
What it is, is a whole new breed of machine that has popped up as a halfway house between a sports bike and cruiser, with the looks of a naked muscle bike. It must be said that it is lots of fun, but it is not one of the world's most practical mounts.
A clue to its likely character can be gained once sitting astride the relatively low machine. The simple round faced combined taco and speedo with its warning lights inset shows its minimalist nature. With a red line set at just 5,500 rpm it is certainly not a bike that is going to thrive on revs, even if you had ignored its massive V-twin motor!
Fire it up and you get the lazy thump of the big V so beloved by the Harley brigade, along with a relatively sporty exhaust note. However, selecting the first of five gears and feeling the ultra smooth engagement and take up has the senses somewhat confused, very un American! You soon realise that you might just as well go straight to top and forget about the rest of the gears and were it not for the high gearing making it impossible to hold 30 mph in top, you would have a superb almost automatic bike. However, once above 40mph this can be done and the ride enjoyed unless you want to make serious progress or find a set of bends you wish to attack with some gusto.
No you did not misread things, this 240 kg monster does what Yamaha claim on the box, it handles. OK, it will not take on a sports bike, but it will show a clean pair of silencers to a badly ridden one and providing you keep your riding style smooth it will not dig in or ground out.
Keep the rev counter between 2 and 4,000 rpm and the bike will keep up a pretty respectable pace and the vibes coming up from the motor will not intrude into your comfort zone whilst you wipe the smug looks off some riders.
The relative positions of the handlebars, seat and footrests give a natural, slightly forward-leaning riding position that distributes your weight fairly evenly through each point of contact with the bike. This relatively relaxed seating position, combined with the very slim fuel tank allow you to keep going as long as there is petrol in the tank, normally around the 125 mile mark.
Certainly comfort is not an issue and surprising nor is it too much an issue for a pillion. Despite the small pad at the rear and the high foot-pegs I did not get too much of an ear bending and no first aid was needed for burns from the rocket launchers that double as silencers!
The only problem is carrying anything when two up as 'throw-overs' would melt on the silencers and if you have the carbon extras of the test machine tank bags are a no go either! Even adding weight failed to phase the braking system that seemed to be able to cope with whatever you threw at it under normal riding, likewise the suspension system. On standard settings it did all I wanted and it seemed pointless trying to adjust everything just to fine tune it to the 'enth degree, which may have dialled out the general comfort of the bike. What I did do however, was to have the bike tested on a dyno to see just what the engine was kicking out in the way of torque. With 112ft/lbs at 3,800 rpm showing on the graph with a hot engine and 88.8 bhp it confirmed that the riding impressions were correct and Yamaha had achieved their goal of building a real world rideable bike.
This is definitely a bike that can put a smile on your face on the less populated roads that still exist. Likewise it is not too uncomfortable at speed on the motorway and it is nimble enough to be a reasonable commuter and will happily deal with traffic providing you do not sit in it for too long when heat becomes an issue.
Although the test was conducted in relatively good weather, keeping the bike clean is going to be something of problem due to all the various nooks and crannies, which could make winter use something of a problem!
Where it falls down is that it really does not really know what it wants to be. It is not a V-max straight-line tyre shredder, it is not a Buell and it is not a Bandit, it really is in a class of one, which could be a big plus point as well as a negative.
But, this bike's biggest downfall is its price tag of £9,495 which will probably put a lot of riders off from throwing a leg over one for a test ride. Which to my mind, having spent two weeks with it is a shame, you could be missing out on a great fun bike that may suit your riding and lifestyle to a T.
My advice? At least go and have a test ride, but do take your cheque book with you, as one Yamaha dealer told me, he sells one after every test, his only problem is getting them on it in the first place!