• 2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT

First Ride: 2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT

Yamaha refines its three-cylinder sport-tourer

Avatar By: Dustin Woods September 5, 2018
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THE PROS & CONS

    • What’s Best: Smooth, torquey motor, comfortable ergonomics and high value proposition
    • What’s Worst: Wheel switch location and construction
    • What’s Interesting: Strikes a keen balance between sport and touring

The 2019 Tracer 900 GT is a new-ish motorcycle for Yamaha. Previously known as the FJ-09 in North America when it debuted here in 2015, the revised 2018 Yamaha 900 sport-tourer, unveiled last year, adopted the Tracer moniker as it was already known in Europe.

Looking to streamline and standardize their global naming process, the FZ-09 became the MT-09 and the FJ-09 is now the Tracer 900. Confused? You’re not alone. Yamaha has since sweetened the deal for 2019 with the unveiling of the 900 GT, an upmarket model that includes a laundry list of additional features intended to improve comfort, performance and the overall value proposition which was already ample.

Inline triples have an unmistakable sound, which is existent albeit somewhat muffled in stock form, erring on the subtle side. Yamaha first introduced their 847cc triple featuring a Crossplane Concept Crankshaft on the FZ-09 back in 2014 to much critical acclaim. Striking a keen balance of civility and power, it then found itself in the FJ-09 a year later and continues on in the Tracer. The inline 3-cylinder remained untouched for 2019. The theory being, “If it ain’t broke…”

The intended target demographic is experienced motorcyclists looking for an agile motorcycle that can keep up with the sportbikes but tour longer distances in comfort.

2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT

The 2018 Tracer received such notable updates as new mirrors, handlebars and guards, fuel tank protector, passenger grips, a new rear sub frame, integrated side case mounts and a longer swing arm. Rider and pillion seats have been redesigned, with the former being easily adjusted to raise and lower 1.5cm. A 3-position manually adjustable windscreen has also been added, which cuts the wind at lower speeds but could have done a much better job mitigating head bobbling at higher speeds for my 6-foot frame even at the highest position.

Most notably, the 2019 GT gets fully adjustable suspension both front and rear, TFT multi-function display, cruise control, 3-level grip warmers, integrated colour-matched saddlebags and a quick shifter to bang through the gears above 2,300rpm. Mirror arms have been lengthened for better visibility while the bodywork, windscreen and handlebar covers have been revised to offer improved wind protection. Handlebar length was narrowed by 16.2mm and the swingarm was extended by 60mm in order to improve both comfort and handling.

Both the aforementioned windscreen and saddlebags are prioritized for the possibility of urban commutes, however a host of aftermarket accessories are already available should you wish to customize yours for long distance touring. The upright riding position and ergonomics are most certainly catered more to a sporty on-road experience rather than a full-on adventure bike, but the suspension remarkably soaked up potholes and road irregularities with ease.

It’s quick and easy to get comfortable behind the bars of the Tracer GT. I adjusted the mirrors, flipped up the side stand and was ready to go. Many of the refinements are immediately recognizable to the naked eye, including the TFT screen which clearly and accurately displays RPM, speed, gear position, ambient and coolant temperatures, fuel level gauge, clock and various drive modes.

2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT

Starting our ride on the highway, I tried out the cruise control which is available above 50km/h in 4th, 5th and 6th gears. Given the fact that we were in the midst of a summer heat wave and I was already dripping with sweat, I opted to save the 3-level heated grips for another day. The newly designed side cowls not only increase wind protection but also channel warm air away from the rider which was necessary and appreciated.

The price of admission into the heavily revised 2019 Tracer 900 is $14,599 compared to $11,999 for the 2018 base model. Additions for 2019 also include a new wheel switch that allows the rider to prioritize and scroll through visual information on the TFT screen such as maintenance intervals, shift indicator, mileage, clock, brightness levels and more. Located on the right handlebar beyond thumb reach, the switch is easiest to navigate when parked or when your right hand is freed up while using cruise control.

That aside, the Tracer is user-friendly and easy to get along with. It is refined and stable across the spectrum of speeds and surface quality, not inclined to become unsettled by dropping a gear too quickly while going into a turn or grabbing a touch too much front brake. While some gears were more optimal than others for various corners, it never seemed to bog down or become twitchy, thanks in part to the longer wheelbase and variable suspension, which I left alone for our purposes.

The rider triangle remains unchanged from the FJ-09 and strikes a balance, allowing you to enthusiastically tackle entertaining turns while also remaining comfortable over long hauls. After a full day of spirited riding through back country roads and some highway cruising, I didn’t have to be pried out of the saddle which is telling. The passenger seat was made larger while the foot pegs and grab handles were extended to improve their comfort too. It’s easier to stretch out the miles when you aren’t getting tapped or nagged from the back seat.

Logging a full day on the heavily revised and renamed Tracer 900 was a relatively uneventful experience, which is essentially what you want in a sport tourer, isn’t it? The GT package may add to the sticker price, but it also provides a great deal of content, creating a very compelling value proposition.

2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT

New Yamaha Bikes for a New Season

Photos by Ben Quinn

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