Strip away the fairing and some of the hi-tech electronic wizardry from a Yamaha R1 and you have the MT-10 bargain hunter which is more fun than any sane man can handle.
They say it’s “retuned” which is often code for detuned, but somehow sitting up in the air in that neutral riding position with that cross-plane engine screaming underneath you, it seems even more thrilling.
And it’s a pretty cheap thrill. The R1 costs $23,499 (+ ORC), while the MT-10 (FZ-10 in most overseas markets) comes in at just $17,999.
Despite the lower prices, it still has three engine maps, Yamaha Chip-Controlled Throttle, three-mode traction control, electronic steering damper, convenient 12V DC outlet inside the front cowl, assist/slipper clutch and even includes cruise control!
It’s not surprising that the MT-10 is a bargain hunter, as all the MT range come at “I can’t believe it” prices.
The MT-10 now completes the Masters of Torque range that also includes the MT-03 ABS twin ($5699), MT-07LA LAMS ABS ($9599), MT-07HO high output ($10,299) and MT-09 triple with traction control and ABS ($12,999).
It’s a formidable line-up, now with a formidable flagship model.
Yamaha Motor Australia marketing guru Sean Goldhawk says the idea for the street fighter will appeal to more mature riders who are tired of riding in the crouch position, but still want that maniac grin at the end of a spirited ride.
Oh yeah, he is so right!
At the national media launch on the Sunshine Coast yesterday, we tried the MT-10 across part of the proposed Sunshine Coast International TT course as well as the many twisting and winding ridge roads through the Blackall Ranges and down into Kenilworth.
The MT-10 is the certainly the weapon of choice, here.
While the 998cc engine looks like the R1 from the outside, it’s had multiple internal changes, added an oil cooler and lowered the compression to cope better with the heat of commuter traffic.
It’s also been “retuned”, which might concern some people. But there is no need for alarm.
The R1 is tuned for the track with plenty of top-end fizz you will never need on the road.
The MT-10 engine hasn’t been detuned, but retuned with different camshafts for more emphasis on the low and mid-range torque where you ride in the real world.
It doesn’t have the R1’s ram air, so the air box is bigger and it doesn’t have the second fuel injector that comes in at high revs.
Consequently, maximum power in the MT-10 is 118kW, down from the R1’s 147.1kW, but it comes in 2000 revs earlier at 11,500rpm, while the torque is virtually the same at 111Nm, arriving 2500 revs sooner at 9000rpm.
While it’s creamy and smooth like any inline fours, the torque boost from the heavier crank gives it the feeling of a triple as you wind the throttle up and down through the twisties.
There are three engine maps called Standard, A and B, but they could easily be called sane, insane and insaner!
Throttle response is swift and civil without being jerky in Standard, so you can easily handle low-speed u-turns, roundabouts and commuter traffic with ease.
However, it becomes twitchy and nervous when used in A and B modes, despite the heavier crank.
There may be some top-end differences as well, but I couldn’t tell on public roads.
Thankfully you can swap engine maps on the fly to suit your riding situation.
To match the insane power delivery, there are radial-mounted four-piston callipers on massive twin 320mm discs up front and a Nissin single-piston calliper with a 220mm rear disc.
One-finger braking is easy with plenty of feel and lightning-fast response and bite.
ABS comes on smooth and non-invasive, giving the rider plenty of confidence.
Three-level traction control adds to the rider’s confidence to control that massive torque injection.
The cruise control on the left switchblock works smoothly and instinctively in fourth to sixth gears and is very handy in these days of ubiquitous radar traps.
Surprisingly, for a more street-focussed bike, they have actually shortened the R1 wheelbase by 5mm. It’s even 35mm shorter than the Triumph Street Triple.
That makes it very twitchy and nimble. You only have to think about turning and the front wheel dips into the corner.
Yet it retains the same 190mm wide true from the R1, so the front end corners, while the back seems a little unwilling to follow.
Having wide MX-style bars makes the turning easier with extra leverage to hold the counter-steering angle.
Despite the short wheelbase, it sits very stable on the highway where you can settle back in cruise control and enjoy that low, harmonious drone of the meaty crossplane motor and titanium muffler.
The engine sits in the stiff Deltabox frame from the R1, but with more steel rather than titanium and magnesium. The rear subframe has been uprated with steel to carry a load and a pillion.
It is suspended by fully-adjustable upside-down KYB forks and four-way adjustable rear shock with high and low compression adjustment.
Our test bikes for the ride were adjusted more for the track, so when we hit the bumpy sections of the TT course through Bald Knob Rd and around Conondale, it was way too stiff and easily bounced out of line.
However, the multi-adjustable suspension should be able to compensate.
The settings were ideal through the smooth switchbacks around Kenilworth and the quick-change of direction from the front tyre made short work of the well-cambered turns.
As you switched from one side to the other, the front wheel lifted over the humps with a fist full of torque.
Lower gearing with two extra teeth on the rear sprocket provides great acceleration to dart away at the lights and to pull rapidly and surely out of corners.
Through a set of twisties, you will probably hold it in a gear higher than normal and use that meaty torque to lift the bike out of the apex.
Despite the shorter final gear, it doesn’t buzz on the highway and the mirrors are never blurry.
Like all MT models, your elbows will cover about 2/3s of the mirrors and you will have to pin your elbows in to see what’s following in your wake.
After a spirited day of testing the bike around the ranges, the mileage readout on the comprehensive all-digital instruments reads an alarming 7.8L/100km average. Out on the highway, it was still showing about 4-5L/100km in instant economy.
That doesn’t provide a huge touring range from the 17-litre tank and to add to the concern about running out of fuel, the digital readout drops quickly to halfway.
Riding position is neutral, maybe with a slight lean to the bars for shorter riders and a decent reach to the footpegs, so you aren’t cramped.
Seat comfort is moderate on the firm and flat perch, but it is plenty good enough for the duration of a tankful of juice.
We didn’t ride into the night, but the full LED lighting should provide a nice white light and even spread.
During the day, and even in bright, direct sunshine, the digital instruments are easy to read.
As expected of the Japanese manufacturer, build quality is superb. There are beautiful details everywhere and strange little plastic wings all over the fussy bodywork.
To my mind, it looks like it was designed by an origami artist with multiple sharp paper folds.
It comes in black with black wheels, blue with blue wheels, or a milky grey which I love, although I’m not so sure about the contrasting yellow wheels.
Enormous value and enormous torque will sell this bike. The extras you get are rider aids, creature comforts and radical styling.